A FRED TROTTER, COMPAGNIA E, 2° BATTAGLIONE, 168° REGGIMENTO DI FANTERIA US
Quando ho scritto questa poesia, d’impeto, dopo aver visto per la prima volta la sperduta croce di Fred Trotter alla R’fenza, volli immaginare come
avvenne la morte di questo soldato che, per la verità, avevo inizialmente pensato tedesco.
Poi ho fatto delle ricerche ed ho appreso che Fred Trotter (13 agosto 1915 – 7 gennaio 1944) fu un valoroso sergente americano del 168° Reggimento di fanteria US, originario del Sud Carolina, che cadde da eroe presso la collina sopra Santa Giusta a San Vittore del Lazio.
Alla fine della guerra fu decorato, post mortem, al valore.
La mattina del 7 gennaio 1944, nell’ultimo assalto degli alleati per la liberazione di San Vittore, sulla collina 396 - la R’fènza - (Hill 396) il plotone dello Staff Sergeant Fred Trotter era rimasto improvvisamente senza munizioni. Senza esitare egli abbandonò il riparo dove stava al sicuro e carponi strisciò fino al campo di battaglia. Recuperò una decina di bandoliere; tornando però fu visto e fu ferito ad una gamba. Si trascinò sanguinante per una trentina di metri e riuscì a lanciare le munizioni ai compagni. In quel momento fu falciato da un fucile mitragliatore e morì. I compagni però con quelle munizioni riuscirono a respingere e ad avere ragione dell’ultimo contrattacco tedesco.
Non ho voluto cambiare nulla di quel che avevo scritto e, come sanvittorese, ho dedicato questa piccola composizione ai tredici soldati americani ma anche ai trentatre soldati tedeschi, venuti da lontano a morire in quei pochi metri quadrati della R’fenza, all’incrocio con Coll’ Paliér’, ai confini con il comune di Cervaro, proprio dove oggi si trova la croce di Trotter.
A Fred Trotter, nato durante la prima guerra mondiale e morto a San Vittore del Lazio nella seconda.
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La lapide in ricordo di Fred Trotter è stata posata nel gennaio 2012 su iniziativa di un movimento civico del Comune di Cervaro.
Nel seguito sono riportati: l'episodio in cui cadde il sergente Trotter, compreso nell'ambito dell'azione per la cattura del monte La Chiaia e nel più ampio contesto delle operazioni finali sulla Winter Line e la motivazione per l'assegnazione della Distinguished Service Cross.
The 168th Outflanks Mount la Chiaia
While Task Force B was winning the heights, the 168th Infantry had the task of driving the Germans from the middle and lower slopes of the mountains flanking the Rapido Valley (Map No. 24, page 92). It was a difficult assignment, for small creeks had carved the mountainsides into a series of ridges separated by narrow gullied valleys and lying at right angles to the axis of advance. One of these ridges, marked by several prominent knobs, extended almost to Mount la Chiaia; possession of the ridge would threaten the enemy defenses on that hill from flank and rear. Hill 396, marking the end of the ridge, was the first main objective of the 168th in an attack coordinated with the attack of the 135th Infantry against Mount la Chiaia itself.
At 0550 on 5 January, Company I and Company K jumped off behind a rolling barrage fired by the 185th Field Artillery Battalion. They were pinned at the creek line by fire from a stone farmhouse bristling with machine guns. The situation improved during the afternoon when Company L and Company C, on the right flank, crossed the creek farther up in the mountains and reached Hill 425. This spur dominated the lower reaches of the creek and capture of it freed Companies I and K. The 3d Battalion was then able to secure the gorge. Pressing the advantage gained on the higher ground, the 1st Battalion moved beyond Hill 425 and threatened the northern end of the key ridge which was the 168th's objective.
The morning of 6 January saw no progress. Attacking at 0900 after a rolling barrage laid by the 175th and 185th Field Artillery Battalions, the 3d Battalion made little headway against well-directed machine-gun and mortar fire. On the higher flank, the 1st Battalion tried for hills 456 and 511, knobs on the 396 ridge, and was stopped five hundred yards short. The 3d Battalion, 132d Grenadiers, was holding grimly all the way along the ridge to the area where it merged into the mountain upland near Hill 820.
That night a renewed attack broke the enemy defenses at the lower end of the ridge. During the afternoon the 2d Battalion moved up to the gorge and passed through the 3d Battalion. At 2230, Company E spearheaded the effort under orders to capture Hill 396 at all costs. In the bitter, close-in fighting with grenades and small arms, thirteen riflemen of Company E were killed; thirty-three dead Germans were later counted on the hill. The enemy fell back before daylight, only to bring down heavy mortar and artillery fire on the knob. The 2d Battalion had consolidated its position well, and three furious counterattacks before 0600 were unsuccessful. Many men of the 2d Battalion had distinguished themselves in the fighting for Hill 396. Sgt. Rafael T. Hernandez of Company E disposed his squad to counter a flanking movement, then alone went forward and destroyed a machine gun and its crew. 1st Sgt. John A. Hayes, Jr., going forward on Company G's right, corrected the fire of his platoon so accurately that a counterattack was broken up. During the last enemy attempt to recapture Hill 396, S/Sgt. Fred Trotter's platoon of Company E ran short of ammunition. Trotter left his trench and recovered ten bandoleers from the battlefield. Shot in the leg, he crawled thirty yards back to the trench. Sgt. Trotter was killed by machine-gun fire when he raised himself to throw the ammunition to his men, but with the recovered ammunition his platoon helped break up the final counterattack.
During 7 January, the 168th extended its hold on the ridge above Hill 396. In stopping the 1st Battalion's attack against the higher knobs, the enemy had profited by excellent observation from Hill 820, overlooking the valley across which our troops had to advance. The 1st Battalion postponed further efforts at the ridge while Company C assaulted this flanking height. One platoon was on Hill 820 by noon, and at 1815 the position was secure. This success settled the issue of the fight for the ridge below; the enemy withdrew that night from the knob at Hill 456. The next morning the knob at 511 was occupied without difficulty, and patrols reported the ground to the west clear of enemy as far as Il Gallo Hill.
The 168th had done more than take just another ridge. Its victory at Hill 396 contributed to unhinging the whole enemy defensive system at the junction of his positions in the mountains with those barring the plain. On 7 January Mount la Chiaia fell to the 135th Infantry, marking the complete success of the 36th Division's coordinated attack.
*TROTTER, FRED (KIA)
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Fred Trotter (34098461), Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy, in action against enemy forces on 7 January 1944. Staff Sergeant Trotter's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Headquarters, Fifth U.S. Army, General Orders No. 71 (1944)
Home Town: Pickens County, South Carolina
Nel caso in cui il testo derivi sempicemente dall'esposizione, con o senza traduzione, di documenti/memorie al solo fine di una migliore e più completa fruizione, la definizione Autore si leggerà A cura di.