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World War II Honor Roll

Marion W. Howard

First Lieutenant, U.S. Army

O1013638

191st Tank Battalion

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: February 14, 1944
Buried at: Plot C Row 9 Grave 7
Sicily-Rome American Cemetery
Nettuno, Italy
Awards: Purple Heart

191st
Tank Battalion
Patch


FIRST LIEUTENANT MARION W. HOWARD JR.  was born in 1918. He grew up in Camden NJ, and was a 1940 graduate of Camden High School, where he excelled in basketball and tennis. He took a one-year course in accounting at Mississippi State College, after which he took a position as an accountant with the Atlantic Refining Company. He had married, and lived with his wife, Betty O. McKearney Howard, at 1117 North 21st Street in the Cramer Hill Section of Camden NJ. He joined the United States Army in April of 1942. 

Marion Howard graduated from Officers Candidate School at Fort Knox KY in November of 1942. Assigned to the 191st Tank Battalion which saw action in Tunisia and in Italy. While in Italy he had been stricken with malaria twice. His unit landed at Anzio, and he was killed in action near Aprilia, Italy. He had last written home on February 8, prior to the attack on Aprilia. According to newspaper reports of the time, Lieutenant Howard was reported missing in action on February 11, 1944. The Army's official date of death was on February 14, 1944.

Marion Howard, 25 at the time of his death, was survived by his wife Betty, of the North 21st Street address, and a six-month old son, Robert Marion Howard, whom Lieutenant Howard had never seen. He also was survived by his parents, of 813 Serrill Avenue, Yeadon PA. His death was reported in the evening edition of the Camden Courier-Post on March 14, 1944.



In spite of the disaster that befell the Rangers, the 7th and 15th Infantry regiments continued their attacks toward Cisterna, one soldier recalling that the defenders clung stubbornly to their entrenched positions while launching locally heavy counterattacks. Sgt. Truman O. Olson, a light machine gunner with Company B. 7th Infantry, took part in one sixteen-hour assault on entrenched enemy positions in which one-third of his company became casualties. Having seized a toehold, the survivors dug in while Sergeant Olson and his crew took their one available machine gun and placed it forward of the line to bear the brunt of an expected enemy counterattack. Although he had been firing without respite all day, Olson stuck grimly to his post throughout the night while his gun crew was killed, one by one, by accurate and overwhelming enemy fire. Weary from over twenty-four hours of continuous battle and suffering from an arm wound, Olson manned his gun alone, meeting the full force of a 200-man enemy dawn assault supported by mortars and machine guns. After thirty minutes of fighting, Olson was severely wounded, but he refused evacuation. For an hour and a half after receiving a second and subsequently fatal wound, he continued to fire his machine gun, killing at least twenty of the enemy, wounding many more, and ultimately forcing the attackers to withdraw. For his actions Sergeant Olson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

While some progress was made by 3d Division units in the face of noticeably stronger enemy resistance, by nightfall on 31 January the Americans were still one mile from the village, battling stubbornly forward but unable to break through. On the following day fighting was equally inconclusive, and by noon it had become obvious, after three days of costly attacks and counterattacks, that the Americans could not capture Cisterna, still 1,500 yards away. Heeding intelligence reports delivered on 2 February, which indicated the arrival of new German units in the Anzio area and an imminent enemy counterattack, Truscott, on the orders of Clark and Lucas, again told his command to dig in.

The other prong of the Allied attack launched by the British 1st Division and CCA, 1st Armored Division, toward Campoleone and the Alban Hills initially fared little better. Rain-soaked terrain, fierce enemy fire, and ubiquitous minefields slowed CCA's advance, and by nightfall on 30 January the unit was still struggling to reach its line of departure. The British succeeded in advancing two miles the first day, but they also failed to breach the German defenses. General Lucas changed plans for the second day of the attack and ordered the British to breach the enemy line along the Albano Road at Campoleone for exploitation by CCA. During the next two days the Allies reached Campoleone, penetrated the German main line, and opened a two-mile-wide gap. But the exhausted Allied troops were unable to exploit their success, and the drive ground to a halt.

The failure of the Allied breakout attempt, stymied by stiff resistance, convinced Alexander, Clark, and Lucas that an enemy counterattack must be in the offing. Reinforcements were rushed to Anzio, including 1,800 men of the American-Canadian 1st Special Service Force, elements of the British 56th Division, and additional antiaircraft and artillery units, raising the total number of Allied soldiers in the beachhead to 100,000.

Despite these additions, the Fourteenth Army outnumbered the Allies at Anzio by 4 February. But the German force was a hodgepodge of rapidly thrown together units. All were critically short of ammunition, training, qualified leaders, and reserves. Allied air attacks had disrupted communications, hampered troop and supply movements, and caused morale problems. From the outset Mackensen had doubted the available force could eliminate the Anzio beachhead, but he prepared a forceful counterattack nonetheless. The 4th Parachute and 65th infantry Divisions of the I Parachute Corps were to pinch off the Campoleone salient and recapture the Factory at Aprilia. The same units would then break through to the sea along the Albano Road. Elsewhere the LXXVI Panzer Corps, consisting of the 3d Panzer Grenadier, 715th Motorized Infantry, 71st Infantry, Hermann Goering, and 26th Panzer Divisions would attack south of Cisterna along the Mussolini Canal and attempt to breach the Allied perimeter and advance on Nettuno and Anzio.

The counterattack opened with an artillery barrage on 3-4 February, followed by armored and infantry assaults which smashed into the partially prepared British 1st Division defenses in the Campoleone salient. The British held, despite suffering 1,400 casualties, but their dangerously exposed position prompted Lucas to order their withdrawal to one mile north of the Factory and Carroceto on the night of 4-5 February, a retreat of about 2.5 miles. Although the salient was eliminated, the Germans failed to break the Allied line or retake the Factory. The undulating and soggy Albano Road area was just as inhospitable to German armor and infantry as it had been to Allied forces the week before. However, the critical situation the Germans created in the Allied center convinced Lucas to form a beachhead defense line running from the Moletta River in the north, through the fields of the central sector, to the Mussolini Canal in the south. He issued orders to all Allied troops that this was the final line of resistance to be held at all costs—the shallow beachhead precluded any further retreat.

The Germans renewed their attacks on 7 February in the weakened British 1st Division sector and, in two days of bitter fighting, pushed the British troops from the Factory and Carroceto. Although battered and exhausted, they managed to maintain a coherent line and were reinforced on 10 February by the 1st Armored Regiment, CCA, 1st Armored Division (itself at 50 percent strength), the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 179th and 157th regiments of the U.S. 45th Infantry Division. Ordered to counterattack and retake Aprilia on 11 February, the 179th Infantry and 191st Tank Battalion began a two-pronged attack seeking to outflank the Germans holding the Factory. In two days of costly, hand-to-hand fighting, the Americans failed to retake the lost ground, but inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. Lucas still expected further attacks in the weakened central sector and removed the British 1st Division from the line, replacing it with the British 56th and U.S. 45th Infantry Divisions. As an added precaution, VI Corps artillery was strengthened and Allied tactical air attacks were stepped up.


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