Wednesday, December 4, 2013 12:00 AM
Lieutenant General Mark Clark unleased the Fifth United States Army against the German Bernhard-Gustav fortified line, about 75 miles southwest of Rome, during the waning days of November and the early days of December 1943, seventy years ago.
One of the divisions in Clark's attacking force was the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, which included the 168th Regimental Combat Team, and Private B. P. Jackson, Jr., of Neshoba County.
The 5' 11", 165 pound Jackson served with the First Battalion when the assault began against German positions on Mount Pantano.
Later, the First Battalion received the Distinguished Unit Badge for achieving their objective, opening the way for the Fifth Army's drive to the Rapido River.
The citation read: "For four days and nights from November 29, 1943, to December 3, the battalion, after storming and seizing the vital objective, clung tenaciously to its positions despite ferocious Nazi attacks, severe casualties, bitter weather, rugged terrain and almost insuperable supply, communications and evacuation problems."
Intense artillery and mortar barrages preceded the German counterattacks to regain the objective and climaxed in bitter fire fights and hand-to-hand engagements.
At times, due to the shortage of ammunition, the embattled Yankee infantry threw stones and ration cans at the assaulting Nazis.
The one trail to the crest of the knoll was slippery and under constant enemy observation and fire.
Mule pack trains could travel only half the distance.
Soldiers had to carry supplies by hand from point to point.
The evacuation of one casualty required from four to six hours.
Casualties on both sides were high.
Estimated German losses were 400 killed and wounded while the First Battalion suffered 24 killed and 171 wounded.
The battalion commander, 15 other officers, including two company commanders, and Private B. P. Jackson were on the list of 171.
Jackson received shrapnel in the lower part of both legs.
The Neshoba field linesman suffered a second injury on February 11, 1944, this time a projectile in the left gluteal area of the lower body.
Another key division in this action was the 36th Infantry "Texas" Division, commanded by Major General Fred L. Walker.
The Texas Division included the 141st, 142nd and 143rd Regimental Teams, with Private Cecil P. Gilbert of Neshoba County serving with Company G of the 141st.
Fifth Army commander Clark assigned Walker's force the task of capturing the peaks of Monte Sammucro and sweeping through San Pietro in the Liri Valley.
Captain Charles Beacham of San Antonio led the first company into action against San Pietro from the south while other elements assaulted the slopes of Sammucro.
Beacham's company, among others, included Private First Class Casimer G. Trevino of Benavides, Texas, Private Cecil P. Gilbert of Philadelphia, Mississippi, Private Glen Boke of Covington, Virginia, Private Joseph Meunier of Westerly, Rhode Island, Private Jesse Baker, Wichita, Texas, Private Ross Atkinson of Hix, West Virginia and Private Joseph Chicacchio.
"We started out all right," remembered Trevino, the Texas private first class.
"I was with the captain and two body guards," he recalled.
"We advanced right up to ridge of the town and there was a little draw which we had cross."
Neshoba County native Gilbert added, "There was no cover anywhere."
"That's when everything opened on us," said Chicacchio of New York.
"They laid mortar fire on us and were shooting from caves and houses," Trevino reported and noted, "There was nothing we could do but get out. There were not enough of us to hold the town and the rest of the company was pinned down by machine and mortar fire."
The small group of Beacham's company then crossed back over the draw through withering machine fire. Chicacchio stated, "There were booby traps all around. A lot of the boys got caught in mine fields. Some of us crawled more than 400 yards on our bellies to get out of the area."
Gradually these soldiers left their "No Man's Land" and waited for further orders while other troops of the Texas Division continued the attack on San Pietro.
Civil War Veterans
Hunt, Samuel J. - Private; enlisted March 1,1862 at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age eighteen; farmer; wounded at Second Manassas, August 29, 1862; received $38.88 for commute and travel from Richmond, Virginia, to Marion, Mississippi, and return - distance 1,944 miles at two cents per mile, July 21, 1863; captured at Hatcher's Run, April 2, 1865; imprisoned at Point Lookout, Maryland; released at Point Lookout, June 27, 1865; transportation furnished to Corinth, Mississippi; described as five feet nine and one-half inches tall, light complexion, brown hair and grey eyes.
World War II Veterans
Jackson, B. P., Jr. - Private; enlisted on March 6, 1943, at Shelby, Mississippi, in the United States Army; age twenty; farmer; nick-named "Mississippi;" served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations; served also in the European Theatre of Operations as a field linesman with Company B and Headquarters Company, First Battalion, 168th Regimental Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, September 1943 to June 1944; participated in the campaigns in Northern Africa, Naples-Foggia, and Rome-Arno, Italy; wounded (shrapnel in lower part of both legs) in action at Mount Pantano, Italy, Dec. 1, 1943, and again wounded (left gluteal region) at the Monistaryat Cassino, Italy, February 11, 1944; awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Distinguished Unit Badge, Good Conduct Medal, the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the Purple Heart (with one oak leaf cluster); returned aboard the hospital ship, U.S.S. Arcadia, to Charleston, South Carolina, July 4, 1944; discharged at Camp Croft, South Carolina, November 9, 1944, combat disability; described as five feet eleven inches tall, weighing 165 pounds, with brown hair and grey eyes.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Monday thru Friday