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Dated:  Feb. 20, 2002

The Liberation of Vicenza
In the Po Valley
April 27-28, 1945

    The rapid advance across the Po Valley produced some unusual combat scenes as infantry jumped on armored columns in pursuit of the retreating Germans.  Several pockets of enemy were bypassed, while others surrendered by the hundreds.  This describes the advance of the 88th Division and 91st Division towards Vicenza and provides a glimpse into the confusion of the fighting in the Po Valley.
    Later, photos and/or maps may be included with this page.

  Note:  Vicenza is a town located directly east of Verona.

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The Italian Campaign

The Liberation of Vicenza
April 27-28, 1945
As told from following sources.   (click letter to link to text, below)
    [A] 350th Infantry Regiment of the 88th "Blue Devils" Division
    [B] 91st "Powder River" Division

350th Infantry Regiment
88th Division

"The Blue Devil ‘Battle Mountain’ Regiment in Italy; A History of the 350th Infantry Regiment, 1944-1945", by John E. Wallace, The Battery Press, 1977 (1981)Pages 254 - 258

By April 26 the German forces in Italy had been split into two groups. General Truscott now issued his operations instructions calling for his forces to continue the advance to cut off and destroy German forces in the northwest and to assist Eighth Army in the capture of Padua. The task of the 350th Infantry Regiment was to swing eastward on the axis of the Verona-Vicenza highway to assist Eighth Army in the capture of Padua and to block escape routes to the mountains which might be used by enemy forces along the Adriatic.

In implementing this order, the First Battalion on April 26 moved north on Highway 12 to Verona and after remaining a while in Raldon moved across the Adige River to San Martino. The only means of transportation across the river was an old Italian scow. The Second Battalion also crossed the river and proceeded east almost 14000 yards to Musel Ia. After the Third Battalion had crossed the river on the same Italian scow, it engaged the enemy in a fire fight beyond San Martino before capturing the objective, the highway north of the town. Partisans' activity in this area aided the 350th Infantry in its march forward.

Although the main infantry troops were across the river, the tank problem remained unsolved. As Colonel Fry moved on to join the troops, he left a message to Captain Woodbury: "Get your tanks across, if you can, and when you do, move east on Highway 11 until you catch up with us."

Amidst heavy rainfall on April 27 the 350th Infantry continued racing the enemy toward Vicenza, approximately 30 miles east of Verona and 20 miles northwest of Padua. As the Second Battalion moved east almost 22 miles this day, it encountered only light enemy resistance. As the First Battalion marched ten miles along Highway 11 to Perarota during the day, the Third Battalion followed in trace. Since heavy rain impeded movement and visibility and since the First Battalion moved rapidly, it encountered pockets of the enemy at different intervals. At 2130 it was held up by a short fire fight, but tanks came to its assistance and the battalion moved out again shortly thereafter. It was then organized into a task force under the command of Colonel Fry, with the 752nd Tank Battalion and the 805th Tank Destroyers as support.

On this march toward Vicenza, Colonel Fry had caught up with the First Battalion just before it reached San Bonifacio. After talking with his old friend of Company A, Captain Walter Scott, who gave him a dagger the Italians wore with their dress uniforms, Colonel Fry later moved on to his old command post of the 350th Infantry. There Lt. Emmanuel Spano gave him some coffee. About that time a cub plane appeared overhead and dropped the following message from Headquarters 88th Infantry Division:

Memorandum: Colonel Fry:   1. Assemble at one two companies of tanks, two companies of TD's (now across the river in the vicinity of railroad bridge going up Highway 11), whatever elements of the 88th Reconnaissance Troop you can lay your hands on, one platoon of B Company, 313th Engineers, a battalion of the 350th Infantry, one battery of the 338th Field Artillery now across the river, load up TD's and tanks with men and utilize whatever trucks you can find. Other trucks are enroute but don't wait for them. I believe there are six over there now being used for shuttling.     2. Form a task force and proceed without delay and take Vicenza. The 91st Division is also moving on Vicenza. We would like to beat them there."
-s- Paul Kendall, Commanding.
A scribbled note in longhand at bottom read: "Watch out for 91st Division coming up from south," and "partisans report that there are no Germans this side of Vicenza."

