Black Hawk County

Capt. Harold Doyle



Hill 609 and Cassino Attacks
Were Tough

By Evelyn Rohde
Courier Staff Writer

“Waterloo and Cedar Rapids men of the 34th division went into the battle of Hill 609 in north Africa so sick they could hardly walk.”

That was the revelation made yesterday here by Capt. Harold Doyle, home on rotation leave after commanding men in the 133rd regiment overseas nearly three years and not visiting his wife and two daughters, Joanne and Nancy, at 1231 Ansborough avenue, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Archie W. Doyle, 1230 Dundee avenue.

“Even though they entered battle with upset stomachs, a result of an overdose of atabrine, a medical compound used to combat malaria, they earned real fame in hand-to-hand encounters with the enemy for the possession of the hill.

“They proved themselves masters over the Germans with the bayonet and left the hill covered with German dead and the balance taken prisoner. The fighting on Hill 609 has been considered one of the most perfectly coordinated tank and infantry attacks made in the African campaign,” the captain continued.

“I was in command of Co. A, made up of Dubuque men, who with Co. B, entirely made up of local men, made the attack as rifle companies, Co. D., with more Waterloo and Cedar Falls men, followed up and Co. C was kept in reserve,” he explained.

Tough Time at Cassino.

“At Cassino [Monte Cassino, Italy],” he recalled, “our boys made a hard drive, too, as a very tired group of men. They had been driving long and hard when the siege started.

“Men fell asleep on their feet. The only food was cold C rations, three times a day. Some went for two days without sleep. Still these Iowans were determined to carry out their assignment.

“The Germans had been ordered to hold the town at all costs, as it was the gateway to the valley and protected Rome. The 133rd regiment was thrown into battle to drive straight for the town itself.

“Our first great obstacle was to cross the Rapido river, which is divided into two streams by an island in the center. After we succeeded in crossing the first and established a bridge-head, the course of the second stream had to be changed to flow into the one already crossed. This decreased the depth of the other and permitted us to complete the crossing over to a heavily mined bank.

Through Mine Fields.

“Extensive combat engineers’ aid was necessary to place foot bridges across the streams and then to clear away through the mines. All of this was slow and lengthy due to the fact it had to be accomplished under fire. It required infantrymen to move out in advance of the engineers for protection to the crews.

“In lifting the mines, the men had to probe the ground with their bayonets, as the heavy enemy fire prevented them from standing to use the mine detectors,” Captain Doyle stated.

“The weather was in its most bitter mood. Continual rains bogged down and delayed tanks which were brought over for support. Many painful cases of trench feet developed from frostbite. Firing didn’t let up, day or night, for days on end,” he continued.

“The die-hard enemy troops were reinforced under cover of night. They had ammunition and food stored by their positions to last for days. Numerous buildings, including the jail, changed hands several times in one day.

“As the town itself had been bombed and shelled consistently, debris was turned into gun emplacements by the enemy.

Room to Room.

“It got to be more or less of an room-to-room proposition and every doorway was surrendered bitterly by the enemy. Often our troops, after securing one room in a house, would discover Germans were in the room above or in the cellar below.

“Hand grenades were used extensively during this phase by both sides.

“Only after days of severe struggle, during which our men had succeeded in taking one-third of the town, were we relieved by the British troops. A long overdue rest was granted, after 76 days of front line duty.

“The rest camps set up near the front lines were a great benefit to the men. After being given the opportunity to bathe, eat warm food, and do some of the things he liked, the soldier’s energy is renewed and he goes back into battle greatly stimulated.

“All the credit in a battle should go to the boy with the bayonet,” the Waterloo captain commented. “Ultimate victory will depend on that boy.

“Best Soldier in World.”

“Our infantryman is the best soldier in the world,” he continued.

“Grand must be taken and held by him and he alone is in physical contact with the enemy. Once he has pushed the opposition from the hill or gained ground, immediately he must be prepared to defend this ground just won, patrol into enemy territory or advance on to gain new territory.

“This is all done immediately, without the benefit of first relaxing in a soft bed or eating a warm meal. His job requires extreme physical and mental endurance. The issue of the battle is decided by him alone.

“Iowa can be proud of the men in the 133rd regiment and of the many of that regiment who will never come back,” he concluded.

Getting acquainted with his younger daughter, Nancy, who will soon be 4 years old, has proved “quite an experience” for the captain. She was only 10 months old when he first left Waterloo with the Iowa national guard to go to Camp Claiborne, La.

After a year’s training in the United States, during which time he was platoon leader, he landed in north Ireland with the first American expeditionary forces in February, 1942, and later participated in the invasion of north Africa.

On completion of his visit here, Captain Doyle will report to Hot Springs, Ark., for reassignment, and will be accompanied there by his wife.

Source: Waterloo Daily Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, Sunday, November 05, 1944, Section Two, Pages 13 & 21 (photo included)