Wednesday, November 09, 2011

William J. Milhomme, WWII Veteran Day Memorial 2011

William Joseph Milhomme enlisted in the US Army on April 1, 1943. His enlistment was “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.” His registration recorded that he had completed one year of high school and his civil occupation was listed as “North Woodsman or Guide, Hunting And Fishing.” His stature was listed at 5’6” and weighed 100lbs. (Dad had been placed in the Franco American Orphanage (Lowell, MA) in 1935 at the age of 12. In 1937 he was later transferred to the House of the Angel Guardian (Jamaica Plain, Boston), a pseudo orphanage industrial school institution. He remained here until 1941 when he reached the age 21.

The following research was compiled by my brother, EdwardFrancis. Dad was assigned to the Fifth U.S. Army, IV Corps, 85th division, 338th regiment and company B. The 85th is also known as the "Custer" division. He trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi and embarked for North Africa 12/25/43 aboard the USS General W.A. Mann. After the war he returned to the US on the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain.
He arrived at Casablanca, Morocco on 1/2/44 and received amphibious training at Port aux Poules near Arzew and Oran, Algeria from 2/1/44 - 3/23/44. He landed in Italy at Naples somewhere between 3/28/44 and 4/10/44. There they faced the Gustav
Line and held defensive positions for a month.
On 5/11/44 launched their attack taking Solacciano, Castellonorato and Formia. Terracian was taken and they participated in opening the Anzio beachhead. They then took Monte Compatri and Frascati and then onto Rome on 6/5/44. Viterbo was next and
then had a few days of Rest and Relaxation. Then they took over the defense of the Arno River from 8/15/44 - 8/26/44. The division attacked the mountain defenses of the Gothic Line on 9/13/44 and broke through taking Firenzuola on the 9/21/44.
The 85th advanced slowly through mud and rain against heavy resistance taking La Martina and gaining the Idice River Valley on 10/2/44.Reached Mount Mezzano on 9/24/44 overlooking the Po River Valley. From 10/27/44 to 11/22/44 they held defensive position near Pizzano. Nothing much happened during 12/44 - 2/45 because the winter was brutal in the mountains.

On 4/14/45 they fought southwest of Bologna pushing through Lucca and Pistoria into the Po Valley as the German resistance collapsed. The Panaro River was crossed and the Po River the next day. The 85th mopped up fleeing Germans until their mass surrender on 5/2/45 in the Belluno Agordo area. So basically Dad walked from Naples all the way to the Northeast area of Italy
into the Alps. (end)
Excerpts from Official History:

This time the 1st Battalion of the 338th made somewhat better progress. Company B, spearheading the attack, reached a point
within 75 yards of one of the crest of Altuzzo. Company E of the 2nd Battalion tied in with the left of B Company to keep abreast of the advance. But the gains they made were not to be easily held……………..
B Company, advancing over rocky, exposed slopes, came to a point where it had little cover and where it soon found itself fired upon from 3 sides by machine guns. Even while it attempted to prepare itself for defense the enemy began counterattacking, in a repetition of the same, long-tried German tactics, and the Germans were repulsed each time. For its action on Altuzzo, B Company received a Presidential {Unit} Citation……….
For conspicuous gallantry in the attack on Altuzzo on September 14th, Staff Sergeant George D. Keathley, B Company, 338th Infantry, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. When the leaders of the 2 forward platoons were wounded, Staff Sergeant Keathley, platoon guide of the supporting platoon, took over the command of the other 2 platoons. The enemy was counterattacking fiercely, and after 3 of these attacks only 20 men remained from the 2 platoons. Staff Sergeant Keathley reorganized these, placing each man in a position where he could best defend the badly exposed position on the hill. Ammunition was running low, and Staff Sergeant Keathley, while directing the defense, passed among the killed and wounded, collecting ammunition from men who could no longer use it, and distributing it to the remaining defenders……

The plan of attack was first to reduce the enemy positions in the villages. B Company attacked Quinzano while G Company moved over to the northwest to attack San Martino. Quinzano fell by early afternoon, but San Martino held out. Tanks in San Benedetto were meanwhile firing against the enemy on the mountain, F Company was moving up to climb through the ravines on the east, and B Company started up the ridge to -the summit. The fighting went on throughout the night against resistance that gave no signs of slackening. The fight for San Martino was still raging in the morning, but B Company began to make steady progress up the ridge, slowly forcing the enemy back, and by midafternoon of October 5th it had occupied the crest. F Company too was making progress clearing the enemy from the northern reaches. San Martino was finally subdued by dark, and the mountain was entirely cleared of the enemy by midnight. The first of the important hill masses dominating the Idice Valley had been captured.