David Brower served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. This is his article about the experience, which appeared in the Sierra Club Bulletin in December, 1946.
Pursuit in the Alps
By David R. Brower
Our first view of the Lake of Garda and the Alps around it came on the cold, stormy dawn of April 28, 1945, when our battalion of Mountain Troops first touched its 100-mile shoreline. Through a drenching, all-night rain the 87th and 85th Mountain Infantries had taken turns pursuing the fleeing Wehrmacht up the east shore from the Po Valley, and just before dawn the 86th passed through the forward elements of the 85th at a small group of resort-like villas known as Navene. Our eight-hour shift in the lead was coming up. At least it was supposed to be eight hours.
At Navene we found that the shoreline of Italy's largest lake was beginning to get rugged; gray granite cliffs and steep brushy slopes dropped sharply to the black, very deep, rough water, and rose more than seven thousand feet to the snow-covered bordering peaks. Along the east shore it became increasingly difficult for a highway to cling to the mountainside. About a mile north of the town was the first of a series of seven tunnels which led through the rocky buttresses to Torbole and Riva, larger towns at the north end of the lake. The first of those tunnels was now demolished, at least at its entrance, for the Germans had effectively halted the progress of the 85th by blasting the tunnel, as well as some minor bridges that led toward it.
Preparatory to following the 86th's 2d Battalion, the 3d Battalion moved off the road and dispersed. Artillery and tanks moved up into position to fire on the enemy across the lake. The Battalion CP was set up for the moment in a villa that had, until a day or two before, housed high German antiaircraft officers. It still housed -- but not for long -- a large hero-worshippers' portrait of Hitler. From the beach around the villa point we could have enjoyed our first close-up of the Alps, stormy though it was; but German shells began to whoosh over the point, to kick up fountains of water just beyond its far side. When our counterbattery fire put an end to this, we could still not settle down to enjoy either the villa or the scene.
The situation was not a happy one. We were committed to attack along Garda's east shore, where the ruggedness of the terrain multiplied the strength of each defending enemy soldier by ten. The highway, our main avenue of approach, was entirely too much an avenue for enemy defensive fires and demolitions. Word came down to the battalion that higher headquarters were considering a flanking action to the right of the highway. A trail led from Malcesine almost to the summit of the high escarpment east of the lake, then worked north, up and down, along the slopes of the ridge to a point above Torbole, at the head of the lake.
Wasn't this situation just what we were asking for? Hadn't we, as mountain troops, been trained and equipped for just such terrain? Shouldn't we be able to effect complete surprise by attacking along a route that the enemy -- especially a disorganized enemy, few in number -- would have to assume could defend itself? There were some who would answer yes to all these questions. But there were more who would answer no. Ironically, I remembered the training years that had gone before. At Camp Hale, and in West Virginia, in orientation lectures in which we tried to point out to mountain-troop and flatland GIs why we were giving them mountain training, one of my standard examples had been this: as the fighting in Italy moves northward, men are going to be needed for invasion routes across the Alps, or at least for flank protection when the Allied armies do a column right or column left to by-pass the Alps. Some big gear in Washington will thumb through the files and say, "Ah ha! The Tenth (or the 28th, the 45th, 35th, 77th, or 95th) Division has been at Camp Hale (or West Virginia). They know all about mountain fighting. We'll use them." We could all laugh easily at that purported humor. We realized, first, how little we knew about mountains and how sadly unprepared we would be, after a hardly more than faltering mountain-training program in lesser American mountains, for the ever so much more thoroughly mountain-trained Germans fighting in the ever so much more rugged Alps. And in the second place, we were sure that the big gears knew of our shortcomings, and that such a horrible predicament could never happen to us.
So here we were, mountain troops, fighting in the Alps at last. But where was our mountain equipment? Presumably, it was back in Naples. Higher echelons weren't interested in mountain equipment, anyway. The equipment and clothing with us was no different from the ordinary flatland GI's equipment, right down to the last shred of underwear -- except that even most of the flatland apparel had been left behind when we jumped off, and we hadn't had so much as a change of underwear for about a month and a half. Ropes, mountain boots, sleeping bags? Why ask about those? We hadn't yet captured enough German blankets to give more than one man in ten a blanket to his name. The Tenth Mountain was less well equipped for mountains than were the flatland men who had suffered so many needless casualties from weather and terrain on Attu! Yet the Alpine weather and snows above Lake Garda could be fully as severe.
