Anzio: Jan-May 1944
A Long, Lonely Night
As stated in other stories of my WWII experiences, I joined the Third Division in Italy on Thanksgiving Day, 1943.
The Division had just been relieved from the frontline and was bivouacked in an area surrounded by a number of artillery batteries that maintained a fairly constant hammering of German positions. This was the nearest that I had been to frontline positions so far.
The next day, I was called for guard duty. There were a dozen or so guard posts in and around the encampment. One was along a ridge overlooking our camp. The ridge was probably five hundred feet above the camp and was about two hundred yards long. It also lay between our camp and the enemy.
The Army has very specific orders pertaining to one's responsibilities while on guard duty. They are in two categories: "General Orders" and "Special Orders". General Orders apply to all posts regardless of location or circumstances. Special Orders apply to a specific post and are special because of that post's location and/or special purpose.
The Special Orders for the post overlooking the camp were:
As you have probably assumed by now, that is the post that I was assigned to. Duty shifts were for four hours. From 6pm to 10pm, 10pm to 2am and 2am to 6am. I drew the 6pm to 10pm shift.
Each guard detail is composed of a number of soldiers equal to the number of guard posts to be manned, plus a Corporal. The Corporal is known as "The Corporal of the Guard." When one shift of guards is relieving another, both Corporals accompany the shift going on duty. The Corporal going off duty goes along so that he can be assured that all of his men get properly relieved.
The trail that led up to the post that I was to guard was very steep and slippery. The old Corporal of the Guard stayed at the bottom of the trail with the other men in my shift, while the new Corporal of the Guard and I made the climb to relieve the man then on duty. It was still light as we made the trip up, but it would soon be dark. I was not real happy with the post that I had drawn, but was determined to make the most of it.
It had been raining a slow, steady, rain for several days and did not show any sign of letting up. Most of the soil in Italy is heavy clay that turns to mud when wet. It is also very slippery. It was very difficult to walk the length of the ridge without losing my footing several times with each trip across.
As I alternately walked and fell, my mind was constantly on my Special Orders for this post. I was especially concerned about number 6). I listened for sounds of possible infiltrators. I watched the sky for paratroopers. For me, every sound was an enemy. Our artillery was booming around me, their flashes lighting the area for brief instants. Often, in one of these flashes, I would think I saw the silhouette of an enemy soldier.
This went on for seemingly endless hours. After I decided that my four hours had passed, I began pausing for a few minutes at the end of the ridge from which my relief was to come, in hopes that I would hear them coming. When no relief came, I began telling myself, that in my impatience for relief, I was letting my mind run in double time. I told myself that if I did not think about the passage of time, it would go faster.
This went on and on until I was absolutely convinced that my time was up, but still no relief. Finally, the sky to the East began to lighten up. This was my confirmation that I had been left to serve three shifts. As 6am and full daylight arrived, I heard voices coming up the trail.
When I met my Corporal, who waited at the bottom of the hill, I asked him why I had not been relieved. His lame, unacceptable, excuse was that he had forgotten that I was up there. I think I knew why he did not come. My first thoughts were to report him to the Officer of the Day, but after having breakfast and more time to think about it, I decided to let it pass. The upside was that the Corporal was not from my platoon and that I would not be going into battle under him. Besides, I only wanted to sleep and put the longest, loneliest night of my life behind me.
This is not the end of the story. About 9:30 am, this Corporal awakened me from a sound sleep and ordered me to get dressed. I was going on guard duty again. This time it was going to be the Battalion Commander's tent. I could see me at my court martial for falling asleep while guarding my Battalion Commander. I respectfully declined the Corporal's kind offer. I told him that I was not fit for guard duty, and that it would be irresponsible for him to give me the assignment.
At this, the Corporal raised his voice and informed me that he was giving me a direct order to get up and to go on duty. If I did not do so immediately, he would report me to the Officer of the Day. I said, "Great idea. Report me to the OD."
He reported me, and before I could fall asleep again, the OD was outside my tent ordering me to come out. I came out immediately and gave the OD my very best salute. He asked why I was refusing the Corporal's orders to go on guard duty. I told the officer that it was because I was unfit for guard duty. I then explained to him that I had just come off the guard post on the ridge after three continuous shifts because I had not been relieved. He asked the Corporal if that was true. The Corporal acknowledged that it was. The OD ordered me back to sleep and left with the Corp oral.
I learned later that the Corporal had pulled that shift guarding the Colonel's tent.
Also , the next day in the chow line, I noticed the ex-corporal was no longer wearing his stripes.
I often think of Pfc. Peter G. Deanda, or simply, Pete Deanda, as he was known by the troops.
As I have stated in reports of other events, I came to the Third Division Thanksgiving Day, 1943. The Division had just been pulled from the front. We did not know it at the time, but the Third Division was selected to spearhead an assault landing near Anzio. The landing took place on January 22, 1944. In the meantime, the Division went through very intensive training for the mission. The training included several practice landings from various landing craft.
That two-month period was valuable to me in that it allowed me to learn a lot about combat from the men who had been there. It also gave me the opportunity to really get to know Pete Deanda.
I noticed that Pete was a loner and without close friends in the Company. It wasn't that he was reclusive or standoffish. Actually, I thought that he was very out going and friendly. But for some reason, the men who knew him longer than I, merely responded to him in a friendly way. No one seemed to claim him as a close friend.
He came over with the Division and participated in the landings in North Africa and all battles in Africa, Sicily and Italy up to this time. He had always performed exceptionally well in combat and all that knew him had great respect for him. Yet, he did not seem to have a best friend. It made no sense to me.
I had only been with the Division a week or two when Pete began to cultivate my friendship. I guess it was my small 130 lb frame and baby face that made me non-threatening to him.
Pete was from Tyler, Texas, and immensely proud of it. He idolized the famous Texan. One of his favorite things was to challenge new comers to guess whom Tyler, Texas, was named after.
I soon learned that he was illiterate. He would have me read his letters from his girl friend back in Tyler. He would dictate letters to me to send to her.
Pete was from an Apache father and a Mexican mother. He was very handsome. About six feet tall and perfectly proportioned physically. He had hair that would change from jet black to a very dark auburn, depending on how the light would strike it. He was very proud and always perfectly groomed. He and his uniform were always ready for inspection. He was a very good and disciplined soldier.
All of the above statements about his amicable demeanor and character were true. But, as I learned later, only when he was sober. I say in his defense, that he was sober most of the time. He would only drink when away from camp on leave, or was AWOL.
During this two-month training period, passes were few and far between. About midway in the two-month training period, some of us were granted passes to visit Naples. Pete was one of the lucky ones, or unlucky ones, depending on your point of view.
Pete returned from his night in Naples well past curfew and escorted by two MP's. As a matter of fact, we had already had our daily, before-breakfast, five-mile speed march. We had finished breakfast and were on "police detail" when Pete was brought in. (Police detail is where the soldiers form a line across the Company's camp area and walk along picking up every piece of litter, no matter how small.) The First Sergeant had Pete join in on police detail.
It was then I met the other Pete Deanda. I then understood why it was against the law in Texas to sell alcoholic beverages to the Indians.
Pete was mean and surly. He kept trying to pick a fight with anyone and everyone. He screamed for everyone to shut up whenever anyone spoke. Then, when everyone kept quiet, he shouted at us for being too quiet. I was stunned at his behavior. But I understood why the other men never got close to him.
The only way to deal with him was to stay out of his way until he sobered up. Once he was sober, the amicable Pete returned. He would apologize to everyone for his behavior. And he would cry big tears. He cried because he was ashamed of his weakness. He once told me that a good Brave did not lose control of himself, and that his Father would be very unhappy with him.
Pete and I continued in our close relationship. I found a lot of good in him. Also, he was a good man to have on your side in combat.
Our preparation for the Anzio invasion continued. Pete stayed out of trouble until January 20, 1944. He went AWOL after the evening meal. When we were rudely awakened about 3AM, January 21st, to stand muster, Pete was not there.
At this 3AM muster we were instructed to prepare our packs for combat, strike tents, leave our duffle bags at a specified point for pick up by our Quartermaster, and to be ready for breakfast at 4AM. We were to load on trucks at 5AM for transportation to an unspecified destination. From our special training we knew we would soon be aboard a ship. We just didn't know its destination.
When Pete was reported AWOL, Captain Greene, our Company Commander at the time, announced to all assembled, that, if Pfc. Deanda missed this upcoming event, he would spend his next twenty years in prison doing hard labor. We all knew that he meant every word.
Our platoon leader asked me to prepare Pete's combat pack and to get his duffle bag of personal belongings to the pick up point. He then persuaded the Company Commander to leave me behind to watch for Pete. I had to come with the cooks on one of their jeeps with or without Pete. The cooks would be last to leave because of the time it would take them to pack up all the stoves and other cooking paraphernalia.
I was happy that Pete was going to be given a chance. I gladly put his pack together and gathered all his personal belongings into his duffle bag and dragged his and my bag to the pick up point. I got his mess kit out and filled it with the morning's bill of fare, snapped the lid on tightly and hoped that he would show in time to eat it.
Trucks arrived on schedule. Everyone except the cooks and me loaded onto the trucks and, shortly after 5AM, Company H, 30th Infantry, moved out for the docks at Naples harbor.
I kept my eyes on the ridge that Pete would be coming over if he returned. I guess a half an hour went by, but no Pete. I could see by the progress they were making that the cooks would be ready to leave within another ten or fifteen minutes.
About that time, in the gray light of dawn, I saw Pete coming over the ridge. I ran to meet him. He was drunk. He looked at where the camp had been and asked what was happening. I told him that he was going to prison if he didn't shape up.
I told him the deal. I helped him with his pack and rifle. We got in the back of one of the jeeps where Pete made a stab at eating breakfast as we bounced along toward Naples harbor.
When we arrived at the dock, I helped Pete from the jeep, and we headed for the area where I had been told Company H would assemble. In another ten minutes, Pete and I were back with our Company.
Naples harbor was a busy place. There were more ships anc hored in the harbor than I could count. Every foot of docking space was being utilized by a variety of ships. Everyone had his orders and deadlines to meet. Troops and vehicles were all vying for maneuvering space on the dock. Troops had to be loaded of course. But the supplies t hat they were going to need also had to be loaded.