About this time the commander of the tank unit, Captain Woodbury, drove up. He nonchalantly explained that his units had moved over to the IV Corps sector in Verona and crossed there. He gave several gifts -- a captured luger pistol, and a few quarts of cognac. When Woodbury told Colonel Fry he would be ready by 9:00 hours, Colonel Fry then asked Colonel Cochran for a battalion. When Cochran suggested the First, then lined up in and along the road in groups opposite tanks, Lt. Col. Holland, commanding, stepped forward and said, "Everything is ready." At that time the Third Battalion was up front guarding the advance route.

The night was just perfect for such an action - clouds that looked as if a rain might be in the offing and through the trees along the road side the picture of relatively flat fields. In only a few minutes Captain Woodbury and Lt. Col. Holland reported that they had agreed upon each one's respective roles and that they were ready to move.

On the march down Highway 11 to Vicenza during the night of April 27, the Regiment met resistance from the enemy as he fired machine guns, sniper bullets, and bazookas at the roving force. By 2300 hours the task force halted for a few hours only about 12 kilometers from the objective and resumed the advance at 0530 the next morning. Since the task force moved quite rapidly, enemy units, moving cautiously and lying in wait at covered positions after allowing the task force to pass through, were able to surprise the long and unprotected columns; at such times a sudden fierce enemy attack would frequently cut a column in two.

Although the enemy was disorganized, he still possessed military virtues not to be lightly disregarded. As the Krauts retreated to the north, they were encountered all along the road. When the 350th's columns broke through one barrier, they would be met only a few hundred yards in the distance by other enemy groups who had banded together to spray the advancing Americans with rifle and machine gun fire. The overwhelming fire power of the 350th's advancing columns would smother the enemy fire out and then move on. Occasionally some one was wounded, and once or twice a man was killed.

As the task force moved on toward Vicenza in the early morning hours of April 28, the Third Battalion received the mission of clearing the town. Although the partisans had control of most of the town and greeted the liberators with bell ringing and cheering, the task of clearing the town proved quite tedious. Approaching the city amidst a light drizzle of rain, the infantry walked for safety after having dismounted from vehicles in the task force. As lightning flashed and thunder rolled, enemy machine guns struck the column and were answered with violent bursts of fire from the Regiment's own tanks. The infantry followed a deep ditch beside the road, and the riflemen fired at every moving object. On the outskirts of Vicenza, Lieutenant Joseph Nash was wounded in the stomach and lay beside the road as the troops approached the city limits around 0800 hours.

To aid the American wounded in the fight for the city, an English-speaking enemy doctor provided his services. During this melee an enemy bazooka firing from a window knocked out two tanks within minutes, and machine gun, and rifle, and canon fire deafened the men moving cautiously through the city. As the task force tanks blazed away with their cannon, blankets of smoke filled the streets. The German doctor aided the wounded, including Captain Schwellensattl, as he climbed down from his tank with a bandage pressed tightly against his eye.

Company C especially encountered deadly fire from the enemy. The commander, Lt. Charles Dornacker, told Colonel Fry:  "We've got to get some help up here. My men are being murdered. The Jerries have a position in a building where they are cutting us to pieces as we try to advance." Colonel Fry then gave orders for tanks to move through the alleys where they could work on the German-held building from whence the deadly fire emanated. He then sent a message to Colonel Cochran, Commander of the 350th Infantry, to take his available forces and exert pressure north of Route 11, the main highway that the task force had followed in entering the town.

Sometimes around 1000 hours Company C had generally gained control of part of the town held by the fanatical enemy. As Colonel Fry moved along by a tank maneuvered by Captain Woodbury and preceded by two tanks in the lead and a column of infantry on each side of the street watching the windows and doorways opposite them, a blonde woman on a balcony suddenly threw open the window and cried, "Viva Americanos!" Hundreds of people now appeared in the streets; Vicenza had fallen to the 350th Infantry Regiment.

After only a short respite in Vicenza, the Regiment again moved out at dusk. The Third and First Battalions moved east on Highway 53 to San Pietro in Gu. The Second Battalion became motorized once more, and as a task force struck further into the Po Valley. After riding on tanks and TD's through San Pietro, the battalion column became separated when it met an enemy column at Grantorto. In the severe fire fight that ensued Lieutenant Powers of Company E was hit, but within an hour the enemy was routed and some 125 prisoners taken.

