Two Years of Combat with the 83d Chemical Mortar Battalion
by Robert Brimm
Dedicated to those who didn't make it
Invasion of Italian Mainland
Approaches to San Pietro and Cassino
Anzio Beachhead and Fall of Rome
Invasion of Southern France
Battle of the Vosges
Action in Alsace
Battle of Germany
IntroductionThe 83d played an important role in the campaigns through the Mediterranean Theater and the mainland of Europe, experiencing more than 500 hard and spectacular days in combat, beginning with the amphibious assault on Sicily and ending with the complete destruction of the German military forces. The 83d was activated at Camp Gordon, GA, on 6-10-42, and after intensive training departed from the U.S. on 4-29-43 for overseas duty. On 5-11-43, the battalion (Bn) debarked at Oran, Algiers, and moved directly to "Goat Hill", a rocky hill infested with flies, mosquitoes, Arabs and cactus. Some days later, the unit began intensive amphibious training and prepared for immediate combat.
The 83d took part in the Sicilian Campaign and remained in continuous combat during the invasion of the Italian mainland and the crossing of the Volturno; followed by the battle for the approaches to San Pietro and Cassino and the Anzio beachhead, with the subsequent fall of Rome. The Bn took part in the amphibious and air assault of the Southern France campaign; and in the historic battle of the Vosges, when the enemy tried his last main efforts in the Colmar pocket and Alsace, the 83d was in the center of action; then, the unit played an important part in the final assault of Germany.
Sicilian CampaignFollowing, the Allied Victory in Tunisia, the next step at hitting Axis-held Europe was the capture of Sicily. Mussolini boasted that the island fortress of Sicily could never be successfully invaded because of its highly developed defenses. The entire invasion coast was heavily prepared to repel invasion; 13 divisions, 3 of which were Panzer units, were occupying the island. The plan of attack called for the Americans to land on the south central coast and cut the island in half, at which time the British were to drive up the eastern coast. The most highly defended and most strategic spot on the island was Gela, with its key rail and road network, airport, landing facilities, and naval gun batteries controlling miles of the beaches. The mission of occupying, this critical spot became the job of a special task force of the American Rangers and the 83d, less D company. As the huge armada of ships sailed on to Sicily, a raging storm tossed the LCI's (landing craft infantry) around like corks. In spite of the extremely rough sea, the Rangers and observers from the mortar companies landed at 0245 on 7-10-43. Enemy searchlights picked up the ships and landing craft. Enemy gun batteries, mortars and machine guns opened fire on the beaches. The heavily mined and wired beach and the precipitous cliff all pockmarked with pillboxes were serious obstacles. At H plus 60 minutes, companies A, B, and C of the 83d landed, encountering a false beach. C Co. landed in very deep water but managed to get ashore. It became necessary for B Co. to pull out and try a new landing to the right of the pier. The enemy gun batteries on the cliff overlooking the beach fired heavily on the LCI's. A Co.'s LCI broadsided on a sand bar and became the target for heavy concentrations of fire. It sustained direct hits, but the Bn executed the difficult unloading of the mortars in the heavy surf; and, in the face of vicious cross fire of enemy machine guns, successfully crossed the mined beach. The heavy gun batteries were silenced. The men of the Bn took many prisoners, and several sharp firefights occurred as the mortars displaced to defend the city against counterattack.
To the right of Gela, Co. D landed with the 16th Inf. Reg. of the 1st Div., at H plus 60 minutes and advanced initially against light opposition. As the infantry advanced 2 miles inland, it encountered heavy enemy resistance. The enemy reacted by attacking Gela with a Co. of light tanks at 0900. Although the 4.2 mortar fire destroyed several tanks, a number broke through the heavy fire and entered the city. The Rangers destroyed 4 tanks and the men of the 83d accounted for 2 with bazooka fire. Minor patrol action occurred during the night. C Co. attached to the 26th Inf. Reg., advanced north and east of Gela, giving close support. The next morning, the enemy launched his main attack with an Italian Inf. Div. and a reinforced Panzer Div., forcing the 26th Inf. to withdraw. C Co. fired heavily, but was forced to displace to the rear again, setting up their mortars in Gela. Although the main part of the attack was to the right of Gela, a regimental attack, supported by a Co. of Mark IV tanks, attacked Gela at 1100 hours. As A and C companies engaged them with their mortar fire, B Co. fired on the attacking infantry. The mortar fire accounted for a number of enemy tanks, and killed hundreds of Italian soldiers as they attempted to drive their attack over the broad, flat plain of Gela. By noon, the Americans stopped the attack on Gela and enemy survivors were rounded up.
To the right, D Co. fired heavily on the attacking enemy, but their advance continued The enemy penetrated the 16th Inf. positions and tanks overran D Co.'s positions causing considerable damage. The men of D Co. held their position and destroyed the enemy infantry following the tanks. The Co. took over 2 anti-tank guns and reversed them to fire on the enemy tanks. A counter-attack by the 18th Inf. Reg. and heavy naval gunfire finally repulsed the enemy effort.
In the afternoon in Gela, the enemy made an attack of Bn strength from the west along the railroad, being quickly repulsed by the fire of B Co. During the night, A Co. was motorized on Ducks and moved forward to set up in the mountain pass to Butera. Some very bitter fighting took place as the Rangers attacked to gain the commanding ground. A Co. maintained a 16-hour smoke screen during this action in spite of very heavy enemy artillery fire. The Rangers and 83d pressed on to the medieval fortress town of Butera; the heavy mortars were hauled by hand over mined areas and up steep, torturous mountain trails to cover the city during the attack. In a surprise night attack, the Rangers gained the city. The divisions on either flank then pinched out the Ranger force.
The Bn became attached to the 82nd Airborne Div., and advanced rapidly through Agrigento. The men of the Bn hauled the mortars by hand more than 20 miles a day over the mountain trails as the advance continued through Porto Empedocle and Mont Alegro. The enemy action consisted of isolated strong points, which fought strongly until they were surrounded, at which time they usually surrendered. The spotty action continued through Mont Alegro, Ribera, Sciacca and Santa Margherita. The long hot marches carried the companies through Montavago. B Co. worked with the 505th Parachute Reg. during the advance on the important center of Trapini with its large air and naval port. The happy, shouting people showered all American soldiers with fruit and wine. Just short of Trapini, the action began. The enemy held the high ground and was in well-established pillboxes. The 505th pressed directly into the city as B Co. fired counter battery on the enemy artillery. After a brief, but very sharp fight, our troops took the city and captured hundreds of prisoners.
