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Dated:  October 14, 2008

In Memory of

Private  Cleaston A. Patterson
Co. K, 339th 'Polar Bear' Infantry Regiment
85th Infantry Division

Private Pat Patterson

A colorized studio portrait.
  Private Cleaston Patterson served in Company K of the 339th Infantry Regiment of the 85th Infantry Division.  He trained with the division at Camp Shelby, MS and in Louisana and California.   His army buddies gave him the nick-name "Pat".  The 85th Division departed for North Africa in December 1943 and evenutally entered front lines in Italy on April 1944.  The Spring Offensive began on May 11.  Private Patterson was reported missing in action(MIA) on May 14, 1944.  It wasn't until 11 months later that he was finally declared killed in action(KIA).
  Here is his story that he was not able to tell.

   The 85th Division arrived in Italy in April of 1944 and was placed into the line south of Rome.  The infantrymen gradually gained combat experience on night patrols.  The big offensive began on May 11, 1944 with a heavy artillery barrage and then the Fifth Army went on the attack.  During heavy fighting, Private Cleaston was reported missing in action on May 14th.  Since he was alive the last time his buddies saw him, he was listed as MIA.  His category was changed to Killed in Action(KIA) after 12 months, which was the same time the war ended in Italy.

Pvt Patterson & friends
Photo of Private Patterson and some of his buddies.
 The following is a description of the fighting during May 11th-14th for Hill 69 and the cost in casualties to Company K.   Note; 1st Battalion consisted of Companies A, B, C & D and  2nd Battalion consisted of Companies E, F, G & H.  Private Patterson's Company K was one of the four companies of the 3rd Battalion, which included Companies I, K, L and Heavy Weapons Company M.
     The long-awaited spring offensive commenced on 11 May 1944 at 2300 with a massive barrage by 1,660 artillery pieces along the entire front from Cassino to the sea. When the barrage lifted, twenty-five Allied divisions attacked in the early morning of May 12th.

(Excerts from "Minturno to the Appennines; 85th Infantry Division ")
   The next morning the enemy counterattacked. Fifty men firing machine pistols stormed the hill. They came within 50 yards of our positions unopposed. Then the order to fire was given, and every man of the enemy group was killed. Later others tried it again, and met the same results. Company C of the 337th Infantry received a Presidential Unit Citation for its performance of duty in this action.
   On the 13th the enemy was counterattacking everywhere, and all along the line the men fought bitterly to hold their gains. And they continued to push slowly ahead. Gradually the sum of the gains became more important. By the morning of the 14th, we held Hills 79 and 69 and several positions on the Solacciano Ridge. Troops were ready to move into Scauri. It now remained to reorganize for the final breakthrough. The 2nd Battalion of the 337th came up to attack between the 338th and 339th. On the afternoon of the 14th supported by tanks, they attacked Hill 108, overrunning it and taking more than 80 prisoners and the 338th was clearing the last enemy resistance on the Solacciano Ridge.
    By noon of the 15th the 339th was holding Hills 66, 79 and 58; the newly committed 2nd Battalion of the 338th had captured the Cave D'Argilla area; and the 337th was on Hill 108. The last counterattacks had been beaten off. The Gustav Line was broken. The drive which was to secure Highway 7 to Terracina was now to begin.

