The 456th left Fort Bragg in April 1943 as part of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team. After a twelve day voyage on the Matson liner S.S. Monterey, it landed at Casablanca, Morocco and was then moved by rail to an area near the City of Oujda, on the border with Algeria. Here the unit continued its training in preparation for the invasion of Sicily. It was near Oujda that most of the men in the 456th made their first night jump.
From Oujda the unit was flown to an area near the City of Kairouan in Tunisia, where it camped in the hot desert for about two days before boarding C-47s for Operation "Husky." Taking off at around 2100 hours on the evening of 9 July 1943, the artillerymen arrived over the south coast of Sicily and jumped soon after midnight. Due to faulty navigation, high winds, and imparied visibility, almost all of the airborne units that participated in the initial assault came down far from their intended drop zones and were widely dispersed. Tragically, many of the paratroops and glidermen landed in the sea and were drowned. However, those that did come to ground uninjured coalesced into small groups and proceeded to roam the enemy rear areas creating havoc and confusion and leading the Axis High Command to conclude that their numbers were much larger than they actually were.
After the assault phase of Husky was completed, the 456th was sent to occupy an area near Trapani at the northwestern tip of the island. It remained there about one month before higher headquarters decided to transport the unit back to North Africa. Accordingly, the Air Transport Command flew Batteries C and D to Bizerte; however, as the result of a SNAFU the Battalion Headquarters together with A and B Batteries were landed on the airfield at Comiso near the south coast of Sicily. The resulting separation was to last about two months. During this time, the troops at Comiso had the opportunity to engage in direct fire anti-tank practice by shooting at old vehicles being towed at some length behind a truck. This practice would later pay big dividends in the snows of Belgium.
Finally, the elements of the 456th in Sicily were loaded aboard ship and transported back to North Africa. After the unit was reunited, it embarked on a Liberty Ship named the Anson Jones for a voyage to Naples, Italy. Enroute, the ship put into the Sicilian Port of Syracuse to load supplies and await nightfall. Passage through the Straits of Messina was timed to occur after dark in order to minimize the chance of air attack by German bombers which concentrated on that choke point during daylight hours.
Based in large part on a collection of archival documents and other materials,
acquired and provided by Ken Hesler, Battery D, 463rd PFA.
May 10 | Boat | Casablanca Morocco
Arrived 2:30PM. Marched 5 miles East of Casablanca, arriving at 7:00PM at Camp Marshall Leoty.
May 14 | Truck/Train | Fezz Morocco
Left Camp Marshall Leoty at 7:30AM and arrive 8 miles East of Fez at 7:45PM.
May 15 | Truck/Train | Oujda Morocco
Left bivouac area East of Fez at 7:30AM and arrived 8 miles East of Oujda at 6:30PM. While at Oujda, most of 456th PFA made their first night jump. Went into training for Sicily jump. Night compass problems.
June 3 | Oujda Morocco
Passed in review for General Eisenhower (stood nearly 2 hours at parade rest waiting). 36 planes of jumpers demonstrated a mass jump. Awarded a North Africa campaign bar. Wide spread dysentery caused by "dung-laden dust" (conjecture by Doc Lewis A. Smith of the 505th PIR - dust home of endema histolitica, difficult to identify and treat and often fatal.
June 9 | Oujda Morocco
Night jump tactical with equipment.
June 14 | Oujda Morocco
Night jump combat problem.
June 15 | Oujda Morocco
Paid in full.
June 16 | Oujda Morocco
Went on pass to Oujda, rented a bike, bought some canned fruit. Rumor that German Paratroops in the vicinity. Made night jump shortly after midnight near Oujda, in French Morocco. One man would not jump and was later shipped out of the battalion. I made a good landing but had hard time finding 4th gun section. Some of the bundles landed in wheat field, but 4th section was first to get to the assembly point. First section did not jump because door load got stuck in the door.
June 21 | Oujda Morocco
Gus Hazzard: Stu Seaton walked their asses off on night problems, 4 points to find in dark.
Doug Bailey: Went on compass course last night wandered all over the bills of Morocco, did not get back to camp until daylight completely bushed.
June 25 | Oujda Morocco
Packed all extra equipment, B Battery getting ready to go by plane to our next destination. Packed my old boots, wearing my new ones. They hurt my feet, going to get some beer tonight. Hope I get some mail.
July 2 | Air | Kairouan (Karawain), Tunisia
Departed from bivouac East of Oujda, arriving at staging area 30 miles North East of Kairouan at 10:00AM.
Left Oujda by plane for area around Souse or Kairouan - flew high, very cold. Just about got air-sick, pissed in helmet. Camped near Kairouan, very, very hot, drinking lots of water. Too hot to do anything in daytime, do it at night. Wind like a blast furnace, sharing put tent with Bennett. Dug fox holes. Guess my hair will grow back to normal one of these days. Know I'm going into combat. Think it's tomorrow night. They showed us the sand table of the area that we are jumping in. I'm in #4 plane loaded with ammunition Lt. Cole is jumpmaster, also went to planes and had instructions in case of a sea landing.
Some of us had Chutes that had both Static lines and a rip cord. The Chutes were Camouflaged Nylon with a Spring loaded Pilot Chute. I heard that they were the type the marine Paratroops used. I cut off a Pilot Chute and got rid of the spring and carried the little chute in my Musset Bag and lost everything when I was wounded at Hemroulle.
July 3 | Air | Kairouan (Karawain), Tunisia
General Ridgeway gave combat speech.
July 6 | Air | Kairouan (Karawain), Tunisia
Beer ration and dry beef on hot desert.
July 9 | Air | Gela, Sicily (Warm & Clear)
Picture : Unloading American troops and supplies on the Gela beach, July 1943
Boarded planes about 8:00PM July 9 for jump into Sicily. Had about 1512 rounds of ammunition. Parachuted miles from target due to faulty navigation, high winds, and impaired visibility. Many men airsick in planes, making floors very slippery. Jumped between 12:35 and 1:00AM.
