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Dated:  December 12, 2014      

Pfc Kermit Fisher - KIA
Pfc Kermit Camden Fisher

Company C, 338th Infantry Regiment
85th "Custer" Infantry Division

  Pfc Kermit Fisher served with 85th Custer Division in 338th Infantry Regiment and was a "runner" or "scout" for the unit.  He was killed in action while attacking Monte Altuzzo in order to break through the German GOTHIC Line of defense in the Appenine Mountains.

Service Prior to the War
Kermit was born in Glenville, Gilmer County, West Virginia on 27 Nov 1922.  He was the oldest of 3 children of Elias H. and Janet (Westfall) Fisher.  His father died in 1938 while he was a young man.

Kermit graduated high school and enrolled at Glenville State College.  At that same time, the draft board classified II-C --  “Men Necessary to Farm Labor”.   He was needed at home to work on his grandfather’s farm.  Since his father’s premature death, Kermit had become the bread winner to support of the family farm.  Much to his mother’s consternation, Kermit quit college and enlisted in the Army on 12 Jul 1943 in Clarksburg, WV.

Kermit entered service at Camp Fannin which was located near Tyler, TX. After completing his training, he was allowed to home to Glenville before heading off to combat. Aware of his mother’s concern, he requested his sister, Betty, pledge to not tell their mother of his combat assignment.

During the War
   After Rome was liberated by the 5th Army, the Germans retreated north of the Arno River. They held their position there long enough for their defenses to be strengthened in the Appeninne Mountains in what would be known as the GOTHIC Line. By September the Allies had advanced to the mountains and prepared to attack it.  There were two main passes over the mountain: Il Futa Pass and Il Giogo Pass.  The 85th Division attacked the Il Giogo Pass and Monte Altuzzo which guarded it.
   The 338th Infantry Regiment was given the objective to take Monte Altuzzo.  Dividing into small groups, sometimes one company, they began a methodical climb along the curved ridge line, while under fire from the surrounding peaks.  On 14 September, Company C began the final push to the peak.
   The following are details of this attack on
Monte Altuzzo and the death of Pfc Kermit Fisher.

Monte Altuzzo
Monte Altuzzo
A view at Monte Altuzzo, in the Appenine Mountains. 
Also referred to on maps as Hill 926.   Height 2700 Feet.

Mt Altuzzo
Monte Altuzzo and surrounding peaks.  The 338 Regiment started from the gulley
 in center of this photo.  They advanced along the ridge on the left.  Pfc Fisher
 was killed in final attack of the two German bunkers located on the peak.

Aliied Offensive against GOTHIC Line

The Final Assault on Monte Altuzzo
Based upon US Army history
"Three Battles: Arnaville, Altuzzo and Schmidt"

Pfc Kermit Fisher was a part of Company C of 1st Battalion.  However being
a "runner", it was possible he could be anywhere on the battlefield.
Names are colored to match symbols in map, below.

Assault on the Right Bunker

Instead of conducting a search by themselves, the three men returned for help from the southern slope. After Lieutenant Krasman called to his noncommissioned officers to hurry to the peak with some men, Sergeant Strosnider and about fifteen soldiers from Company C rushed quickly to the top of the mountain. Private Schwantke, followed by Sergeant Thompson (1st Platoon, Company C) and several of his men, dashed to the right side of the crest of the hill and moved down the zigzag trench. As the men neared the last bend, machine gun fire from near the entrance to the right bunker halted their movement. Several times Private Schwantke tried to go past the bend, but each time a machine gun burst drove him back. Lieutenant Krasman joined Sergeant Thompson in tossing hand grenades at the enemy machine gun and at other Germans below the north end of the trench. The grenades had no visible effect.

On the crest Sergeant Strosnider and his group continued for a few yards before taking cover in a large shell crater. Scarcely a yard away they saw the upper edge of a dirt-covered log bunker. There were doors on two sides but no firing aperture. The sound of the movement in the crater evidently carried quickly to the Germans inside the bunker, for they soon cracked the door opening to the north and began to toss concussion grenades toward the crater. Some near misses jarred the handful of men in the crater, but the only grenade to land inside was a dud.

