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D + 8, Darby Wept.

Discussion in 'Italy, Sicily & Greece' started by kerrd5, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. kerrd5

    kerrd5 Ace

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    30 January 1944.

    “Men of the 1st and 3d Rangers, each with two bandoleers of ammunition slung over his shoulders and with pockets stuffed with grenades, slipped across the west branch of the Mussolini Canal at 0130 on their mission to Cisterna. In column of battalions they crept silently forward along the narrow Pantano ditch, which runs northwest across the fields to the right of the Conca-Cisterna road, Concealed beneath a moonless cloudy sky, the long snake-like column moved past numerous German positions which they could see and hear on all sides. Several times Rangers hugged the sides of the ditch as German sentries walked by on its bank. By dawn the head of the leading battalion bad come out of the ditch where it crossed the road and was within 800 yards of Cisterna. The 3d followed directly behind, the tail of the column just clearing the road running east from Isola Bella.

    “When dawn revealed the head of the column moving down the road to Cisterna, a strong German force led by three self-propelled guns suddenly opened fire. The Rangers deployed quickly and knocked out the three guns. But as the light improved, German machine guns, mortars, and snipers, concealed in houses and haystacks or dug in all around them, trapped the Rangers in a hail of fire. Caught without cover in the open treeless fields, and with their chance for surprise completely lost, the Rangers scrambled for the ditches and houses, firing back at a hidden enemy. The Germans, anticipating a renewal of the attack on Cisterna, had brought in veteran troops the night before to stiffen the defense. Evidently the enemy had also detected the Rangers' approach through their lines and had had time to prepare an ambush.

    “The Rangers fought desperately all through the morning against intrenched Germans all about them, At 0730 the 1st Battalion broke radio silence to report the situation in its struggle to get a foothold in Cisterna. An hour later a handful of Rangers had inched forward to take a few buildings near the railroad station at the edge of the town, but most of the men were still pinned down in the open fields.

    “The 4th Rangers and 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry, jumping off an hour later than the 1st and 3d Rangers, made every effort to respond to their appeals for help. The 4th Rangers advanced up the Conca-Cisterna road but were stopped by heavy enemy machine-gun fire from a group of farm houses below Isola Bella. Lt. Col. Roy A. Murray, battalion commander, sought to outflank this island of resistance and pushed to within a mile of Isola Bella before dawn broke. As soon as the Germans could locate the attackers accurately, they kept the battalion under well-aimed fire in the open fields. Stopped in their first effort to relieve the trapped battalions, the 4th Rangers attempted a breakthrough with two tank destroyers and two halftracks, but two of the vehicles ran afoul of a mine field below Isola Bella. A second attempt also failed. All day the Germans held the 4th Rangers, who suffered heavy casualties in exchanging fire with an enemy only 200 yards away.

    “Meanwhile along the road below Cisterna the 1st and 3d Rangers were almost at the end of their strength. About noon enemy tanks came down from Highway No. 7 and raced back and forth through the Ranger positions. Firing up and down the ditches, they forced the Rangers into the open and split them into small groups. Lacking antitank guns or heavy weapons, the Rangers fought back with bazookas and sticky grenades. One enemy tank was quickly set aflame. As a second tank rumbled down on a squad commanded by Sgt. Thomas B. Fergen, he hit it with a sticky grenade. One of his men blasted it with a bazooka and another finished the tank off by climbing up on it and dropping a grenade down the turret.

    “As the tanks closed in, the shattered companies attempted to withdraw. It was too late. The Germans had surrounded them and they were unable to break through. As a last resort the few remaining officers ordered the troops to scatter through the fields and escape. At 1230, 1st Sgt. Robert E. Ehalt of the 3d Battalion sent a final message from the battalion command post. Only ten men were left around him, he was out of contact with all the companies, and he was destroying his radio as the tanks approached. Of 767 men in the Ranger attack only six escaped. Most of the men were captured by the Germans."

    Phoning MG Truscott with the grim news, Darby said “My old sergeant stayed with the last
    ten men. It was apparently too much for them.” “Darby laid his head on his arms and sobbed.
    Sergeant Carlo Contrera, who had served as Darby’s driver since North Africa, later observed,
    ‘He couldn’t stand the thought of what was happening to them.’”

    As a consequence of the disaster at Cisterna, Darby's Rangers, the 6615th Ranger Force (Provisional), ceased to be an effective fighting unit. It was officially disbanded in August 1944.

    “Anzio Beachhead, 22 January - 25 May 1944” - U.S. Army Center of Military History.

    “Day of Battle” – Rick Atkinson, page 393.

    Credit Google for map and photo.

    map06.jpg

    30 Jan 1944 New RS.jpg

    Looking south at the Pantano Ditch:

    Pantano Ditch 2 RS.jpg


    Dave
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  2. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    On this day 75 years ago my 1st Ranger Btn. father was in Naples. He had been removed from the front as a new treatment for the "Battle Fatigue" that was causing over 35% of the casualties at that time in Italy.. His new job was MOS 345, truck driver. Sometime this week he wrote a letter to his brother in Grottaglie, telling him that he was trying to get some time off to get down for a visit. On this day 75 years ago, 1st Ranger Hummer was in the Fifth Army Stockade in Caserta After a hospital stay in Africa, Hummer got side tracked on his way back to his unit and the MP's picked him up in a brothel in Bagnoli.
     
  3. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    No offense intended but does the OP intend to start a new thread about the 45th every day until VE day? It really seems to degrade the utility of the Italy Sicily Greece Topic.
     
  4. kerrd5

    kerrd5 Ace

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    Let's review the threads, shall we:

    D + 8 - No mention of the 45th ID.

    D + 6 - No mention of the 45th ID.

    D + 5 - No mention of the 45th ID.

    D + 3 - No mention of the 45th ID.


    Dave
     
  5. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    Edited

    Sorry Dave, Is it acceptable here to have 17 of 20 threads on a page about the same operation? In other forums that I am in this would be unacceptable. Maybe it is different here? I could do my dad's war here day by day but it would lose its flow and the story.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  6. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Dave, I too was wondering why the one post per day or every other day? Wouldn't it be more useful to combine them into an Anzio day-by-day thread?
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I can kind of see it both ways. If there were multiple people making significant contributions to the daily postings it would make a lot of sense. Given the limited posting to date I think a single thread would probably serve better but that does loose the daily focus. Ultimately up to Otto.
     

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