ROBERT A. DIXON was born in 1908, to Mr. and Mrs. Albert Dixon. His
mother had passed away when he was quite young. He grew up in Port
Carbon PA, living there as late as 1930. He later lived in Williamsport
PA, and enlisted in the United States Army in the late summer of 1940
from there. He made his home while on leave with his brother, Arthur
Dixon, of 12 Oak Avenue in Mount Ephraim NJ.
After entering the United States Army, he was assigned as a drummer to the band of the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division when he was sent overseas after a furlough in June of 1943. He had written home from North Africa and Italy once abroad.
On 8 November 1942, the 15th landed at Fedala, Morocco, and participated in the capture of Casablanca against strong Vichy French resistance on 11 November. The regiment remained on duty in Morocco until March 1943, serving with other divisional units as the honor guard for President Roosevelt during the Casablanca Conference. In March 1943, the 15th moved to Tunisia, where it trained for further amphibious operations until July.
The 15th Infantry was part of the 3rd Infantry Divisionís Task Force Joss in the invasion of Sicily on July 1943. The regiment fought with distinction at Palermo, Messina, and elsewhere in the Sicilian Campaign. At the close of the campaign, the 3rd Infantry Division (including the 15th Infantry) conducted a month of training before crossing onto the Italian mainland in September.
The 3rd Infantry Division and the 15th Infantry Regiment fought on the Volturno River and farther north on the Italian peninsula. Private Robert Dixon was first reported missing in action in the fighting at the Mignano Gap on November 11, 1943. His body was recovered, and he rests at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. The Army declared him dead on November 13, 1943. He was survived by his brother Arthur, of the Mount Ephraim address, and by brothers Leo and William Dixon, of Port Carbon PA, his father Albert Dixon had also passed away in November of 1943. His death was reported in the January 7, 1944 evening edition of the Camden Courier-Post. His brother Arthur lived his days out in Mt. Ephraim, passing away in August of 1981.
While the 34th and 45th Divisions were advancing into the mountains on the right, the 3d Division was driving on Mignano and against the heights on either side of the town.
Mignano is situated in a
wide gap through the mountain chain which separates the valleys of the
Volturno and Garigliano rivers. The brush-covered sides of Cannavinelle
Hill and Mount Cesima rise to the northeast, and the huge mass of Mount
Camino-Mount la Difensa-Mount Maggiore towers more than nine hundred
meters above sea level on the other side of the gap. The Mignano Gap
itself contains two formidable barriers, Mount Rotondo and Mount Lungo.
Mount Rotondo rises 357 meters just west of Cannavinelle Hill and is
densely covered with brush. Mount Lungo, a long barren ridge with
several peaks, is an obstruction 343 meters high almost in the middle of
the gap. The railroad from Capua to Cassino runs between Mount la
Difensa and Mount Lungo, while Highway 6 passes between Mount Lungo and
Mount Rotondo. Before the 3d Division could break through the Mignano
Gap and pour into the valley south of Cassino, the enemy had to be
driven from his well-selected and strongly fortified positions on the
heights dominating the gap.
The air forces, ranging
far ahead of the infantry, had made numerous attacks on enemy
communications and installations north and south of the Mignano Gap. On
2l October, for example, A-36's of the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group strafed
ten prime movers on Highway 6, four miles south of Mignano, and dropped
eighty-three 500-pound bombs on a railroad bridge north of that town. In
October our bombers dropped more than two hundred tons of explosives on
targets in and around Mignano and Cassino. The bombing and strafing
missions during this month must have slowed, but did not stop, the
enemy's preparations for delaying our ground troops. Patrols found that
minefields had been laid, tank traps set, and machinegun positions built
on Mount Rotondo and Mount Lungo, east and west of Highway 6; for the
infantrymen an attack through the gap would be a hazardous operation.
Since a frontal assault through the Mignano Gap would undoubtedly be costly, General Truscott planned to approach it from the heights on both sides. He sent the 2d Battalion, 15th Infantry, over Mount Cesima to Cannavinelle Hill, which overlooks the gap from the northeast, while the 30th Infantry went around to Rocca Pipirozzi in the 45th Division zone to launch an attack across Cannavinelle toward Mount Rotondo. The regiment passed through the 180th Infantry during the night of 5/6 November and climbed the brush-covered slopes of Cannavinelle. The 2d Battalion then moved down the other side of the hill toward Mignano and made an unsuccessful attack during the afternoon on Mount Rotondo. At the same time the 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry, tried, but failed, to seize the southeast nose (Hill 253) of Mount Lungo. On the foggy morning of 8 November another coordinated attack was launched, under cover of the fire of eight battalions of artillery. The 3d Battalion, 30th Infantry, then pushed on to the crest of Mount Rotondo against medium resistance, and the 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry, took Hill 253. The 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry, next moved up and beat the enemy from Hill 193 in the horseshoe curve of Highway 6. Both regiments spent the following few days in repulsing German counterattacks, in digging in deeper for protection against mortar and artillery fire, and in trying to keep reasonably warm and dry.
Meanwhile, on the left the 2d Battalion, 7th Infantry, attacked on 5 November through Caspoli and Casale toward the high ridge between the jagged peaks of Mount Camino and the perpendicular cliffs of Mount la Difensa. The 3d Battalion came up to assist, and the 1st Battalion moved southwest from Mignano to hit the northeast slopes of Mount la Difensa. During the next ten days these battalions tried in vain to scale the heights of Mount la Difensa. Their every effort was balked by a cliff fifty to sixty feet high running north and south some fifteen hundred yards along the top of the mountain. They met at every turn rifle and machine-gun fire from holes blasted in the rocky slopes and accurate mortar and artillery fire directed from commanding heights. The enemy paid heavily for holding his ground, and his counterattacks were often costly, but he was always able to shift his reserves to replace his losses. Supplying the troops was very difficult in this terrain cut by deep gorges and precipitous ridges. Food, ammunition, and equipment had to be brought up by carrying parties, and a man could manage only a small amount, for he needed both hands for climbing. Six hours were required to carry down the wounded. The men of all battalions suffered severely from exposure to rain and cold and from a lack of proper food and clothing.
Soldiers on Mount la Difensa endured hardships and demonstrated bravery on its perilous slopes. One of them, Pvt. Floyd K. Lindstrom, of the 3d Battalion, was leading his platoon up the steep slopes of Mount la Difensa on ii November when it was stopped by machinegun fire. Pvt. Lindstrom charged through the rocks to within ten yards of the enemy and engaged the gunners in a duel. When this effort failed to neutralize the position, he again charged through machine-gun fire, killed the gunners with his pistol, dragged their guns back, and used them to beat off a fierce counterattack.
The 3d Division, as ordered, had made the main effort on the corps' left but had been stopped by the enemy's well-placed defenses on the hills southwest of Mignano.
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