Soldiers of the 85th look toward Naples from the Port of Bagnoli
The Fifth Army under the command of Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark would become the new parent unit for the 85th as it entered the battle for Italy. The 5th invaded the Italian penninsula on Sept. 9, 1943 under
the code name AVALANCHE.
Through out the Italian campaign bridge companies were in short supply. There was especially great need for bridge trains, companies equipped with enough trucks and
experienced drivers to carry bridge components across the winding rough roads of Italy. Many attempts were made to form bridge trains out of companies ill equiped and untrained which hindered Allied progress even more. Such was not the case with the 85th.
It proved invaluable with its Mack trucks and skilled drivers. It was also very flexible in that it could unload its ponton equipment and reload with Baily bridge components. Each company of the 85th could carry two Baileys, and using their ponton trailors
they could also haul bridge repair pilings and beams. The main obstacle to the 85th was that it's large trailors had problems with the winding Italian roads. Often the driver would have to jack knife his trailor just to get around a curve. The winding mountain
roads, and valleys criss crossed with ravines and rivers were barriers to the Allied advance particularly since the Germans, as anticipated, had blown every bridge during their retreat. Progress up the Italian boot became for the Engineers a campaign of bridges.
On October 17, 1943 Company A 85th and the Detachment constructed a class 40 Heavy Ponton Bridge across the Volturno River in the vicinity of Triflisco. The Volturno was from 150' to 220' wide and fairly shallow
at only 3' to 5'. Mountain heights surrounded the river valley and from them the Germans were able to direct fire down on the Americans. Durng this time the Engineers of the 85th also endured several German air raids, dodging shrapnel from exploding bombs.
The 85th's bridge over the Volturno was the first heavy ponton bridge built in the European Theater.