Segment 3


Charles Coolidge recalled that success continued in Italy and that his unit reached Rome on June 5th 1944. When they went to Anzio they tried to cross the Rapido River on January 22 through 24th 1944. Part of his men got across but the others did not. The men that did get across were captured or hurt by German tanks. Coolidge and the men that did not get across were safe. The engineers tried to build a bridge across the Rapido River. Coolidge was still a Private and remembered sitting in the road waiting for the engineers to build the bridge as the Germans were shelling the road. Coolidge had a large shovel and was standing on the road. His Platoon Sergeant and another man came up to him asking if he was going to use the shovel. Coolidge recalled if you dug in off the road then you were in a minefield. His Platoon Sergeant asked to borrow the shovel so Coolidge gave it to him. That was the last time that Coolidge saw them as they were killed later that night on the road using his shovel. Coolidge recalled the artillery fire there was really hurting them. He went to the front of the line to the engineers to find out how much longer it would take to build the bridge. They had barely started as they had been shelled continuously too so Coolidge and the rest of the men waiting fell back to their original positions and stayed there several days. The decision was made to go further down the line and bypass the river by going to Mount Cairo. Coolidge relates that there was a disagreement between General Walker and General Mark Clark over whether to cross the river or go past it and up Mount Cairo and on to Cassino. In February of 1944 Coolidge recalled that his unit was finally relieved and went back to get replacements for his company that was down to just 27 men. He recalled seeing the bombers bomb the monastery at Monte Cassino while he was up on Mount Cairo. On the 28th of February 1944 the 88th Infantry Division came in to relieve them so that they could go back and get replacements. They stayed off the line until approximately 25 May 1944 when the 36th Division was then sent to Anzio. On the ship on the way to Anzio they overheard Axis Sally on the radio saying that she knew the 36th Division was on the way to Anzio and that when the first man stepped his foot onto the sand that there would be a shell there to meet him. Sure enough when the first man from the 36th Division landed a shell came over that did not hit him but did land on the beach.


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