Before the rear column could establish contact with the forward element, German paratroopers launched a surprise attack using interdictory machine gun fire, whereupon the column went into defensive positions. After a two-hour engagement, the battalion again routed the enemy and killed and captured a further estimated 80 Germans. (some names omitted)

In its swift move astride Highway 53 as it fanned out to the left into the hills toward the Brenta and Piave River valleys, the Regiment left behind thousands of Germans caught in valleys south of the advance. During the day, enemy units would hide out and then make desperate efforts at night to escape through the lines. At 0520, April 29, the gun area of Cannon Company was overrun by enemy troops arriving in captured United States vehicles. After engaging the enemy in a rifle fire fight, the company then fell back on First Battalion troops who occupied the vicinity of San Pietro in Gu. Although the majority of the company made contact with Company A of the First Battalion, thirty enlisted men fell captive to a German unit which they had mistaken for Americans. In the battle with the German unit, Pfc Dennis Pescod was killed and Privates Bowman and Adams were wounded.

In the early evening the 350th Infantry was relieved by the 362nd Infantry of the 91st Division. The men rested, having no sleep in over forty hours.

~ end of quote ~

Verona RR Depot
        Scout troops of the 91st Recon Troop at the rail depot in Verona.   The jeep in front
    has a machine gun mounted in back and the bumper is marked ' 5A 91R'.  Tanks follow 
    in the background.  Sign in background reads "WEHRMACHT" or Army.
Photo from the dust jacket of "19 Days" by Battery Press, but may be a Signal Corps photo.


91st "Powder River" Division

"The 91st Infantry Division in WWII", by Major Robert A. Robbins, The Infantry Journal Press, 1947 Pages 321 - 325
Note; this account follows the movement of 3 infantry regiments and one task force.

The 362nd (Infantry Regiment) remained in positions protecting the bridge site at Legnago until 1430, 27 April, when Task Force George was organized at Orti. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George W. Richardson, the task force was composed of the 3d Battalion, 362nd Infantry; eight tanks of the 755th Tank Battalion; twelve tank destroyers of the 804th Destroyer Battalion; the 1st Platoon, 91st Division Reconnaissance Troop; and one detachment, 91st Division Signal Company. The objective of the task force was to seize and hold the city of Vicenza. At 1600 reconnaissance elements were sent out to reconnoiter the road-net east of Cologna. With no more than minor skirmishes, the armored cars of the Reconnaissance Platoon advanced to the outskirts of Cole-redo. Here they ran into considerably more opposition, and in the ensuing fire fight the platoon leader was killed, one of the very few casualties suffered by the Division during this final phase of the Po Valley Campaign. One armored car returned to join the task force, which by now had moved out from Orti. No opposition was met by the force as it moved through Cologna, nor any at Coleredo. At Piazza Vecchia an enemy strong-point was quickly reduced by tank and tank destroyer fire, and the column advanced to the road junction two kilometers east of Piazza Vecchia, where it turned north.

Just north of this road junction resistance began to appear more frequently. First a bicyclist was cut down by machine-gun fire; then, a little farther north, seven vehicles and a small force of German infantry were engaged in a more serious skirmish. Several prisoners were taken, and an ammunition dump was destroyed. Five hundred yards south of Barbarano the task force overran an enemy motor pool, which was destroyed by tank and tank-destroyer fire. Each time the column stopped to clean up a pocket of resistance, its rear was fired upon. There were times when there were two separate fights going on within the column at the same time.

It was during one of these fire fights, when the column had been halted by fire from the fields on either side of the highway and from a group of buildings to the front, that General Livesay won the fourth Oak Leaf Cluster to his Silver Star. In the words of the citation:

General Livesay's presence and calmness at a time when his troops had encountered a surprise attack gave them added confidence. He personally directed tank-destroyer fire on a nearby house containing an unknown number of enemy troops. When the enemy fire diminished he led the column in his own vehicle toward its next objective. His energy and aggressive leadership were responsible for the rapid crossing of the Brenta River and the capture of the Division's objectives. From Longare to Vicenza no further resistance was encountered, and at 1725, 28 April, the column entered the city. In less than twenty-four hours Task Force George had covered 29 miles, but just before it entered Vicenza it was chided for having been so slow. Men in one of the leading armored cars spotted a lone man coming toward them. At a hundred yards he was identified as British. As he drew abreast of the car, he turned and, in a Cockney accent, said, "Where the 'ell 'ave you been? I've been waiting two bloody years for you blokes." Swift or slow, the task force had captured 200 prisoners and had left 153 wounded Germans along the road because there hgd been no way to transport them.

