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Private First Class Horace Graziani
504th Parachute Infantry
82nd Airborne Division
KIA, Anzio, Italy
The landing on Red Beach went smoothly -- at least until enemy planes started their strafing runs on the landing craft. The unit disembarked under fire and was sent shortly thereafter to patrol in force along the Mussolini Canal. After several days of intense German artillery fire, the enemy launched his main drive to push the Allies back into the sea. The 3rd Battalion was committed with the British First (Guards) Division in the heaviest fighting, with the paratrooper companies reduced in strength to between 20 and 30 men. H Company drove forward to rescue a captured British General and was cut off. I Company broke through to them with their remaining 16 men. For its outstanding performance from 8 to 12 February 1944, the battalion was presented one of the first Presidential Unit Citations awarded in the European Theater of Operations.
For the remainder of their eight week stay on the Anzio beachhead, the men of the 504th found themselves fighting defensive battles instead of the offensive operations for which they were better suited. For the first time the men were engaged in trench warfare like that of the First World War, with barbed wire entanglements and minefields in front and between alternate positions. It was during this battle that the 504th acquired the nickname "The Devils in Baggy Pants," taken from the following entry found in the diary of a German officer killed at Anzio:
American parachutists -- devils in baggy pants -- are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere...
On 23 March 1944, the 504th was pulled out of the beachhead by landing craft and returned to Naples. The campaign had been costly, but enemy losses exceeded those of the Regiment by over tenfold, and the Allies maintained control of the beachhead. Shortly thereafter, the 504th boarded the "Capetown Castle" and steamed to England.