As we were pushing our way toward the LST that we were to board, a truck w as inching along very slowly. The driver was being very careful not to endanger the troops that practically surrounded his truck. I saw Pete, still wobbly on his feet, very close to the truck's left front fender. Pete moved a little sideways and encountered the truck. Pete was in his usual mood when drunk. He blamed the driver for crowding him. In a burst of anger, Pete opened the driver's door, pulled him from the truck and began punching him hard with both fists.
Several men, more his size than I, moved in to stop Pete. It took about four men to hold him. A First Lieutenant that was nearby moved in and ordered the men to restrain Pete until the MP's could take over. With that, Pete freed his right arm and flattened the Lieutenant on the spot.
When the MP's arrived, Captain Greene instructed them to put Pete aboard the LST to be dealt with later.
Finally, after we were all loaded, I wanted to check on Pete. I found him in his bunk crying so loud that everyone in the compartment could hear. Huge tears flowed down his face. He wanted me to help him find the officer that he had punched so that he could apologize.
After Pete was fairly sober, he was summoned before the Company Commander. Capt. Greene told him that he was going to give him one last chance. But, if he messed up again, he would be court-martialed and that Capt. Greene would charge him with every past breach of discipline on his record. The charge of striking an officer would be a very serious charge. He would be dishonorably discharged, and would definitely be in for some prison time.
Well, Pete made the landing and participated in the Beachhead fighting for about three months until one night, Pete and a shell fragment met. His wound was severe enough to end his career as a soldier.
After release from the hospital, he was honorably discharged and returned to Tyler, Texas.
Pete Deanda's wound was a blessing. It saved him from disgrace and prison. It would have been impossible for him to not foul up again.
My First Day
A few minutes before 2 AM on a dark moonless morning, January 22, 1944, many assault boats moved at full throttle toward a beach near Anzio, Italy. The sea was very calm. I was in one of those assault boats. Not only was this to be my first assault landing, it was to be my first day in combat.
I was the number three gunner in a water-cooled machinegun squad. My combat load consisted of a canister of water for cooling the gun and a canister of ammunition for the gun. Other members of the squad carried two canisters of ammo each for the machinegun. The canister of water and the canister of ammunition weighed 20 pounds each. In addition to this 40-pound combat load, I also carried a nine-pound rifle with ammunition for it, entrenching tool, combat pack with blanket, shelter half, extra clothing, personal items, rations for three days, and a gas mask. My total load had to be eighty pounds or more. My body weight at the time was 130 pounds, and my height was five feet four inches. You could say that I was not dressed for swimming.
We were in LCVP's, Landing Craft Vehicles and Personnel. These craft carried up to forty men. The craft I was in hit a sandbar about 100 yards from shore. We were all thrown forward as the craft stopped abruptly. Being in the front, I was slammed hard against the forward bulkhead, that was also a ramp when dropped, and was a reluctant cushion for the men behind me.
An LCVP is rectangular in shape and sits very deep in the water when fully loaded, as it now was. Because of this rectangular shape and deep draft, it creates a very large following sea, or wave. As this following wave passed under our craft, it lifted us off the sandbar. Our coxswain was prepared for this lift and immediately gunned the engine to full throttle. The boat lunged forward twenty or thirty feet, but not enough to clear the sandbar. Our craft was now stuck with its stern on the sandbar and its bow over deeper water. The coxswain made several full throttle efforts to move forward, but it was useless, the boat was stuck fast. The coxswain dropped the bow ramp and ordered everyone out.
When the ramp dropped, the entire front of the boat was open to the sea. A huge wave rushed in, and in one or two seconds the water was above our knees.
As mentioned, my position was in the very front and on the port side. As I stepped off the ramp, I was completely submerged. My helmet was lifted off my head as I went under, and as I learned later, flipped over and floated away. I know this because my squad leader found it when he went back into the sea looking for me.
By tiptoeing, I was just barely able to keep my mouth above water, but had almost no traction for forward progress. The taller men behind me were crowding me in their haste to get ashore, making it difficult for me to maintain my balance. I turned to my left to let them pass, and in so doing; I stepped into a hole that put the water about two feet above my head.
There I was, in deep water and weighed down with a heavy combat load. It never entered my mind to drop the ammunition and can of water. The can of water is especially important to the machinegun. The gun cannot fire long without water for cooling. Besides, I still would not have been able to swim if I had released the ammo and water cans.
I knew that I was in big trouble at this point, and that panic was now my enemy. I must not panic! Some people say that when you are in this kind of a fix, your entire life passes before you. Well, in my case only a small portion of my past came into play.
I grew up in northwest Florida and our family took frequent outings to swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Before I was able to swim, my favorite thing to do was to work my way into water beyond the breakers, and then, I would continue moving out to a depth where it was necessary to tiptoe to permit my mouth to be above the crest of the waves. From there I would crouch in the trough and leap toward deeper water. The momentum of the leap would carry me over the crest and a little farther out. By repeating this maneuver, again and again, I would reach a depth where, if it were calm, the water would be over my head. I would then do what I called, "ride the waves." In the trough my feet would be on the bottom so that I could crouch and leap, with my momentum carrying me over the crest. This allowed me to be with kids much taller than I.
I cannot say that I consciously remembered the boyhood pastime. I think my reaction was just instinctive, but I am sure that it was an instinct borne of that boyhood fun. Without hesitation, I dropped into a crouch and leapt up and forward as hard as I could. The momentum of my jump carried me to the surface for a quick breath before being sent to the bottom again, where I crouched and leapt to the surface for another quick breath. I repeated this procedure again and again, still clinging to all my equipment, including the water and ammunition canisters. With each leap I made a little progress toward shore.
I finally reached a depth where I could keep my mouth above the surface. I just stood there on my tiptoes filling my lungs with much needed air and thinking how fortunat e I was that the water was very calm that morning. Had there been waves of any consequence, I doubt that I would have made it.
After a minute or two, I regained enough strength to work my way into shallower water and finally wade ashore. As I drew near to where the other men from my squad were waiting on the beach in the darknes s, I heard my squad leader, Cpl. James Pringle, telling them that he had found my helmet floating upside down near where I went under, but that he had n ot found me. Then I heard Pfc. Leonard Troutman, number one gunner, exclaim, "Oh my god, he had the water can!" In response to Troutman's concern for my good health, I wanted to announce my arrival by dropping the water can on his foot.
I did forgive Troutman. His concern for water to keep his gun operative was well founded. He and all the men were overjoyed that "Brownie" had not drowned as expected.
I had been the only man not present when the squad checked off on the beach. Cpl. Pringle went back into the sea to look for me. That is when he found my helmet. He told me that he had even felt for me with his feet.
Now that everyone was accounted for, we moved out to a pre-determined assembly area where our Section Leader, Sgt. Marcantel, reported to the Commander of the company we were to support that day. We were ordered to follow close behind the riflemen and to be ready if needed. The riflemen moved out with First Section, First Platoon, Company H, following closely behind. Thus began my first day of combat.
Daylight found us, still wet from our dunking in the Mediterranean, moving cautiously through a forest. Sgt. Marcantel, armed with a carbine, was walking in a crouch like an Indian stalking his game. Sgt. Walla, Squad Leader of the Second Squad, said, "Hey, Marcantel, what are you going to do if a bunch of krauts jump up in front of you?" Marcantel replied, "I'll empty this carbine into the lot of them."
Before I give Walla's reply, you need to know that the carbine was fed ammunition via a clip that was inserted from the underside of the carbine. The clip held fifteen rounds. On the right side, just in front of the trigger guard, were two buttons. One was the safety release. The other was the clip release. Press the clip release button and the clip will drop out.
Walla replied, "How many do you think you will get with one shot"? At that, Marcantel, and all that were in on the exchange between them, took a good look at his carbine. There was no clip in it. The clip of ammo was still back at the assembly area where we began. Intending to take his weapon off safe, Marcantel had pressed the wrong button and ejected the clip.
To compound matters further, the carbine was still on safe and would not have fired anyway. Sgt. Macantel took the ribbing that followed in good spirit. This broke a lot of tension as we continued forward. It helped me a great deal. I learned that you could take humor into battle if you chose to.
By mid-morning we were moving through an open field. The sun had dried our clothing completely. I was carrying the machinegun at the time. It was common practice for us to exchange loads with the number one and two men to give their shoulders a rest. Number one carried the tripod. Number two carried the machinegun. I was number three, as stated earlier, and had traded with number two to give him a break.
Suddenly, there was shooting ahead of us. The call went out for the machineguns to come forward. Cpl. Pringle and Pfc. Troutman dashed forward to a shallow ditch where Pringle wanted the gun set up. I followed close behind with the gun. Troutman set the tripod where he wanted it and I placed the gun on the tripod and moved to one side so that the number two gunner could take over and assist with the firing of the gun.
To my surprise the number two gunner had hit the ground when the shots rang out and had not moved. The rest of the squad behind him had followed suit. They were all flat on the ground. I called to soldier X (I choose not to use his name.) to bring the water can and ammo forward. But he was frozen and could not move. I ran back and took the water and ammo from him and told the others to get their ammo up to the gun position. I returned to the gun and helped Troutman prepare the gun for firing.
We never knew what the shooting was about. We were never given a target to fire on and in a couple of minutes were up and moving again. Cpl. Pringle changed my assignment to number two gunner and moved soldier X to last position in the squad. Soldier X was transferred to Battalion Headquarters Company the next day. So, before noon of my first day, I had moved up one position in the Squad.
In fairness to soldier X, I must report that he overcame whatever it was that caused his inaction that morning. He later volunteered for the Battalion Battle Patrol and served honorably to the end of the war.
My First Foxhole
Note: Foxholes are not for foxes. They are for soldiers. That's just what they are called.
Defensive positions on one of the "wadi" at Anzio.
Slit trenches and foxholes can be seen on the upper bank. The bridge and
the road further on have been destroyed, but the obstacle is spanned by
a temporary bridge. (photo by Jack Cole)
January 22, 1944, we landed on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea near Anzio, Italy, at 2AM. (See "My First Day") The Germans were caught by surprise and the landings were almost unopposed. We met very minor resistance as we moved inland. We knew that the Germans would be sending opposition forces as rapidly as possible. But, not knowing the enemy's capabilities or timetable, we were prepared for contact at any moment. We spent the entire day moving cautiously forward until, by nightfall, we were five or six miles from the beach where we had landed.
