Robert A. Dixon

Branch: ARMY
Service Number: 13002955
Rank: Private
Unit: 3rd Infantry Div, 15th Infantry Reg, Co. “C”

Robert A. Dixon was born on August 2, 1909 in Port Carbon, Pennsylvania to parents Albert Dixon and Mary Riley. Robert had a twin brother Richard, who died of pneumonia at the age of 2. Albert had 3 sons from a previous marriage, Leo born in 1893, Arthur in 1899 and William in 1902. They all resided on Third Street in the coal mining community of Port Carbon in Schuylkill County. This is located approximately 80 miles northwest of Mount Ephraim.

Robert's mother passed away around 1915, when he was just a young boy. He attended public school in Port Carbon until the 7th grade and by the age of 19, he moved out on his own, working as a laborer for the railroad in Port Carbon. He would be seen at local events such as dances and a pig roast at the local American Legion hall. 

By early 1940, Robert moved to Muncy Creek Township (Now, Muncy), Pennsylvania, just a few miles east of Williamsport. Here, he rented a room at 189 Pepper Street and was employed at a lumber company. 

47th Infantry Reg Patch
On August 28, 1940, Robert enlisted into the Army at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where he was sworn in and received orders to report to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The next day, he arrived to begin boot camp. Robert was assigned to the Ninth Infantry Division, 47th Infantry Regiment, Company “A”.  The 47th regiment was also known as “The Raiders.”

A soldier entering the Army at this time began his training with what was called the mobilization training program which lasted 13 weeks.  Basic training was the first phase that lasted several weeks. Robert was introduced to all the ways of a disciplined soldier.  He was instructed on the fundamentals of fundamental military knowledge, map reading, sanitation, first aid and a no doubt an extra healthy dose of daily physical conditioning. 
12 S. Oak Avenue Mt. Ephraim

The next phase of his training dealt with instruction of a soldier’s service specialty and how to function as part of a small unit.  If he was slated to become a rifleman, the recruit learned to fire his weapon and to fulfill his role in squad, platoon and company tactics. Other troops learned to cook, to drive or maintain trucks, and to serve artillery pieces. While it is unknown if Dixon was originally given instruction on being a rifleman, it is known is he was the drummer for the regimental band. 

After completion of the second phase of training, the Raiders participated in the Carolina Maneuvers in September 1941 and were later attached to the Amphibious Corps of the Atlantic Fleet for amphibious operation training.

Robert was given a furlough of unknown length (most likely 10 days) in early June 1942. He took this opportunity to move in with his brother Arthur, who had recently purchased a house at 12 South Oak Avenue in Mount Ephraim, New Jersey. Arthur’s wife Isabell and Arthur’s father also lived in this home. Robert would take some time to visit his family and then return to duty. Upon his return on June 14, Robert was transferred from Company “A” to Company “C.” He was made a messenger for the company in late September. It is unknown if he continued with the regimental band. 

On October 17, 1942, the Raiders left Fort Bragg by truck, destined for the local train depot. They then boarded rail cars and traveled to Norfolk, Virginia. The next day, the soldiers arrived at the Port of Embarkation. Prior to loading onto the ships, General George S. Patton assembled the troops and delivered a speech to inspire and rally the men. Dixon climbed aboard the USS Harris (APA-8) and sailed away the next day bound for North Africa. 

47th was set to participate in “Operation Blackstone.” This was was the Allied Invasion of North Africa. “Blackstone” was a part of the more well-known "Operation Torch." This campaign was devised to secure the northern coast of Africa from Axis control.
On November 8, 1942, the 47th Regimental Combat Team landed on Green Beach at Safi, Morocco at 0535hrs.  The Team met resistance from cliff at edge of town and from old fort south of town. The taking of Safi by the 47th Infantry Regiment marked the first liberation of a city from Axis control in World War II. From this point their assignment was garrison duty at the beach head until Dec 1, 1942. The regiment marched northeast, arriving at Casablanca on December 11, 1942. By the 19th, the 47th reached Port Lyautey, French Morocco. On Feb 8, 1943, 47th boarded a train and departed Port Lyautey around 2200hrs en route to Oran, Algeria which they arrived at on the 11th. They then traversed Algeria and bivouacked near the Tunisia border at an outpost called Bou Chebka, Algeria on February 27th.

Activity for “C” Company, 47th IR during the first 3 days of March 1943 consisted mostly of outpost duty and marching. It was stated that all was quiet, and morale was high. The next day, they loaded onto trucks and traveled 70 miles into Tunisia at Kasserine Pass, where they bivouacked, dug into positions and covered the area of the Pass until March 18th. The regiment then made their way south east to El Guettar by March 27th where they made contact with the enemy. This was the 47th’s entry into he Battle of El Guettar.