How about the time element? Hastily calculating from my own mountain experience, I estimated that in good weather, with no snow on the trail, one man, who knew a little about mountains and was properly, dressed for them but otherwise climbing free of load, could have covered the high route to Torbole in about 17 hours. How would a battalion fare? The weather was not at all good; an unknown amount of snow covered the upper slopes. We may have had many men who knew a little about mountains when we hit Italy, but the Division's 4,000 casualties had included too many of the original mountain men. We utterly lacked proper clothing and equipment. A battalion column would be four miles long, hard to control, and flank protection for the column would be all but forbidden by the steepness of the slopes on either side of the trail. Without mules, we could hardly hope to secure such close artillery support as might be necessary. And finally, far from being free of loads, the men would have to carry weapons and ammunition. That would be bad enough for riflemen. Heavy weapons men would have tougher sledding still.
The road and the right flank were out. The left-flank route remained -- the choppy waters of Garda, breaking against the lake-shore cliffs beneath the highway, fully exposed to all artillery fire the enemy could bring to bear. It must have been a difficult decision to make; it was certainly an unprecedented decision: the 10th Mountain Division would conduct an amphibious operation in the Alps!
Just about at this time, an ironical, terrible smirk crept over the face of fate with a capital F. A few hundred miles south of us, the highest echelons, seated in the comfortable splendor of the royal summer palace at Caserta, had fixed their names to the papers terminating German resistance in Italy and southern Austria. But at Lake Garda neither we nor the Germans knew it. The speed of our advance had been just about as hard on our own communications as it had been on theirs.
Perhaps more through fortune than foresight, a covey or flight of "ducks" (amphibious trucks), attached to the Division at the time of the Po crossing, was still with us, having been used to augment six by sixes in the motor march to Lake Garda; the ducks would have enough freeboard for the choppy lake water. So Malcesine became a POE for the men of the 2d Battalion. They boarded the ducks, which thereupon headed up the lake to by-pass the demolished tunnels, staying close to the shore for what protection it might afford. No sooner had the flight of ducks become a fleet than the Germans replied with their only defense -- antiaircraft artillery. Garda had been a hot spot for Allied airmen who flew bombing runs across the Alps, and the 88s which had harassed them were now depressed to blast the ducks out of the water. They cut loose from their positions in Riva and Torbole, with time fire that burst in angry black flak puffs over the ducks, and with point-detonation shells which shot geysers high in the air above the ducks and their burden of mountaineers. Some shells blasted the cliffs above the fleet, and falling rocks were added to the flying fragments. The ducks moved farther offshore. The firing gained in intensity.
To those of us back at Malcesine who watched the scene, swearing at the Krauts, sweating out the 2d Battalion men as they moved steadily on through falling rock, flak, and geysers, straining to pick out enemy gun positions as counterbattery targets, it seemed as if the 10th Mountain's first amphibious attack could only be annihilated. Men couldn't live out there. Then the word came back that there had been no casualties -- and that it was our turn. Not daring to expect such amazing luck, we took off, some 25 men to each bobbing target. Our first ducks were untouched, but later loads were less fortunate.
By-passing the first two tunnels, as had the 2d Battalion, we landed on a tiny beach in a cove, scrambled up the steep slope to the highway, and moved into the shelter of the third tunnel, which was free of demolitions. Meanwhile, the 2d Battalion had moved up the road nearly a mile and had set up a defensive position for the night. Under cover of darkness we passed through their position and set up our own well beyond it. Here the slope to the east was less severe, and although traversing it would not be easy, we welcomed the opportunity to deploy the battalion. Companies I and K would make the traverse; L Company would continue along the highway.
Whatever remnant of the night had been left for sleep was made as uncomfortable as possible by the continuing light drizzle. But a dark, cloudy, drizzly night on a steep, slippery, and rocky mountainside was luxury compared to what was coming up.
Now the weather cleared. Observation was excellent -- altogether too much of an advantage to the defending forces. The delay along the road which had been brought about by expert German demolition work gave the enemy a chance to organize his defense. But time had worked against us. Lack of sleep was beginning to show. Because of the rain, a late start, and the irregular motion of the trucks, the men had not slept too well during the move from Bussolengo, in the Po Valley. Most of the following night they had been moving toward the forward defensive position, digging in to improve that position, and getting ready to move out for the dawn attack. In fact, none of the men had enjoyed a full night's sleep since the Po River was crossed, and that had been the only good night since the final push began in the Apennines, fifteen long, demanding days from this spot on Garda's shore. Nor had there been time to eat properly. The men were worn.