Soon after dark, we were ordered to dig in and establish defensive positions. Leonard Troutman and I began to search for a good location for our machinegun. Troutman had arrived from the States just a few days ahead of me. This was going to be our first foxhole under combat conditions.
We noticed a concrete wall about two feet high that was well enough in line with the other defensive positions being established. We decided that the wall would be a good protective palisade to fight from if we were attacked. The wall should stop small arms fire with no problem, and the machinegun could easily be set up high enough to fire over the wall. It seemed like a winner, so we began to dig our hole as close to the wall as practical.
We had barely begun when we became aware of an unpleasant odor. There was a masonry outhouse about ten feet from our hole, but that was not what we smelled. Investigating in the dark, we discovered that the wall we were digging behind was one of two walls at the edges of a concrete slab about fifteen feet square. The walls met at one of the corners of the slab. Stored on the slab, and against the two walls, was animal manure.
With this discovery, we considered digging in another location. But, the anticipated protection from small arms fire outweighed having to put up with the odor. Anyway, we figured that we would get adjusted to the smell after awhile. So, we stayed with our first choice and continued digging.
The ground was very hard, and diggi ng was difficult. We would break loose an inch or two at a time with our pick and then remove the loose material with our shovel. After an hour or more we were only about a foot deep. But, the real problem was that water was beginning to seep into the hole. Water would splash on us every time the pick struck the ground. But, so what, if it rained we would be wetter than from the splashes. Besides, there was the protection from small arms fire to be considered. So, we continued digging.
The water made digging more difficult. The clay soil that we were digging in became very plastic and gooey after we hit the layer where the water began. The wet clay would stick to the pick and we had to pull it off with our hands. Progress became even slower. But that was OK. Once the hole was completed we would have protection from small arms fire. Also, we would have our own private john with the outhouse only ten feet away. So, we kept digging and bailing water.
Finally, after about two hours, we were barely two feet deep, and water was coming in even faster. We decided that, because of the water, we would not be able to make this a hole that we could stand up in. But that was OK. We would just lengthen it to what the army calls a slit trench that we could lie down in. We would be below ground for protection from artillery and mortar shell fragments, and we still had the wall for protection from small arms fire. So, we kept digging and bailing.
It must have been about 2AM the next morning when we decided to call it quits. The hole was long enough, and we both agreed, grudgingly, that it was deep enough. Besides, we didn't have enough energy left to dig another grain.
January nights in Italy can be very cold. We discovered this once we stopped the vigorous exercise of digging. We bailed the water from the hole, wrapped ourselves in our blankets, and settled in for what was left of the night. We both fell asleep almost immediately.
At the crack of dawn we were jarred awake by a bang as loud as a thunderclap. My first thought was that one of our tanks must be close to our hole and had fired at something. I looked around. There was no tank in sight. I saw other guys from our platoon with their heads up looking around as puzzled as I was.
Then it happened again. This time I knew what it was. A German Tiger tank was firing at a road intersection about five hundred yards behind us. Our "private" john was directly in line with his target. The shell passed no more than a foot above the outhouse. I happened to be looking in that direction when the shell passed. I saw the red tile shingles jump in its wake.
When a high velocity shell passes that close, it makes the same shark crack that the gun makes. It's as though the cannon is right there, not several hundred yards away.
The firing continued for at least half an hour. It fired one shell every minute or two. But this was not our only concern. While we had slept, the hole had filled with water. Our blankets and clothing were completely soaked with foul smelling water. We were also shivering in the cold morning air.
We wanted to get out of the hole to bail it out and to wring the water from our blankets, but did not feel safe getting out of the hole with 88mm shells shaking the outhouse every minute or two. So we just laid there, speculating as to what would happen if the Tiger lowered its aim by a foot and hit the outhouse. We concluded that we would get a lot of concrete chunks along with shell fragments in our hole if that should happen.
I then began to wonder what would happen if the Tiger's crew spotted our positions and put a few rounds in the manure pile. Or, even worse, what if a shell struck our little two-foot wall? I figured we would get even more concrete and shell fragments than if the outhouse were hit.
Finally, after ten minutes had gone by without a shot being fired, Troutman and I decided to get out of the hole. First we bailed the water out. Then we wrung out our blankets. All this was done while lying down, because we were afraid that we would be seen if we rose higher than the wall. Next, we stripped and rolled up in our blankets while we wrung out our clothes. After putting our clothes back on, we left the blankets spread out on the ground to dry in the sun that was now up pretty high.
Not wanting to get back in the hole unless our lives depended upon it, we lay spread-eagle on top of the ground next to the wall to soak up the sunshine.
About mid-day we got the word to move out to another location. Before leaving, I examined the slab and its pile of manure. I discovered that a hand pump was located next to the other wall so that water could be pumped over the wall and onto the manure. It was obvious that the pile was kept wet intentionally. Water was constantly draining out of the manure and over the open edges of the slab and was finally absorbed into the ground. This had probably been going on for several generations. I now knew the source of the water that was in our hole.
Troutman and I took a good dip, fully clothed, in the first stream that we came to. This got most of the odor from our clothing. We were cold and wet most of the day, but by sundown were nearly dry again.
That was a miserable experience. But, most of all, it was a very valuable learning experience. Never again would I dig within a hundred feet of a manure pile or building if I had a choice.
A Darby's Ranger, Almost
I entered the US Army in March of 1943. I received my basic infantry training in Fort Jackson, S. C. After our basic training was completed, we were placed in the Army's replacement pool and began our journey to assignments to various combat units overseas. This involved processing through Replacement Depots in Africa and Italy.
As we were processed through these depots, we would become more-and-more separated from the friends we had trained with. In an effort to stay in touch, we would meet in front of the mess hall at the end of each day, at each new camp. By the time we reached the replacement camp in Italy, there were about ten of us that were still together. That first night in Italy, knowing that our next assignment would be a combat unit, we made a vow to do everything we could to be assigned to the same unit.
The next morning (being a Private) I was assigned to work in the mess hall (known as KP duty) and was not finished until about 9PM that night. As soon as I was off, I went to see my friends and learned that they had volunteered to join a Ranger Battalion. In keeping with our vow, I immediately reported to the First Sergeant and asked that I be assigned to the Ranger Battalion that my friends had joined. The sergeant explained that he had no control over that. An officer from the Darby's Rangers had recruited my friends. He told me that the officer would be back the next day, and that I could sign up for the Rangers then. The Rangers took their name from their Commanding Officer, Colonel William O. Darby.
The next morning, at first muster, the First Sergeant read an assignment list for replacements being sent to the Third Infantry Division. My name was on that list.
When we were dismissed, I reported to the First Sergeant and asked that I be taken off the list so that I could join the Rangers. He said that the orders could not be changed and that I would be sent to the Third Division. I was assigned to Company H, 30th Infantry Regiment, Third Infantry Division. That was in November of 1943. I served with the Third Division for the remainder of the war, ending in Salzburg, Austria, in May o f 1945.
Portions of the above are important background for the following story.
The Third Division was one of two divisions to make the assault landings near Anzio, Italy, on January 22, 1944. The Anzio Beachhead landing was considered a success at the beginning. But, the number of ships available for our support was limited because of Prime Minister Churchill's insistence that all but a limited number be sent to England to prepare for the Normandy Invasion. Because the number of ships was limited, th e Germans were able to build up opposition forces faster than could we. They had us outnumbered by the fifth day. This prevented the Allied Forces from expa nding the beachhead immediately.
By January 30, 1944, when this story takes place, the Germans were well prepared for our forthcoming attacks.
The Allied forces planned a major attack to begin in the early morning of January 30th. The initial objective was to take and hold the town of Cisterna di Littorria, which was about a mile in front of our current defensive positions.
Two of Darby's Ranger Battalions were to move by stealth through the German lines to be in positions behind the enemy to aid elements of the 3rd Division in a frontal attack at daylight. These were the 1st & 3rd Ranger Battalions, the Ranger Battalions that my friends had joined.
I was manning a machinegun next to a bridge over which the Rangers would pass as they moved out for their mission. The Rangers began coming past my position about 0100. I got up on the road and walked with them for a short distance, looking for my friends. I did find two of them and was able to wish them success.
It was later learned that the Germans were aware of our plan, and permitted the Rangers to pass without opposition. They then formed a circle of infantry, tanks and artillery around them. At daylight the Rangers stormed out of a streambed where they had been waiting and were immediately engaged by the Germans. They were caught in a crossfire of small arms, tank and artillery, all at pointblank range.
From our positions we could see the smoke and explosions but could do nothing to help. The Rangers fought desperately and held out until almost mid-day.
Efforts to come to their rescue were blocked by the enemy's superiority in men, tanks, and artillery. The 4th Ranger Battalion participated in the attempt to break through the Germans' defenses, and was so decimated that it was no longer a fighting force.
Of the 780 men in the 1st & 3rd Rangers, only seven returned.
Darby's Rangers were written off and never reactivated.
It was very difficult to watch and know that my friends from basic training were being killed without a chance. Had I not been put on KP the day they joined the Rangers, I would have been there with them.
At our briefing, after boarding the LST in Naples, Italy, we were told that we would be awakened at midnight to load into LCVP's for a 2AM landing on an undisclosed beach. We were advised to get as much sleep as we could.
Following that advice, I decided to hit the hammock about 8PM. I was, of course, very anxious about coming events. I had not yet been in combat and did not know what to expect or how I would perform.
I was not given to praying often, but decided that maybe I might try one. My prayer was a very selfish one. I was to be the only benefactor. I then climbed into my hammock to get some sleep. But sleep would not come. The prayer had not relieved any of my anxiety.
I lay in the hammock thinking about home and my parents. I knew that they were praying for me constantly. Then it hit. There are many Christians in Germany. My mother was from Germany. My enemies' parents would be praying for them just as diligently as my parents were for me. Boy, did we have God boxed in!
I decided that frightened, selfish, prayers were not going to get it done. I dialed in again and asked God to scrap my first request. I asked that He not favor me over my enemy, but to help me meet what trials were to come with courage and not be a disgrace. I promised to do my part by using my wits and brains that He had provided. I felt better and fell asleep in a few minutes.
