Pottawattamie County

Col. Lyle J. Deffenbaugh



By Don Whitehead

AT THE FIFTH ARMY FRONT, (AP) – American troops held their grip on the slopes of 900-foot Mt. Porchia Saturday with the same determined spirit of the young captain who led them up the rocky hillside under heavy enemy fire.

Mt. Porchia, two miles southwest of San Vittore, is one of the toughest nuts on the 5th army front. It sits in a plain before Cassino like the back of a sinister prehistoric animal rising out of a swamp and is one of the heights guarding the approaches to the city.

Move In Moonlight.

The attack on Porchia opened at 8 p.m. Tuesday when troops under Col. Lyle J. Deffenbaugh of Council Bluffs and Lt. Col. Elton Ringsak of Grafton, N. D., moved into the casino plain under bright moonlight with tanks giving them fire support.

(Col. Deffenbaugh, 33, is the son of Mrs. Frances Deffenbaugh, 828 Avenue A. His wife lives in Omaha. He was graduated from Abraham Lincoln high school in 1928.)

Thursday morning they had reached the foot of Mt. Porchia. One unit moved part way up the mountain but had to withdraw under intense enemy mortar and machine gun fire and regroup for another move against the heights where the Germans had dug machine gun nests and sniper holes.

Going Up The Mountain.

Then Capt. Ralph C. Fisher of Hyattsville, Md., stood up before his detachment and shouted “I’m going up that mountain!”

Fisher started straight up the slope of the northeast corner with his men right behind him. They battled their way through enemy machine gun nests straight to the objective and the Germans have never been able to dislodge them.

Only half the men who went up the mountain with Fisher reached their goal because of the heavy enemy fire. But those who did dug into positions and quickly prepared to stave off counter-attacks.

Thursday night at about 8 the counter thrust came – with the Germans attacking Fisher’s group both from along the ridge and from the lower slopes.

Crawl Into Niches.

Fisher’s men were forced down from the ridge in the first rush of the enemy and had to crawl into rocky niches on the ledges below, but after seven hours of fighting they climbed back.

The battle for Porchia was fought by the same Americans who had been the first to meet the Germans in Tunisia. The defenders of the mountain were of the nazi 44th division.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Sunday, January 09, 1944, Page 1

Awarded for Work in Tunisian Battle

Mrs. Frances Deffenbaugh, 828 Avenue A, recently received word that her son, Col. Lyle J. Deffenbaugh, has been awarded the Silver Star award for “gallantry in action in Tunisia.”

The citation accompanying the award which was made in Tunisia while Deffenbaugh was a major said, “His battalion was fired upon at close range by heavy machine gun fire. It the confusion which resulted the personnel of two of his companies became intermixed. Maj. Deffenbaugh stood in full view of, and within close range of the enemy, shouting directions and orders to the companies. The enemy quickly picked up his position and directed heavy machine gun fire at him. He completely disregarded his own welfare by continuing to give the necessary orders and until the companies were reformed and progressing with the attack.”

An Associated Press dispatch received Saturday night crediting Col. Lyle Deffenbaugh with leading the United States troops on the Mt. Porchia Slopes, with the first notice that his mother had received of his recent advance in rank to colonel.

Col. Deffenbaugh’s wife resided in Omaha. He is a graduate of Abraham Lincoln high school and was in charge of the CCC camps previous to his enlistment. Overseas for 20 months, he was a reserve officer in the army before entering the service shortly after the outbreak of the war.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Wednesday, January 13, 1944, Page 7 (photo included)


An Associated Press dispatch last week crediting Col. Lyle Deffenbaugh of Council Bluffs with leading 5th army troops on the slopes of Mt. Porchia [Italy] was the first notice his mother had received of his promotion in rank. He has been awarded the silver star for gallantry in action in Tunisia.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Sunday, January 16, 1944, Page 9


Lt. Col. Lyle J. Deffenbaugh of Council Bluffs was one of three colonels who led the successful infantry counter-attacks again nazi near Carroceto, from the Anzio beachhead, according to a New York Herald-Tribune dispatch from Homer Bigart, dated Feb. 20. The U. S. troops captured hundreds of prisoners, and regained about 1,000 yards previously lost to the crack German units.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday, February 24, 1944, Page 13

Among the first units to enter Artena, Italy, when it fell last Saturday, was a group of armored car scouts in command of Lt. Col. Lyle Deffenbaugh, press dispatches inform us.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Sunday, June 04, 1944, Page 2

Recently Was Cited for Bravery

Lt. Col. Lyle J. Deffenbaugh, 34, Council Bluffs, commander of an armored infantry battalion, was killed in action in Italy May 28, according to word received Sunday by his widow, Helen, of Omaha.

Holder of the silver star and mentioned many times in news dispatches from the Italian front for gallant leadership of his men in spearheading attacks, Col. Deffenbaugh had seen service in Africa as well as Italy. His unit was credited with a major roll in the fall of Mt. Portia, near Cassino. Later the unit was moved to the Anzio beachhead and took part in the thrusts from that battle area.

Col. Deffenbaugh’s military career started at Abraham Lincoln high school, where in 1928 he was named cadet colonel of the ROTC unit. Before entering the armed forces, Col. Deffenbaugh was employed here by Lewis and Emarine and Peterson and Schoening. Later he took his reserve officer’s commission and took charge of a civilian conservation corps unit.