But the attack continued. L Company men moved ahead through another tunnel, short and free of demolitions. But they couldn't get out of it. The north end was covered by machine-gun fire from an embrasure carved out of the solid granite just to one side of the entrance to the next tunnel. M Company men moved up a 50-caliber machine gun to seal off the embrasure with far more deadly fire than it could return. Under this cover, riflemen spurted forward, tossed grenades through the doorway in the wall of the next tunnel which connected with the embrasure room. Two of its occupants staggered out into the tunnel to die; another six lay where they were. The tunnel was ours, and the advance elements of L Company moved quickly through the black interior, to stumble over a pile of debris in the far end.
This was the Tunnel of the Dead, and Death had not left it. The first American troops to reach the far end had already seen too much horror to absorb any of the horror that met them there. Possibly it pleased them at the time. The debris was not all inorganic; it was a shambles. Apparently a rear-guard crew of about twenty Germans -- it was not now possible to discern exactly how many -- had been hand-moving a 20-mm. antiaircraft gun to a new defensive position to their rear, where they could keep it depressed and continue to fire on infantry, not aircraft. The gun carrier was loaded with ammunition. Somehow they ran afoul of their own demolitions, likewise intended for us. Their war ended quickly, if not prettily. The explosion set fire to their own ammunition and to them. Pieces of men were scattered as far as fifty feet out of the tunnel. Part of the massive rock roof of the tunnel collapsed and fell to the floor, but there was too little rock to complete the burial or to extinguish the smoldering.
The L Company men moved forward over the debris, on toward the seventh -- and last -- tunnel, which curved, its far end being lined up directly on Torbole. The Germans did not intend to have L Company get out of this one, either, and fired machine-gun and pom-pom (2O-mm. antiaircraft bursting shells) fire into their end of it. Too many ricochets reached for our end, and L Company stopped.
The heavy weapons company men moved to the debris-filled mouth of tunnel no. 6 to plan what relief they could for L Company. Major Bill Drake, now our Battalion Commander (Lt. Col. Hay was Regimental Executive Officer at this point), was there. With him was Major John Seamans, now 2d Battalion Commander, re-connoitering for a relief of our Battalion. To complete the battalion staff representation, the tunnel-end party included Lt. Jim Church, M Company Commander, Captain Barrett Ely, H Company CO, Lt. Ernie Field, 3d Battalion S-3, and Lt. Doug Butterwick, the Battalion's antitank officer. Then there was the artillery forward observer, and Regular Army Sergeant Davis, one of the best machine-gun men in the business, plus about half of M Company. Some of the men were in the tunnel. Others were spread out in front. Suddenly, a few 88 airbursts rent the air overhead and drove all the men into the tunnel for protection.
The Battalion CP, where I was at the moment, was quite comfortably situated behind tunnel no. 5 at the only point near by from which radio contact could be had with the traversing companies and L Company. It was sunny, shrubs and annuals around us were showing their springtime greenery, and a few men went down to the lake to fill their canteens with mountain water. An ominous message came back from the Battalion Commander's radio operator.
"Send up all the litter teams you can get!"
Captain Ev Bailey, now the Battalion Executive officer, relayed the message to the Aid Station, farther back along the road.
Soldiers don't pale easily. But Lt. Butterwick, who came running back to our CP about then, was pale. A piece of shell fragment an inch across had ripped into, but had not entered, the top of his steel helmet, and was still embedded there, although he didn't know it.
"Major Drake's been hit," he said to Bailey, "and wants you to take over. They got a direct hit inside the tunnel."
The details came later. The airbursts had driven everyone into the tunnel. Then a one-in-a-thousand shot hit the jackpot, and burst some fifty feet inside the tunnel. Those who were not hit with shell fragments or rock splinters were at least temporarily stunned or deafened. Some thought that another demolitions charge had gone off inside the tunnel. Others thought that an airburst had detonated in midair between the tunnel walls. Before the smoke and dust cleared there was the terrible sound of many moans. Men in agony screamed "Medic! Medic!" -- words which were often last words. It was a long time before the medics and litter teams arrived to salvage the living. The final toll was seven dead, forty-four wounded. For one shell.