The 83d was next attached to the 45th Div. The advance of the British and American forces pressed the enemy into the northeast corner of Sicily. Very bitter fighting occurred over the heavily mined mountainous terrain. Two amphibious operations, in which landings were made to the enemy rear, aided in cracking the enemy lines. Co.'s B and C, operating with the 179th Inf., executed another amphibious assault around Cape Orlando. The enemy attacked the convoy heavily by aircraft and considerable damage resulted from several near misses. The force landed north of Messina on a heavily mined beach and advanced rapidly inland. The enemy, however, evacuated many of his troops across the Strait of Messina. The capture of Messina on the 16th of Aug. ended the campaign. The men of the 83d were among the troops first into the city. Army gave the Bn a section of Sicily to occupy and police in the vicinity of Castelvetrano.
Invasion of Italian mainlandThe Fascist Italian Nation, after the loss of her whole African Empire and Sicily, secretly surrendered unconditionally on 9-3-43. The Allied plans required the entire occupation of Italy. The British 8th Army crossed into the toe of Italy and the main assault was to be the attack of the Fifth Army in the Gulf of Salerno.
A special task force was formed to secure the left flank of the Fifth Army during the invasion. The Ranger Force of the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Bns and Co. C of the 83d landed at Maiori on 9-9-on schedule, while the British 2nd and 41st Commandos and Co. D landed at Vietri-sul-Mare. The force was responsible for the large sector from Salerno to the west. The ground had to be held because of its importance to flank security and its observation and control of the main enemy supply routes and communication lines. Co. D encountered considerable small arms fire and some tank fire, but was able to work their way across the beach. Co. C and the Rangers landed against light opposition and advanced rapidly as they fought their way to the commanding ground at Chiuzi Pass.
The Commando Force had much difficulty and suffered heavy enemy counterattacks. The Commandos and Co. D cut off an enemy armored force. Co. D having practically no anti-tank defenses cut and folded blankets into squares to simulate mines. The combined mortar, and bazooka fire and simulated mines succeeded in repulsing the enemy force and eventually forced their surrender.
Due to the tactical importance of the positions during the succeeding days, the entire sector received incessant enemy attacks. Many attacks well-coordinated with mortar and artillery fire had numerical superiority of more than 8 to 1. Due to the large sector and the small number of troops the ground was held with strong points with the large gaps controlled by 4.2 mortar fire. As the enemy attacks grew in intensity, mortars were manhandled to the mountain crests to give more advantageous positions and better range. Gun crews were stripped down to one or two men and the remaining men moved forward to stop enemy attacks and to hold parts of the line. Co. D fired to the west, north, east, and southeast. At no time was the main line of resistance more than 1,000 yards from the beach on which the small force landed. One overwhelming enemy attack succeeded 1n penetrating the Commando lines, and when the aggressive enemy was closer than the minimum range of the mortars, the mortar crews of Co. D advanced to counterattack. With their small arms they drove the enemy back. The mortar men then returned and resumed firing their mortars.
Co. C engaged enemy patrols in fire fights in their mortar positions on several occasions. One enemy attack isolated a portion of the Co. It was only after a very hard fight that contact was regained. Enemy artillery and mortar fire were particularly intense. The main enemy supply route was near the base of the mountain and thus generally in dead space for naval and artillery fire. Although this road was 2,000 yards beyond the authorized range of the mortars, the men of the 83d kept this supply artery under constant effective fire.
On Sept. 17, Co. D supported an attack by the Commandos on the high ground overlooking Salerno. In a little over one hour of preparatory fire, 1,394 rounds of HE (high explosives) were fired on the enemy positions causing hundreds of casualties and permitting the British forces to occupy the important ground almost uncontested.
On Sept. 23, Co. D was relieved from the Commando force and joined Co. C at Chiunzi Pass. The continued close coordination and close support of the 4.2 mortar fire was instrumental in holding the vital ground. The bitter fighting continued. Supplies became critical, and due to the heavy firing, mortar breakage was excessive.
Finally on Sept. 27, the force was reinforced and after heavy mortar preparation, the Ranger Combat Team attacked and overran the enemy positions and entered the Plains of Naples. The force advanced through Castellamare. The men of the 83d were among the first troops in Naples.
As the fighting progressed, the mortars worked closely with the 505th Parachute Reg. The enemy was attempting to hold on the Volturno River and very hard fighting occurred as the American forces pushed onward. In the difficult crossing of the flooded Volturno, many screening missions were fired to cover the work of the Royal Engineers during their bridging operations. In the initial assault over the Volturno, the mortars afforded heavy preparatory fire and smoke for the passing of armor over the river. Shortly after the crossing of the Volturno in the middle of Oct., the 83d was relieved and sent to the Amalfi area. Here the entire Bn assembled for reorganization and training after the difficult combat.
Approaches to San Pietro and CassinoAs the American forces advanced northward in Italy, heavy resistance was met on the approaches to the San Pietro valley and Cassino. In order to secure this valley, it was necessary to get the control of the mountains north and west of Venafro and the mountains above Ceppagna and San Pietro. A Ranger task force, consisting of the 83d (less B Co.), the 1st Ranger Bn, and the 509th Parachute Bn, relieved an Inf. Reg. on 11-9-43, near Venafro with the mission of attacking the firmly dug in enemy infantry on the mountain crests north and west of Venafro. Under the cover of darkness, the mortars of Cos. A and D were moved into position directly at the base of the mountains occupied by the enemy forces.
With heavy massed mortar support, the Rangers attacked mountain 1025. The enemy had prepared positions by blasting passages deeply into the rocks. Direct hits by mortar and artillery fire, in many cases, did no damage to these well-concealed strong points. In very hard fighting the crest was taken. Heavy counter-attacks were beaten off by mortar fire. Heavy enemy fire was received in the mortar positions and the area was strafed and bombed by two flights of Me lO9's. On Nov. 10, the Rangers launched an attack against crest 1053, farther to the south. Again, massed mortar fire was used to blast a path for the Rangers. The Rangers worked their way to the crest where close in fighting took place for several days before the final peak was taken. At this time, the sector of several thousand yards between the crests 1025 and 1053 was being maintained by the men of Cos. A and D, in addition to maintaining their heavy supporting fire. Co. C moved into position to add their firepower.
On the 12th the 509th parachute Bn, moved up to occupy the saddle between the two crests. Again heavy massed fire gave support to the attack. The attack of the paratroops was met head on by an attack of over a Bn of enemy. The close in and hand to hand fighting was very hard. The massed mortar fire of Cos. A, C and D was brought to within l00 yards of the paratroops positions as they continued their drive up the saddle. Finally by dusk, the commanding ground was taken, and the inevitable counter-attacks were beaten off by mortar fire. This gave the Ranger task force the commanding ground above Venafro. However, due to the strategic importance of the ground, daily attacks by superior enemy forces were driven into the positions. Great amounts of ammunition were expended as every attack was thrown back. Enemy artillery and mortar fire was very heavy in the mortar positions and enemy planes were very active, bombing and strafing.
