History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Hill 720

Hill 720 was a Battle Honour granted to the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion, which was the administrative name of the Canadian component of the Canadian-American 1st Special Service Force.

The organization and history of the First Special Service Force is described in a separate article on this website. In brief, this unique Canadian-American force had been created in 1942 to undertake hazardous missions, and received training in parachute training, winter warfare, and amphibious operations. After deployment to the Aleutians, the Force was sent to the Italian theatre for use as alpine troops. The men of the Canadian component, administratively referred to as the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion, was intermingled throughout the FSSF, many in command positions, and generally making up about 1/3 the total combat strength of the Force's combat strength. The Force was commanded by U.S. Army Colonel Robert T. Frederick, an American (promoted to Brigadier-General at the end of January 1944), with Lieutenant-Colonel D.D. Williamson, as senior Canadian and commander of the 2nd Regiment until replaced following Hill 720. Canadians in fact commanded five of the six battalions in the Force on disembarkation in Italy.

Battles of the FSSF

Monte CaminoMonte la Difensa-Monte la Remetanea
Hill 720Monte MajoRadicosaMonte Vischiataro –  Anzio – Rome – Advance to the Tiber – Monte Arrestino – Rocca Massima – Colle Ferro

Background

The FSSF had arrived in Italy on 19 November 1943 to find that General Mark Clark's U.S. 5th Army was readying an offensive on the mountains below Monte Cassino. The Germans had fortified the chain of heights northeast from Camino-Difensa halfway across Italy as an additional barrier to Allied forces attempting to break through to Rome. While the main defensive line, the Gustav Line, was formidable, the additional fortifications at Camino-Difenso (the "Winter Line") were intended as an additional delay. The First Special Service Force was praised for its work in securing Monte la Difensa and Monte la Remetanea at the start of December. The Force was pulled back to Santa Maria for a rest, having been reduced to fewer than 1,400 men.1

The Force began training for new missions on 17 December, and rumours were rife, including Mount Cairo and even Monte Cassino. Training focused on the necessity for fighting in small groups. As they trained, the 5th Army's efforts to close up to the Gustav Line continued, and the 36th Division launched attacks on high ground straddling Highway No. 6, attempting to take both Mount Sammucro (Hill 1205) and Mount Lungo (Hill 351). Some of the fighting in this area was chronicled in the documentary The Battle of San Pietro. The division had advanced just beyond San Pietro on 16 December, and on 20 December the British X Corps began its own advance to the Garigliano River. The same day, the FSSF received orders to move to Ceppagna and prepare to seize Monte Vischiataro (Hill 1109) and the adjacent heights.

While the 3rd Regiment, tasked for the Vischiataro assault, began its preparations to move, reports were received from patrols on Sammucro of German hold-outs on Hill 720, which were overlooking the start line for the 36th Division's own operations. Hill 720 (also referred to variously as Hill 702 (on German maps) and Hill 730 (on Italian maps)) now became an intermediary objective, and was assigned to the 1st Regiment of the SSF along with the 141st Infantry Regiment, then operating from Mount Sammucro. The 1st Regiment moved up to Sammucro on 22 December through rain and fog while the rest of the Force was still camped at Ceppagna.2 The 504th Parachute Infantry were placed under command of the Force, and assigned to attack Hill 687 while the Force took Hill 720 with the assistance of the 141st Infantry. The 6th Armored Field Artillery Group  was ordered into direct support along with the 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, and the 456th Parachute Field Artillery, temporarily detached from Sicily to support the FSSF throughout its time in Italy.3


Click to enlarge

When Colonel Frederick climbed up the east flank of Sammucro on 23 December into clouds almost down to the ground, he found that coordination and communication between the 1st Regiment of his FSSF, the 504th PIR, and the 141st Infantry was "not in battle state", and he received permission to postpone the attack for 24 hours, citing also the condition of trails and weather. Once again, as during the attack on Difensa, the assault troops had to spend a cold waiting period dependent on man-packed supplies to be brought forward as there was no other way to bring up food, water, ammunition and other necessities except on another man's back.

This time the attack would be downhill against the enemy. Throughout the day before Christmas, and the attack, enemy artillery worked its shelling programs regularly across 1205 and approaches, while the infantry played its mortars in the same locality at periodic intervals.