(Excerts from Paul Schultz's "85th Infantry Division in WW2", pg 77 - 85.)
  Pre-dawn morning of May 12, 1944
   The 2nd Battalion, 339th Infantry {Regiment}, commanded by Lt. Col. Charles F. Mudgett, also ran into heavy resistance.  Company G, however, provided great inspiration by a swift and courageous attack on its objective.  Following closely in the wake of the great artillery barrage that opened the offensive, teh 1st Platoon moved down the slopes of Hill 79, proceeded west along the Capo d'Acqua and fought its way up the reverse slope of Hill 79 at ists extremity.  ---  Hill 79 was a vital terrain feature, and the enemy was stunned by its swift capture.
    About 2400, Company I, the reseve company, crossed Capo d'Acqua at teh same point as Company L, and by 0100 some elements were on top of Hill 69.  ....The enemy struck back, however, and this section, one squad of the 3d Platoon, and one light machine gun squad of Company I were captured.  The 2d Platoon of Company I dug in on the rear slope of Hill 69.
   By 0300, Company I had taken Hill 69 and Company K{339th} had proceeded on its mission of by-passing Hill 69 on the left and attacking the left half of Hill 66.  The remainder of the 1st and 3d Platoons of Company K and the 1st Platoon of Company M were in position on Hill 66 by 0025.  German gunners at Castellonorato and Mount Scauri were now firing on all positions on Hill 66 and 69.  At 0430, Company K reported many pillboxes had been discovered on Hill 66 and were being dealt with one by one.  At 0500 the Germans counterattacked Hill 66 in company strength, supported by tank fire, but they were unable to dislodge the Custermen.
   When at full strength our World War II infantry rifle company had 187 men.  Lt. Col. Smith now called for a report of effective strength at 0300.  The reply was:  Company I, 27; Company K, 29; Company L, 17.  Smith scowled and sent an immediate request for reinforcements.  His battalion did not have sufficient strength to continue the attack on Hill 66 or to withstand a strong counterattack.  Colonel Brady immediately detached Company K, 337th Infantry {Regiment}, from his regimental reserve(3d Battalion), and ordered it to continue the assault on Hill 66, moving over the same route followed by the 3d Battalion, 339th.  When they reached the base of Hill 69, the men of Company K, 337th Infantry, came under heavy artillery and mortar fire and they also suffered heavy mine casualties.  The fight was still unmerciful in its fierceness, but by dawn Company K {337th} arrived on Hill 69 with only four officers and thirty-five enlisted men left.
    By the early morning hours of 16 May, the II Corps and French Expedionary Corps had broken the Gustav Line at several points at the cost of 3,000 casualties; 1,100 in the 85th Division alone. To the east, the British 13 Corps also broke through the German defenses, with the Canadians pouring across the Rapido and the British 78th Division cutting Highway 6.  On 17 May the Polish Corps, supported by the 78th Division, again attacked Monte Cassino and, following a day of ferocious combat and heavy losses, rendered the German positions untenable. During the night the remaining enemy forces quietly retreated, allowing the Poles to take the summit unopposed the following morning.

Map of Hill 69
Map of attack on Gustav Line on May 12-14, 1944.
Map shows Hills 66 & 69, town of Tremesuoli, & San Martino hill.
The wavey red line indicates the German 'Gustav' defense Line.
Red arrows indicate advance of 85th Division from 11 to 14 May.
Green arrows indicate advance of 85th Division on 15 May.
Blue arrows indicate advance of 88th Division.
The black/yellow line is the boundary between 338th and 339th Regiments.
Pat & Mother
Photos taken with his Mother at his home
while on leave.

Pat and Mother
It is sad to think that this was the last his family saw of their son.  The round "CD" Custer Division shoulder patch is visible in these photos. 
Pvt Patterson
Private Cleaston "Pat" Patterson
Appears to be on leave in the US.
Pvt Patterson
     A photo of Cleaston Patterson standing in the doorway of a barracks.
    The insert is a close-up of the sign behind the
    right door post-- that reads "_CC 576".
A special thanks to
Don Vitelli, who provided these photos and the biography of his Uncle Patterson.

The 339th Infantry Regiment of the 85th Infantry Division was named "The Polar Bear Regiment".  This name originated in World War 1 when this regiment was sent to Russia to fight the Bolsheviks.  Only this regiment of the 85th Division was sent and they were armed with Russian rifles.  The colorized studio photo shows Private Patterson wearing the Distinguished Unit Insignia of the 339th Regiment on his overseas cap.  This DUI pin had a polar bear in the shield in recognition for their WW1 service in Russia.

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