Planes were going too fast and flew too low. Many men hit the trees almost at the same time their chutes opened. Batteries A and B jumped with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 505th and Battery C jumped with the 3rd Battalion. Cooper was liaison for 505th and 456th and, in Gavin's plane, he was the first artilleryman to jump into Sicily.
Headquarters and D Batteries bivouacked at a point east of Santa Crosse with Major Wicks in charge.
HQ and D Batteries landed in same area but widely scattered. Orientation impossible during darkness due to being about 50km from DZ. High ground seized without resistance, security established and organization started. At daylight approximately 250 men from all serials of CT 505 had been assembled. Patrols out bringing in equipment. Three prisoners captured at 8:00AM when questioned gave our location. Verbal order issued by CO to be prepared to move at 10:00AM to seize and hold the town of San (Santa) Croce Camerina.
Organization for attack completed at 9:30AM. At 9:50AM Lt. Col. Billingsley arrived, assumed command and rescinded order for movement. Ordering group to strengthen outposts and remain on high ground then in our possession. At 12:10PM a patrol made contact with 2nd Bn 505 with B Battery 456th attached then under orders to move toward Marina Di Ragusa at 2:00PM. Patrol returned with this information at 1:00PM. Orders were issued to move at once to join 2nd Bn 505 CT. Units joined at 6:00PM at La Croce under command of Lt. Col. Billingsley. Strength approximately 600 men and officers. Unit bivouacked here sending out patrols to engage with the enemy. All enemy troops defending beach from Marina de Ragusa to a point 2 miles west of Punta Secca captured by 9:00PM.
B Battery dropped in area pattern 10 miles wide. By daylight 3 guns and 50 men were assembled. Fired on pill boxes and strong points by direct laying. Moved at 2:00PM to La Croce, fired on pill boxes on beach, direct laying. Bivouacked at La Croce.
C Battery landed 10 miles from DZ and assembled 3 guns and 10 of the 12 plane loads. At 1:00PM joined point of 157 CT of the 45th Division and advanced into Vittoria where howitzers were used to knock out snipers by direct laying. Bivouac in Vittoria for night. One AA MG Cal. 50 shot down 2 enemy planes ME 109's which were strafing the Battery position.
A Battery jumped at 12:45AM and by daylight three howitzers all but four men and most of the equipment had been assembled. It was found that the battery was alone and far from the DZ. Patrols were sent out and our location was given to us by civilians. A battalion of German 88mm guns was located 1500 yards to our southeast, and our patrols made contact with German infantry patrols and a skirmish started which lasted most of the day. In the afternoon one of the German 88's was used to support the infantry with direct fire. At 8:30PM the battery was moved and the Germans shelled the former position just after it was cleared. The battery moved south all night and went into position at daybreak.
Left night of the 9th from Kairouan, Tunisia. Flew over Maita which was a check point about five or six hundred feet. Pretty light out, took my turn standing at door holding door load. Two guys got airsick. Anti-aircraft fire got us as we came over the coast of Sicily. Red light came on, then green light. Door load partly stuck in door. I went out head first, could see flashes and tracers from ground fire before my chute opened. When chute opened, grabbed front risers and slid most the way to ground, hit very hard. Lots of firing going on. Loaded gun and got grenades ready. 505 guy beside me broke stock of gun going out door we had hard time getting oriented, every time we moved, machine gun bullets whiz over our heads. Joined a group of troopers, and started looking for my gun crew. Came across paratrooper with broken leg. He had crashed into a tree stump. He was on the wrong side of a brick wall about five feet high. When some of the firing let up, about 4 of us jumped over the wall and lifted him over on the safe side.
Left: Major Stuart Seaton | Right : Colonel Hugh Neal
Finally met some guys from B-Battery. Fought with the infantry knocked out two machine gun nest and captured the Italians and their guns. Dead Italian soldier in cart. Lt. from 505 killed while trying to throw grenade through slit n tall pill box. Olosy shot in foot. Two medics killed, one from B-Btry.
My Battery "B" jumped with the 2nd Battalion of the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment. When we loaded the planes in Tunisia we didn't put on our chutes. When we were about half hour from the coast of Sicily the Crew Chief of the plane came back and told us it was time to chute up. This was a nervous time for all, slipping around where the air-sick guys puked on the floor. It was dark, the plane was jerking around, and we had to get all the straps and harness over all our stuff. It was our first combat. I guess we were a little nervous. The pilot missed our drop zone by about 20 miles and gave us the green light over an area of pill boxes, rock walls and trees. I don't think we were over 250 to 300 ft. when we jumped. We also jumped with our guns unloaded and had little tin crickets for identification. The password was George and the countersign was Marshall.
Passed over Gela, Sicily, town on fire (jumped at 11:40PM) on the following morning at 7AM one of our men was scouting around for equipment and ran into a German machine gun nest. He escaped with a crease across his helmet. We had landed 200 yards from an 88 battery, then all hell broke out. They threw mortars down on us. Everyone was on his own. I was pinned down for about 3 hours with Bob Bolen. Finally the Germans left. We regrouped after burying the dead and moved out pulling our 75 pack howitzers. We had lost contact with our combat team 505 Infantry. Spent all night trying to link up with the 505.
July 10 | March | 12km North of Marina Di Ragusa, Sicily (Clear & Warm)
Major Neal and Major Wicks with HQ and D Batteries joined B Battery on hill east of bivouac area. Capt. Moore left back with men that could not walk.
July 10 | Truck | Ragusa, Sicily
Participated in the Battle of Biazza Ridge on July 10/11. Battery C destroyed 3 Me 109s by 50 caliber machine gun fire. Gavin praised battery for assisting in the fight.
Witnessed the tragic "friendly fire" jump of the 504th. 45 men of Battery C joined forward elements of the infantry and served with them as assault troops. 60 others of Battery C with 3 guns were the first troops to enter Vittoria.