In Vicenza the task force contacted the 1st Battalion, 361st Infantry(Regiment), which had entered the city along a parallel route somewhat north and west of that taken by the task force. The force rested in Vicenza awaiting further orders, which were soon received by liaison messenger from the Division command post at Cologna. They instructed the task force to proceed along Highway 53 to the Brenta River in the vicinity of Fontaniva and, after crossing the river, to fan out and secure the bridgehead.

Accordingly, at 0300, 29 April, Task Force George left Vicenza. Near the little town of Liseria on Highway 53 a fire fight occurred. While the task force was engaged in this fight, a company of enemy on bicycles, followed by a long column of troop-laden carts and trucks, approached the center of the task force from a side road. The entire task force opened fire on the column, and two tanks and one tank destroyer, protected by riflemen and heavy machine-gun crews, moved down the road to fire into its rear. The entire enemy force was destroyed, including three artillery pieces, four trucks, and numerous carts and wagons. Eighty-seven prisoners were taken.

Three other fire fights occurred as the task force proceeded along Highway 53 toward the Brenta, but these barely slowed the rapid progress of the column. At 1100, 29 April, the first company was crossing the shallow river, which was made exceedingly hazardous by the large number of butterfly bombs4 lying along the banks and approaches. Forty-five minutes later the town of Fontaniva had been secured. The perimeter defense of the bridgehead was quickly organized, and at 1200, 29 April, Task Force George had completed its mission.

NOTE 4: Self-activating anti-personnel bombs, dropped in clusters. Each bomb was about the size of a No. 8 tincan.

Since leaving Orti at 1400, 27 April, the task force had: travelled 48 miles; destroyed one Tiger tank, 1 self-propelled gun and 69 vehicles; captured 972 prisoners; and killed an estimated 300 to 450 enemy. Most important, however, was the accomplishment of its missions, aiding in the capture of Vicenza and the seizure and consolidation of a bridgehead across the Brenta River.

At the same time that Task Force George was making its dash from Adige to the Brenta, elements of the 361st Infantry were moving toward Vicenza by parallel routes. At noon, 27 April, the 3d Battalion had reached Zimella. At this point it was ordered to hold while the 1st Battalion continued the attack northeast in the direction of San Germano and the 2d Battalion attacked north to Lonigo.

The 2d Battalion advance toward its objective against scattered resistance until 1730, when an enemy machine gun and small arms opened fire on the head of the column from the southern edge of Bagnolo, killing three Company F men. In the midst of the fire fight, the tank destroyers, which had been held up at the Adige, rejoined the battalion. With the added fire power of the tank destroyers' 3-inch rifles, the fire fight was brought to a sudden end, and the battalion continued on to Lonigo. It entered the southern outskirts at 2200 and, after a short period of savage house-to-house fighting, cleared the town of resistance and assembled to rest for the night.

The 361st's 1st Battalion advanced with even less opposition. By 2200 it had reached Cas la Casetta, three and a half kilometers south of Lonigo. The 3d Battalion, following the 1st, had reached a point one kilometer south of Cas la Casetta. In these positions the three battalions halted until early the next morning.

While the 2d Battalion cleaned out pockets of resistance north and east of Lonigo, the 1st and 3d Battalions moved out toward Vicenza at 0500, 28 April. Numerous small fire fights slowed the column, but the most serious obstacle was a canal just south of Villa del Ferro, the bridge over which had been blown out by the retreating enemy. The infantry dismounted and continued the advance, while Company A, 316th Engineers prepared a crossing for the armor and vehicles. By noon the infantrymen had reached Campolungo. All along the route the Powder River doughboys received joyous shouts of welcome from the happy natives and were showered with fruit and flowers. Soon after noon the vehicles and armor caught up with the troops again, and the motorized column headed for Vicenza. Light rains and hairpin curves in the rugged foothills of the sector made driving difficult, especially for the larger vehicles, but by 1645, 28 April, the 1st Battalion rolled into Vicenza. The 3d Battalion closed into the town a short while later, and by 2130 the 2d Battalion, which had left Lonigo at 1115 and joined the tail of the regimental column at Campolungo, had also closed in.

