TREASURE HUNT WITH THE 339TH INFANTRY REGIMENT IN ITALY

By Pfc. Ira Freeman

YANK Staff Correspondent

WITH THE 339TH INFANTRY IN THE DOLOMOTE ALPS—There are a couple of gray granite fortresses left over from the Middle Ages on Highway 12 at Fortezza north of the junction with Highway 49.They don’t look like much, but when we took them over from the surrendering Jerries they were full of stuff.

Distinctive Insignia of the 339th Infantry Regiment

Distinctive Insignia of the 339th Infantry Regiment

Among the many tips the 339th Infantry Regiment got from local partigiani was one that King Victor Emmanuel’s jewels were hidden by the Nazis in one of the forts. The business was regarded as so unlikely that only one squad of C Company, under Lt. Louis Miller of Charleston, W. Va., was sent to investigate. The squad discovered a vault, very modern, in a rock tunnel inside the fort, but no jewels. All they found was 25,000 kilos of gold in coin and bar, and in the rest of the buildings what seemed to the GIs like all the ammo in the world. The 1st Battalion then provided a sufficient guard.

Estimates of the value of the gold range up to 98 million dollars. The bullion was said to have been moved from Rome to Milan and thence to Fortezza by officials of the Bank of Italy as the Allies advanced up the boot.

339th infantry regiment

Shoulder patch of the 85th Infantry Division. The 339th Infantry was attached to the 85th Division during WWII.

The long corridors of the various buildings were stacked from floor to ceiling with ammo of every caliber from the smallest Italian pistol to German 88 mm shells. There were boxes of P-38s, Lugers, half a truckload of German cameras, and even a collection of funny arms from Poland, Belgium, Yugoslavia and Spain.

“Whatever made the Krauts give up with all this left beats hell out of me,” the itchy-fingered GIs guarding the arms said.



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