At one point in my wanderings I went to a well in a courtyard of house to fill canteen. There was a Sicilian woman wailing because her husband was lying in the doorway dead. Shot by mistake I would guess in all the confusion that night. Battalion formed with prisoners and moved out after we broke their rifles over a rock wall, also a couple of ancient machine guns. Two 505 guys killed by Italian grenades. Moved out late in the afternoon, hadn't went too far when started to receive some fire from the left flank. Had to knock down wall to get barrel of the 75mm gun to bear, the rear trail was sitting on hard road, gun bucked up and back every time we fired. Nobody hurt and we were soon on our way. Made some of our prisoners pull the gun. This was probably against the Geneva Convention. Marched all night, at one time past of bunch of dead Germans or Italians by some knocked out armored cars. The smell was very bad. B Battery was right in the middle of all this wreckage, and smell, when the long column stopped for a break. We were exhausted and just dropped in the ditches. It was dark so the living and the dead were sharing the same ditches. It was hard to tell which was which. We kept moving all night headed for Gela. We were moving through the town of Vitoria I think about midnight when we saw the anti-aircraft fire that shot down so many of the 504 combat team. One of the guys from my gun squad got hold of some vino and got himself pretty well plastered and started to give Capt. Harris a bad time. Capt. Harris hauled off and knocked him to the ground. Then he motioned for myself and another guy to come over where the guy was still on the ground and told us to take his rifle away from him and to keep an eye on him until he sobered up. The guy was later transferred out with the rest of the screw-ups. Another trooper and myself had been guarding a bunch of Italian prisoners. They were really happy to be out of the war. They would pull out their wallets and show us pictures of their wives, or girlfriends, their babies. We really didn't have to guard them. They seemed quite content. They just wanted to get their part of the war over with and go home.
1st. Lt. Charles G. Derby (HQs) KIA
Tec 5 Theodore Cabali (HQs) KIA
Pvt. Ben F. Blount (A) KIA
Cpl. Richard Rosenbush (B) KIA
Capt. Stuart M. Seaton (A) WIA
1st Lt. Edward D. Whitley (HQs) WIA
1st Lt. Richard S. Aiken (D) SWA
1st Lt. Emil H. Nelson (D) SWA
Capt. Goodwin Johnston (HQs) LIA
Sgt. Harold K. Wuestenberg (HQs) LIA
Pvt. Carmelo J. Pulizzano (C) WIA
Pvt. Stanley Wilczewski (D) WIA
Pfc. Vernon P. Aubin (D) LIA
Pfc. Charles O. Lofton (A) WIA - GSW - Neck & Hand
Pvt. John N. Calvert (C) SIA
Pvt. Alfred J. Basse (C) SWA
Pvt. Otis B. Clifton (C) SIA
Pfc. Sam T. Skoda (D) LWA
Pvt. John W. Burris (A) WIA - GSW - Abdomen
Pfc. William L. Sperbert (A) LWA
Pvt. Robert E. Parsons (B) LWA
Sgt. Floyd U. Bond (C) LIA
Pvt. Michael Waslesyn (B) LWA
Pvt. Thomas Wojcischowski (B) LWA
Pvt. Frederick Davis (D) SWA
Olosy WIA - shot in foot
1/Lt. Orval H. Sheppard WIA
Sgt. James W. Ayers WIA - Sprained Knee
T/4 Kenneth Yochum WIA - Sprained Back
Cpl. Harold E. Cook WIA - LW - Nose
Sgt. Raby MIA
Monument at Biazza Ridge
Pillbox at Biazza Ridge in 1943
Pillbox in 2005 (webmaster)
July 11 | La Croce, Sicily
HQ, B, & D Batteries received verbal order Lt. Col. Harden at 7:00PM to move to bivouac North of San Croce Camerina. Movement began at 10:30PM.
C Battery made contact with CO 505 CT at 8:00AM. Ordered to move five miles NW of Vittoria on road to Gela. Movement began at once using captured transportation. Immediately upon arrival at Biazza Ridge, howitzer were put into position to repel tank attack using direct laying. Attack repelled with one MK VI destroyed one damaged and others hit. Machine gun crew shot down another ME 109 (confirmed) by 180th CT of 45th Division. Bivouacked in the area where remainder of Battalion less A Battery joined arrived the next morning. A Battery remained in bivouac. Patrols sent to make contact with friendly troops with no results.
We pulled into wooded area, dug in, sent out patrols, tried to make radio contact.
After marching all night we pulled into a barnyard about daylight, and everybody took a break. When we rested we were on the road again and joined the combat team at Biazza Ridge. Somewhere along the way we got rid of all our prisoners. I think we gave them to the 45th Division. Went into position and dug in. Got some watermelon out of garden. We have captured Italian tanks, trucks, guns and a couple motorcycles. Heard that Sgt. Sholonis was killed when there door load got stuck, and by the time they jumped they were over the beach. Sgt. Raby and his planeload are still missing. Just ate some K rations and waiting to move up to front. German planes bombing ships in harbor, saw only one shot down. Got my foot taped up. Just came from where 505 lost a lot of guys. After we had taken a break and had a chance to get some sleep in the barnyard, we hit the road rested and in very high spirits. We had survived our first night combat jump, our first fighting and winning over the enemy. The climate was better than North Africa and we went in columns, one on each side of the road with the prisoners pulling the howitzer in the middle. Sometimes when we would take a short break and if we were lucky we would be opposite grape vineyards or melon patches, or tomato patches. We would take the steel part off our helmets, run out in the field and fill it up with whatever was available. The spoils of war you know. As we marched down the road, we would see these little farm houses with pretty curtains in the windows, some close to the road and others further back. When we got up close we could see that they were not what we thought they were. They were pill boxes with the curtains that looked so nice and pretty painted so they looked like real curtains.