Immediately to the left of Venafro in the village of Ceppagna, the 4th Ranger Bn and Co. B had the mission of securing the commanding ground above the village and thus gaining an entrance into San Pietro valley. Co. B moved to the base of the enemy held mountain at dusk, and on Nov. 11, after an extremely heavy mortar preparation, the Rangers attacked to the south. The Rangers advanced almost to the commanding ground when an overwhelming attack on their left flank, drove them back. Co. concentrations of high explosives were fired on the objective, and the Rangers again attacked, gained their objective, and advanced down the ridge to the south. In the course of the next two days, the Rangers received five stiff counter-attacks, all greater than Bn strength. One overwhelming attack forced the Ranger Bn back to their initial objective and advanced until it surrounded the force on three sides and threatened to isolate the unit. The close mortar support delivered in Co. concentrations finally repulsed the enemy effort. The mortar position received very heavy enemy fire. The force of the 4th Rangers and Co. B was relieved by an Inf. Reg. on 11-14-43.
The force above Venafro continued to repulse enemy efforts. In many places, the enemy was within hand grenade range and exceedingly accurate shooting was essential. Enemy fire continued very heavily in the area and the bitter cold, wet, muddy Italian Winter was in progress. Enemy prisoners of war reported that the mortar fire of Cos. A, C and D had created a serious supply problem as well as severe casualties. The fire control system was so well organized that practically any enemy movement was momentarily met by heavy mortar fire.
Information was required concerning the exact status of enemy forces in San Pietro valley. Co. B and the 3d Rangers were given the mission of reconnaissance in force into the valley. On Nov. 29, the Rangers jumped off, infiltrating and fighting their way through the well-organized enemy positions and mined areas. B Co. supported the operation from positions to the rear of Mt. Rotondo. An hour before dawn, the force was in San Pietro, but there was considerable enemy activity. Information was sent back and the force began to fight its way out. At dawn, an overwhelming enemy attack of regimental strength surrounded the Rangers. Targets were engaged with heavy concentrations of mortar fire. A daylong smoke screen was maintained as the Rangers fought their way out. The force received considerable casualties, but the next day assembled in the vicinity of Ceppagna for the next phase of the operation.
The plan called for the 3d Rangers to gain the commanding ground above San Pietro; then the 35th Inf. Div. was to attack into the valley. B Co. set up their mortars half way up the mountain and gave heavy support as the Rangers attacked crest 950, which controlled the ground above San Pietro. The objective was reached but an intense counter attack forced the Rangers to withdraw. Enemy fire was intense and one platoon of B Co. received over 50% casualties. Concentrated mortar fire was placed on the objective for two days and the Rangers re-attacked and gained the crest. Counter-attacks were beaten off along the entire sector, and also in the sector of the 1st Ranger Force above Venafro. This secured the dominating ground and opened the way for large-scale attacks into San Pietro and on to Casino.
The fighting in this part of Italy was particularly severe, not only due to the heavy enemy action, but also due to the bitter wet and cold of the winter. Proper winter and mountain equipment was not available, resulting in a high incidence of frostbite and trench foot. In the latter part of December, the 83d was relieved and assembled with the Rangers in the vicinity of Pozzuoli. Amphibious training was accomplished for the next operation.
Anzio Beachhead and Fall of Rome
The drive in Italy slowed to a halt as the Allied Forces encountered the formidable Gustav line and Cassino. In an effort to break the stalemate, the invasion of Anzio was planned to outflank both the Gustav and Adolf Hitler lines. The enemy expected such a move, but anticipated a landing much farther to the north. The Anzio landing was almost a complete surprise. A Ranger task force of the 1st, 3d and 4th Rangers, 509th Parachute Bn and Cos. A and B of the 83d landed in the city of Anzio at 0200 on 1-22-44. The mined beach was crossed and only a handful of enemy was encountered. By noon, enemy reconnaissance vehicles were making contact with the Ranger Force. Mortar fire caused them to withdraw. During the next several days, the force advanced rapidly along the main road to Rome. Mortar fire was coordinated with all attacks.
The night of Jan. 26, the follow up LST (landing ship tank or truck) loaded with Headquarters, C and D Cos., was sunk by enemy action. In the rough sea, there were many men lost. The survivors were sent back to Pozzuoli to reorganize, re-equip and train.
On the 27th of Jan., the enemy had moved considerable strength into the area and resistance was stiffening. On the 29th, the force assembled in the right portion of the beachhead in preparation for spearheading an attack on Cisterna. The plans called for the Rangers to infiltrate and fight their way into Cisterna with the 7th Inf. and 504th Parachute regiments attacking on their right, and the 15th Inf. Reg. attacking on the left. At 0100 on the 30th, the 1st and 3d Rangers jumped off with the 4th Bn advancing to their left rear. Although heavy opposition was encountered, the Rangers worked their way into the outskirts of Cisterna by 0700. The infantry on the left and right did not advance according to schedule. The enemy had reinforced this sector heavily with their 1st Parachute Div., supported by tanks.
The Rangers were surrounded and, as they fought, the mortars of the 83d placed heavy concentrations on the enemy. By dusk, it was apparent that most of the Rangers were lost. In order to hold the line, B Co. became the infantry and established a defensive position, while A Co. fired heavily with their mortars. B Co. sent out many patrols as all efforts were made to contact the Rangers. Due to the action of companies A and B, many of the 4th Bn were able to withdraw and reassemble. The following morning, the 4th Rangers again attacked. In an effort to reach the 1st and 3d Bns. They gained a key road junction and were unable to advance further. The 15th Inf. Reg. then attacked through the 83d and the Rangers. The infantry attack was halted short of Cisterna, where the 1st and 3d Rangers were surrounded, and the situation stabilized. Two nights later, "Axis Sal" broadcast: "Now that the Rangers are finished, the 83d is next".
The 83d was then attached to the 45th Inf. Div., along the main Anzio-Rome road to prepare for the anticipated enemy effort to destroy the beachhead. Enemy artillery and mortar fire was intense. Aircraft dive-bombed and strafed by day, and by night. They blanketed the front lines with antipersonnel bombs. The enemy tanks and infantry probed the lines. The enemy had massed 5 divisions in the sector of the 45th Div., and on Feb 16, after a tremendous preparation barrage, the enemy drove straight down the Anzio road. The 83d mortars fired continuously on the advancing, enemy. Many American infantry positions were overrun.