It was imperative to get some of the injured men back to complete medical aid as soon as possible. With help from the walking wounded, the litter teams moved them to comparative safety behind a buttress some distance back along the road. But engineers had not yet been able to repair the demolished road to Malcesine, and the remaining route of evacuation had to be by water. As one man hi the battalion, Pfc. Ross, wrote, "The Germans had the water beyond the protecting rock ridge registered in and it was only with great difficulty that ducks could move in and out with ammo and supplies Consequently, fast assault boats, powered with outboard motors, were called up. They were just large enough to hold two litters and the one-man crew, and were manned by an engineer outfit that did a superb job in keeping the old motors going as the small craft bounced from wave to wave. Several of them stalled, but the engineers always managed to get them started again before enemy artillery could zero in."
Devastating though the shell in the tunnel had been, the attack went on. By that night companies I and K relieved the pressure on the far end of the last tunnel, and L Company fought uts way into town. The Battalion CP was set up among the German corpses in tunnel no. 6, and experienced great difficulty in maintaining communications. Only radio was available, and although well outside the tunnel, it was too well shielded by cliffs. Artillery men hand-moved their pack 75s into the tunnel, but had no targets to fire on. The will to attack seemed to be disintegrating into a stupor. In the rear echelons of the Battalion the third sleepless night was beginning to tell. However, adrenalin distilled in fear was meanwhile keeping the forward elements well awake.
Excerpts from some of the front-line riflemen's accounts show that a staggering sort of progress survived that day's pandemonium. Staff Sergeant Dick Emerson, 3d platoon guide for Company I, was a cool observer and participant in what turned out to be I Company's only fiasco:
Early in the morning the men were wakened and the advance was continued (without time for eating). The day was off to a bad start. We moved in a long traverse of the mountain wall above the lake, on trail part of the time, but mostly in the tall thick brush. The pace was moderate, but the going was rough, what with the heavy loads of ammo and weapons. Finally, around noon, I Company, rounding the shoulder of the mountain, looked down on Torbole and called a halt.
Up to this time very few I Company men knew the scheduled plan of attack, including many of the NCOs. I Company was to lead off, with K in reserve. Our position on the hill was excellent for observation and cover. Lt. Elufson, the acting company commander, and the four platoon leaders, with NCOs, observed and chose the likely route. It entered the town from above and behind, through a corridor of olive trees with a rock wall on either side. (Both these rock walls, it was found later, were well fortified.)
Leading down the mountainside diagonally toward the town was a trail. The second platoon led off single file. The third, then the first, and finally the weapons platoons followed. As soon as the second platoon started down, it was fired on by long-range sniper fire. Immediately the platoon leader radioed back, "We're pinned down by sniper fire." Only two shots had been fired! Machine-gun sections were moved up to give covering fire. They opened up, spraying likely positions below -- but the company didn't advance. T/Sgt. Staley was given command of the second platoon. Again the covering fire started and the second and third platoons moved down the slope. Snipers picked at each man as he displaced forward. Generally the shots missed by a good six feet.
By this time the sun was getting low. Radio contact with the second platoon was lost, so Lt. Rivers, of the third, went down with his radio man to regain contact and find out what the trouble was. The radio man was hit on the way. About then the Jerries were seen to drag up a howitzer some 1,500 yards away and drop shells directly on the trail, inflicting casualties with each shell. Word was sent for the knee mortar to be brought up as a counter. The weapons platoon lieutenant had no knee mortar, so he sent the three mortar crews down the trail, mortars and all. Several were hit by the sniper because they presented too slow a target with their burdens. The mortars were never used.
An order then came to withdraw. The second platoon was already down the mountain, and the third almost. The second was in a good covered position and would have suffered coming back up, but could not advance alone. The third was brought back up to help the first as support for K Company, which was now going to by-pass I Company on a more direct route down. The second platoon was left where it was, with Lt. Rivers and a machine-gun section. They were not to move until dawn.
Back on top again, Lt. Walucz took over the third platoon and I Company moved down behind K. Throughout the day I Company had plenty of spirit, but severely lacked leadership.
Before dawn this Battalion of mountain troops was to have run the gamut of infantry fighting. Already they had patrolled in camouflage whites and on skis in the Apennine snows, had fought their way down out of the Apennines while being supplied by mule, had walked through Po Valley farmlands, been cheered by liberated Italians, had ridden in motorized task force columns, had been strafed, had crossed a river in assault boats, captured a city, in the Alps had gone amphibious and now had about accomplished a flanking action on a steep mountain slope. But they had not yet tangled with tanks. Staff Sergeant Faulkner, who was with the company now about to lead, describes the renewed attack:
Finally the word came back that K Company was to go down the mountainside to take Torbole. Meanwhile the good old air corps was giving Jerry a hard time by dropping bombs and strafing, which enabled us to go down the slope undetected and without taking any casualties. We then had to cross a large, barren, rock-studded plateau in order to enter the outskirts of town. Three snipers spotted us, and they, plus two men with burp guns, pinned us down. By rushing from rock to rock we made it to a grove of trees and there organized our next plan of attack.