Cpl. Lewis W. Baldwin (C) KIA
Pvt. Trafford H. Williams (C) KIA
Pvt. Edward G. Lakomy (C) KIA
Capt. Victor E. Garrett (HQs) SWA
Pfc. Harvey K. Brenes (B) LWA
S/Sgt. George Dariska (HQs) LWA
S/Sgt. Clarence G. Bell (HQs) LWA
Tec 5 Dolan R. Doby (HQs) LWA
July 12 | 5 miles South of Vittoria, Sicily
HQ, B, & D Batteries moved into bivouac five miles south of Vittoria at 4:00AM. Received orders at 7:30AM to move five miles NW of Vittoria. Movement begun at 8:00AM. Closed in new area with C Battery at 2:00PM. A Battery remained in bivouac area sent out patrols to make contact with friendly troops. No results. Two howitzers lost on drop. Much signal equipment lost or abandoned due to lack of means of transportation. Personnel tired, dirty and hungry. Not transportation available. Water supply satisfactory. Morale very high.
pinned down from July 12 to 15th without support.
Tec 4 Claude A. Doster (A) KIA
Sgt. Edward R. Bucher Jr. (C) DOW
1st. Lt. Billy R. Lewelling (HQs) LWA
Pvt. John C. Cherkauskas (D) LWA
Cpl. Winfred L. Mellon (HQs) LWA
July 13 | Biazza Ridge
Battalion less A Battery cleaning equipment. A Battery no change. Patrols made contact with 16 CT 1st Division at 7:30PM.
HQ, B & D batteries joined Lt. Col. Harden and C Battery 7 miles west of Vittoria at 11:00PM.
Still at Biazza Ridge, US 155 artillery outfit just went by. 376 Parachute Artillery and 504 Parachute Infantry lost a lot of guys. Talked to a medic out of 504. Their plane was hit and blew up. He was only one to get out of his plane. He pulled his reserve and got clear of the wreckage and came down with his reserve chute only. Went to look at Mark 6 Tiger tank that "C" Battery knocked out, it's a big son of a gun, had 88mm gun on it. Also looked at a 77mm gun, a motorcycle, and 5 German graves. Cecil Farmer and myself went over to where they had German prisoners from the Herman Goring Panzer Division, burying about 15 of our guys in shallow graves. Two troopers from our Battalion were killed when the light Italian tank that they captured that resembled a British Bren Carrier took a direct hit from a German 88 on a Mark 6 Tiger Tank. Since we didn't jump with blankets and it got pretty cold at night, I had been using my cellophane type gas cape to keep a little warm at night. Looked up one morning, and here comes Rip True with wheelbarrow full of German blankets he got out of a barracks near by. The 4th gun section slept warm that night, but had to go to the 45th Division aid station the next day to get deloused.
Ridgway's Paratroopers, Clay Blair - Gavin, in one of the finest, most dogged displays of leadership in all of World War II, held on to Biazza Ridge. As the day wore on he got decisive outside help. Some 75mm pack howitzers of Harrison Harden's 456th Parachute Artillery arrived.
(Harden himself was dropped thirty-two miles from the assigned DZ.) (pg. 98)
Sgt. Anthony W. Sholonis (C) KIA - Jumped into sea
1st. Lt. Carrell F. Willis (HQs) KIA
Pvt. Maurice P. Doran MIA
Sgt. George S. Sipple (A) SWA
Pvt. Valentine Bianchin (C) WIA
Cpl. Roy L. Montague (A) LWA
July 14 | 1 mile East of Gela, Sicily
Departed Biazza Ridge at 7:00AM on foot and arrived 1 mile East of Gela at 5:00PM. A Battery joined Battalion here at 7:10PM. Ammunition on hand, 1180 rounds.
Marched to Gela, a tough hike, feet are killing me (new boots). Saw some American jeeps and five American tanks that were destroyed and dead paratrooper beside bridge. Somebody had taken his boots. German and American equipment scattered in the ditches. Sgt. Raby is ok. We are now on big hill overlooking Gela. Can see group of American ships in harbor. I'm out of water. Very thirsty. Sgt. Raby and his planeload reported missing, found out later that they got lost over the ocean and flew back to Africa, and came in the next night with the 504.
Still on hill by Gela. Have plenty of water now. Everybody pissed off because we had to shave. Had an inspection by General Gavin. After inspection went to beach. Got a ride in amphibious duck to Gela. While on the hill at Gela, we had a after battle critique where anybody could speak out his ideas on the jump, weapons, etc. One guy got up and suggested that since we had such a bad dispersal, that they let the paratroopers fly the planes, and make the air force jump.
Pvt. Lee M. Ross (A) KIA
Pfc. James O. Ellis (HQs) WIA
Pvt. Horace E. Drew (C) LWA
Had mountain rations for breakfast, pretty good. Busted part of my rifle. Got another part and fixed it. Went swimming in the ocean today and had lots of fun. Lots of landing craft wrecked on beach. Sweated like heck going over and back. Eating 5 & 1 rations, better then C or K rations. Lots of ships in harbor unloading men and equipment.
GIs from Gela pushed inland and we moved out to Gela 10 miles away by donkey & carts. We bivouacked on the outskirts of Gela for 4 days trying to get out act together.
Pfc. Leonard Orlowski (B) WIA
July 17 | 1 mile South of Agrigento, Sicily
Departed from Gela area at 9:00AM by vehicle and arrived at bivouac area 2 miles Southeast of Agrigento at 10:00PM.
Cleaned 75mm howitzer. Still waiting to move out. They said we would leave tonight. We moved out by truck towards the front. Passed lots of wrecked pill boxes and trucks. Bridges were blown up so we went around them. Using some captured trucks to move up. A. J. Pierce driving a big charcoal burning truck. Camped for the night near Littica. All the towns we went through are pretty old and dirty. Traveled about 60 miles today. Lot of troops going forward.
July 18 | Monte Allegro
Major Neal and Lt. Lewellan reconnoitered vicinity.
Went down to a stream and washed. Filled my helmet with grapes. Went swimming in the ocean again, came back and ate. Watched about 200 Italian prisoners go by with only two guards.
July 19 | 1 mile Southeast of Ribera
Departed Agrigento area at 10:00AM by vehicle and arrived at bivouac area 1 mile Southeast of Ribera at 11:30PM.