The mortar positions were dive bombed again and again; mortars were knocked out; direct tank fire was received. Mortar fire was placed on the advancing, enemy infantry, and tanks, and produced high casualties, but the enemy advance continued. B Co. lost contact with the American forces as the enemy continued their drive, therefore support was given to a Bn of British reserves who were thrown into the line. Infiltrating enemy were encountered in the mortar position. Co. A fought it out with 6 Mark VI tanks which were firing directly into their position. Massed mortar fire finally drove off 5 of the tanks and left the 6th burning. Every available mortar was kept in action constantly during the day and night. At the critical point of the action, a pick-up unit of British cooks, headquarters personnel and B Co. were the only troops between the enemy and Anzio. At the same time A Co. held their mortar position and continued firing while the infantry withdrew and formed a new line several hundred yards to their rear. By the evening of the 20th of Feb., the enemy attack had been definitely stopped. The 83d had poured out thousands of rounds and caused many casualties and knocked out a number of tanks.
Then began the long siege of Anzio with the enemy constantly looking right down at the Allied Forces. During the entire grind of Anzio, with its heavy artillery fire and every night with its anti personnel bombs, the 83d remained in the line. Cos. C and D went into action with the 88th Inf. Div. near Minturno on the southern front. Mortar fire was used in patrol activity. Enemy mine fields were very heavy in this sector. On Apr. 5, the two companies were relieved and were sent to Anzio where they immediately went into the line. From their advantageous position, the enemy continued to fire at anything that moved and Anzio gained the name of the "Hottest Spot in the World".
In May, the build-up was progressing and the 4.2 mortars were supporting vigorous patrolling and limited objective attacks, which were testing the enemy defenses. Positions were prepared far forward and stocked with ammunition. For the attack, companies A and B worked with the 1st Armored Div., and C and D, with the 45th Inf. Div. On the morning of May 23, after a heavy preparation, the attack was on. The main efforts progressed well and the 1st Armored broke through the enemy lines. A and B companies displaced frequently, keeping in close range for support of the Armored infantry. C and D fired on heavy counter-attacks.
Mine fields were a very big problem. As the attack continued, A and B were attached to the 36th Div. for the attack on Colli Laziali and Velletri. As the attack progressed, the infantry outflanked Velletri and occupied the mountains. The 45th Div. with Cos. C and D continued to advance in the face of serious resistance. Many screening missions were fired and high expenditures of HE were made in giving close support. The advance continued, and the race to Rome followed. On 4 June 1944, the 83d was in Rome, and the advance continued beyond. Close mortar support was given as the drive progressed approximately 100 miles north of Rome. Here the 83d was relieved and assembled in an area near Tarquinia.
Plans were made to use the 83d with the 509th parachute Bn and the American-Canadian Special Service Force in an airborne operation. As the Allied Forces advanced rapidly northwest in Italy, the air operation was not required. The 83d then moved to the Salerno area for amphibious training with the 45th Inf. Div. Co. D was attached to the 1st Airborne Task Force near Rome and underwent intensive glider training. The Bn, less Co D, then assembled in the vicinity of Qualiano for the next operation.
Invasion of Southern France
With the landing of the Allied Forces on the coast of Normandy and the break-through from the Cherbourg Peninsula, the stage was set for decisive blows against Nazi Germany. The Allied plans called for the invasion of southern France. Although the enemy anticipated such a move, the German 19th Army that held southern France was very weak.
The 83d, less Co. D, was attached to the 45th Inf. Div. for the action, while Co. D operated with the 1st Airborne Task Force. On Aug. 12, the tremendous convoy was on the way from Naples Harbor. H hour was 0800 on 15 Aug., the first daylight landing for the 83d. The enemy had concentrated most of his troops in the Marseille-Toulon area. The landings were almost a complete surprise. A task force of cruisers, destroyers, battle ships, and rocket carrying landing craft, gave a tremendous preparation. This was followed by heavy bombing. The landing of the 83d at St. Maxine was made without casualty. Co. D landed at 0700 in gliders near Le Muy. In the rough landing, a number of men and officers were casualties. The company was quickly organized and preparations were made to repulse enemy action.
The enemy seemed to have a very uncoordinated series of strong points as his only means of defense. The infantry pushed on rapidly. Mortar missions were very infrequent. Co. D fired heavy concentrations on an enemy assembly area in preparation for an attack by the 517th Parachute Reg. near Les Arcs and produced hundreds of enemy casualties. The Bn advanced rapidly with the infantry through Vidaubann and Le Luc. Frequent by-passed strong points were mopped up by the companies of the 83d and many prisoners were captured. The rapid advance carried the companies through Fox Amphoux, where Co. C had a brisk firefight. As the forces crossed the Durance River, Co. B took part in a very sharp action with enemy tanks. In spite of direct flank fire, the Co. was able to fire a screen to cover the movement of friendly tanks and TD's which succeeded in repelling the enemy threat. Co. D continued operating with the Paratroops and moved to the east toward the Italian frontier. Close support was given as the units advanced through St. Valliers, Le Bar, La Racquette, and Levus. One platoon of Co. D operated with the 550th Reg. near Barcelonette in the high Alps.
As the 45th continued advancing, supplies became very critical. To help the situation, Co. A established and operated a railhead to St. Maximin. Cos. B and C, continued giving close support as the forces advanced to Aspres. Co. B then moved on to Grenoble. On 27 Sept., Cos. A and C were made a part of a provisional task force to protect the Corps right flank. The mission of the force, which had a total strength of approximately 1,000 men, was to protect the Corps flank from St. Paul to Albertsville, a distance of some 135 miles.
On the 28th, Co. A relieved an infantry unit in St. Paul, while Co. C relieved a Bn at Briancon and established a defensive position east of the city in Ft. Dauphin. Vigorous patrolling by both Cos. A and C indicated enemy in the area. During the night, unknown to Co. C, the enemy infiltrated forces into the Fort de Trois Tetes, which was to the right rear of Co. C's position. The first indication of enemy activity was the attempt of enemy engineers to repair a blown bridge at dawn. Co. C destroyed them with mortar fire. At 0800 a well-coordinated attack of over Bn strength in conjunction with heavy supporting fire was made on Co. C's position. Heavy mortar fire was placed on the advancing forces and destroyed many of them. The enemy in Fort des Trois Tetes began firing machine guns into the position of Co. C. The mortars were turned to the rear and the enemy in the fort was neutralized by the heavy mortar fire. In spite of the heavy fire of Co. C the overwhelming enemy forces continued to advance and finally succeeded in outflanking the position. Co. C held their defensive line and destroyed many of the enemy until they were ordered to withdraw by the force commander.
As Force Headquarters was withdrawn, Co. C fought and infiltrated down the precipitous mountain under heavy machine gun and small arms fire. Delaying action was taken as a new strong point was established to the north, near Col du Lautaret. Co. C lost heavily in this action, however a far greater number of casualties were inflicted on the enemy. Vigorous combat patrols kept the enemy from advancing up the valley. Co. A had several patrol clashes with the enemy. On 1 Sept., Cos. A and C were relieved and arrived in Bourgoin to reorganize and re-equip.
