The British 201th Guards Brigade fought a lot on the Tyrrhenun area of the Gustav line. It has been not so easy for them to cross the Garigliano River in this area, but at the end they were successful. They reached Minturno. After repeated and desperate attacks, they could join the several hills on this area.
General Clark sent the American II Corps
But the American II Corps was arriving. The 88th and the 85th Divisions were on their way to join the Gustav Line. On 3 May, Lieutenant General Mark Clark met the men of the 88th Division in their rest area near Carinola and San Lorenzo. He promised the soldiers to give them an important role in a new attack to the Gustav area. The plan was to attack with Germans with the help of the 88th Division on the right, from the Cemetery of Minturno to Santi Cosma e Damiano. And the 85th Division had to secure the left side, from the S-Ridge to the seaside. The 88th Division was divided on two fronts. The first one, the 351th Regiment from Santa Maria Infante to Bracchi hill. And the second the 350th from the Bracchi hill to Santi Cosma e Damiano.
Preparing the Battle from Santa Maria Infante to Santi Cosma e Damiano
The 351th had in front of it on the S-Ridge about 450 men of the 94Th Fusiliers Reconaissance Battalion, and about 400 soldiers of the 26th Grenadier Regiment. Naturaly they were very well recovered in pillboxes, foxholes and natural fortifications. As for the other Regiments, the H hour was 23 Hours 11 May 1944. in this precise minute all the Allied guns opened fire along the Gustav Line, everyone in its sector. The fire continued for about one hour. And in the first hours of 12 May 1944 the Companies E and F of the Second Battalion started their attack. They left the Minturno Cemetery, joined the Left and Right Tits, and continued on their way.
On the other sector of the Gustav Line, the 350th knew that without the capture of Cianelli the advance of the II corps was not possible. So the officers gave to the 1th Battalion the task to take it, while the 3rd Battalion had to take hill 100 and capture Ceracoli. At the H hour, the 350th started its successful attack.
351th Company L joined The Spur
Company E captured on the right side of Santa Maria Infante The Spur and even if they meet a strong German resistance, they held for long until when reinforcements arrived. They were quite next to the first houses of the village of Santa Maria Infante, but they had to fall back to the Spur. At 3.00, Colonel Kendal saw from far away 5 medium tanks moving on the main road to reach him and his men. He had asked the Headquarter for help. But all the Tank were destroyed by the Germans. After 2 attempts the Tanks understood that was not possible the reach the company for help. When reinforce arrived on 13 May, only 2 survivors were there. The others had been taken prisoners or died.
351th Company F hidden in the Culvert
Company F instead joined the village passing from the hill 103. In the dark, between the smoke and the dust, some men got lost, and they reached the road Minturno-Santa Maria, while some other joined the Santa Maria-Tame road. The Germans were everywhere, and they were always under Nazi's fire. The F Company joined the so called Culvert. At the beginning the men were only 20, but slowly, slowly those who got lost during the attack joined the group in the same place. The lack of communication between the 338th Regiment and the 351th F Company was really a bad thing.
The 88th Division organised a second attack
The first attempt to take Santa Maria Infante finished with a terrible loss of lives. The Allied lost 361 men in only 2 days, and the 88th Division decided to send 125 replacements. But trying to reach the tired men in their positions, many of them were lost under enemy's fire. And on 13 May a second attack started. The sectors were differently divided . The 338th Regiment, that had lost many more men had a shorter area, and the 351th had to help reaching Tame and Santa Maria. From sunrise on 13 May 1944, the 351th was ready again for the second and last attack.
The 351th suffered a big lost of men, because the 338th Regiment of the 85th Division failured to capture the S-Ridge, the 351th was asked to move in that direction to help the others. In the early hours of 14 May, the Company B had stormed Hill 131 and the German guns were now silent. The men could at 8.00 attack Santa Maria Infante and they were successful. They continued to fight until when they joined Bracchi hill.
The 350th Regiment on the Battlefield
On 12 May 2 Companies were on Mt, Cianelli and those who had to go toward Ventosa, but they could do it only when the French had attacked on the right side. So they occupied Ventosa and opened the way to the French. Company I was able on the 12th May to take Mt Ceracoli and it hold this place until when the other company on the left and on the ring it could join their objectives.An the right side Company L attacked Mt Rotondo. and took it. During the night the 350th captureed Mt. Cerri, and then they moved to Mt Bracchi. They took San Pietro, and they moved in the direction of the Ausente River.
The breaking of the German defences
We can say that after so many efforts, the 351th was helped in its attack by the withdrawal of the XIV Panzer corps. The German had lost so many men, that they decided to withdraw on a new defensive line passing on the crest of the Aurunci Mountains. The 351th Infantry Regiment must really be proud of what it did in those days. The men suffered over 500 casualties in three days. Their effort to take the Bracchi triangle, with the help of the 339th that took san Martino Hill stopping the German reinforcement in the Ausoni Mountains, helped the French Troops to push across the Valley after the breaking of the Gustav Line on Monte Majo. On the other sector, the 350th on 15th May could move to Spigno bout fount it already evacuated, and they created their bivouac in Santa Maria
"The 88th Division" Grand Tour
The “88th Division Grand Tour” (about 3 hours) includes:
1) pickup from your arrival at the railway station in Cassino every day at 10.00am (Main Square, near the Green Kiosk)
2) about 6h30 guided tour of the American most meaningful sites of the Tyrrhenum sector of the Gustav Line:
- Minturno Cemetery and the Left and Right Tits
- Minturno-Santa Maria road
- the S-Ridge, the Spur and the Culvert
- Santi Cosma e Damiano
- WW2 Museum in Castelforte
3) return to the railway station in Cassino at about05.30pm
4) price per person 160 euros (lunch or dinner not included)
Informations and Booking
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Dr. Anna Maria Priora Ph.D
WW2 Monte Cassino Battlefield expert, researcher and tour guide