Cleaned bazooka and rifle, moved again toward the front. More bridges blown out. Moved at night. Now in orchard. Dug slit trench.
Tec 4 Cyril D. Schreiner (A) LWA
July 20 | Truck | Comiso, Sicily
We moved up the coast toward Trapani, knocking out pill boxes along the coast.
Cpl. James M. Bishop (A) WIA - FS - Metatarsal
Cpl. George W. Blair (B) LWA
July 22 | Truck | Ste. Margherita, Sicily
Departed Ribera area at 8:00AM and arrived at bivouac area 1/2 mile South of Santa Margherita at 9:00PM.
Still in orchard, found well. Best drinking water since I left the states. Took whores bath out of helmet. Ate some grapes and cleaned rifle.
July 23 | Truck/March | Castelvetrano, Sicily
Departed Santa Margherita area at 12:00PM and arrived at firing position 1 mile East of Trapani at 5:00PM.
Still at Orchard, had gun drill. Cleaned bazooka. Laying around waiting to go someplace.
July 23 | 1 mile east of Trapani
Enemy established strong points and road blocks east of Trapani and in San Marco and Paparrela. All resistance ceased on July 23. A Battery attached to 1st Battalion 505 with mission to seize San Marco and Paparrela. Remainder of Battalion went into position under enemy artillery fire. Fired five battery concentrations silencing two enemy batteries and knocking out a strong point and some pill boxes. Enemy resistance ceased at about 6:45PM. Fired 141 rounds leaving 1189.
Moved up to another place. Going into action again soon.
Ridgway's Paratroopers, Clair Brown - To counter the artillery fire, Ridgway and Gavin brought up some guns of Harrison Harden's 456th airborne artillery. Seeing this, the Italian artillery zeroed in on the American artillery, sending in a hail of bursting shells that forced one gun crew to run for shelter. Ridgway's G-2, George Lynch, and the G-3, Klemm Boyd, were watching. What happened next was one of the boldest acts Lynch had ever seen, and he would never forget it. "Ridgway calmly strode up to the deserted gun while Italian shells were bursting in all around it. His brave example rallied the crew back into action." The incident did not bode well for Harrison Harden. Later, on Ridgway's order, Max Taylor relieved Harden from command, reduced him in rank and sent him back to the States. Harden, replaced by his exec, Hugh A. Neal, was bitter. He wrote later that he distrusted most infantrymen, whom he found to be "uncooperative, unimaginative, and unintelligent." He faulted infantryman Ridgway in particular for "lack of care for his men" and for "bad judgment in the planning of the second jump into Sicily." In the Trapani "battle," Harden thought that Ridgway "seemed to be commanding well and was brave under fire to the point of being exhibitionistic." (pg. 113)
1st. Lt. Timothy A. Moran (C) LWA
July 24, 1943 | Sciacca, Sicily
July 24, 1943 | March/Truck | Trapani, Sicily
Moved to Trapani by truck. Crowded as heck. Went past burning railroad station. Went into position on outskirts of Trapani Went into position under fire. They were using time fire, but had their fuses set wrong and their shells were bursting high in the air. I could lay in my slit trench and reach up and pick grapes.
July 25, 1943 | Battle of Trapani.
Forces engaged were 505th Combat Team and 124th Coastal Infantry Regiment (Italian) and 207th Coastal Division (Italian) as well as Italian naval personnel.
Fires from yesterday still burning. White flags on houses. People cheering as we came through the towns. Threw us apples, candy, flowers, and sometimes when we stopped they gave us bottles of wine.
July 26 | Truck
Departed firing position 1 mile East of Trapani and arrived at bivouac area 6 miles southeast of Trapani.
July 27 | Eria, Sicily
Left few guys on gun, and the rest of the Battalion went prowling through the hills and some little towns. I think this was a show of force to let the people know what we were in charge. Sweated so much, it got in my eyes. Found out that we are going back to North Africa. Somebody stealing morphine out of first aid packets.
Off again on another hike through the country side, longer than yesterday. Went past airport which had been bombed. All kinds of planes scattered all over. Dead horses in road.
August 3, 1943
Colonel Harrison B. Harden relieved, and reduced in rank, by Brigadier General Maxwell D. Taylor (artillery commander) for failure to maintain discipline in battalion during the July 24 Battle of Trapani. "A" battery had jumped into foxholes during some shelling which angered Ridgeway. He walked out to the abandoned gun in the midst of shelling, rallying the artillerymen. Many officers and men of the battery felt that the dismissal of Harden was really because of a difference in artillery philosophy. Being infantrymen, Ridgeway and Taylor felt that artillery should be used in direct support where Harden, a professional artilleryman, felt artillery should provide indirect support. Ridgeway found the incident at Trapani as a good excuse to replace Harden.
Harrison Harden (notes to Clay Blair for his book on Ridgeway) :
Prior to the time it was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, the 456th Parachute FABn, then a part of the Airborne Command at Fort Bragg, developed and constructed and tested the special equipment necessary to deliver parachute field artillery into combat. The battalion conducted training for and furnished cadres for all of the original parachute field artillery battalions. The 456th PFAB was the first such battalion to go into battle, on 9 July 1943.
During training in North Africa the 456th was attached to the 505th Combat Team commanded by then Col. Gavin. Gavin and I did the detailed planning for the first jump into Sicily. The battalion fought initially with 10 75mm pack howitzers (of 12 planned and transported). At Biazza Ridge the unit assisted in repulsing an attack by the tanks of the Herman Goering Tenth Panzer Division and helped hinder the attack of the Tenth on the beaches at Gela. The battalion was part of the attack on Trapani. Before assembly after the drops, the batteries conducted much fighting at various locations. (I personally landed 32 miles from my destination).
I was relieved by then Brig. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor for alleged failure to maintain discipline in the battalion. Neal was battalion Executive. I was reduced in rank and sent home to the Airborne Command. I have never had contact with Neal or d'Alession since 3 August 1943.