The U.S. plan involved the U.S. 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions and one "Combat Command" (1/3) of the U.S. 1st Armored Division, collectively known as "Benson Force". This force attacked Hill 369 on the afternoon of 30 March but ran into mines and anti-tank fire, losing five tanks and a rifle company from the 2nd Battalion of Colonel Edwin H. Randle's 47th Infantry Regiment that was forced to surrender. The tanks were withdrawn, and the 1st and 9th attacked again the next day at 06:00, gaining some ground and taking several hundred prisoners. However, an Italian counter-attack drove them back from their newly gained positions, and by 12:45 they were back where they started with the loss of nine tanks and two tank destroyers. A further attempt the next day on 1 April also failed, after barely getting started. Private Emil J. Dedonato remembers that Patton drove up to the 47th Regiment's command post, unhappy that the initial attacks had failed: Patton was in a huffy mood and stormed over to see Colonel Randle in his Jeep. It was obvious he wasn't pleased with the initial results of the night attack. I'll never forget Colonel Randle's instructions as they moved into El Guettar: "Where we're going you won't need a physic!"

At this point Patton received orders to start the attempt on Hill 772, even though Hill 369 was still under Italian control. The 9th was moved to Hill 772, leaving the 1st on Hill 369. By 3 April, the 1st had finally cleared Hill 369, but the battle on Hill 772 continued. The Italian commander—General Messe—then called in support from the German 21st Panzer Division, further slowing progress. The tempo of the operations slowed, and the lines remained largely static. Lieutenant-Colonel Aldo Ramondi's 5th Bersaglieri Regiment from the Centauro Division, although outnumbered, had shown determination in defense.

This battle continued for the 47th Infantry Regiment until April 7, when they made a withdrawal from combat and back to  Bou Chebka by April 9 to reorganize and replenish lost troops. Two days later, C company set off by truck to Roumes Souk, near Sedjenane, Tunisia (now, Sajanan) to relieve the 138th Brigade of the British 46th Infantry Division. American forces took over the positions in the Sedjenane area and in front of 'Green Hill' on April 12, 1943 through to the conclusion of the North African Campaign in May 1943.

The first few days of May, the Raiders conducted outpost duty and kept in close contact with the enemy.  The company made their way to the area of Bizerte, Algeria on May 8th, where they remained garrisoned until May 18. The 47th then moved to Orleansville, Algeria (now, Chlef) for a few days and transported to Magenta, Algeria where they stayed until the end of June. Magenta is a suburb community located near the port city of Oran. 

July 1943, the 47 Infantry Regiment was still in area of Oran. 1-4, bivouacked near airport at Ain El Turk. 5-27 at Bou Sfer (now, Bousfer). On the 28th, they loaded onto USAT Shawnee at the port of Oran and departed the next afternoon. The destination was unknown to the soldiers at the time, but it was soon revealed to be the Italian island of Sicily. 

Company “C” disembarked the Shawnee in August 1, landing on Sicily at Palermo. They traveled east and made first contact with the enemy on  August 7 at Troina. The 47th continued to engage the enemy at Cesaro from the 8th to the 12th, plus two additional days at Randazzo.  

During this period on the home front, the Port Carbon Blue and Gold Service Club was selecting local servicemen to send a care package to while they were fighting for their country here and abroad. On August 9, 1943, Robert as chosen as one of the recipients from the organization. Dixon was made the assistant squad leader on August 14.

The company bivouacked at Randazzo until August 22nd, when they were transported by truck to Cefal├╣.  Robert remained a squad leader for almost 2 weeks but his role was returned back to a rifleman on August 29th.

The 47th remained in Cefal├╣ until 7 September. While here, Dixon was reported AWOL on September 2nd since 0600 hrs on August 30th. He returned to duty at 0700 hrs the next day. By the 8th, the Regiment moved to the area of Termini Imerese, where they guarded an airfield. Robert was once again reported AWOL on the morning of September 12th along with Private William D. Swindle since the day prior. They had returned to the unit by 1500 hrs on the same day.

15th Infantry Reg. Patch
On September 15 1943, Robert was transferred to the 3rd Infantry Division and assigned to “C” Company of the 15th Infantry Regiment. At the time, the 15 Regiment was in Trapani, Sicily preparing to move to Palermo for the invasion of the mainland of Italy. On September 20, Dixon and his new company boarded a troop ship and landed the next day on the beaches of Salerno. They bivouacked near Montecorvino Rovella for about a week before loading onto trucks and heading north to Avelino. 

On September 22, the 15th Regiment left Curticelli and moved northwest through the Sabato Valley, patrolled north toward San Lucia, then pushed west toward Cervano. On September 28, the 1st Battalion, 15th Regiment, was placed in Division reserve at Volturara. Meanwhile, the remainder of the 3rd Division entered the town of Avellino on September 29, and squeezed the Germans out of another mountain position.

