Original U.S. WWII 45th Division 180 Infantry Regiment Named Grouping
Original Items: One-of-a-kind set. This grouping belonged to Private First Class Salvatore F. Molfese (ASN 42093773), Company I, 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. Salvatore F. Molfese was born September 22nd, 1916 in Buffalo, New York. His parents had emigrated from Italy and his father found work as a laborer with the New York Central Railroad. The family remained in Buffalo and Sal attended Buffalo Technical High School, where he ran cross-country and was secretary of the Math Club. By the time the war began he was married and working as a maintenance man for a local hotel.
Molfese was inducted into active service on January 26th, 1944. He made it to Europe only days after the 45th had made its fourth assault landing of the war on beaches just north of St. Maxime in southern France. He was assigned to Company I of the 180th Infantry, which had just moved by rail from St. Julien to an assembly area near Monferrat. The 45th then spearheaded the drive for the Belfort Gap. It took the strongly defended city of Epinal, and on 24 September, crossed the Moselle River. It was here that PFC Molfese and Company I would earn a commendation from MG Frederick when they scaled the spans of a blown bridge with ladders, under intense machine gun, mortar, and sniper fire, and then held their ground against German counter-attacks until their position was secured.
They entered the western foothills of the Vosges, taking Rambervillers on the 30th, and crossing the Mortagne River, 23 October. After a brief rest the 45th cracked the forts north of Mutzig, an anchor of the Maginot Line, 25 November, crossed the Zintzel River and pushed through the Maginot defenses. After a two-week rest the 180th was tasked with taking the towns of Wingen and Lembech, close to the German border. At 0700 on December 14th, the 3rd Battalion launched its attack, with Company I proceeding north up the Lembach-Wingen road. Several hundred yards short of the town they were ambushed by machine gun fire from both sides of the road and tank fire from the town. They continued to press forward and drove the enemy into the town, where they destroyed the Mark IV and captured 50 Germans. The town was secured by 1700, but at a cost. PFC Molfese was among those who paid the price, falling with severe shrapnel wounds during the attack. One fragment struck his leg, breaking both bones and doing extensive and permanent damage. For him the combat was over, but the battle to recover was just beginning. PFC Molfese received his discharge on March 12th, 1946 at Newton D. Baker General Hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia. He had spent a total of 453 days in hospitals and was discharged with permanent disability. He remained in Buffalo and raised a family there. He spent his years working with fellow veterans at the VA hosptial. He passed away in 1997.
The 45th Infantry Division participated in its fourth amphibious assault landing during Operation Dragoon on 15 August 1944, at St. Maxime, in Southern France. The 45th Infantry Division landed its 157th and 180th regimental combat teams and captured the heights of the Chaines de Mar before meeting with the 1st Special Service Force. The German Army, reeling from the Battle of Normandy, in which it had suffered a major defeat, pulled back after a short fight, part of an overall German withdrawal to the east following the landings. Soldiers of the 45th Infantry Division engaged the dispersed forces of German Army Group G, suffering very few casualties.The U.S. Seventh Army, along with Free French forces, were able to advance north quickly. By 12 September, the Seventh Army linked up with Lieutenant General George S. Patton's U.S. Third Army, advancing from Normandy, joining the two forces at Dijon. Against slight opposition, it spearheaded the drive for the Belfort Gap. The 45th Infantry Division took the strongly defended city of Epinal on 24 September. The division was then reassigned to V Corps, under the command of Major General Leonard T. Gerow, for its next advance. On 30 September the division crossed the Moselle River and entered the western foothills of the Vosges, taking Rambervillers. It would remain in the area for a month waiting for other units to catch up before crossing the Mortagne River on 23 October. The division remained on the line with the U.S. 6th Army Group the southernmost of three army groups advancing through France.
After the crossing was complete, the division was relieved from V Corps and assigned to Major General Wade H. Haislip's XV Corps. The division was allowed a one-month rest, resuming its advance on 25 November, attacking the forts north of Mutzig. These forts had been designed by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1893 to block access to the plain of Alsace. The 45th Division next crossed the Zintzel River before pushing through the Maginot Line defenses. During this time much of the division's artillery assets were attached to the 44th Infantry Division to provide additional support. The 45th Infantry Division, now commanded by Major General Robert T. Frederick, who had previously commanded the 1st Special Service Force, was reassigned to VI Corps on New Year's Day. From 2 January 1945, the division fought defensively along the German border, withdrawing to the Moder River. It sent half of its artillery to support the 70th Infantry Division. On 17 February the division was pulled off the line for rest and training. Once this rest period was complete, the division was assigned to XV Corps for the final push into German territory. The 45th moved north to the Sarreguemines area and smashed through the Siegfried Line, on 17 March taking Homburg on the 21st and crossing the Rhine between Worms and Hamm on the 26th.The advance continued, with Aschaffenburg falling on 3 April, and Nuremberg on the 20th. The division crossed the Danube River on 27 April, and liberated 32,000 captives of the CC Camp prison camp on 29 April 1945. The division captured Munich during the next two days, occupying the city until V-E Day and the surrender of Germany. During the next month, the division remained in Munich and set up collection points and camps for the massive numbers of surrendering troops of the German armies. The number of POWs taken by the 45th Division during its almost two years of fighting totaled 124,840 men. The division was then slated to move to the Pacific theater of operations to participate in the invasion of mainland Japan on the island of Honshu, but these plans were scrubbed before the division could depart after the surrender of Japan, on V-J Day.
Included in this fantastic 45th Division set are the following items:- Original Class A Uniform Jacket named to Molfese in excellent condition features a 45th Infantry Division division patch on left shoulder, Sterling Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), medal ribbons: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct, WWII Victory Medal ribbon with Medal, European-African Middle East Campaign with 1 battle star. Ruptured Duck patch and two overseas service bars on left cuff indication 12+ months of overseas service.
- Original Bronze Star Medal in Case. The medal in engraved on the reverse side Salvatore F. Molfese.
- Original web leggings.
- Original Army issue wool pants.
- Original Army issue boxer shorts.
- Original U.S. WWII M43 Field Jacket Hood.
- Binder full of copies of original paperwork including Honorable Discharge and much more.
Overall a fantastic grouping from a soldier in one of the most famous U.S. infantry divisions of WWII.
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