Any luck ever locating any Company C men?Theyre scarce....my uncle was in the company that day but did not survive the war.Ive never found more than a couple of Company C guys, and Ive looked for some time.
Feb. 1, 1944 was the day PFC Alton W. Knappenberger of Company C earned the Medal of Honor.The following December the C Company commander also earned a Medal of Honor, and both survived the war, which is unusual.
An attack by the Third Infantry Division, plus the three battalions of Rangers in the beachhead, had begun on Jan 29.The objective was to capture Cisterna and to seize portions of Highway No. 7 - the Appian Way.The first battalion of the 30th Infantry (of which C Company was a part) was attached to the 7th Infantry Regiment for the attack.Two battalions of Rangers were caught in the open at daylight of Jan 30 short of Cisterna, by the Herman Goering Parachute Division and the 2nd SS Panzer Division - eventually seven survivors from the two battalions made their way back.The other Ranger battalion had 50% losses, and after that "Darby's Rangers" were disbanded, leaving only the second battalion of Rangers, which had been withdrawn for the Pont du Hoc mission on D-Day, as the only Rangers in the ETO.Some surviving Rangers were put into the 3rd Divisions various Infantry units.
The objectives of the 7th Infantry, with the 1st battalion 30th infantry attached, were astride Highway No 7 northeast of Cisterna.The battle began on the night of Jan 29 but it wasnt until the morning of Jan 31, at 0545, that the 1st battalion 30th infantry went in to the attack.There was a mistake and the battalion had to fight 1400 yards just to get to the line of departure for the attack during which they "almost immediately ran into heavy fire from flak wagons, tanks, artillery, mortar, Nebelwerfer and small arms".The battalion reached the line of departure for the general attack about 320 in the afternoon, and an hour later jumped off again in the general Division attack, encountering "small-arms and machine gun fire from buildings and dug-in positions as it attacked, and used tanks and tank destroyers extensively for support"."By the end of the day 1st battalion patrols were making contact with the enemy toward Cisterna, getting as close as five hundred yards from the town.At that time the Regiment was in contact with elements of at least two battalions of the enemy".
On the morning of Feb 1 the 15th Infantry, and the 1st battalion 30th Infantry resumed the Division attack, but were slowed 1000 yards short of Cisterna by a heavy ten minute artillery barrage, "followed closely by a counterattack by a battalion of enemy infantry, armed with automatic weapons and supported by tanks and 20mm flak wagons, moving south out of the area just west of Cisterna along the numerous small roads running into the Ponte Rosso-Cisterna Lateral".
"As this attack on the exposed left flank gained momentum, the 1st battalion attack was stopped cold and the gallant men were forced to fight bitterly to retain their gains.At this time the 1st battalion, with Company C on the left and Company A on the right, was well in advance of other elements of the 3rd Infantry Division, and no artillery could reach targets to its front, due to the extreme range".
The battalion was ordered to dig in.C Company had lost its commander, Captain Miller, who was liberated from a POW camp a year later by the Russians.
This was when PFC Knappenberger went to work to thwart the German counter attack.He was one of eight men left, before the counterattack came, in the third platoon, which was on C Company's right, the Company itself being the left flank of the line.Knappenberger held up the counterattack for two and one half hours with a BAR.In addition to the Medal of Honor, he was awarded the Italian Military Cross for his heroism - the only soldier in the much decorated 30th Infantry Regiment so honored.
Due to the intensity of the counterattack, and the fact that the 1st battalion was beyond the range of artillery support, the battalion was ordered to pull back, which it did over the protests of its commander, arriving in its new position by about 815 in the evening.
It would be almost four more months before Cisterna was finally taken.
This "First Battle of Cisterna" was a savage disappointment to the 3rd Infantry Division.It was the first time in more than 100 days of combat, back to the Torch landings, that the Division hadnt reached its objectives.Intelligence developed that enemy opposition to the attack had come from eleven different enemy battalions.
And all this came before the first really massive German counterattack, designed to wipe out the Anzio bridgehead.Truly this was one of the worst battles Americans had to fight anywhere in the war.
Let me know if youve found anyone....you know, at the end of the war there were only eight, I think C Company men who had been in from the first landing.Longevity in a rifle company, like C Company, was unusual.The 3rd Infantry Division had many "firsts" to its WWII record - way more Medals of Honor (36) than any other Infantry Division (a Marine division was runnerup with 21), but also way more men KIA (6600+) than the runnerup (the 1st Infantry Division with 5100+), and also more wounded than any other infantry division by a wide margin - more than 27000.The Division organization was for just under 15000 men, and most of these casualties were in the rifle companies.There were only about 5400 men total in all the division's 27 rifle companies.The math shows that on average each man would have to be replaced six or seven times, before considering illness and injury and battle fatigue......Anybody who lasted any length of time must have felt they were on borrowed time.