A couple of weeks later, I had my first opportunity to examine a dead German soldier closely. I noticed the impression that was molded into his aluminum koppelschloss (belt buckle). It was an army issue buckle that they all wore. In a circle around the center symbol were imprinted the words, "Gott mit uns", God with us. As I looked at the buckle I remembered my thoughts aboard the LST. I was right. My enemy has as much right of access to God as I. I did not want to ever forget that, so, I removed the soldier's koppelschloss and put it in my pocket. I wanted something to keep me reminded that my enemy and I were the same. Only the uniforms were different. I also wanted something to keep me from hating him. I would kill if I must, but I did not want it to be driven by hate.
I carried the koppelschloss in my right-front pocket from that moment on, until the war was over. I put it with my personal things and brought it home with me. It remained with my war souvenirs until May of 2001.
Jo and I were planning a trip to Europe to follow my trail in the war. In my planning, I learned of several annual events and ceremonies that took place in Europe at different times of the year. Other Third Division veterans had participated in them and told about them in our Society newspaper.
There was one of particular interest to me. It was scheduled at a time that would fit into our schedule. It was a memorial service held annually at a monument near Jebsheim, France, near Colmar, where much vicious fighting took place. The monument has three sides, each side representing French, German and American soldiers that fought there. The center of the monument is left open in the shape of a Christian cross.
They meet with the theme "Our Enemies Became Our Friends". They are committed to promoting peace in the world.
I had fought in the battles that took place there and decided that I wanted to attend the ceremonies. In writing to various people in France and Germany, I made contact with a German who was in the German 19th Army that we fought against from the shores of France, up the Rhone Valley, across Germany and into Austria.
He seemed to be a very nice man and I wanted to meet him. He told me that he would be at the ceremonies. I decided that I would take the koppelschloss with me and give it to him. It was time for it to go back home.
At the ceremonial dinner following the ceremonies at the "Cross at Jebsheim", which is what they call the monument, I gave Albrecht Englert the koppelschloss. Through an interpreter, I explained how I took possession of it and why I had kept it. I wanted him to keep it on behalf of the soldier that wore it.
Albrecht was very pleased to accept the buckle, and in return, he removed a pin from his lapel and insisted that I take it. The Commander of the 19th Army had awarded the pin to him. It was for some honorable deed that he had performed in the war. I did not want to take something of that nature, but he would have it no other way.
Albrecht and I correspond regularly. We have exchanged a few experiences from the war.
Albrecht was a radio operator in the 19th Army Headquarters. In that capacity, he was privy to many historic al events as they unfolded. One story that he shared with me was his part in saving the lives of a group of fairly high-ranking German Officers.
The incident took place a few days before the official surrender on May 8, 1945. This group of officers, appalled at the useless slaughter of their men and ours in a cause who's outcome was known, appealed to the top Generals of the 19th Army to permit them to surrender.
The appeal backfired. They were all court-martialed and found to be guilty of treason. They were sentenced to execution by firing squad. However, the court-martial board did not have a uthority to carry out the executions without approval of the highest army command.
They brought their execution request to Albrecht to transmit to the higher command. Albrecht signaled his assistant to turn the transmitter's power to its lowest setting. His transmitter was a 1,000-watt transmitter when at its highest setting. It could reach any station in Germany with no trouble. But, at its lowest setting, its range was just a very few miles.
Albrecht sent the message. The generals stood behind him waiting for a reply. When no reply came back, they ordered Albrecht to send it again, which he did. Still there was no reply. Several more attempts were made, but none brought a reply.
The Generals finally gave up, thinking that perhaps something tragic had happened at the high command headquarters. A few days later, Germany surrendered and there was no legal authority to carry out the executions.
Beyond a doubt, Albrecht's actions saved the lives of those good officers. In so doing, he put his own life on the line. If the Generals had gotten wise, Albrecht would have surely been executed with the officers.
In the early weeks of the Anzio Beachhead campaign there was a real battle for dominance of the skies. The Allies finally won that battle and during the latter weeks we were only occasionally attacked by enemy planes.
One morning in February our positions were attacked by a German ME 109 fighter plane. It came in low strafing our positions. After its first run, it climbed to a minimum maneuvering altitude and made a 180 degree turn and was dropping in for another pass. Before he reached our positions a second time, a British Spitfire fighter plane that was patrolling the beachhead came in from above to intervene in the ME 109's plan.
With the Spitfire on its tail, the ME 109 broke off from its strafing run and turned upward to gain altitude and to attempt to get above and behind the Spitfire. Thus began a very exciting dogfight above us.
We had ringside seats to the best show of the day. There is no doubt as to which side we were on. Our dogfaces along the entire front were yelling and cheering for the Spitfire. And, as was expected, we could hear the Germans in their positions yelling and cheering whenever the ME 109 gained the advantage.
This dogfight lasted about ten minutes until finally the Spitfire got into great position and opened fire with all its guns. The bullets were on target and the ME 109 began to trail smoke. Then we saw a parachute open as the German pilot escaped the burning plane.
Of course the cheering stopped on the German side while we dogfaces went wild. My foxhole mate, Chester Borowski, and I were yelling and slapping each other in glee when I changed my gaze from man and parachute to the ME 109. To my horror, the burning plane was coming in on a steep angle and headed dead straight for our foxhole.
I pointed to the plane and Chester saw it too. Our celebration came to an abrupt end. To abandon our foxhole in broad daylight would be suicidal, but staying put appeared to be worse. Just as we decided to run for it, the plane did a barrel roll to the left and crashed about twenty yards from our hole. A hot blast swept over us as the plane exploded into flames.
Our attention was then turned back to the pilot and parachute. Both sides at the front were calling for the wind to bring him to their side of the line. For awhile it was not clear where he would land. Finally a gust of wind brought him down close to our frontline positions. Two riflemen darted out and took him prisoner. The enemy did not fire because they did not want to risk killing their man.
That was a very exciting show that we chattered about for days afterward.
Paint Brushes, Stencils, and Blue and White Paint
(More about Iron Mike O'Daniel)
Lt. General Lucien K. Truscott, commanded the Third Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and during the early days on Anzio Beachhead. A few weeks after the Anzio invasion, the Corp Commander, Lt. General John P. Lucas, was replaced by General Truscott. As Corp Commander, Truscott had command of all units on the beachhead, including the British units.< /p>
General Truscott moved the Corp Command Headquarters from the cellars in Anzio to a two-story farm house within a half-mile of the most advanced positions. From there he could observe firsthand almost the entire front-line perimeter.
He placed General John W. O'Daniel, who had been his Assistant Division Commander, in command of the Third Infantry Division. General Truscott and General O'Daniel were cut from the same cloth, as the saying goes.
Known by his troops as "Iron Mike", General O'Daniel was, like Truscott, a very aggressive leader. He was always close to where the fiercest fighting was. It was not uncommon for his troops to see him in areas of great danger.
Iron Mike knew the importance of maintaining high morale. His motive for staying close to the fighting was to enable him to make better and quicker command decisions, but he also knew that it gave a great boost to morale.
Soon after taking command, Iron Mike made an important morale boosting decision. He acquired paint brushes, 3rd Division Insignia stencils, and blue and white paint. He had these distributed to every 3rd Division soldier with orders to paint the 3rd Division insignia on both sides of their helmets.
With the order, he explained that the 3rd Division was the best damn unit in the US Army and he wanted the Krauts to know that it was "The Blue and White Devils" that were kicking their butts. Normally units prefer to conceal identities lest the knowledge be of advantage to the enemy. It gave us a great sense of pride to know that our commander had such a high opinion of us. It was a tremendous morale booster.
The 3rd Division did not name itself "The Blue and White Devils". That is the name the Germans gave the division back in Sicily.
At Anzio Beachhead, replacement troops would arrive almost daily. The first requirement of each soldier who was being assigned to the 3rd Division was to paint the blue and white insignia on their helmets, with Iron Mike's above explanation. Whenever it was possible, Iron Mike met the incoming replacements and gave them the message in person.
From that beginning to the end of the war the 3rd Division insignia was on our helmets.
Normally, we only think of people casualties in a war. Seldom do we measure war's cost in innocent animals.
Hardly a day of combat passed without my witnessing the death and maiming of animals. They were farm animals, wild animals, and household pets. The Germans used a number of horse drawn wagons and artillery pieces. These animals became targets of war, but still were innocent in my mind.
Anzio Beachhead was by far the worst for animal slaughter that I witnessed. For four months, the beachhead perimeter was a fan shaped piece of real estate. It measured about ten miles along the shore and was about eight miles deep at the deepest point.
Thi s area was mostly flat farmland. In addition to the usual assortment of farm animals you expect to find in farm country, was a flock of sheep. The size of thi s flock was estimated at the beginning to be as many as two hundred.
The owner of these sheep obviously was no longer tending them. However, a large sheep dog was still faithfully at his post. We called him Shep. The sheep were forever getting caught in the war's exchanges of artillery and small arms fire.
Whenever the flock was scattered after being caught in our crossfire, Shep would go right to work rounding them up and calming them down. If the sheep got caught in a minefield, Shep would remember the area and would guide the sheep away from it after that.
Weeks went by, the flock grew smaller and smaller, but faithful Shep was still on the job guiding and calming them. And then one day, Shep was no longer seen. Our only conclusion was that he was finally a casualty himself. The sheep, now fewer than fifty in number, began to wander in ever smaller and scattered groups until eventually they were no more.
Somewhere in heaven is a beautiful sheepdog with a CMH medal hanging around his neck.
Anzio Annie captured by Allies at Civatavecchia near Rome
Almost everyone that knows much about Anzio Beachhead has heard of "Anzio Annie." Unfortunately "Anzio Annie" was not a voluptuous female. It was a very large artillery piece that fired a shell 280 millimeters (11 inches) in diameter. The gun was mounted on a railroad car and was moved in and out of tunnels some twenty to thirty miles from the beachhead. It was capable of hurling a 550 pound shell a distance of 38 miles. Actually, the Germans had more than one of these poised around the beachhead.
