Carl Lehman: That Day In Cisterna!:
Here are my recollections of that day:
The shell which killed Major Miller, according to what was told me by others near the time, was the one that opened the battle. Although I was unaware of the Major's location forward of mine in the Pontano Ditch, the shell exploded quite near and with the explosion, I sprang running to the left right through an enemy bivouac (no tents, just men lying under blankets), astonished at Germans rising all around, running away with hands in the air, crying "Kamarad!", as I ran through them, shooting from the hip. By the time I had expended the clip from my M1, I had run completely through the camp area, coming to a shallow hedgerow running generally parallel to the Ditch, although now I was more than a couple of hundred yards from it. I continued my run up the hedgerow until my attention was caught by the clatter of a flack-wagon which pulled into view on a low ridge perhaps 100 yards to the left.
Dawn was just breaking, and the flack-wagon was silhouetted against the lightening sky. I dropped, reloaded, and commenced firing at the soldiers trying to unlimber a brace of automatic guns in the open body of the truck. They were in plain sight and easy targets, and beat a hasty retreat to the far side of the ridge. It was then that I became aware that a line of Rangers had followed me up the ditch, many doing the same as I. (I had no squad at the time and was attached to Company HQ, carrying a load of demolitions). We had quite a successful shoot for several minutes, at Germans whose heads we could see, but who see only our muzzle-flashes in the dark of the swale. All the metal of the M1 was hot and the wood was smoking.
After some little time shooting one clip after another, I heard Sgt. Perry Bills shouting my name; after I replied he directed me to come in his direction (in an open field towards the Ditch). I jumped up and ran to join those in the field, and the others in the hedgerow did the same, to the accompaniment of small arms fire still inaccurate because of the dark. When I reached Bills' general area, I became aware of a large number of men flattened out in the field with no cover at all, and the small arms fire was building. I attempted to light a British phosphorous contact grenade, but it failed to detonate. A wounded officer nearby, seeing what I attempted, tossed me an American one with which I was successful in producing a cloud of smoke. However, I had had to toss it quite close to me because of the surrounding men, and perceiving the danger of falling tendrils over head, I again began running not stopping until I ran into a fire fight between some First Battalion men and some Kraut infantry. I'm not sure how this ended but after it did, I commenced looking for C Company.
There was a tall barn nearby and I climbed to its second floor, which had a door looking south the way we had come, but another window higher up and facing West, which I attempted to gain for a better look with a handy ladder. When no sooner started up the ladder when I heard the ungodly clatter of an armored vehicle outside. I abandoned the ladder and stole a peek through the door which revealed a self-propelled gun with a driver and a 4-man crew in the back, working about the gun, directly under me. I dropped a grenade in it and hit the ground running on the other side of the barn before it exploded. I did not inspect the results.
As can be seen, I was running here and there like a scared rabbit, but I had a good excuse, I was looking for my Company. I finally found Bills, a wounded Lt. Rip Reed, Scotty Munro, Larry Hurst, Hodel (the only ones I now remember for sure and the remains of Bills' platoon, on the extreme right of the battlefield, and dug in with them there. We were about a hundred yards southeast of the farmhouse where I learned later, Ehalt and his radio were. We could see distant scurrying German vehicles on the road to our right--out of rifle range and all of the action was now going on to the north and west of us.
I was dozing from exhaustion in the early afternoon, when after the events at dawn and shortly thereafter, I settled with the remains of Bill's platoon taking an occasional shot, mostly long-range, at vehicles on the road. I woke to Bills' excited scream, "Them bastards is givin up!" By "them bastards" he meant our guys who were being marched towards our positions, bare-headed with their hands clasped over their heads. We jumped to our feet as one and started running in the opposite direction--towards the beachhead. No one of us tried to shoot through the prisoners.
We got at least a quarter-mile back towards the beachhead before we were pinned in a plowed field by machine gun and rifle fire from concealed positions. I was straddled with a burst and a bullet hit Larry Hurst. It was hopeless and while somebody waved a white piece of paper (all our handkerchiefs were OD) and we lifted our hands. Before doing so, I managed to bury a Lugar which I had carried through Sicily and Italy, but forgot something else which damned near got me executed. The first German I saw was an officer in a leather coat running, pistol pointed at us, screaming, "Are there any more Americans out there?" Hodel answered inanely, "No capisce!"
Shortly thereafter we were marched into a farm yard and searched, during which I for a time believed I was about to reap my final reward. This little Kraut who searched me looked about fifteen and he dearly wanted permission to shoot me because of "scalps" he found in my shirt pocket. The "scalps" were the Nazi wings worn on breasts of the tunics and coats of the Germans. During the time before we went on this last expedition, I had been the first in a hastily evacuated German position--a barn obviously used for sleeping, where numerous tunics and overcoats were scattered about. I stripped them all before anyone else came into the position. After separating me from the others, the little Kraut took this handfull to the Feldwebel, begging him for permission to shoot me. The Feldwebel shook his head with a "Nein!" But the little bastard kept it up, drawing more headshakes and quiet "Neins." Before this played out; I was blessing the Feldwebel's obviously sainted mother for having birthed him. Before we were marched out of the farmyard to the rear areas, the Feldwabel came close and smiled at me, "You haff a Churman name, Carl!" That and what went before was worth the snappy salute I delivered and which he returned.