Co. D continued operating on the Italian frontier, firing for limited objective attacks. The infantry advance continued. The German massacre at Montalamare had greatly reduced the enemy fighting strength. Third and Seventh Armies pressed forward to make contact. The two armies joined near Dijon and the advance continued rapidly. The Bn passed on through Bourg and Lons le Saunier. The Daubs River was crossed at Baume les Dames. In the fluid situation, the companies for the most part remained in mobile reserve. By 22 Sept., the Bn had advanced to the vicinity of Xertignyand the Seventh Army made preparations to cross the Moselle River.
Battle of the Vosges
Never in the history of Europe, had an army crossed the Vosges. For four long years in the First World War, the French tried in bloody fighting to push the Germans off the crests of the Vosges, but it could not be accomplished. The Seventh Army not only faced almost impenetrable mountains, but the enemy had built up intricate defenses along three river lines on the approaches to the mountain crests; the Moselle, Mortagne and Meurthe rivers. Then the almost continuous rain, snow, sleet and mud, gave every advantage to the defenders.
The Campaign opened on Sept. 21, 1944, when the 36th Div. crossed the Moselle near Elayers. This threw the enemy off balance and the 45th Div., with the 83d attached, was able to drive into Epinal, the key communications center on the Moselle. After hard fighting, the strong mined and wired approaches to the city were cleared and the doughboys entered the city with the 83d directly behind them. The deep, swift, rain-swollen Moselle was very wide and the far side was backed by a 20-foot vertical concrete wall. Extremely close coordination was required in forging across the river.
A Co. operated with the 157th, B Co., with the 180th and C Co., with the 179th regiments. All companies gave heavy support as the troops drove through Gircourt, Fontevery, Memenil and Destard. A Co., with the 157th, occupied the key town of Rambervillers on the 30th. To the south, the fighting was bitter in the vicinity of Grandvillers. Enemy fire and counter-attacks were frequent. C Co. and B Co., just to the north, lired heavily. Grandvillers was taken on Oct. 2 and the advance continued. D Co. was attached to the 36th Inf. Div. in the vicinity of Bruyeres. Large-scale enemy attacks were beaten back by the heavy mortar fire and the infantry continued their difficult advance. D Co. gave support to the 442d Combat Team and the 100th Bn in the hard fighting as the drive continued through the Forest Domintale down into Biffontaine.
A few days later came the news of the "Lost Battalion" of the 141st infantry. An enemy counter attack isolated the unit. D Co. fired heavily, supporting the 442d driving along a thickly mined ridge. After a week of hard fighting, the "Lost Bn" was freed. In the move, stable situation near Rambervillers A Co., placed heavy concentrations into Bruyeres and Jeanmenil. D Co. expended much ammunition, aiding the 100th Bn. in their advance. Houssaras (better known as "horses ass") was fired on frequently by B Co.
The fighting east of Grandvillers continued to be difficult. C Co. gave close support as the 179th extended to the south. After heavy preparatory mortar fire, the 3d Div. drove through this sector near Grandvillers and Bruyeres and advanced almost to St. Die. The 36th advanced to the south and east with D Co. displacing frequently to give support. It was in this area that the Germans had deliberately burned cities and murdered refugees. D. Company caught a large horse-drawn convoy with company concentrations and completely destroyed it. B Co. used Cub Air OP's because of the difficulty of observing in the dense woods. Frequently it was necessary to adjust by sound.
The lines remained static in the Rambervillers sector as B Co. and the 36th Combat Engrs. were shifted north to hold the line. The 45th Div. began attacking to the east. A and C Cos. fired heavy preparation fire and as the infantry advanced, the Cos. displaced frequently to give continuous support. It was particularly difficult to find suitable mortar positions in the soft muddy forest covered area. After close coordination the 45th was abreast of the 3d Div. on the Meurthe River. The new 100th Div. began relieving the 45th and C Co. went into action with the 399th Inf. [Note: The website of 100th Inf Div Association is at www.100thww2.org]
B Co. was relieved and attached to the 44th Div. in the Luneville sector where preparation was being made for a major attack. The Meurthe River represented a big, obstacle. Minefields, miles of barbed wire, concrete emplacements and log bunkers were located along the entire front. It had rained almost continuously since the crossing of the Moselle.
The 100th Div kept up heavy activity along the Meurthe and the Cos. fired for active patro1 work. The Div. shifted its weight to the north and moved through Baccarat and started a flanking movement on the important center of Raon L'Etape. C Co. fired heavily, supporting the advance through Bertichamps and past Thiaville.
B Co. fired for the 71st Reg., as the attack for Sarrbourg jumped off. The attack moved very slowly for several days as the extensive enemy defenses were blasted by mortar fire. Finally, the 324th Inf. Reg. passed through the 71st Reg. and B Co. displaced frequently to give effective support. C Co. received heavy fire from Thiaville, but was able to displace into the outskirts of Raon L'Etape where heavy concentrations were fired in clearing out the heavily fortified positions. C Co. made itself immortal to the 100th Div., by their close support in this action. D Co. moved through Belmont with the 143d Inf. Reg. and fired on enemy strong points. As B Co. continued to support the 44th Div., through Neufmarlins, they received heavy enemy fire.
The 100th Div. drove on the left and the 36th on the right and forced the enemy to move his troops to cover these moves. The 3d Div. on the 20th of Nov. drove directly across the Meurthe River and advanced through the now thin enemy forces with such speed that they were on the Rhine 7 days later. With the 100th Div., mortar support was given as Sinones, Meussey, and St. Blaise were captured. D Co., with the 36th on the northern Corcieux plain, drove over the Meurthe and advanced past the city of St. Die, which had been systematically burned and ravaged by the Germans.
The 143d drove into the mountain pass of St. Marie, and after heavy fighting, the 142nd passed through and fought their way into St. Marie aux Mines and Sainte Croix. D Co. continued to give close support, and A and C Cos. were attached to the 142d and 141st Regs. to aid in the final action over the crests of the Vosges.
B Co. continued to have very difficult action and fired heavily as the 114th Inf. Reg. advanced against much opposition in Breuvillers and Struth. Enemy fire was exceptionally heavy in this sector, and on several occasions, B Co. found civilians directing enemy fire on their positions.
The end of Nov. completed the campaign through the Vosges. It will be remembered as one of the best planned and most difficult of all military operations. The rapidly shifting main efforts required constant exacting support and the fire of the 83d can be said to have aided very considerable in the success of this operation, which never before in history had been accomplished.