The German's had another, even larger, railroad gun that had limited use at Anzio Beachhead. It could hurl a 16" diameter 1,600 pound shell even farther than the 280mm gun. Its use was limited because it could fire only one round per day. It had to be lowered and allowed to cool or the barrel would bend from overheating. Both guns were dubbed "Anzio Annie."
However, it was the 280mm gun that did most of the firing and was more famous. This huge canon was capable of reaching any spot on the beachhead and, during the four- month period that the campaign lasted, few places on the beachhead had not been targeted.
Because of its great range, its projectiles reached a very high altitude before returning to earth. If the beachhead happened to be quiet at the time it was fired, the sound could be heard at the frontline. But, because of the time required for the sound to travel the twenty to thirty miles between the gun and our positions, the projectile was well on its way to impact by the time we would hear it. At night, the flash could often be seen. This provided more warning than in the daylight. Following the sound of firing, we would listen for the sound of the projectile as it climbed higher and higher. It made a soft whispering sound (whooah-whooah-whooah) with small pulsations.
The only way to know if you were going to be in the impact area was if the sound suddenly stopped. If the sound stopped, you were in the impact area. Two seconds after the sound stopped, the shell would impact. We called it the two-second warning. One second to realize that the sound had stopped. One second to hit the ground.
This phenomenon was created because of the long range and great height of the trajectory. The muzzle velocity was 3,700 feet per second. The shell's velocity would be diminished by the restraints of gravity to about 2,600 feet per second as it reached its high-point. It would then gather speed as it turned downward toward the target. By the time it reached the ground it would be back close to its original velocity. Its average velocity for the entire flight would be just over 3,000 feet per second, or about three times the speed of sound. At sea level, sound travels about 1,040 feet per second.
Therefore, even though the projectile traveled a longer path than the sound, it would still arrive well ahead of its own sound. Actually the shell would impact the target at about the same time that the sound from the highest point in its trajectory was arriving at the impact area. This gave a false sense of security. From the sound, one was given the impression that the projectile was s till high above the ground when, actually, it was only a few seconds from impact.
I am certain that scientists can explain the sound cut-off phenomenon. My guess is that the shockwave surrounding the projectile canceled out its distant sound waves so that the distant flight sounds arriving at the target area were blocked by this shockwave when the shell was near impact. While I cannot claim to understand it, I can attest to the fact that it occurred.
If the shell was destined for impact a substantial distance beyond or to the left or right of our positions, the sound would fade somewhat, but not stop, and build right back again as it plunged to earth. In this case we could hear the projectile all the way to impact. Being aware of this phenomenon was just another tool for survival and was quickly learned.
I would always tell the new men arriving from the States that in combat you do not live and learn. You learn and live.
At the beginning of the war Italy was an ally of Germany and we were at war with both countries. During the fighting in Sicily, Italy surrendered and supposedly became our ally. But there were many die-hard Fascists in Italy that did not come over to our side.
After the landings at Anzio, civilians were allowed to stay if they chose to. Many stayed.
After a period of time on Anzio Beachhead our intelligence people began to suspect spies in our midst. The Germans knew too much of our plans too soon.
A beachhead-wide search and investigation was launched. The search discovered a two-way radio in the cellar of a civilian occupied farmhouse. The woman's clothesline was the antenna. When she hung her clothes on the line it was the signal for the Germans to get on their frequency. The spies had a message to send. It worked well, because the Germans held all of the high ground and had visual observation of the entire beachhead.
The spies became suspects when it was noticed that the woman often hung out clothes on rainy days.
The spies were caught and dealt with.
After that, all civilians were evacuated whether they wanted to leave or not.
It is strongly believed t hat this spy group was responsible for the details of the first attack on Cisterna being compromised to the Germans. The Germans were aware of the details of that plan, and permitted two Ranger Battalions to pass through their positions at night and then surrounded them. Both battalions were annihilated.
See "A Darby's Ranger, Almost"
Get off the beach.
The Third Division had received much specialized training for amphibious assault landings prior to leaving the US to invade North Africa in November of 1942. Because of this, it was frequently called upon for amphibious operations. The Third Division made a total of four amphibious landings during the war. My battalion, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry, made six amphibious landings. In addition to four with the division, it made two more battalion-strength l andings behind the enemy lines in Sicily.
The Third Division always resumed training for amphibious assault landings whenever it was no t committed to active combat. The necessity to get off the beach was constantly drilled into us. During the critique that followed every practice landing, our Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Lyle W. Bernard, had his own unique way of making this point to us.
His favorite expression was, "horse sh--". He ran the two words together so that they came out as one word, "horsesh--". As a matter of fact, all the troops referred to him as Horsesh-- Bernard. He knew this and never seemed to mind.
He was never satisfied with the speed with which we got off the beach. At the beginning of every critique, he would say, "What I saw out there was a lot of horsesh--. You were too slow getting off the beach. That's pure horsesh--."
You may ask, "What about the enemy machineguns?" I say, "Horsesh--. Get off the beach." "What about the mine fields, sir." I say "Horsesh--. Get off the beach." "But sir, what about the enemy tanks?" I say, "Horsesh--. Get off the beach."
Then he would remind us that the beach was the most vulnerable place to be. All of the enemy weapons had fields of fire covering the beach. Mortars and artillery pieces were always pre-aimed to cover the beach. Enemy planes always flew paralleling and in line with the beach in bombing and strafing runs. Staying on the beach was worse than charging the enemy's positions.
This became painfully true at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Some units sustained unusually high casualties because they were slow getting off the beach.
The last time I saw Col. Bernard over there (I have met him a few times at our reunions since the war.) was on February 19, 1944. He had been severely wounded and was in a large bomb crater giving orders to his field commanders on his radio. A medic was tending his wound and trying to persuade him to allow himself to be evacuated so that he could get better attention.
His reply to the medic was, "Horsesh--. This fight ain't over yet. Horsesh--."
My section continued forward behind the rifle company and I could still hear him using his favorite word until we were out of earshot.
February 19, 1944, our Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Lyle W. Bernard, was wounded and evacuated. Lt. Col. Woodrow W. Armstrong was given command of the 2nd Battalion.
Soon after taking command, Col. Armstrong decided that the 2nd Battalion needed a battle cry. He wanted something the men could shout as they left their line of departure and charged the enemy positions, something that would inspire comradeship and unity, and that would be intimidating to the enemy (ha ha).
He sent down word that there would be a contest to find a suitable battle cry. He would accept suggestions for one week. Only enlisted men could participate. A panel of two officers and two enlisted men would review all entries and determine a winner.
The winner would receive a thirty-day furlough to the US of A. A large number of men sent in their suggestions. After the end of the one-week entry period, the review panel met and made its selection. They chose, "ALTEO". Pronounced: al as in Albert, tay is in take and o as in oh.
The driver of the supply jeep that was to deliver supplies to the winner's company that night was instructed to carry the good news to the winner. He was further instructed to bring the winner back to Battalion Headquarters to begin processing of his furlough papers. On that particular night, supplies were being brought up between 0100 and 0200 hours.
Unfortunately, the winner had been on a reconnaissance patrol into enemy territory. The patrol was discovered as it was sneaking back through enemy positions on its return from the mission. (I have to refer to him as the winner because I cannot recall his name.) Enemy machineguns opened fire on the patrol, killing the contest winner. This happened about an hour before the jeep arrived.
Instead of a ride back in the jeep to begin a trip to the States, the winner rode back on the hood of the jeep for burial. He was then turned over to a Grave Regist ration Team, which is the military unit that records the necessary paper work and buries the dead.
The entire battalion was saddened by this tragic event. To my knowledge, the battle cry was seldom, if ever, used in combat. However, in non-combat situations, ALTEO was sometimes used to signify comradeship, and/or support, for a fellow soldier. Even today, at our reunions, ALTEO is used on occasion in the manner stated in the preceding sentence.
One Tiger-Three Shermans
In many instances, Germany's equipment was superior to ours. The best example of that was in their armor (tanks). Their most impressive tank, Mark VI, also known as Tiger, was a monster weighing more than seventy-six tons.
The armor plating in the front was nearly eight inches thick and sloped so that our tank shells just glanced off it. We had nothing that would penetrate the front. Our tanks could only attack it from the sides or rear.
It featured an 88mm cannon. This cannon fired projectiles at 3800 to 4200 feet per second, depending upon the type of ammunition. High explosive shells were in the 3800 f/s range. Armor piercing rounds were in the 4200 f/s range. For a benchmark, consider the fact that this is four times the speed of sound. Not only does the shell arrive ahead of the sound of the cannon, it is ahead of its own sound that it makes traveling through the air. If you hear it, it has passed you.
One morning, on Anzio Beachhead, a German Tiger tank made its presence known. It was hidden somewhere in a stand of trees and brush about one thousand yards to our left front. It was just firing on targets of opportunity. It being well hidden, we were not able to get an exact fix on its position so that we could place heavy artillery on it. Also, it kept changing position. This made it even more difficult to spot.
Finally, about mid-morning three of our General Sherman medium tanks appeared from a group of buildings about 300 yards to the left and rear of my position. These tanks began moving along an unpaved road in the general direction of the Tiger Tank. The land between our tanks and the Tiger was flat farmland. The Germans had to be watching them. I watched in disbelief as they kept rolling along at about half speed. Had they not been warned of the presence of the Tiger?
Suddenly there were two explosions less than a second apart. The first explosion was the Tiger's cannon when it fired. The second explosion was when the shell struck our lead tank. The lead tank stopped dead and the surviving occupants began to exit it.
Immediately, the second tank broke to the right and crossed the shallow roadway ditch and headed into the field. At the same time, the third tank broke to the left and headed for a masonry farmhouse that was very close to the road.
The second tank had barely crossed the ditch when, again, there were two explosions within a second. The second tank was put out of action and the survivors began exiting.
The third tank succeeded in taking cover behind the masonry farmhouse. Our tankers had no intention of taking on the Tiger. They only hoped to survive.
There was a long wait, maybe as much as ten minutes, our tank did not mov e and the Tiger did nothing. Just as I was feeling good that at least one of our tanks was safe, then again, there were two rapid explosions. I looked to the farm house and saw a gray dust cloud rising from the mason ry structure. Black smoke was already coming from our tank and men were scrambling to get out.
