Villages in Mountains From Fifth Army Training Notes, ITALY: “An outstanding feature of the mountainous terrain in ITALY is the invariable location of villages on dominating terrain or on ground which is vital to the attacker in order that he may secure his line of communication. These villages consist of closely packed buildings with narrow, winding streets. The buildings are thick walled and are immune to shell fire except a direct hit; even these cause little damage. There are also a considerable number of scattered houses located on dominating features usually of the same strong stone construction.
“The Germans make full use of these buildings as strong points and machine-gun installations. They endeavor to build up a system of mutually supporting positions which, because of their location, are extremely difficult to maneuver against. On many occasions the defenders have allowed the advance scouts to penetrate these villages or scattered strong points, then destroyed the following troops.
Attacking a Village “Daylight attacks against these hilltop villages are almost out of the question as casualties are invariably high. Extensive use of a limited night attack has proven to be the best method of handling this situation. The attack is made on as dark a night as possible. Silence is necessary and is relatively easy to obtain since the ground over which the approach is made is mostly cultivated. The process of infiltration must be systematic and every building gained should be immediately turned into a strong point for the attacker.
“It is advisable, where possible, to have the forward attacking elements allotted a high proportion of submachine guns. Each man should carry at least two to four hand grenades. They are invaluable in clearing buildings.
“The enemy’s mortars are habitually emplaced behind villages on the reverse slopes, dug down to a depth of 10 feet. These are almost impossible to knock out by artillery fire even if we can actually locate them. One unit has reported that they have successfully engaged targets of this type by pooling all its 131-mm mortars and ‘firing them as a battery under unit control.
“Of course, if at is at all possible, it is better to avoid these villages entirely, flank them, and cut the enemy’s line of communication.
“The absolute necessity of keeping a reserve for counter-attacks on the reverse slope is stressed. If there are any houses on the forward slopes they should be occupied or the enemy will use them to assist his counterattacks.”
‘Infantry Heavy Weapons In The Mountains Heavy Weapons Company Commander, 3d Division, ITALY: “Our heavy weapons companies have carried just about half of their weapons in Italy. In that way they could keep up both the guns and the mortars together with enough ammunition to make them useful. Every machine gun squad in the heavy weapons company has a light machine gun as well as a heavy. They carry the light machine gun up these mountains and later substitute the heavy gun if it is practicable to bring it up.
“In this type of terrain we use only two 81mm mortars. With them we can fire all the ammunition we can get up. It is much better to have two mortars firing when you need them than to have six mortars without ammunition.”
Rifle and Stove Mayor Kermit Hansen, 34th Infantry Division, ITALY : “In this division we have been able to give a fairly liberal allowance of the small Coleman stoves to the front-line infantry by taking them away from truck drivers, etc. Most units have one stove per squad. I am convinced that men will hang on to their rifles to the last, and to their stoves till next to the last. They utilize the German metal gas-mask container to carry the stove in. Being able to heat `G’ rations is a great morale and efficiency factor in cold, rainy weather, particularly up in the mountain tops where our men are now. Also a secondary but vital use of these stoves is to dry out wet socks; it is the only possible way that it can he done.”
Hot Food for the Front Line Assistant Division G-4, ITALY: “Front line units get into many places where you cannot get even a mule up to them. We heat ‘C’-ration cans in boiling water, then put them in 155-mm shell containers, and strap three containers on a packboard. The reports we get back indicate that the food stays hot for 4 hours-which is long enough to get it to the front line troops by dismounted pack methods. We have also sent up, by packboard, hot water in 5-gallon water cans, with each can wrapped in two blankets. Reports also show that the water on the front line is hot enough for the men to make cocoa or coffee.””