Colmar ActionThe work of the 83d as a unit was perhaps at its most efficient level in the Colmar action. During this period, Dec. 3-20, 1944, the 83d was attached to the 36th Inf. Div. which had the mission of holding the entire right flank of the Seventh Army, extending from Selestat south and west for a distance of almost 50 kilometers. This large front was of necessity, held by strong points with the large gaps controlled by fire of which 4.2 mortar fire was the most important. This vital sector protected the entire flank of the army as well as the main supply routes for the army. Attacks and infiltration by a numerically superior enemy were a daily occurrence in every sector. During the period, 60 and 81 mm. mortar ammunition was almost non-existent and artillery ammunition was very critical. Therefore, almost the entire bulk of the defensive fire for the whole division rested upon the 83d, as approximately 4,000 rounds of ammunition were expended daily.
Co. A was located in the much-contested town of Selestat. During most of the period, one understrength Bn was thinly spread on a broad front in the defense of this critical point. During the period, 6 major attacks of Bn strength supported by armor, were broken by the mortar fire of Co. A, before they were within effective small arms range. The overwhelming enemy attack of regimental strength, on Dec. 12, in conjunction with major enemy attacks along the entire front drove into Selestat and gained control of part of the city. Every possible observer was sent out as Co. A placed heavy concentrations on the attacking forces.
The Co. fired in a sector of over 3,200 mils. When the friendly infantry was able to regroup under Co. A's fire, they launched a counter-attack. In this action, it was necessary to blast every house. The close support of the 4.2 mortars was instrumental in the success of these operations. After fierce fighting, the enemy was finally driven from Selestat and two sharp enemy counter-attacks supported by armor were driven off by mortar fire. During this one day of action in Selestat, over 200 enemy were killed, 333 were captured and over 700 casualties were inflicted on the attacking forces.
Several thousand yards to the south, was Co. D. The 2nd platoon was located between Guemar and Ostheim. Two under-strength infantry companies occupied each town and the some 2,000 yards between the towns were defended by the men of Co. D in addition to firing their mortars. In this sector, there were 10 major attacks of Bn strength. Every one of these attacks was beaten off. There was nightly infiltration and patrol activity and frequently Co. D resorted to small arms and machine guns to drive the enemy from their positions. The contested town of Ostheim was 2/3 occupied by the enemy, and as attacks were beaten back, mortar fire at times was brought to within 20 yards of the OP and later was placed to the rear of the OP in order to repel the enemy assault. The long flat supply routes to the position were under long range machine gun fire as well as direct tank fire. Running this gauntlet of fire, the platoon lost 5 vehicles in one 24-hour period.
One attack of 200 enemy was caught in a heavy concentration by Co. D and over 70% were killed and the remainder were shocked and insane and were easily taken prisoner. The remainder of Co. D was to the west near Zellenberg. This sector was the scene of continuous heavy fighting and changed hands on several occasions. After a heavy mortar preparation for 3 days, the American infantry advanced only to be driven back. The forward observation party was cut off for a period of 2 days, but continued to direct fire. Many times it was the mortar fire which saved the platoon itself from being overrun by the enemy. During the enemy attacks on Dec. 8 and 9, mortar fire was dropped to within 300 yards of the position to repel the attacks. For one period, the platoon was cut off when the enemy cut the Zellenberg road. During some of the action, the officers of Co. D, in addition to running, their own platoons, took over the jobs of infantry officers in the under-strength infantry companies.
To the west, in the vicinity of Ruquewihr, Co. B was located. During the start of the period, one company hurled back several company strength enemy attacks, and gave heavy preparation fire for attacks by the 141st Reg. By the evening of the 11th, four serious enemy counter-attacks were repulsed, primarily by the fire of Co. B.
During early morning of Dec. 12, the entire front was attacked by the enemy. Enemy forces drove through the lines and cut the supply route behind the Bn command post. An enemy force of over Bn strength forced its way through the over-extended infantry and drove for Ruquewihr. Almost the entire shock was taken by Co. B. In the attack, the enemy was using 3 to 4 full companies. The security elements of both platoons engaged the enemy at approximately 0900 hours. The 2nd platoon, after very bitter fighting was finally surrounded and only a few survivors were able to infiltrate through the enemy to the town. The 1st platoon drove back the initial enemy assault and set up defenses in the houses facing the main enemy axis of attack. The platoon fought until their ammunition was exhausted when they were forced to withdraw to reorganize and get a resupply of ammunition. Then along with the survivors of the 2nd platoon, the 1st platoon counter-attacked and regained their mortar position. While the attack was continued by part of the men, the mortars were immediately set up, and heavy mortar fire was placed on the enemy. A later check revealed 150 enemy dead and wounded, which far outnumbered the entire strength of Co. B. Out of the survivors of Co. B, only one platoon could be mustered and this platoon remained in action during the entire period.
Co. 5 was initially in reserve, then went into action in the Ruquewihr sector. At the time of the attack on Ruquewihr, the enemy had cut off the American forces in this sector on three sides. Co. C fired heavily to withhold the enemy assaults. With the infantry at less than 50% fighting strength the mortar fire was essential at all times. On Dec. 17, Co. C supported the attack, which succeeded in driving the enemy from the sector. The close support of Co. C was one of the important factors in the success of the operation. At the conclusion of this limited objective attack, over 600 Prisoners of War were taken, 150 of whom were wounded, and over 600 dead were found in the area into which the 4.2 mortars had poured thousands of rounds.
During the Colmar action, enemy fire was very heavy on all companies and the Bn Command Post. During this difficult action, there is one particularly heroic thing, which is deserving of much praise. The entire allotment of ammunition fired was defective, causing premature bursts. The men of the 83d realized the importance of their fire, and in spite of the continuous danger of barrel bursts, fired their mortars almost constantly. The particularly well-coordinated and planned fire system of the Bn was responsible to a great extent in holding the entire American sector of the Colmar pocket. On the 20th of Dec. 1944, the Bn was relieved and assembled in the vicinity of Hagenau to reorganize under a new table of organization having only three companies.
Action in AlsaceFollowing the rapid crossing of the Vosges, the American Seventh Army pressed forward until they were abreast of the Rhine River and were advancing north into Germany. The division sectors were very large because many units were sent to the north to the Ardennes where the enemy had launched a large scale offensive. On Christmas Day, Co. A was operating in the vicinity of Klimback with the 45th Div., which on a very wide sector was driving into Germany. Co. C was operating with a new regiment and the 117th Reconnaissance in the Task Force Hudelson to the west. Support was given as the forces advanced into the outer defenses of the Siegfried line. Co. B replaced Co. C in position on Dec. 29.
The enemy began massing large concentrations of troops in this sector and finally when they had 10 divisions, two of which were Panzer units, in the area of less than half that number of American units, they launched a large-scale attack. The initial assault came from the vicinity of Bitch and drove for Hagenau through the thinly held lines. Co. B fired heavy concentrations, but the enemy advance continued. This exposure of their left flank forced the 45th Div. to begin limited withdrawals as the enemy began pushing on their front. In this action, the fire of Co. A was very important.