The 363d Infantry, which had reached Sossano the night of 27 April, also advanced to Vicenza on 28 April. Since, by 0450, the regiment's transportation, held up at the Adige, had not arrived, Colonel Magill ordered the regiment to start the move on foot. Ten minutes after the 1st Battalion had crossed the IP (initial point), the vehicles arrived, and, once again motorized, the battalion sped toward Vicenza. At the road junction east of Sossano, where the column was to turn north to Vicenza, the enemy had set up a roadblock, and a short, brisk fire fight ensued. It is characteristic of the fluid action of the last week of April that it was at this very point that Task Force George had had a fire fight twelve hours earlier. On neither occasion had the enemy roadblock halted the advance.

The troops of the 1st Battalion had entrucked again and resumed their progress northward when the rear of the column noted an enemy force approaching about 800 yards to the rear. The trucks were immediately pulled off to the side of the road, and the riflemen and machine gunners deployed in the fields on either side to engage the enemy. One 57mm antitank gun was placed in position alongside of the road so that it could fire down the length of the enemy column, while four heavy machine guns were set up in the field to the east and two on the west. The attached artillery -- two tanks and the 8l mm mortars -- all moved into position to fire.

The battalion held its fire until the Germans, suddenly realizing the troops in front of them were Americans, started putting two 20mm AA guns into firing position. The forward gun was pushed 200 yards nearer the battalion's position and the crew was preparing to fire when Lieutenant Colonel Ralph N. Woods, battalion commander, gave the order for all guns to commence firing.

Two rifle companies, six heavy machine guns, one 57mm antitank gun, six 81mm mortars and twelve 105s opened fire on his command. The enemy's return was light, consisting of a few short bursts from machine guns and a few rounds from one 20mm gun. The 20mm gun, which had been pushed up by the enemy, never fired a round. It was destroyed, and its three crew members were killed instantly early in the fight.

When this battle had ended, 153 prisoners had been taken, and 125 of the enemy had been killed. Three 88mm guns, at least fifteen trucks, three 20mm antiaircraft guns, several motorcycles, and about thirty horses had been destroyed. The battalion had not suffered a single casualty! By 1400 the action had ceased, and the battalion reorganized and once again entrucked for Vicenza. By 2345, 28 April, all three battalions of the 363d Infantry had reached the town of Debba, five kilometers southeast of Vicenza, where they spent the night. That night General Livesay received the following message from General Keyes:

By 2200, 28 April, General Livesay issued what was to be the last field order (No.48) for combat operations in the Italian Campaign. It outlined the mission of the 91st Division as follows: Secure the crossing site on the Brenta River and then push forward rapidly to capture Bassano, Cornuda, and Treviso. To accomplish this mission General Livesay ordered Task Force George to move without delay to secure Fontaniva and assist the passage of the 361st Infantry through the bridgehead. The 361st was to move out after Task Force George along Highway 53 to secure Cittadella and there to prepare to capture Bassano or to continue the attack to the northeast and east. The 363nd was to move to the Brenta, and, having crossed it, move east to Treviso. The 362d, minus Task Force George, was to shuttle forward to the Brenta and assemble there, prepared to cross the river to secure Bassano or to attack through the 361st to secure Cornuda.

In accordance with these orders, the 361st ‘s 3rd Battaltion headed out of Vicenaz at 0500, 29 April. After Task Force George had secured the crossing over the Brenta, the 361st quickly crossed the river in DUKWs. Only twenty minutes were required to ferry all of the 1st Battalion troops across, and by 1430 the whole regiment had crossed. Lighter vehicles were then ferried over, while tanks and tank destroyers towed heavier vehicles to the east bank. The large number of unexploded butterfly bombs complicated the crossing. Several DUKWs, a bulldozer, and a jeep were damaged by these highly explosive bombs. Working rapidly and with unhesitating courage, members of the 316th Engineer Battalion cleared the crossing site of the bombs by pulling them with long ropes until they exploded.

Once again the foot-weary doughboys climbed aboard the armor, and, pushing relentlessly on through Castlefranco, the 3d Battalion reached Treviso by dusk of 29 April. At the western edge of the town, the regimental commander himself directed the fire fight which ensued when an enemy personnel carrier arrived bringing men to set up a roadblock. All during the night of 29-30 April, fire fights occurred along Highway 53 between Brenta and Treviso. It became apparent the the 361st  Infantry had slashed through the enemy lines.

~ end of quote ~

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