Post Armistice extract from a local Italian newspaper in Bert's collection - November 1918



The last drive in Italy and the American share in it

Italy is new Italy, reunited and redeemed, and America claims, the United States claims, through the presence and action of the 332nd Infantry Regiment in the last great drive which brought about this glorious result, America claims her share, however slight it might be, in the honour and the jubilation of this hour. True, we were but one Regiment, though something more than a Regiment, too, while both England and France had whole divisions here, and Italy had her millions of fighting men. Yet while our actual fighting strength was limited, what we stood for was immense, no less a thing than the unlimited power and the unbreakable spirit of America which, thrown into the balance on the western front made, as all the world knows, the difference between victory and defeat for the allied cause. And here we were in Italy, the same kind of Americans, and with the same backing, as were our brothers in France we in one year and a half of war wrought mightily for the triumph that has come to pass.

We came into Italy toward the end of July, this year, everywhere along the way being greeted with the cordial welcome of a people whose heart is on their sleeve. First we knew Verona and the lovely country round about. Somma Campagna, Villafranca, Custoza, Valeggio, rich all of them in their own association with older wars and ancient destinies. While here we had the unique and invaluable experience of undergoing intensive military instruction at the hands of Major Allegretti and his incomparable Arditi, training that was to stand us in good stead when at last action came. Every facility was given to us by the Italian High Command to study the workings of tactics at every part of their front, from the mountains to the Piave. Officers and non-coms were sent to school and to the trenches, returning eager for the day they could put into practice what they had learned. At length, so it seemed to our restive spirits, opportunity appeared. Our Second Battalion was ordered to take over a sector on the Piave. This they did, spending a quiet four weeks at the very spot where the opening wedge of the great drive was later to be driven in. Suddenly they were ordered out and the whole Regiment was ordered to assemble at Treviso pending we knew not what immediate consequences. But he would have been a dull observer indeed who failed to guess that mighty events were just around the corner. The broad highways were choked with trains of all sorts, artillery, supply, ammunition, above all pontoons. "Tommy" was much in evidence, with every button and buckle of his equipment shining. The French we did not see, as their lines did not cross or meet ours. But there was no doubt from the aspect of these roads that the Allies were up and doing in Italy.

The hour came: British, French and Italians struck from Grappa to the sea and at a stroke, practically, the blow succeeded and the war was won. This last far reaching effect was the Austrian retreat which speedily developed into a rout. Then came our chance. We were brigaded with an Italian Division in an Army Corps commanded by the British. British were on our left and the Italians on our right. Simultaneously, we moved forward, combing the fields and the woods and the towns in search of the retreating Austrians. Everywhere we saw signs of the havoc his occupancy had made. Everywhere we were greeted with joy by the liberated natives. Then we crossed the Piave, the Livenza and the Meduna as rapidly as the conditions of congested roads and improvised bridges would allow. There was little sleep, there were long hikes and short rations. But it was for a purpose which every soldier could clearly see, and morale remained strong and spirits kept high. The disposition was keenest when after four days and nights of almost continuous marching we reached the Tagliamento and learned that the enemy had taken a stand on the opposite side. This was the evening of November 3rd. Orders came through at 5 o'clock in the morning of the 4th our Second Battalion with Major Scanland in command, should cross the river, the other two battalions remaining in a position of support. It was known that the opposite bank was lined with machine guns excellently placed, and early in the morning of the 4th one of our patrols penetrating into the middle of the channel was accosted by an English-speaking Austrian officer who endeavoured to engage them in a peace parly, but precisely at the appointed hour the order was issued to go forward and take the opposite bank at any cost. And the Battalion went forward. There was half an hour's brisk fighting and the bank was taken. This was the only point at which we engaged the Austrians. Codroipo, seat of the Distriks Commando, five kilometers distant, fell into our hands with immense supplies of ammunition. At 3:00 o'clock on the afternoon of this day the armistice went into effect, and our share in the great drive was over. After that we marched rapidly and far into Italia irrenda, irrenda no longer. There were many amusing incidents, some painful ones, a few sad ones. But the great and lasting impression is one of satisfaction on the part of civilians and soldiery in the far reaching effects of the drive which, by the defeat of Austria, opened the back door to Germany and really resulted in the cessation of hostilities along the western front. From the Piave to the Tagliamento is made to mean to us, from Ohio to Berlin, and we are content.


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