The enemy attacks continued and on Dec. 31, drove through the infantry lines into the mortar positions of Co. B. A sharp firefight followed. It was necessary to destroy the mortars of one platoon and under the continued heavy drive of the enemy. Co. B withdrew 1,000 yards to the rear and, acting as infantry, established a new defensive position.
Co. A fired heavily on enemy infantry and vehicles. The enemy action became more aggressive against the 45th Div. One platoon of Co. B withdrew into Hagenau while the remainder of the Co. fired heavy concentrations. As the general withdrawal continued, elements of the 45th were sent to the north of Wingen to reinforce the thinly held lines. Co. A, on Jan 3, 1945, was attached to the 313th and 314th Inf. Regs. while Co. B assembled in the vicinity of Ingwiller, attached to the 179th and 180th Regs. Supporting fire was given as the 45th Div. attacked in an attempt to restore the lines. Limited advances were made and Co. B displaced forward. The 1st platoon moved into Wingen almost simultaneously with an overwhelming enemy counter-attack, which entered the village. Under the enemy action, the platoon was forced to withdraw to Zetlersheim. Enemy fire was very heavy. The situation became a little more static as the enemy forces in Wingen were surrounded. Co. A fired very heavily in spite of considerable counter-battery fire. On one day, Co. A caught an enemy Bn in an assembly area prior to an expected attack and caused hundreds of casualties.
The action against the surrounded enemy continued; however, the special enemy mountain troops succeeded in fighting their way out. Co. B displaced forward to Wiminau where their support continued. Co. C replaced Co. A, working with the 36th Combat Engrs., 314th Reg. of the 79th Div., and the 157th Inf. Reg. The ammunition was still defective and a number of casualties resulted from premature bursts. Heavy fire was maintained on the enemy.
The winter continued cold and wet, with rain, snow, and mud making mortar positions difficult to find. Co. C received exceptionally heavy shelling with rockets, which destroyed a number of their vehicles and ignited ammunition in the gun position. Frequent smoke missions were fired for the infantry to cover the evacuation of wounded, and to cover patrol activity. Enemy attacks of Co. and Bn strength were repulsed daily by mortar fire.
The middle of the month found the situation very little better. The enemy had succeeded in crossing the Rhine east o Hagenau with armor and were driving toward the city. Co. A was attached to the 12th Armored Div with the mission of attacking to relieve the situation.
A large-scale enemy attack of over regimental strength, supported by armor was directed into the sector of the 180th Inf. Reg. at 1830 hours on the 14th. Co. B fired 5,635 rounds in a little over 12 hours, as hundreds of casualties were inflicted on the enemy and the attack was repelled. The next day the action continued and enemy massing in Barenthal were destroyed by accurate mortar fire.
Co. C continued their close coordination and repulsed several aggressive enemy attacks, and supported limited advances. American forces were attacking wherever possible to throw the enemy off balance. Enemy fire was very intense. The Co. displaced forward as the short gains were made. The fire of the company was very effective in repelling the inevitable counter-attacks.
Co. A operated from halftracks and supported the 66th Armored Inf. as the armored attack was begun in the vicinity of Rohrwiller. Enemy opposition consisted of almost 2 Panzer Divs. and their tank and self-propelled fire was very accurate and intense. The American attack was completely repulsed with heavy losses, and the enemy continued to advance. Co. A had a long hard firefight in Rohrwiller. As the forces withdrew to the rear, Co. A displaced to the rear to new positions near Bishweiler. The 36th Div. was rushed to this sector to prevent an enemy breakthrough and Co. A was attached to the 143rd Reg.
Enemy action continued heavy in the sector of the 45th Div. Enemy attacks were very frequent and considerable ammunition was expended. Defective ammunition with the consequent premature bursts continued to cause casualties among the companies.
Plans were prepared for a general withdrawal if the situation became more critical. The 4.2 mortars fired all artillery targets within range, due to the shortage of artillery ammunition. Aggressive enemy infiltration increased and groups of enemy operated to the rear of American lines causing considerable damage. Co. C received intense shelling for several days in a number of different positions, which ignited this ammunition, making their position untenable. Co C supported limited attacks by the 157th Inf. in an effort to throw the attacking enemy off balance. During this action, one Bn of the regiment was surrounded. Co. C during the succeeding days fired heavily, but contact was never regained with the isolated unit.
Co. A, with the 143rd, took part in repulsing several enemy tank attacks east of Kurzenhausen. Enemy troops attacked and infiltrated to the rear of the frontline positions. After close supporting missions, the enemy were cleared out and the situation somewhat stabilized. Cos. B and C continued to fire heavily on very aggressive enemy combat patrols and infiltrations.
All rear areas were organized against enemy penetrations or paratroop attacks. By the end of the month, the enemy attacks had been definitely stopped and the situation became static. Each Co. expended close to 1,000 rounds per day during most of this month. The entire allotment of ammunition continued to be very dirty and defective.
The month of Feb. represented a period of limited attacks and very aggressive patrolling by the American forces. The mortar fire continued to be rather high as close support was given. The enemy became very defensive and most activities were heavy artillery fire and mine and wire laying. Many screening missions were fired. WP (White phosphorous) was fired predominately, due to the threat of premature bursts. Co. A was shelled by 280 mm guns. Heavy supporting fires were placed to cover limited advances. The mortars were then made ready to repel the standard enemy counter-attacks. Co. A was bombed and strafed by a jet-propelled plane.
By the middle of March, the limited attacks had carried the lines to a suitable position. Supplies and troop concentrations were built up and preparations were made for the final assault on Germany.
Battle of GermanyBy the middle of March, the Colmar area had been occupied and to the north, the American 3d, 1st and 9th armies were on the offensive along with the British. In the sector of the Seventh Army, troops strength was increased and preparations were made for the final phase of the war. On the morning of the 15th of March, after heavy mortar preparation and screening missions, the infantry jumped off. The enemy had shifted troops to the north, and the drives succeeded in advancing. In the next days, close support was given as the platoons leap-frogged forward. Co. A, in particular, had trouble with dense enemy mine fields and demolitions. Co. B supported the advance through Bouxwiller, Obermodern and Uhrwiller, and C Co. operating with the 411th Inf. Reg. continued to push forward.
There was little expenditure of ammunition as the companies remained in mobile reserve until the border of Germany was reached. Here the American Forces paused to determine the best locations to assault the Siegfried line. Supporting fire was given for limited objective attacks in the outposts of that extremely well fortified line. Co. C knocked out several enemy bunkers with their delay fire. Enemy fire increased and all Cos. began firing heavily. Screening missions were frequent as strong points were isolated in the well planned and mutually supporting defenses. The closest coordination and support was imperative. Co. A fired many concentrations in the vicinity of Fischback. Enemy artillery fire continued heavy, particularly in the sector of C Co. In conjunction with an outflanking move by the Third Army to the north, the Seventh Army drove directly into the Siegfried line.