The company advanced to Mugnano del Cardinale where contact was made with enemy forces.  The company moved out to Cancello Scalo where they again encountered enemy troops.  While here on October 5th, Private Dixon was sent to the hospital for an unknown illness. The 15th Regiment continued on through the area, going through Caserta, San Leucio, Vaccheria, and Sant’Angelo in Formis. The later is where “C” Company participated in a diversionary tactic on the southern bank of the Volturno River on October 13th.  This maneuver drew some of the German troops away from the area where the main body of allied forces were to cross.  The Axis had set up several defense lines throughout Italy.  This one, the Volturno Line, was southern most of these defense lines meant to delay the advance of Allied forces.  Most of the Allies made it to the North bank of the river on the 13th.  Company C provided cover on the left flank and eventually rejoined the rest of the regiment after crossing the Volturno two days later.

The Division traveled north through Liberi to Statigliano where they were met with some stiff resistance for a few days.  By the 21st, the company withdrew and took up positions in Roccaromana where they bivouacked until the 26th. Just two days prior, the still ailing Private Dixon was dropped from the rolls of C Company.  He had not been with the company since October 5th. The 15th moved out on the 27th through Pietramelara to an assembly area in San Felice and up to Pietravairano the next day.  Afterwards, they made their way east to Marzanello where the soldiers set up road blocks and patrolled the vicinity for a few days.  On 2 November, Company C  departed northwest via Route 6 to take up the high ground near Piccilli.  Two days later, the regiment continued up Route 6 to the village of Mignano.  

Aerial view of Mignano Gap
This area is situated in a natural gap protected to the east by Mount Lungo and west by Mount Rotundo.  The ground atop these two hills were covered with well positioned German gun emplacements, minefields and tank traps.  Mignano held great value to the enemy as it was used as a communication center and a blockade to the plains just beyond the gap.  The fight to capture the area was a struggle.  The Germans had an early advantage being on high ground, repelling the allied advance for days and inflicting heavy casualties.

On November 8th, Private Dixon was released from the hospital and sent to the 29th Replacement Battalion for reassignment.  Four days later, he was transferred back into his unit (15th Regiment, “C” Company) for duty. It is possible that Robert could have been in the presence of famed soldier Audie Murphy who was also with the 1st Battalion of the 15th Infantry Regiment, Company B.  It is no doubt that Dixon was in the vicinity of Joe Stefan, another Mount Ephraim soldier who served with the 15th as well. 

A patrol that included Private Dixon was sent out at 11am on November 13th to scout along the slope of Mt. Rotundo and attempt to make contact with the enemy.  The Germans obliged by unleashing a tremendous artillery barrage onto the patrol’s location.  Dixon was killed instantly when shrapnel ripped through his chest, arm and shoulder. 
Found in a pocket of Dixon’s uniform was a single coin; a quarter, and a muddy piece of tattered mimeographed paper.  It was a clothing and equipment order from the 29th Replacement Battalion issued to him only 5 days prior on November 8th. The heading, shown in pencil, read “15th Inf 3rd-RTU” (Returned To Unit). The articles of clothing were listed as shown: Raincoat: Medium, Shirt: 14 1/2 x 33, Trousers: 32 x 33, Shoes: service 9c. At the bottom of the form, was a signature written in pencil, “Robert A. Dixon, ASN 13002955.”  Captain Dio P. Richardson, a commanding officer of 15th Infantry’s C Company tried his best to read this mangled paper, but interpreted the signature to be “Robert A. Dobon, ASN 13002458.”  The form of handwriting and condition of the paper made it nearly impossible to determination the correct identity of the soldier.  This mix-up led to Dixon being classified as missing in action. 

Back at home, Robert’s father, Albert would never have to hear the news of his son’s death. He passed due to cardiac failure while at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia just one day after Private Dixon was killed in action. Robert’s brother, Arthur would later receive a telegram from the War Department dated December 10, 1943 stating that he was listed as missing in action. Arthur contacted the army and asked to change the next of kin from his now deceased father to himself. He would handle the correspondence from the military when it came to his brother’s affairs. The Dixon family would not receive official word of Robert’s death until mid-March 1944 after officials were able to correctly determine his identification. They had tracked down the original copy of the paperwork found in his pocket to have come from the 2nd Platoon of the 48th Quartermasters Company. They were also able to verify from 15th Infantry Regiment Morning Reports, to show that he had been killed at 1200 hours on November 13th in the area of Mt. Rotundo.

Dixon grave marker
Private Robert A. Dixon was originally buried at Marzanello Nuovo Cemetery in Italy on November 17, 1943, but later removed from this location to his final resting location at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. This is the same location that Mt. Ephraim soldier, Willibold Stefan is interred.  Robert was survived by his brothers Arthur, Leo, and William. Arthur Dixon was employed as the janitor at Mary Bray school and active with the Mt. Ephraim Police Reserves (MEPRI). Robert was awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge posthumously.

May their sacrifice never be forgotten.


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