John T. Cooper was liaison for me to the 505th and the best officer I had. Stuart H. Seaton commanded "A" Battery of the 456th on the jump into Sicily. Seaton and the Headquarters Battery Commander, Victor E. Garrett, were wounded on the jump.
I have already stated cause not particularly to like Mathew B. Ridgeway. As a field artilleryman I distrust most infantrymen. As a breed, they are uncooperative, unimaginative, and unintelligent (note their standings in the West Point classes). They do fight, which I guess is what they are paid for. The Russians attack with tanks and artillery and send in the infantry to mop up.
Blair/Cooper - Major Hugh Neal, also a professional artilleryman, assumes command and Wicks becomes XO. Neal was an excellent teacher but many under his command felt that he was a perfectionist who was never satisfied.
August 1943 | Truck | Castelvetrano, Sicily
Went of firing problem on other side of Trapani. Then went swimming in ocean. A bags came in with rear echelon. On guard post #4. Visited Areecce (The city above the clouds) Then went on firing problems and road marches. Civilians come in area couple times a day to sell eggs, melons and vino. Getting ready to leave, going back to North Africa. The island is now in our hands. Went on another hike, got back with two blisters. Heard again that we are going back to North Africa. Moved about 3 miles to old German camp. German and Italian equipment scattered all over. Everybody had the Red Ass, all non-coms ducked retreat. S--- Drunk, Sgt. R--- & Sgt. --- shipped out. Mc--E--- & E---put in guard house. Don't remember all the details, but do remember when we had to take one guy up to court martial proceedings. We had to get a stretcher from the Medics because he was too drunk to walk. The outcome of all this was that they transferred all the habitual screw up and trouble makers out of the Battalion.
GENERAL NOTES ABOUT SICILY
Dead 2 8
Missing 0 3
Wounded not evacuated 1 0
Wounded 3 24
Total 6 35
Cooper had trouble keeping order in a guard house, filled with misfit parachutists and drunkards. Women were coming in the evenings, bringing wine. Cooper turned to Pvt. Carson "Booger" Childress, known for his strength and devotion to Cooper. (Before war, Booger had been member of SC chain gang after setting fire to a church.) Cooper told him he was promoting him to sergeant and placing him in charge of the guard house. Booger didn't want to be a sergeant, but Cooper insisted. Booger drove up to the guard house and called all the men out. He asked any man who thought he could take on the Booger to step forward, but none did. He then asked for any two men, but none stepped forward. There was some shuffling of feet and Booger ordered them to attention. He then asked all of them to step forward if they felt they could take him on, but they stayed at attention. He then got on the front of his jeep with his Tommy gun and ordered them to fall into formation and to begin running. Booger followed them in the jeep with the Tommy gun, making sure they were sufficiently tired. They did not give the unit any more trouble.
Battery A Entered Sicily with 175 men. 76 were not killed or wounded. Lt. Shepard only lt. not k/w.
Stuart Seaton (tape)
On second day, Stuart Seaton took some men on patrol and was wounded in the right shoulder and head by rifle fire.
Al Mury (tape)
Weather during flight to DZ was terrible. Half the men were getting sick on the plane. It was tough getting up to prepare to jump because of the slipping over the vomit on the floor of the plane. Mury landed near Camissa, about 30 miles from the DZ. If had landed on the DZ, would have been in the middle of the Herman Goering Div. They took a lot of Italian prisoners, who willing turned themselves in.
Remembers beautiful moonlit night accentuating 3 ancient columns.
While heading toward Trapani, Mury saw a sign for the 505th Troop Carrier Wing. Remembering the claim of his pilot that if he didn't drop Mury's stick on the DZ. The pilot would give him a bottle of whiskey, Mury went looking for him. He finally found him but only got a glass of whiskey for his trouble.
Gus Hazzard (tape)
Missed dropped zone by more than 25 miles. The first person he met was Bob Boland. They landed near a German 88 battery.
Jay Karp (tape):
landed in open field with stone walls a couple of miles from DZ. Came up on Biazza Ridge at end of battle. On road to Trapani, saw allied, anti-aircraft guns fire on the 504th. Felt this second jump was totally unnecessary since the positions had already been taken. When reached Trapani, had folding stock carbines which were useless. He told Italians that folding stock carbines were to be used to shoot around corners.
Other Casualties During Sicily Campaign - no dates known
1st. Lt. Charles R. Zirkle (Med. Det.) WIA
Pvt. John J. Milner (D) WIA
Pvt. Harold Mast (B) LIA
Pvt. Alfred Karimaki (B) WIA
Pvt. Bernard V. Hart (D) WIA
Pvt. Edd Edmonds (B) WIA
Tec 5 Clyde B. Martin (D) WIA
Pfc. Henry F. Rutherford (D) WIA
Tec 5 James W. Hanley (HQs) WIA
Pvt. Lewis R. Dohtery (HQs) WIA
Pvt. Fred R. Snyder (HQs) WIA
Tec 5 Charles W. Whitney (C) WIA
Pvt. Robert E. Compston (C) WIA
Tec 4 Lester L. Wilhelm (A) WIA
Cpl. Glen E. Witwere (B) WIA
Sgt. John A. Saver (B) WIA
Cpl. Frank T. Pfeil (B) WIA
Pvt. Nicholas J. Converso (D) WIA
S/Sgt. Howell S. Blankenbaker (HQs) WIA
Pvt. Joseph E. Meighan (HQs) WIA
S/Sgt. Alvaro L. Beltran (HQs) WIA
S/Sgt. John J. Szpila (HQs) WIA
Pfc. Thomas G. Stivale Prisoner
Pvt. Joseph T. Kieltyka of Battery D is listed as a battle casualty, but is not included in above because he shot himself in the feet in Trapani while in his quarters and not in proximity to the enemy. Pfc. Boleck S. Morez of Battery C was shot in the ear by adjoining man while in ranks at formation.