The Bn, minus Co. A, assembled in the vicinity of Klingen in mobile reserve to be used in case of a break-through. The 36th Div. succeeded in driving through the enemy defenses in the vicinity of Weisemback and the 83d advanced into Germany. Many prisoners were taken in brisk firefights as the infantry by-passed many strong points. Co. A supported the 143d, Co. B the 141st and Co. C was with the 14th Reg. of the 71st Div., as the advance continued to the Rhine River in the vicinity of Germershein and Speyer. Here the mission was a diversionary attack across the Rhine, while the main crossings were to be by the 45th and 3d Divs. to the north, in the vicinity of Worms. Many screening missions were fired as vigorous patrolling was accomplished across the Rhine. Enemy forces moved from the north to meet this threat and the 45th and 3d Divs. pushed across the Rhine and began advancing rapidly to the east.
The Bn assembled in the vicinity of Rohrback. Next, Co. A was attached to the 63d Div. and began supporting them. Co. C operated with the 100th Div. The Rhine was crossed at Mannheim and the advance continued through Seckenheim and historic Heidelberg. The mortars were displaced frequently to keep within range of the back-pedaling enemy. Co. C with the 397th Reg. of the 100th Div., had some very difficult action at Heilbronn. Under Co. C's fire, a bridgehead was obtained across the Neckar River, but as bridges were constructed, they were knocked out by the intense and accurate enemy fire. Co. C fired concentrations of smoke and HE, giving concealment to bridging operations and beating off enemy attacks.
When amphibious tanks finally were able to cross the river, Co C supported attacks as the infantry fought to enlarge their hold in Heilbronn. Co. A, with the 73d to the west, began firing more heavily as the progress of the infantry began slowing. The mission of the 73d then became holding while the main effort was driven to the north and east of Heilbronn in an effort to outflank the strong1y held and important center. Co. B, with the 398th Inf., drove to the east several thousand yards north of Heilbronn, and the 10th Armored advanced eastward on their left. Co. C continued giving close support in Heilbronn. Enemy counter-attacks were repulsed by the mortar fire. Finally, due to the strong American forces on three sides of the city, the position was no longer tenable, the enemy began withdrawing, and the general advance began again. Displacement was frequent as support was given against the enemy strong points. Enemy fire consisted of sporadic self-propelled and long-range artillery. The advance continued through Ohringen, Necharetz, Mohrig and Schwabishall.
Co. C, with the 397th ran into several very strong points, which were reduced by combined tank and mortar fire. The 1O3d Div. passed through the left sector of the 100th Div. Cos. A and C supported this Div. as the drive moved through Welzheim and Goppengen. The 100th Div. protected the right flank and pressed forward toward Stuttgart to make contact with the 1st French Army. Co. C fired frequently in this action. A short, but sharp firefight occurred when the men of Co. C captured an enemy strong point on the 23rd of April. Co. A took part in the action at the strong point at Bolinangen, which was completely burned and destroyed after the heavy concentrations of WP and delay HE.
The Bn continued their close coordination with the infantry and advanced through Ulm and Blauburm. Co. A caught an enemy convoy and destroyed many vehicles and personnel. All companies had firefights with bypassed enemy and captured many prisoners. The 103d Div. continued advancing, working closely with the 10th Armored. All companies moved frequently, passing through Babenhausen and into Kaufbeuren. Attachments were Co. A with the 410th Inf., B with 409th Inf. and C with the 411th Inf. Considerable time was spent in convoy as the strong points were easily overcome by the armor and infantry.
The Bn advanced through Garmish and Partenkirchen at the end of April. Co. B advanced into Mittenwald and fired several concentrations on the disorganized enemy. Movement forward continued. Now the principal opposition consisted of demolitions. Hundreds of prisoners were taken and hospitals housing enemy wounded numbering many thousands were overrun. Small concentrations were fired on fleeing enemy as the 83d moved through Innsbruck. Co. C, with the 411th Inf., advanced rapidly to the south and made contact with the Fifth Army at Brenner. Co. B moved up the valley to the east of Innsbruck where many prisoners were captured. The end of the war arrived with the 83d assembled in the Inn valley. The Bn was given a section of the valley to occupy.
The end of the war in the European Theatre brought to a close a brilliant combat record. The unit had served 508 days in combat. The Bn has participated in the initial assaults of 5 amphibious operations and one airborne operation and has fought in six campaigns. As one of the old combat units in the war in Europe, the 83d fought through hot, malaria-infested Sicily, through the heart-breaking fighting on the forgotten mountains of Italy. The Bn went through the hell of Anzio, then there were the cold dismal days in the Vosges, this was followed by the difficult combat in the Colmar and Hagenau sector which represented the final serious struggle of the enemy. Finally, the Bn drove through the Siegfried line, crossed the Rhine, and took part in the complete destruction of the enemy forces. The Bn ended its combat by making contact with the Fifth Army at Brenner Pass.
During its combat history, the 83d has worked with many excellent units. There were the never to be forgotten Rangers, the 1st, 3rd and 4th Bns and the 2nd and 41st British Commandos. The Bn worked with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divs., as well as with the following separate parachute units, 509th, 517th and the 550th. The 83rd has been teamed with the old 1st and 2nd Armored Divs. as well as the newer 10th, 12th and 14th Armored Divs. The 83d has been attached to the following infantry Divs: 1, 3, 9, 34, 36, 42, 44, 45, 63, 71, 79, 85, 88, 100, 103. Along with the 36th Combat Engrs., and the 117th Cavalry, the 83d has held the line on many occasions. The 83d has also been a member of a number of special task forces.
During the months of combat, the Bn expended just short of one half million rounds of ammunition, almost 5,000 Italians and Germans had been captured and 230 allied prisoners were liberated by the men of the 83d. For distinguished service, the following awards have been given:
3 Distinguished Service Crosses (Posthumous)
2 Legions of Merit
39 Silver Stars
9 Soldiers Medals
97 Bronze Stars
5 Croix de Guerre
876 Purple Hearts
91 Oak leaf Clusters
The 83d was formed and trained for one purpose - to fight. It has fought with such brilliance that it has come to be known as the best mortar battalion. Every member of the "Fighting 83d" has a right to be very proud of the excellent record of the Bn and the men and officers will maintain the standards that have been established.
Printed at Innsbruck, Austria, 1945
Wagner'sche Universitats-Buchdruckerei - Innsbruck - Erler Str. 5-7
As this history of the 83rd CMB shows, it operated in support of the 1st, 3rd & 4th Ranger Battalions in Sicily and the Italian mainland. For a comprehensive website about the 1st & 3rd Rangers in Italy, see Darby's Rangers.
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