S/Sgt. Holbrook of the first squad in the third platoon nearly jumped into a foxhole with a Jerry, but he spotted him in time. It was from this Jerry that we got our information about what was in Torbole. He told us that there were three tanks in town and about eighty men from different outfits. We sent him back to the rear and started down the rest of the way into town.
By this time it was dark; we had lost contact with the second platoon and most of the weapons platoon. We cleared out the first house we came to, which was used as a Company CP and aid station. From this house the first platoon started into town and the third followed. We spotted eight men coming down the road from the tunnel and withheld our fire, thinking it might be L Company. Too late we discovered they were Jerries, and opened fire, which they returned. Again the 20-mm. fire from the ridge we were to take opened up on us again. Jerry knew that we had gotten into town then and really let loose with all he had. A 20-mm. antiaircraft gun was holding the first platoon up in the village square, so Sgt. Smith, of our weapons platoon, set up a machine gun and had his men fire it at the 20-mm. gun by reaching around the corner and flipping the trigger, spraying lead in the general direction of the 20-mm. This enabled the bazooka team to get close enough to knock it out.
With the 20-mm. knocked out we split up the town, with the first taking the right half, the third the left. We then searched the buildings in the dark, mostly by pawing around with our hands in all the houses. About halfway through town the first platoon came across an enemy squad and got into a small-fire fight.
Part of the town was burning, so it enabled us to watch the streets more easily. All at once we heard a clatter of tanks and several loud reports. Everyone began to head for the hospital, a large building down by the lake's shore; but the two lieutenants got together and decided we could stop a counterattack more easily in the village square. So everyone took off like a herd of turtles to the village square.
L Company, elements of which had now reached town, helped us set up a defense from the water's edge to the far side of the square. M Company finally showed up with the machine guns and everything got under control. Except for one thing -- we had very little ammo left and no artillery support. We were all out of antitank grenades and bazooka rounds and even had to give some of the riflemen's ammo to the machine gunners to load into belts.
The Jerry tanks, Mark IVs, rambled up and fired at different buildings, and their foot troops spread out and protected the tanks, which would fire for a while and then move forward some more. The village square was pretty well protected by buildings in front of it, so the tanks had a hard time getting direct hits. But when they did, they really scored, because of our crowded condition in the different houses. We had two men at each window in each house, and everyone was on his toes and alert.
The counterattack started about ten at night and lasted until 4:30 next morning. It was pretty nerve-racking in those buildings, where you never knew where one of those tanks would roll around a corner and open up on the building you were in. (Oh. While we were searching the town a Jerry plane came over and bombed the mountainside we had come along after dark. I heard that the 1st Battalion really caught hell from those bombs; they were up there on their way to Nago.)
The 1st Battalion did have trouble, but finally took Nago. Meanwhile, however, neither K Company nor the 3d Battalion were through yet. Another man from K Company, overlapping Faulkner's account slightly, tells the rest of the story:
Just as Sgt. Belgea came up to see about setting up his other two machine guns and began to give his orders, two tanks, up the road about 75 yards, began to fire on the buildings we were in. Until now everyone had been merely standing around; now they raced upstairs and took up firing positions in the windows. The two tanks came steadily down the road, firing as they came. Of course, they didn't know which buildings we were in; nevertheless, it was very disconcerting to sit there waiting for them with nothing but bazookas for defense. Our bazooka man, Pfc. Martin, was placed in an alleyway between two houses. When the first tank nosed by the alley, he put one round through its weaker side armor, instantly stopping it. Then a BAR man went to work on the men riding on and walking behind the tank.
After that things went from bad to worse; we were beginning to be surrounded and unfortunately we had only one bazooka round left. To top it all off, we found that we couldn't make contact with the first squad in the next building. Then the order came to withdraw by way of the hospital. That was all right with us. We couldn't find some of the guys, and some had taken off; we didn't know who had done what, and it would have made too much noise to yell for them; so after one quick look through our buildings we all took off. Back at the center of town we let L Company take over for a while.