The crew of the Tiger had grown tired of waiting for our tank to show itself, and had fired an armor piercing round right through the building and through our Sherman.
After witnessing that episode, I had the greatest respect for our tankers who had to go up against tanks like that.
A Tragic Night
What does it take to survive in combat? Mostly luck! However, experience and composure are great allies on the front line. Some soldiers survive months of combat, while others may only survive a few minutes.
Soldiers with experience react better and make fewer mistakes. Therefore, the longer one survives, the greater is his chance of continued survival. The story related below is a good example of how panic can reduce one's longevity on the front.
Background Info: The Germans used rockets a lot to supplement artillery and mortars. An incoming artillery shell gives you, at most, a one second warning before it hits. A mortar comes in so silently that you get no warning. But a rocket gives you ample warning if you are alert and paying attention, especially at night. In the daytime, if you are looking, you can see the trail of smoke as the rocket rises above the horizon. At night it is much easier to see them because of their fiery tail.
We always had two men assigned the responsibility to watch for rockets and to sound the alarm if they spotted any headed for our positions. It is easy to determine if you are in their line of flight. If the smoke trails or fire trails are vertical, you are in their path. The only unknown is the distance they are set for.
One night in February, 1944, we received two new men as replacements for losses we had taken a day or two before. The new men had no prior combat experience. After interviewing the two replacements, I assigned them to a foxhole that had been occupied by the men they were replacing. In my briefing, I went into great detail about our rocket warning system. I warned them to stay near their foxhole if they chose to get out to stretch. I pointed out that they would have only five to ten seconds to take cover if rockets were on the way.
We received the two men about ten o'clock that night. It was around mid-night when rockets were spotted and the warning was given. Everyone except the two new men took quick refuge in their foxholes. I heard the new men running around shouting to each other in panic. They couldn't find their foxhole in the dark. Unfortunately for them, our positions were the chosen target this time. About six rockets struck our positions in rapid succession and the new men were no longer shouting.
I investigated and found them both dead within a few feet of their foxhole. This was a case where luck was not involved, panic was. Who's to say that these two wouldn't have survived the war if they had only remained calm and reacted intelligently?
I witnessed several other incidences where men became casualties because of their own carelessness or panic. I chose to relate this incident as an example only because these deaths were so clearly avoidable.
After about two months, Anzio Beachhead became stalemated. The Germans discovered that they were not going to drive us into the Mediterranean as Hitler had ordered. We did not have the resources to break out.
This began a period of patrol activities to test for weaknesses, and of small-scale attacks to improve positions. Both sides attempted to gain ground without fighting for it by digging new positions at night a few yards in front of present positions.
Finally, our lines, in some places, became so close that we could hear each other milling around or talking at night, even if we spoke in lowered voices. Some of our food rations came in cartons secured with wire bands. The enemy could hear the snap of the wire when it was cut. This told them that we were out of our foxholes distributing supplies. We quickly learned to wrap the wire in cloth and to cut the wire slowly th rough the cloth. This technique would safely muffle the sound.
We had to be extremely careful not to establish predictable schedules and patterns. The enemy would take advantage of our timetable and rake our positions with rockets, artillery, mortars and machineguns when they suspected that we would be out of our holes. Every night, ammunition, food rations and other essentials were brought forward and distributed. It was necessary that these activities take place at widely different times.
For a period of time my section was assigned to positions that were at the most forward position on the beachhead. Our defenses made a very pronounced curvature at this point.
Late one night, my foxhole partner, Chester Borowski, and I heard a strange sound. It gradually grew louder as the source got closer. The sound was a "squeak squawk", "squeak squawk", "squeak squawk". We recognized the sound. It was the sound of a metal spool turning on a heavy metal wire through its center hub. It was someone laying communication wire for telephones. But, was it German or American?
Borowski and I decided to check it out. We put ourselves in the wire layer's path and waited. Just before he reached our ambush point, two riflemen from Company G nabbed him.
It was a German who, because of the nearness of our positions to his, and because of the bend in the front lines, he had unwittingly passed through our defenses and was passing behind us.
His captors ordered him to continue laying the wire and directed him to the Company G command post where the Company Commander hooked on his own phone and listened in on the "party line". We were told that this was good for about a day and a half. It ended when the Germans got wise and cut the line leading to our positions.
My Encounter with a Flare
Anzio Beachhead Mid-April 1944
January through March was a time of much fighting. The Germans were trying to drive us into the Mediterranean Sea. We were fighting to hold onto the ground we had, and to expand and improve our positions as much as possible. By mid-April both sides were ready to call it a stalemate. This began a period of mutual harassment from both sides, consisting of small-scale attacks, artillery and mortar bombardments, and much patrol penetrations into the other's territory.
It was during this stalemate period that I had the following experience: One night, around 1AM, the telephone communication from my machine gun position to my platoon leader's position was lost. I left my position to find the cause and to restore our communication.
It was a very dark but clear night. Every star in the sky was visible and bright. To find the break in the wires I crawled on hands and knees, letting the telephone wires slide through my hand as I moved. As I was searching for the break, I was keenly aware of two possibilities: 1) the wire was cut by an artillery or mortar shell. Or 2) an enemy patrol had cut the wires and was prepared to ambush anyone coming to repair it. With that thought in mind, I proceeded very cautiously.
After proceeding some 50 yards, I came to a clean break in the wires at the edge of a shell crater. After a few minutes of searching in the darkness, I found the other ends of the wires and began spl icing them back together.
In order to see anything at all in the darkness, I had to lie on my back and work above my head. With the stars a s a background, I was able to see just well enough to perform the task.
At one point, while working on the repair, an enemy flare suddenly lit up the entire area where lay. I instantly froze in position, knowing that even the slightest movement would be detected. But, on the other hand, if I did not move, there was a chance I would not be seen.
It was one of their largest flares. It was suspended by a parachute. It was directly above me. The air was cold and still and the flare was not drifting, but coming straight for the spot where I lay.
When it was about twenty feet above the ground, it was evident that, if it did not change course, it would land right on me. A burning flare can burn a hole right through you, so I had to have a plan. If I had to move, I was prepared to roll away from the enemy positions at the last split second. By letting the flare land between us, the enemy would not be able to see through the glare. On the other hand, if it landed behind me, I would be silhouetted by the flare, and they would surely see me.
When it was about five feet above me, and just as I was going to roll away, a gust of air sprang up and moved the flare toward the enemy positions. It landed about three feet from me, and I did not have to move. I remained motionless another thirty seconds while the flared burned itself out.
After recovering from being blinded by the flare, I completed the splice and returned to my position and thanked God for the timely gust of air.
After much activity during the first six or seven weeks on Anzio beachhead, the fighting subsided substantially. Both sides became content to just hold the lines where they were. This began a period of mostly patrol activity with an occasional "limited objective" attack.
It was near the beginning of this phase that our machineguns were in positions along a creek bed. The guns were positioned about five feet back from the creek and about 30 yards from each other. The creek provided an obstacle for the enemy in the event of an attack. The down side was that an enemy patrol could use the creek bed to get dangerously close to our positions without being detected.
The creek varied from ten to fifteen feet in width and was six to ten feet deep. Following heavy rains in the nearby mountains, the creek bed would run nearly full. During dry periods it only maintained a foot or two of water that ran in a sub-channel pretty much in the center of the creek bed. It was possible to walk along this creek and avoid the water by staying just outside the sub-channel.
The following incident happened during a period when this creek was at minimum flow.
It was late at night after both sides had settled in for what each hoped would be a quiet night. I was standing watch at one of our machinegun positions when I heard what sounded like rocks falling into the water. I was well aware of our vulnerability to enemy patrols and was immediately alert.
We always kept a good supply of hand grenades beside the machinegun. I picked up one of the grenades in my right hand and inserted a finger from the left hand into the ring that you pull before tossing the grenade.
The first sounds that I heard seemed to be twenty or thirty feet from me. In a few seconds I heard another rock go into the water. I dared not act too quickly. This could very well be one of our patrols returning from a mission.
I gave a challenge and got more rocks in the water in response. I gave a second challenge, louder than the first. The second challenge only produced scuffling of feet and more rocks in the water. The sounds were closer each time. I gave a third challenge with the same results as the first two. By now the sounds were almost directly in front of me.
It was time to act. I pulled the pin on the grenade I was holding and lobbed it into the creek. I followed the first grenade with three or four others as rapidly as I could.
The explosions of my grenades brought the front lines to life. Both sides thought that they were being attacked and opened fire at nothing in particular. This firing spread in both directions from our sector until almost the entire beachhead front was a blaze of tracers. The firing continued for about five minutes and gradually subsided to just an occasional shot, and then finally, all was quite again.
Of course, Troutman, who was asleep in the hole with me, was awake in an instant. He grabbed the machinegun to open fire. But I stopped him and explained what had happened. We both listened for more sounds of activity in the creek, but none came.
Finally, in the gray light of dawn, I ventured out of the hole to see what might be in the creek. I saw five or six hapless sheep, victims of my hand grenades.
These were some of the few sheep remaining from a flock of sheep that were wandering and grazing over the battlefield from the beginning. (See my story entitled "Anzio Shep".)
Walla from Walla Walla
Sgt. Louis J. Walla was from Walla Walla, Washington. This is no joke. You will find Sgt. Walla listed on Pg. 531 of "The History of the Third Infantry Division in WWII." If you check a map of the USA you will find Walla Walla, Washington about five miles north of the Washington-Oregon border and about thirty miles north of Pendleton, Oregon.
His mail with Walla Walla, Washington return addresses was our confirmation of the validity of his claim.
Sgt. Walla took great pride in announcing to all replacements that he was Sgt. Walla from Walla Walla, Washington.
In case you haven't guessed, we called him, "Walla Walla Walla." For the sake of this story, I'll just call him, Walla.
Walla came over with the Division. He participated in the assault landings in North Africa November 8, 1942, and all of the Divisions battles in Africa, Sicily, and Italy up to the time of this story.
Walla was the self-appointed morale booster of the First Platoon, Co. H., 30th Inf. He never seemed to take anything seriously and would turn seemingly bad situations into something to grin about.
Early one morning on Anzio Beachhead, the Germans decided to begin our day with a breakfast wake up call. They bombarded our positions with a ten-minute artillery barrage.