While several of the attackers, including Sergeant Strosnider, remained for a few moments in the bomb crater, Pfc. Elmer J. Kunze and Pfc. Lawrence Markey, Jr., worked their way along the western slope when suddenly a German wearing an American helmet popped from the entrance of the right bunker. For a moment both the German and the two Americans were startled. Markey threw his rifle to his shoulder, but hesitated a moment too long in squeezing the trigger. The German tossed a grenade first. Caught off guard, Markey and Kunze darted back a short distance where they met Sergeant Strosnider and asked him for hand grenades. With the squad leader's last grenade, the two men moved back on the west slope within a few yards of the right bunker. After a brief lull a German inside the bunker opened the door and again tossed grenades at the two men. Kunze promptly replied with his M-1. The German drew back inside, then opened the door at intervals and threw out grenades, slamming the door each time before Kunze could fire. Sgt. Harvey E. Jones and Pfc. Ernst H. Becker, both of the 2d Platoon (Company C), who had been on the left slope of Hill 926 near the crest, had moved toward the entrance of the right bunker, some ten feet from where Kunze was firing. Some of the German grenades landed within ten feet of Jones, and one slightly wounded Becker. The two men decided to try the right side of the bunker. After advancing halfway to the right zigzag trench they hit the ground as a German machine gun from the left front on Knob 3 north of Hill 926 sprayed the area. Jones and Becker crawled to the west side of the crest and found cover in the big shell crater which had once been the enemy's western observation post.

Back at the right bunker Markey paid little heed to the sound of the machine gun fire. While Kunze provided covering fire, Markey sought an opening into which he could toss a grenade. As he moved to the top of the bunker, a rifle bullet struck him in the right shoulder.

About the same time, Pvt. Anthony W. Houston, who was with Sergeant Strosnider's small group in the crater, put a grenade on his rifle and prepared to fire. Before he discharged the grenade, a machine gun burst from Knob 3 sliced into him. After the burst the others in the shell crater spotted Schwantke below, at the corner of the trench leading to the bunker. As Pfc. Kermit C. Fisher called out, "There's Schwantke; let's go over and help him," he raised his head above the crater to climb out. A bullet from the enemy machine gun struck him in the throat, and he fell back dead. The rest of the men in the crater crawled back slowly to the 3d Platoon's positions on the southern slope and to the right zigzag trench.

On the crest of Hill 926 (aka Mt Altuzzo) and along the right zigzag trench, Sergeant Strosnider's men had failed to dislodge the Germans from the right bunker. Instead of rushing the position they had waited outside to grenade or shoot the enemy. In the end machine gun fire from Knob 3 had forced them to retire. The men with Lieutenant Krasman and Sergeant Thompson in the right zigzag trench, including Private Schwantke, had been stopped short of the bunker by machine gun fire from even closer range

Assault on the Left Bunker

During this action, Sergeant Fent (3d Platoon), Private Lightner, and Pvt. Peter Kubina, Jr., moved to the left flank on the west slope of the peak to locate enemy positions. Joining up in the zigzag trench west of the peak, Lightner and Fent pushed over the bush-covered slope, where they discovered the left bunker. A bespectacled German officer was on top. As Lightner moved toward the lower side of the bunker near the exit to the trench, Sergeant Fent climbed up and shot the German. The shot aroused the enemy in the right bunker, who began to throw grenades at Fent. Dashing back across the top of the bunker, the platoon sergeant dropped again into the left zigzag trench, followed quickly by Lightner. The two men then withdrew about halfway up the trench. They fired at the right bunker, but without success. Again they pushed forward in the trench toward the left bunker, Lightner returning to the entrance and Fent again climbing on top. Hearing voices inside, Fent called out in German for the men in the position to surrender.

As Lightner covered the entrance--a two-part door that folded together--a German rushed out, hurling hand grenades. Lightner fired back with his carbine as the grenades sailed overhead. The first shot hit the German in the stomach. Slumping to the ground, he reached for his pistol, but before he could draw it Lightner shot him again in the stomach and the hand, knocking the pistol away. To make sure the man was dead, Lightner pumped four more bullets into him. Picking up the pistol, Lightner withdrew to his firing position at the corner of the trench.