Company L had left the last tunnel at 2200, when the town was reported to be clear, and reached town about midnight, just as K Company was pulling back. Most of the company took positions in houses while Canfield, with a rifle grenade, and Blair, with a BAR, attempted to stop the second of the tanks. It withdrew sounding as if a track had been damaged, but nevertheless kept firing at us. The enemy apparently did not have enough men to clear houses in the dark, although their numbers were estimated to be as high as 150. They were not combat troops, but men from air and service forces. Just before dawn the Germans withdrew to the north, taking two riflemen and one medic from K Company as prisoners.
After daylight the companies collected their men, some of whom had hidden in houses the Germans thought they had cleared; they moved through town again to make sure the Krauts had really gone.
Torbole had been a very pretty place, the kind you see pictured on Italian tourist posters, a clear blue lake, a small clean town on the shore, steep mountains, and a ruined castle on a promontory above the town. Torbole now, however, had been the scene of fighting for a day. Formal gardens had shell craters in them, trees were shattered, and shops had been blown open and the merchandise scattered in the street. Although the search disclosed no live Germans, it did turn up a surprising number of souvenirs. Regimental headquarters moved up to town that morning, and supplies and artillery began coming up on ducks and by sailboat. Once again shells fell in the town as the Germans attempted to hit the vehicles and vessels moving in and out of the small Torbole harbor. Most of the shells landed harmlessly in the water, but occasionally one would land on the road along the shore. One of these killed Regimental Sergeant Major Evans and Colonel Darby, famous as a leader of the Rangers, who had just been transferred to the 10th Mountain Division as assistant commandant.
About noon a small patrol from I Company moved out to inspect the bridge over the Sarca River, on the road to Riva. The bridge had been destroyed, but a foot-bridge was still intact a short distance upstream. The patrol proceeded toward Riva, past well-made and well-concealed positions in the base of the ridge separating Riva from Torbole. A fairly large force of Germans was pulling out of Riva as the patrol moved in, and they began to come back into town when they realized that our patrol consisted of only about fifteen men. The 2d Battalion arrived in time to change their minds. The only shots fired were between the partisans and the departing enemy.
By that evening the 3d Battalion, following the 2d, had settled into and around a 300-year-old villa just vacated by German officers; the quarters were comfortable, and to add to the luxury, an issue of clean clothing was begun there. L Company, in response to a dramatic partisan note from the town of Arco, which ended, "We cannot hold out much longer," moved north five miles on the morning of the 2d and took the town without incident. Meanwhile, the issuing of equipment continued, and sleeping bags were included. There were higher, colder mountains to the north, and preliminary plans were being discussed for a further attack along the high Alpine ridges leading toward the Germans' last-ditch "Redoubt." With one eye on these higher mountains and their fortunately unoccupied, all-but-impregnable prepared emplacements on the slopes we had already passed, we strolled around the streets of Riva to see what we could, while we might, of one of Italy's most beautiful resort cities.
Riva and Torbole, to judge from the red crosses on almost all buildings, had been used largely as a hospital area. In addition, however, we found underground factories, the most extensive of them being devoted to the manufacture of airplane parts. On the shore of the lake an astounding discovery was made. We had already seen ducks, assault boats, and sailboats on the lake. There had been a steam-driven ship there as early as 1828, and a boat propelled by the harnessed power of a horse going around the deck in circles had antedated the steamer. Consequently we should not have been surprised to find in a lakeshore shed an almost completed submarine. It was very small, but it would seem to indicate that the Lake of Garda was to have been the last home of the Italian navy. Clearly the 10th Mountain Division could achieve nothing finer. It had captured the navy intact!
Odd information had been filtering down from higher headquarters for some time. Back in the Apennines we had been told twice that at a certain time on a certain evening a German plane would fly over the lines and was not to be fired on. On another occasion we were to be on the lookout for a German who would come to our lines and give a certain name. He was to be sped to the rear. Then, on April 30th, we had heard that there was to be no further air support in the theater. Two days later we had been ordered not to fire on Germans who looked as if they didn't want to fight. Arco had fallen without a shot.
At about 1700 on May 2, in the Battalion CP at San Alessandro, the phone rang. They wanted "Blue 6," the Battalion Commander, and Captain Everett Bailey answered. He listened intently, as usual. "What?" he asked, in a rather unmilitary manner. And the message was repeated to him. He smiled and grabbed my arm.
"Dave, the war is over in Italy!"
Four days too late.