Magazine article America in WWII

Restlessness Pays Off

Magazine article America in WWII

Restlessness Pays Off

Article excerpt

Salerno, Italy, was one of the hardest, most critical battles of World War II. [The US Fifth Army began landing there, on Italy's west coast, on September 9, 1943, in a hotly contested invasion. It took until September 16 to secure the beachhead and prepare to break out.] The tide of the battle turned when ground and airborne reinforcements were rushed in [while] the Eighth Air Force provided close air support and the Royal Navy threw two battleships in for massive naval gun support.

As the Germans switched to fighting a delaying action, withdrawing to the next strong defensive position, Lieutenant General Mark Clark's Fifth Army pivoted north toward Naples and beyond. This left our flanks to the east and south exposed.

The 645th Tank Destroyer Battalion was assigned to protect those flanks, and the Battalion Reconnaissance Company (in which I was a platoon leader) pushed ahead to provide a screen. Although I'd just turned 21, I was the senior first lieutenant, so I drew the most interesting axis of advance--the main inland highway from the south. When it grew dark, we moved to listening posts, but as daylight broke, we shifted to observation posts (OPs).

Sitting passively waiting for visitors wasn't my style, so I decided to patrol out in front, while leaving half the platoon to man the OPs. We were on listening radio silence, so I didn't ask for permission or advise headquarters what I was doing.

As we advanced, we ran into enemy demolitions, but the ground was dry and we were able to bypass them with my halftrack and two quarter-ton jeeps. …

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