On top of the bunker Fent continued to call for the enemy inside to surrender, and after a few minutes the Germans began to file out, one by one. Urged on by the platoon sergeant, fourteen Germans, including a first sergeant, marched out. Lightner searched them, and the two men marched them back to the bomb crater that had been an enemy observation post.  When interrogated, the first sergeant said that the Germans were going to counterattack soon and would try to hold Monte Altuzzo at all costs. They had been surprised, he said; otherwise, they would never have let the Americans get past the MLR to the crest of the mountain. The German soldiers inside the bunker had wanted to surrender after they had first heard the Americans outside. Their lieutenant refused, and kept his men under control until he was put out of action by the American fire.
Return to Final Assault on Monte Altuzzo

Link to Source:   Three Battles-  Chapter - Counterattacks, 17 September   { External Link to US Army Center for Military History(CMH) }

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Final Assault at the Peak

  The Final Assault by Company C. 

   This map traces the movement of the main attack by Company C of the 338th Regiment.  The starting positions of the 1st, 2nd & 3rd platoon are shown at the bottom of this map. 
  Sgt. Strosnider lead a group of 15 men which included Pfc Fisher, directly up the slope towards the peak.   Schwandtke and a few other men moved around to the right, including two men, Jones and Becker. Kunze and Markey, moved around to the left.
Strosnider's men reached the shell crater and stopped to prepare an assault on the bunker.  One soldier, Pvt Houston, was killed while preparing to fire a grenade launcher.  
   Pfc Fisher looked across to the trench in front of the Right Bunker and saw Schwandtke sitting at the entrance of the trench. 
Pfc Fisher yelled back to his platoon leader: 
Schwandtke.  Let's go
       over and help him". 
    As soon as he rose up to say this, a German machine gun killed him.  The gunfire could have come from the bunker but most likely it came from hill known as Knob 3.


On October 7, 1944, Kermit’s mother (Mrs. Janet Fisher) received a telegram that delivered the terrible news:
   “The Secretary of War asks that I assure you of his deep sympathy in the loss of your son Private First Class Kermit C Fisher who was previously reported Missing In Action report now received states he was killed in action seventeen September in Itlay (sic) letter follows…ulio the adjutant general."

This was followed later by a letter from William M Kendall, Capt., Corps of Chaplains, dated 9 December, 1944.
“…was killed instantly in Northern Italy' around seven o'clock in the morning, September 17, 1944 while charging an enemy dugout. He was killed by a machine gun bullet through the right eye and one through the right shoulder. He was well liked by his fellow soldiers and he did excellent work in combat. Kermit has been awarded the Bronze Star posthumously for his work at the time of his death.”

The following are letters and newspaper articles about Pfc Fisher's death.
Letters and Newspaper articles

My dear Mrs. Fisher:
At the request of the President, I write to inform you that the Purple Heart has been awarded posthumously to your son, Private First Class Kermit C. Fisher, Infantry, who sacrificed his life in defense of his country.
Little that we can do or say will console you for the death of your loved one. We profoundly appreciate the greatness of your loss, for in a very real sense the loss suffered by any of us in this battle for our country, is a loss shared by all of us. When the medal, which you will shortly receive, reaches you, I, want you to know that with it goes my sincerest sympathy, and the hope that time and the victory of our cause will finally lighten the burden of your grief.
Sincerely yours,                        
Henry L. Stimson                       
(Secretary of War)                    

Kermit Camden Fisher
  27 Nov 1922-17 Sep 1944
  Killed near Rome Italy
  PFC, 338 Inf., 85 Inf Div., WWII

  Pvt. Kermit C. Fisher of Glenville recently was awarded the Bronze Star posthumously for heroic achievement in action while serving with the 85th "Custer” Division, part of Lieutenant General Mark W, Clark's Fifth Army in Italy.
  During an attack upon a major objective lasting throughout the night, Fisher, a platoon runner, maintained constant contact between the three squads of the platoon despite the intense enemy fire and mountainous terrain. When the enemy was forced from their position and another assault launched against a double bunker position, Fisher joined the assault group and forced his way by rifle and grenade fire to the bunker itself. By this action, he was killed by machine-gun fire.
  During the assault 15 of the enemy were killed, 32 others taken prisoners and large amounts equipment and material destroyed.
    His mother, Mrs. Janet Fisher, lived at Glenville but is presently working in Charleston.

  It is quite exciting to locate such detailed documentation about how Pfc Fisher died in combat and to find a resource that is so thoroughly researched and reported.  It also records the last words Pfc Fisher spoke were out of concern of his fellow soldier.


This biography was contributed by Rodney Young, who was the nephew of Pfc Kermit FisherRodney is honoring his uncle with this biography and also to please his 88-year old Mother; who is Betty (Fisher) Young, the sister mentioned in this biography.  

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