Aug. 20 | Air | Kairouan, Tunisia
Departed Trapani area by truck at 9:00AM and arrived at airfield 8 miles South of Trapani at 10:30PM. Departed airfield by plane. Arrived at airfield 10 miles Northeast of Kairouan. Departed airfield by truck and arrived base camp 30 miles Northeast of Kairouan at 10:00PM.
Blair (pg. 160):
Batteries C & D flew back across the Mediterranean to Comiso, Sicily. Ridgeway and Taylor had soured on the 456th due to the incident at Trapani. For that reason, neither Ridgway nor Taylor pressed to have the 456th included in the Salerno, Italy operation. It enplaned in Sicily for North Africa and, owing to an administrative foul-up, was scattered around North African and Sicilian bases.
Went to airport at Trapani. C-47s all over the place to fly us back to Africa. Got souvenir from wrecked German plane. Boarded C-47 and flew back to North Africa. Went into bivouac at pretty good place. Bob Hope on show. Moved by truck to Bizerte. Good deal. Go swimming everyday. Heard that we will be flying back to Sicily.
Train | Sousse, Tunisia
Batteries C & D
Train | Tunis, Tunisia
Batteries C & D
Truck | Matfur, Tunisia
Batteries C & D
Truck | Bizerte, Tunisia
Batteries C & D
Aug. 23 | Kairouan, Tunisia
Batteries A & B. Bob Hope Show with Jerry Colona & Francis Langford??
Aug. 28 | Truck | Bizerte, Tunisia
Batteries A & B
We were camped right on the beach outside of the harbor at Bizerte. Went through our biggest air raid of the war. We could see the German planes when the search lights caught them in their beams. Flack was really filling the sky, and lots of stuff with fuses that didn't work were falling down in our area and exploding. Watched a lighted up hospital ship come sailing out of the harbor, making a mad dash for the open sea. Another trooper lost couple of fingers while taking apart a fuzzed 37mm shell he picked up at Trapani airport while waiting for planes to take us back to Africa.
Trained for amphibious landing, camping on the beach.
we had a large air raid.
Departed from bivouac area 30 miles Northeast of Kairouan by vehicle at 9:00AM.
Arrived at the airfield 4 miles South of Matfur at 11:00AM.
Sept. 9 | Air | Comiso, Sicily
Batteries A & B
Departed airfield by plane at 2:00PM and arrived at airfield 4 miles north of Comiso, Sicily at 4:00PM. Bivouacked on north edge of airfield. Had returned to Sicily for possible airborne mission.
Back in Sicily now camped at airport a few miles from Vittoria. Wrecked German planes all over the place. Took my trench knife and took joy stick out of a ME-109 fighter. Lots of German bombs in woods. Flies terrible. Went to Vitoria one day, got some vino. We do a little drill in morning and get afternoon off. Too hot to do much. Heard that we are going to Italy soon. Back to the old grind of training again. Had big rain storm. Got my tent fixed up. Hope it will keep me dry. Sleeping on a bed made of 88mm shell cases (they were like a wicker basket). Adolph Menjou was here today, told us the people back home thought the war was over and that production had decreased. Still near airfield at Vittoria shows just about every night. Bowersox and I took bath over by a Sicilian well. Civilians thought that was real funny. This place in the trees at the edge of the airport was really shanty town. We made huts out of old lumber shelter halves, and other stuff that we found in the area. Lt. from another battery killed when he put down a German teller mine by the mess tent. It went off and riddled the mess tent and wounded a couple more guys. I heard that he brought it into the area to lecture about it?
504 took off for jump in Italy.
505 took off for jump in Italy.
American pilot flying captured ME 109 killed at field near here while landing. Raining today.
- O--- got on a crying drunk, and had the whole battery in hysterics. Going out to fire tomorrow.
Went out and fired the 75s.
Squadron of B17s from bases in North Africa landed at airport here. They are going on a mission deep in Austria.
Oct. 25 | Comiso, Sicily | Batteries A & B.
Experimental day jump made with the pack 75 already assembled in an attached glider. Planes flew over Mediterranean, turned, and came back in, released the glider, then the tow ropes and jumped. Most of jumpers concerned more about tow ropes than the glider.
After breakfast, all squads had to furnish two men each to make jump at Gela. Like always, when something like this came up, my 4th gun section would cut cards. Bowersox and myself were the ones from our squad. We loaded up in the C-47s with a glider hooked on behind with the 75mm gun fully assembled and took off from the airfield where we were bivouacked. Flew out over the Mediterranean for awhile then came in over the airport at Gela. They dropped the glider, then the tow rope over the field, and we jumped and landed in a nice soft plowed field at the edge of the airport. Then pretended to attack an anti-aircraft position on a hill overlooking the airport. We were quite concerned that the tow rope would not release and the hook on the end would hit and split a canopy. So we tied a string to the end hooked up to the tail of the plane and ran it along the fuselage to the guy standing in the door so when the tow rope released it would pull the string out of the guys hand, and we would know the tow rope was released ok.
Nov. 1 | Comiso, Sicily
Gus Hazzard - Batteries A & B packed for England (rumor)
Gus Hazzard - Loaded box cars in Comiso.
Nov. 7 | Train | Modica, Sicily
Departed from Comiso Airfield by vehicle at 8:30PM. Arrived Comiso Station at 10:00PM.
Batteries A & B - Rainy
Train Noto, Sicily
Batteries A & B
Train Siracusa, Sicily
Batteries A & B
Nov. 8 | Train | Augusta, Sicily
Arrived British Transient Camp 5 miles outside of Augusta at 4:00PM.
Batteries A & B. Camped with British troops.
Nov. 9 | Boat | Augusta, Sicily
Departed Transient Camp by foot at 7:00AM and arrived at Augusta quay at 9:00AM. Boarded ship S.S. Villa De Oran.
Walked five miles to dock and boarded British run French ship The Villa De Oran
Leaving Sicily. Went to Augusta by train, stayed overnight in British camp. Marched to docks and boarded French ship run by the British named "Villa De Oran". I had yellow jaundice and was put in ships sick bay all the way to Algiers. Had German prisoners aboard. Landed at Algiers stayed three days. Went by box car to Bizerte. I was very sick and had miserable trip. Box car was crowded. Took long time to get to Bizerte.