At the time, Walla was in a foxhole near the one that Chester Borowski and I shared. He was alone because his partner had gone on R & R for a few days. After it appeared that the Germans were going to give us a rest, Walla called out to us. We cautiously raised our heads above ground and looked in Walla's direction. He was much too exposed for my comfort and he was pointing as he spoke.
He said, "one" and pointed to a shell hole that was very close to the SW corner of his position. Then he pointed to another shell hole very near the NW corner of his position and said "two". Then he pointed to a third shell hole near the NE corner of his hole and said "three." Finally, pointing to a fourth shell hole very close to the SE corner of his position he said "four."
It was obvious that all four of these shell holes were the result of the bombardment that had just ended. Steam was still rising from the moist earth that had been heated from the explosions.
After pointing out the four near misses, he was lau ghing as he said, "All I need is one in the middle and I'll have the five of spades." Chester and I were not as amused as Walla was.
The next morning the Germans sent their wake up call a bit earlier, about two hours before daylight. Right in the middle of a series of shell explosions all around our position we heard someone yell, "SPOON", and into our laps came Walla, in a headfirst dive. ("Spoon" was Walla's warning to hit the dirt whenever he thought it would be prudent to do so.)
To say that Chester and I were surprised would be a substantial understatement. I asked Walla what the H--- he thought he was doing. He replied that he had just decided to drop in for breakfast with us. He added that he was getting lonesome in the foxhole by himself. I said that he was welcome, but I thought that it would have been wiser to wait for the bombardment to end. He replied that he thought his timing was perfect.
Anyway, as soon as the shelling stopped, we decided to eat so that Walla could get back to his hole before daylight. Chester heated some water on the one-burner Coleman that we had. Chester shared his canteen cup of coffee with Walla. I did not drink coffee. I popped a tea bag in my cup. Since Walla didn't bring his own rations, we shared ours.
As the sky began to lighten in the east, we suggested to Walla that he should get back to his hole before it got too light. Walla replied, "I'm not going back to that hole. I'm going to dig another one tonight." We asked him what was wrong with the one he had been in for several days now. His answer was, "I got my five of spades."
I asked what in the H--- (again) are you saying. At this point he informed us that a shell had landed between his legs but did not explode. Being the joker that he was, I found it hard to believe him. I crawled to his hole and looked in. In the gray light of near-dawn I saw a 75mm shell half buried in the bottom of his hole.
Chester and I welcomed him for the day and helped him dig another hole as soon as it was dark that night.
Walla was wounded on the breakout from the beachhead. His wounds were not life threatening, but serious enough for a ticket back to Walla Walla.
Long after his departure, his spirit of non-surrender stayed with me.
A Very Bad Night
Fighting was somewhat limited on Anzio Beachhead from the landings on January 22 through February 2, 1944. Both sides were primarily concerned with containment and buildup of forces.
February 3rd through March 3rd was a month of very intense fighting. The Allied forces were ordered to break out of the beachhead and cut highways 6 and 7. These highway routes were the enemy's main supply routes to the Casino Front that was south of Anzio. Cutting these supply lines would be a major catastrophe to the German armies blocking allied advances along that front.
Because of this severe threat to his supply lines, and his rear areas in general, the enemy had to give first priority to eliminating the beachhead threat. Adolph Hitler ordered his forces to drive us into the sea.
Both sides were equally determined to accomplish their mission. The Germans made several serious penetrations into allied held territory during this period. Each penetration was immediately driven back before a major break through could develop.
It was during fighting to eliminate enemy gains that the following incident occurred. On February 29th, the enemy launched a full scale attack against positions held by the 509th Parachute Battalion, driving them back 1,500 yards and taking possession of some very critical high ground. The 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry (my Battalion) was thrown into the breach to regain the lost ground. Company G and Company F were the assault companies, with Company E in reserve. My machinegun section was assigned to support Company G.
By nightfall, the 2nd Battalion had regained 1,000 yards of the lost ground, but was now in front of friendly units on either side. The enemy had thrown in f resh units and was attacking both flanks to our rear. They intended to isolate us.
Company E and the 509th Parachute Battalion were committed to deal with this threat. We were given orders to dig in and hold for the night.
As Chester Borowski and I were digging our foxhole, we heard a wounded German soldier calling out for help. We looked in the direction of the cries for help and saw the soldier about fifty yards from us, waving an arm in the air. We decided to help him. We approached him very cautiously, keeping him covered with our weapons. When we got to him, we saw that he was badly wounded. He had a compound fracture of his right leg between the knee and hip. There was no way that he could walk, not even with assistance.
I noted that this soldier was a private even though he was probably forty years old. This was older than most infantry privates. The older men normally are at least non-commissioned officers or commissioned officers. I wondered if he was from one of the countries the Germans had occupied. It was common for Germany to make men from captive nations fight in German units while their families were held hostage.
Together, we dragged the soldier to within a few feet of the hole we were digging. He cried out in pain with every movement. We made him as comfortable as we could and got back to our digging. After all, a counter attack could come at any time, and we had to be ready for it if it came.
Shortly after dark it began to rain. The temperature was only a few degrees above freezing. It was not going to be a good night.
Chester and I dug without let up until about 10pm, at which time we were finally satisfied with our foxhole. All the while, the German soldier was crying out in pain. There was very little that we could do for him. With Company E and the Paratroopers engaging the enemy to our rear, it was not possible for litter teams from our Battalion Medical Company to get through. We could not even evacuate our own wounded.
Before settling in the hole with Chester, I checked on our "guest." We had left him on his back and the rain was pounding in his face. I rolled him over until he was face down. This caused him great pain and his screams tore through me. I wondered if I had done the right thing.
Chester and I settled in for the night, wrapped in our blankets for warmth and protection from the rain. All the while, without letup, our "guest" continued his cries of pain. Finally he began to beg us to shoot him, "Kamarad, ksheisten mich, kamarad, ksheisten mich." When we did not, he began to beg us to give him a gun, "Kamarad, pistole mich, kamarad, pistole mich."
This continued until about 2am. Then there was an explosion very near our position. My first thought was that it was a mortar shell and that it was the beginning of an enemy attack. But there were no other explosions. An attack would not be preceded by one mortar round. Then I realized that our "guest" was quiet, and I smelled burned flesh. Our friend had found a way. We had not searched him when we "rescued" him. In an inside pocket of his overcoat was a grenade. He had managed to reach it and pull the firing pin.
Brothers Meet, Head to Head
In other stories I have mentioned that my brother, Frank, was also on Anzio Beachhead. This story is about how we met the day after his division came onto the beachhead.
Frank was in Company F, 168th Infantry Regiment, Thirty-Fourth Infantry Division. The 34th Division was slugging it out with the Germans at the Casino Front when we landed at Anzio on January 22, 1944. In early March, the 34th Division was pulled off the Casino Front in preparation to being committed to Anzio Beachhead.
The division actually began moving onto the beachhead March 22, 1944. About mid-morning, March 23rd, I was sitting cross-legged in my dugout writing a letter to my parents when Frank made his unexpected appearance.
The following information in Italics is not critical to this story. It is included for the purpose of helping one understand the setting in which it occurred:
My battalion was in what we called breakthrough positions at the time. Breakthrough positions are defensive positions that are a thousand or so yards behind the most forward frontline positions. They are called breakthrough positions because they are intended to intercept and stop an enemy attack if they should breakthrough our frontlines. In these positions one can be a little relaxed and even get out of one's hole for brief periods without being picked off by a sniper or machinegun. Time in breakthrough positions was rotated among units to give some relief from the more trying frontline duty.
Had I been in the frontline positions, Frank would not have been able to join me in daylight.
I refer to my position as a dugout, not a foxhole. We were dug in along a creek bed that was from ten to fifteen feet wide and eight to ten feet deep. My machinegun was in a conventional surface position cut into the creek bank facing the enemy. To provide protection from the elements, and from overhead shell bursts, when not actually manning the machinegun, I had excavated another hole horizontally into the creek bank near the machinegun. The top of this excavation was about three feet below the ground surface and the bottom of the excavation was about three feet above the creek bed. You might call it a mini cave that was just high enough to accommodate a sitting position.
In the heavy rainy season the creek could run nearly full. At the time of this incident, there was only a small amount of water in a sub-channel about one or two feet in depth. A person could walk on either side of the sub-channel to avoid the water.
As stated above, I was in my dugout writing a letter when a helmeted head appeared in front of me. I glanced up and saw what I thought was a familiar face. But the head moved on. Suddenly, I realized that the face I had just seen was Frank's. I lunged forward to poke my head out to call to him. At the same time, Frank realized that the face in the dugout was mine. He returned immediately, and was in the process of poking his head in the dugout at the same time I was poking my head out.
Our helmets banged together and the momentum of my lunge sent Frank reeling backwards. He landed in a sitting position in the middle of the streambed. He just sat there for a few seconds looking up at me. Finally he said, "That's a hell of a way to greet your brother when you haven't seen him for six months".
We visited there in my dugout for an hour or so. He told me that he had been given a three-day pass to visit me. I suggested that I try also to get a pass, so that we could go back near the beach for a couple of days.
I went to Sergeant Pringle with my proposal. He sent us back to our company command post so that I could petition the Company Commander. My request was granted and Frank and I began our trek toward the beach.
We had not gone far before we drew a barrage of eight or ten artillery shells that were quite close. We had to dive for cover in a nearby ditch where we waited for a few minutes before hurrying on our way.
By mid-afternoon we reached the R & R center in a pine forest that was very close to the sea. We presented our passes to the officer in charge. The officer turned us over to the First Sergeant who assigned us to a tent.
The next two days were spent on the beac h and in the Mediterranean Sea. We talked about all the fun times we had growing up together. We especially reminisced over the many family outings on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.
Those two days went by too fast. Frank's three days were up, but I still had a day remaining. We decided that I would go with him to his company that was in a staging area waiting to be assigned to frontline positions. We had the crazy idea of one of us being transferred to the other's company so that we could be together. We put the idea to Frank's Company Commander who put the brakes on that idea immediately.
He pointed out that we would both be so concerned about the survival of the other, that it would increase the danger for both of us. Also, he was sure that it would reduce our efficiency as soldiers. He would not release Frank, nor would he accept me as a transfer. We realized that he was right and thanked him for his wisdom.