Having bivouacked west of the 1205 peak at about the 1,000 meter level, First Regiment started moving at dusk Christmas eve to a lower line for the attack. Back of this line and just down the southern slope 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, had planted its heavy weapons - reinforced to 16 heavy machine guns and 8 heavy mortars - to render covering fire for the assault. The artillery plan was to plaster the 6th Armored FA Group howitzers and 36th Division weapons on the objective and surrounding peaks for one hour prior to midnight which was H-hour. Shortly before 10:00 P.M. however the Force commander held up the attack three hours to permit final coordination.4

The pause did not have the desired effect:

The attack was set to commence on the holiest day of the year for Germany's Lutheran soldiers: Christmas Eve. However, at the last minute, the attack was postponed until Christmas Day while final details of the operation were being ironed out. The early hours of December 25 might have found the Germans either keenly vigilant or soulfully distracted...Responding to the Allied artillery barrage from the Sixth Armored Artillery Group and two other artillery battalions that broke out about an hour before the operation was to get under way, the Germans unleashed shelling that began to fall on the slope of Sammucro (above the German positions on Hill 720)...The shelling severed the (2nd) battalion's lines of communication with the outside world and boxed the attackers in. As intelligence officer Robert Burhans later observed: "Mortar and artillery falling along the line of troops on the black mountainside...disorganized the assault battalion to such an extent that no forward movement was possible."5

Some of the shellfire landing among the FSSF men was friendly artillery. A forward observer from the 131st Field Artillery had called for a concentration on Hill 720, and part of it fell among the men of the 1st Regiment; radio communications were able to quickly cease the fire but three men were killed in the accidental shelling.6

The battalion was not ready to advance down the west shoulder of Mount Sammucro until before dawn. The defenders were known to belong to the 3rd Battalion, Panzergrenadier Regiment 71, and were under strength. Lieutenant-Colonel Akehurt's command post had been hit by German fire, wounding Akehurst and the reconnaissance NCO and killing the adjutant. Colonel Marshall, the regimental commander, came down to the 2d Battalion to take charge of the attack and reorganize the companies. Lieutenant Omar Smith organized his No. 6 Company on the right flank, Captain McFadden of No. 4 Company in battalion reserve was warned to be ready to move into line, and at 05:00hrs, No. 5 company in the centre signalled that he was ready to attack. The first skirmishers stepped off into heavy machine gun fire while the HMGs of the 141st Infantry duelled with the German guns.7

There was little cover for the attackers; the ground was entirely rock, and casualties in No. 5 and No. 6 Companies mounted quickly, the former having only been able to reorganize 30 men for the attack. Captain McCall remained in attack of No. 5 Company despite a shell fragment in his neck, directing the fire of his light mortars and directing the platoons. Dawn was breaking by time his company had worked its way onto 720 and were close enough to the Germans to engage in hand-to-hand combat. Lieutenant Smith's No. 6 Company on the north ridge had faced an equally disorganized start, and Smith was wounded by a sniper early in the attack. A company from the 1st Battalion followed up the 2d Battalion in echelon, and by 07:00hrs the 2d had gained the objective, with No. 6 Company working down the right slope to clear out stone entrenchments with hand grenades while No. 5 Company executed a left flanking on the nose of Hill 720. The junction of the two companies was completed in the face of two German machine guns. Lieutenant Smith dropped out short of the objective, his wound proving fatal, the stretcher bearers unable to get over the open ground in time.8

 

The 504th were able to evict the Germans from nearby Hill 687 and Hill 720 had been taken; the cost to the 1st Regiment had been 65 killed and wounded.9 The 2nd Regiment's No. 4 Company lost 12 casualties. One man who fell off the hill during the fight lay injured until 27 December when patrols were able to locate him. He was evacuated after three days of lying alone, cold, injured and hungry.10

 


German POWs carry a wounded Forceman back to Ceppagna. US Army photo


Aftermath

 

The plan for the 2nd U.S. Corps was to follow up the successful capture of Hill 720 with the capture of San Vittore, securing a new line of departure for future operations. Patrols by U.S. infantry units were unable to penetrate the town, and the town itself was not taken for over a week. The 1st Regiment of the FSSF, for its part, came down off the mountain, taking its dead to San Pietro Infine and resting at Ceppagna before the next large move toward Cassino could be contemplated.11

 

Battle Honours

 

The following Canadian unit was awarded the Battle Honour "Hill 720" for participation in these actions:

  • 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion (First Special Service Force)

Notes

  1. Joyce, Kenneth H. Snow Plough and the Jupiter Deception: The story of the 1st Special Service Force and the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion, 1942-1945 (Vanwell Publishing Ltd., St. Catharines, ON, 2006) ISBN 1-55125-094-2 pp.168-169

  2. Ibid, p.170

  3. Burhans, Robert D. The First Special Service Force: A War History of The North Americans 1942-1944 (Methuen Publications, Toronto, ON, 1981) ISBN 0-458-95020-1 pp.131-133

  4. Ibid, pp.134-135

  5. Nadler, John A Perfect Hell: The Forgotten Story of the Canadian Commandos of the Second World War (Anchor Canada, 2005) ISBN 978-385-66141-6 p.143

  6. Joyce, Ibid, p.172

  7. Burhans, Ibid, pp.136-137

  8. Ibid, pp.136-138

  9. Nadler, Ibid, p.144

  10. Burhans, Ibid, pp.139-140

  11. Ibid


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