In addition to his widow, he is survived by his mother, Mrs. Frances Deffenbaugh, 430 McPherson avenue; four brothers, Fred R. of Omaha, Loren and Ray of Los Angeles, and
Cy of Council Bluffs; one sister, Mrs. Charles W. Langmade of Council Bluffs.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Monday, June 12, 1944, Page 1

Ordered Fire on His Own Company

WASHINGTON, (AP) – An officer who ordered artillery to shell his own position to stop an enemy attack in Italy, was killed when the order was carried out, has been awarded the distinguished service cross by the army.

Capt. Ralph C. Fisher, 31, of Hyattsville, Md., commanded a company of armored infantry assaulting Mount Portchia during the drive on Cassino. The outfit had been in action for two days, suffering heavy losses – Fisher had only about 25 men left. But he reached the highest peak of the objective, the army reported, setting up an observation post there at 5 o’clock on the afternoon of Jan. 6. An hour later, he radioed his battalion commander for artillery fire to break up an enemy counterattack on his position.

This officer, Lt. Col. Lyle J. Deffenbaugh of Council Bluffs, who was killed in action May 28, told the rest of the story in a report to his superiors:

“It soon became apparent that the trajectory was too flat to cover the reverse slope near the crest. I called Capt. Fisher and warned him. He replied that the fire was effective father down the slope and that maybe he could handle the enemy that already had cleared that point.

“A few minutes later he called me, saying that the enemy was closing in with a force too great for him and his men to handle, and that he wanted the artillery fire shortened another 200 yards.

“The fire data was computed by an artillery officer and myself, and it was found that the requested concentration, if fired, would fall upon Capt. Fisher’s position. Fisher was told that the concentration could not be fired. He then said that without the artillery he could not hold his position, because the enemy was approaching rapidly.

“He again insisted that the concentration be fired, and that he would take the chance of being hit rather than give up the position. The concentration was fired, and many shells were seen to explode on the crest of the mountain. I was unable to contact Capt. Fisher
by radio after that.”

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Tuesday, July 25, 1944, Page 9


Here is a general view of the ceremony at Fort Knox, Ky., where an armored school instructional hall was named in memory of Lt. Col. Lyle J. Deffenbaugh, former local army officer killed in Italy.

The speaker is Maj. Thomas W. Hoban, who served under Col. Deffenbaugh. Behind him are, left to right: Brig. Gen. P. M. Robinett, armored school commandant; Col. N. B. Brisco, Fort Knox post commander; Col. William B. Kern and Chaplain Harry P. Abbott of the armored school, both of whom served with col. Deffenbaugh in Tunisia.

Col. Deffenbaugh was the son of Mrs. Frances Deffenbaugh, 430 McPherson avenue. His widow, Mrs. Helen Deffenbaugh, resides in Omaha.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday, November 16, 1944, Page 11

Wife Given Col. Deffenbaugh’s DSC;
‘Has Left a Challenge to Rest of Us’

The Distinguished Service Cross was presented to Mrs. Helen Deffenbaugh, 1310 South Twelfth Street, by Maj. Gen. C. H. Danielson in a brief ceremony at Seventh Service Command Headquarters Wednesday.

Mrs. Deffenbaugh received the medal for her husband, Col. Lyle J. Deffenbaugh, who was killed near Artena, Italy, May 27, 1944. The action for which Colonel Deffenbaugh was awarded the DSC occurred on January 4 and 5, 1944, on Mount Porchia, Italy.

General Danielson said, “He gave his life for all of us, that we might continue to be free men and women. He has left a challenge to the rest of us to carry on to victory and a better world of tomorrow.”

Mrs. Frances Deffenbaugh, the colonel’s mother, and Mrs. C. W. Deffenbaugh, his sister-in-law, both of 1430 McPherson Avenue, Council Bluffs, Ia., and staff officers were present.

The citation reads:

“For extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy on 4 and 5, January 1944, on Mount Porchia, Italy. Colonel Deffenbaugh advanced with the assault companies of his battalion in an attack against strong enemy mountain positions. His troops encountered heavy artillery, mortar, machine gun and small arms fire; and heavy casualties were suffered. Disregarding the severe enemy fire, Colonel Deffenbaugh moved from company to company, issuing his orders and encouraging his men to continue the attack.

“During the assault against concrete pillboxes and almost impregnable dug-in positions, he constantly exposed himself to enemy fire to control his troops and to maintain contact with the battalion on his flank. Reaching the top of the mountain, he joined his leading elements, viewed the situation and then went to direct all available personnel to reinforce his small assault group.

“His courageous leadership and inspiring devotion to duty were largely responsible for the success of the operation and reflect great credit upon himself and the Army of the United States.”

Colonel Deffenbaugh previously had received the Silver Star.

Source: The Omaha World-Herald, Omaha, Nebraska, January 10, 1945, Page 3


Funeral services with full military honors for Lt. Col. Lyle Deffenbaugh, son of Mrs. J. E. Deffenbaugh, 828 Avenue A, were held Monday afternoon at the Iowa military cemetery at Keokuk.

Mrs. J. E. Deffenbaugh and Mrs. Helen Deffenbaugh of Omaha, his widow, attended the service. Lt. Col. Deffenbaugh was killed May 28, 1944, in Italy. He commanded an armoured (sic) Infantry battalion and saw service in Africa.

His military career started at Abraham Lincoln high school, where he was named cadet colonel in 1928 of the ROTC unit.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Tuesday, August 17, 1948, Page 5

NOTE: Lt. Col. Lyle J. Deffenbaugh was born on June 7, 1910, and was killed in action May 28, 1944, in Italy. He was interred at Keokuk National Cemetery, Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa. ~U.S. Veteran’s Affairs