Nov. 13 | Boat
Arrived Algiers at 6:00PM
Nov. 14 | Boat | Algiers, Algeria
Debarked from S.S. Ville at 10:00AM and departed quay by vehicle. Arrived at the 23rd Replacement Depot at 11:00AM.
Batteries A & B arrived 12PM. Batteries reunited.
Batteries A & B departed 23rd Replacement Depot by vehicle at 10:00AM. Arrived Maison Blanche at 10:30AM. Entrained and departed at 12:00PM.
Batteries A & B arrived at bivouac area 3 miles west of Bizerte at 2:00PM.
Now at Bizerte. Will stay about 4 days. Went to Tunis on pass. Nice modern city. Raining like heck. On night detail at dock loading crates of parachutes to go to England with the 505.
Headquarters Battery and Batteries A & B boarded S. S. Anson Jones at 5:00PM.
the S. S. Anson Jones
Nov. 25 | Boat | Bizerte, Tunisia
Headquarters, Batteries A & B sailed on Liberty Ship Anson Jones at 10:30AM. Batteries C & D remained behind under command of Capt. Raymond M. Crossman, attached to HQ Battery, 82nd A/B Division Artillery.
Now on Liberty ship "Anson Jones" headed for Naples I think? Bunch of British engineers on board.
Had turkey for dinner today on board Liberty ship "Anson Jones". Now anchored in harbor of Augusta, Sicily. Same place we left from quite some time ago to go back to Africa. On guard tonight.
GENERAL NOTES ABOUT NORTH AFRICA
Vic Tofany (tape):
Borrowed battery jeep to visit friends after Sicily. Jeep was stolen. Tofany reported it stolen. When he notified his driver that it was stolen, his driver was upset because he had stolen it and had pained the 463rd designation on the side. It became common practice for the men to steal trucks and jeeps and paint the unit designation on the side.
Tony Spagnol and other men from his unit were sitting listening to a Captain from division headquarters request volunteers for a special mission on August 25. Tony and Bob Langfeld volunteered. On August 31 Tony and Bob were sent to the 319th Glider Field Artillery which was assigned to support the 1st Ranger Battalion of Colonel Darby. Tony was assigned to a 50 caliber machine gun crew to anchor the north end of the 319th gun positions on the Salerno beachhead. Prior to the invasion of Italy, Tony could see LCT's, LCI's, destroyers, sub-chasers, liberty ships, the British battleship Monitor with its 14" guns, American and British cruisers within and around Salerno Bay.
"There were air raids every five minutes. We were told that the cruiser Savanah received a direct hit on a gun turret. The ship was in our convoy; I would guess several miles or so away. We were told that the ship suffered about 250 casualties, many may have been killed and\or severely wounded. Big dog fight took place overhead. Our fighter planes and German 109's go at it above our fleet. Warships opened up with their ack, ack guns but for some reason some of the ships around us did not open up, why I don't know. A fire fight could be seen on the beachhead a distance away. We left Salerno Bay at about 1430 hour. We saw several fighter planes go down in smoke flames. I could not determine whether the planes shot down were ours or German. Late at night, I guess about 2300 hour, we hit the beach at Maiori, Italy which we understand is north of Salerno. Less than 15 minutes later I set foot in Italy. Even at night I could see that Maiori is a quiet little town nestled against the hills along the coast of western Italy. I thought I saw a beautiful white stucco chapel from the LTC before we landed. The full moon shown on the little town which looked like a small town in the States from the distance of our LCT. We unloaded the LCT in about 35 minutes. I worked on the ammo detail. We had an air raid in the area but no one was hit. One or two bombers dropped bombs nearby at about 2400 hours. I was mighty tired so I laid down on the ammo boxes with my buddies and fell asleep. I slept through my first night of the invasion of mainland Italy. We were told that the Rangers had landed hours before us and cleared the beachhead and they were now fighting for the hills behind the town. Also, rumor has it that the Rangers are opposed by the XIV Panzer Corp under General Vietinghoff. They are meeting stiff opposition after they took the high ground cutting off the Chiunzi Pass, near Monte di Chiunzi. I believe we had guys from the 504 on ship with us and also on the LSI's. I was assigned to a 50 caliber machine gun crew to anchor the north end of the 319 gun positions. After several days of firing the 105s in support of the Rangers, I volunteered to carry five gallon cans of water up to the Rangers on the top of the hills in front of our gun positions. I had several close calls when I got lost in front of the Ranger positions. The battles were fierce and the balance of the Salerno beachhead was precarious for several days. We rejoined the 456 PFA after the Salerno campaign which ended with the capture of Naples on October 1, 1943. Langfeld and I were flown down to Comiso, Sicily in a C-47."
Ridgway's Paratroopers, Clay Blair - One major element of the division remained behind: the 456th Parachute Artillery, now commanded by Hugh A. Neal. Ridgway and Taylor had soured on the outfit and had replaced its commander, Harrison Harden. For that reason, neither Ridgway nor Taylor nor Andy March pressed to have the 456th included in the Salerno operation. It enplaned in Sicily for North Africa and, owing to an administrative foul-up, was scattered around North African bases. Much later, it regrouped and landed in Italy by ship. (pg. 160)
Nov. 27 | Boat | Augusta, Sicily
Arrived in Augusta at 11:00AM. Stayed in harbor over night inside sub nets.
We had pulled into Augusta to wait until dark and then make dash through the straits of Messina. Convoy was raided going through straits yesterday. Lots of British troops on board.
Nov. 28 | Boat | Augusta, Sicily
Left 11:00AM. Passed through Messina straits at 12AM.
Nov. 28 | Boat | Algiers, Algeria
Batteries C & D boarded British ship "Franconia" for British Isles.
Images from North Africa
40 and 8 Box Car in Africa, 456th PFA