I spent that night with Frank and most of the next day. I wanted to return to my unit after darkness so that I would not draw enemy fire as Frank and I had done when leaving my positions. We said our goodbyes and I headed back "home." Those were the best four days of the war for me.
Two Beady Eyes
On Anzio Beachhead it was common to build a roof over a portion of our foxholes to protect us from artillery aerial bursts. We used anything we could scrounge up to provide support for the sand bag roof.
In one hole that I was in, my partner, Chester Borowski, and I made use of some steel barbed wire support posts that our engineers left behind after putting up barbed wire in front of our positions.
These posts were made from ¾" steel bars. The bottom portion was bent like a corkscrew and the upper portion had full circle bends at one-foot intervals through which the barbed wire would pass. By placing a rod through one of the circles, the corkscrew bottom portion could be screwed into the ground so that the post stood upright.
We placed the posts flat across the portion of the hole we wanted covered. We then placed brush over the posts to bridge the spaces between the steel posts. When our sand bags were placed on top of the corkscrew portions of the posts, a tubular air space was formed beneath the bags. You could also describe them as little dark tunnels running back under the sand bags along the perimeter of the foxhole.
After we had been living in this hole for some time, Chester was selected to go on a three-day R & R. This left me alone in our little home.
The morning after Chester left, I awoke to see a pair of eyes like tiny flashlights staring at me from one of the tunnels at the far end of the hole. I tried to remember what we had been told of venomous snakes at our orientation lecture when we first arrived in Italy. I drew a blank. I could not remember anything about snakes.
I dreaded the thought of spending the day with such a visitor. It would be suicide to abandon the hole in daylight. The enemy was so close that both sides could hear each other talking.
I thought of shooting the creature, but my rifle was directly beneath the two eyes and too far for me to reach without moving. I was afraid that any movement might cause the thing to attack.
I considered my options. If I moved, I might cause the snake to strike. If I waited, it could come slithering down my rifle.
I decided that I preferred my rifle be between me and my visitor than to have my visitor between me and my rifle. I had to make a move to get the rifle.
When I lunged for the rifle, a t hree-inch long mouse leaped past me and was out of the hole in an instant.
A Very Special Memory
Dusk, Anzio Beachhead, Italy, May 22, 1944, the Third Infantry Division was moving out of a dense forest near the beach. The Division had moved to this area from its frontline positions to prepare for what was simply referred to as "The Breakout."
Tonight, the Division was moving forward to the frontline. Tomorrow morning, at first light, it would spearhead "The Breakout". I was one of those soldiers.
As I came out of the cover of the forest, the first thing I saw was some two-dozen Red Cross "Angels" lining both sides of the road. They were passing out hot chocolate and doughnuts and kissing every soldier as he passed.
Next, about two hundred yards up the road, our Third Division Band was playing the Third's own tune, "The Dogface Soldier." The band was so loud, that the enemy, looking down from the hills that surrounded the beachhead, was surely hearing every note. The Germans were well acquainted with The Third Division. The Third had battled them in North Africa, Sicily, and now Italy. They knew that the Blue and White Devils, as they called the division, were coming.
Still another quarter of a mile up the road was a Scottish Bagpipe Band. It, too, was playing "The Dogface Soldier" and blending beautifully with the Third Division Band, whose notes were still audible and ringing in our ears.
We were very accustomed to having our own band send us off to battle, but this was the first time that our band had been joined by bagpipers. There is something about bagpipes that reaches deep inside you. I will never outlive the memory of that inspirational send off.
My Worst Day
Dawn! Cannons roar. Men die.
Anzio Beachhead - Breakout! “Charge!” was the cry.
Lying among the dead and dying
Was my brother Frank; there was no denying.
His wounds were grave. His breaths were few.
I stood in shock and wondered what to do.
In his eyes I saw the pain and fear.
Taking him in my arms, I held him near.
Perhaps a drink of water would ease his pain.
As my canteen touched his lips, our eyes met, up close, again.
It was then I saw that this was not my brother.
Oh dear Lord, what he needed was his mother.
Stunned, I brought the canteen down and took the drink away.
And then, the look he gave me will forever in me stay.
I have no understanding as to why I did this terrible thing.
If I could explain it, perhaps some comfort it would bring.
So I left him there dying in the sand.
The truth of it I failed to understand.
But now I see. That though he had a different mother,
The man I held that day really was my brother.
By Al Brown
Written on May 23, 2010, the 66th anniversary of the breakout, following four months of hell on Anzio Beachhead, Italy.
1st Lt. Eric W. Tatlock
In prior episodes I have referred to Capt. James H. Greene as our Company Commander. While on Anzio Beachhead Capt. Greene was transferred to the command of Company G. Lt. Tatlock was given command of Company H, my company.
The position of Company Commander called for the rank of Captain. Lt. Tatlock was killed before his advancement was approved.
He had been our Company Executive Officer under Capt. Greene. We all knew him well and had great respect for him. His first concern was always for the well being of his men. He was always finding ways to make our situation better. It was this trait that led to his being killed.
After two days of bitter fighting, May 23 & 24, 1944, the German's beachhead defenses were broken. The enemy began to drop back to other defensive positions. Bridges had been destroyed to delay our pursuit.
My battalion, the 2nd Battalion, had been the spearhead battalion for the 30th Regiment May 23 & 24. On the morning of May 25, the 2nd Battalion moved to Regimental reserve as the 1st Battalion took up the attack and began a drive on the town of Cori.
The bridge over a deep ravine on the road to Cori had been destroyed. Our Engineers were quick to put up a footbridge for the infantry, but it would take a day or two to complete a structure that would support vehicles. In the meantime, vehicles of every type were backed up for a mile or more.
The 2nd Battalion, now in reserve, was moving up to follow the 1st Battalion across the ravine and on toward Cori. As our march was beginning, Lt.Tatlock pulled up beside us in his jeep with a trailer behind it. He said that we had a long walk ahead of us to reach the ravine. He instructed us to put our equipment in his trailer and he would take it as far the ravine.
The machinegun tripod weighed 51lbs, the gun weighed 47lbs, and each ammo bearer carried 40lbs of ammunition. Being pretty tired from two days of fighting, we welcomed this relief. Lt.Tatlock had his driver stay close behind us as we made the 3 or 4 mile march to the ravine.
When we were nearing the ravine, Lt. Tatlock pulled up beside us and announced that he would pull ahead and get as close to the ravine as possible. We could pick up our equipment as we passed his jeep. He had his driver pull onto the shoulder very near the front of the line of waiting vehicles.
About that time, three of our P51 fighter planes appeared overhead. The P51, while designed as a fighter plane, was also used extensively as a dive-bomber. It was equipped to carry two 500lb bombs under its wings.
At first, the planes were a welcome sight. A lot of the men on the ground waved to them.
My thought was that our 1st Battalion, in its advance on Cori, had called them in for support. After all, they would not have tank or close artillery support until the bridge was completed.
I continued to watch the planes. They had dropped to a lower elevation and were now flying parallel to our column. They were about a quarter mile to our right. Suddenly, the lead plane dipped its left wing and made a 90-degree left turn and began a dive toward the head of our column. The other two planes followed the first plane and all three were now diving on us.
I watched in disbelief as the first plane released its two 500lb bombs. I watched the bombs as they arched toward the ground. I was thankful as the bombs landed a safe distance short of our column. I then turned my eyes to the second plane and watched its bombs land a safe distance beyond the intended target. Then I saw the third plane release its bombs. I did not like what I saw. It appeared that its bombs were on a trajectory that would be very close to target.
Unfortunately, I was right. My last sight of Lt. Tatlock and his driver was as they were attempting to climb the back slope of the roadway ditch. The bombs hit between them and the jeep. There was not much left of them for the grave registration team to pick up.
Next, I heard someone shout a warning. I looked to the left and saw the planes coming straight at us. Smoke was puffing from their wings as their wing-mounted machineguns were strafing us. I was directly in front of the lead plane. I hit the ground and held my breath as bullets kicked up dirt all around me.
The planes were circling for a third pass when the radio operator on one of our tanks contacted them and called them off.
If Lt. Tatlock had had less compassion for his men, he would not have been where he was when those bombs landed. Who can say that he and his driver would not have survived the war?
It was not easy to see our commanding officer killed, especially when he died making our lives a little easier.
The bombs destroyed all of our machine guns and much of the ammunition. We were issued replacements the next morning.
Being attacked by our own planes happened occasionally. I had been involved in such attacks before. But, in every case it was the fault of the troops on the ground. When being eyed by planes, friend or foe, it is necessary to remain calm and continue walking as though you have no fear. The logic is this: All soldiers are trained in the recog nition of aircraft. Even if the plane is so high that you cannot make out its markings, it is easily identifiable by its shape.
The converse is not true for the pilot looking down on the heads of men walking along a highway or moving across a field. Differences in uniforms are not distinguishable to him. The pilot relies heavily upon how the troops respond to his presence. The pilot has every right to assume that the people on the ground are able to identify him as friend or foe. A sure way to provoke an attack is for the ground troops to scatter and run for cover. This is true regardless of the planes' identity.
In every other incident of attack by our own aircraft that I experienced, it was triggered by ground troops running for cover. Most of the time everyone followed orders to hold position and would not run, but occasionally, a new replacement from the States would panic and run in spite of orders to the contrary. This in turn would cause others to break and run. Invariably this would bring the planes in on you.
However, the attack that killed Lt. Tatlock and his driver was totally inexcusable. Consider the following facts:
Moments after this photo was taken outside Cori, American P51s dropped several bombs on a column of Allied vehicles held up by bridge work. Some of these soldiers took cover under the KO'd self-propelled gun behind them. (photo by Howard Nickelson)
One of the bombs dropped on the column near Cori fell just off the lower edge of this road. The spot is the pass bet ween Cori and Valmontone. The stalled column was about a mile long with infantry passing to a foot bridge while engineers completed a bridge for the vehicles. (photo by Howard Nickelson)
It was obvious that neither of these pilots had enough basic intelligence to be trusted with an airplane.
Their stupidity and lack of training is further evidenced by the fact that they attacked at 90- degrees to the long axis of their target. Everyone (or, so I thought) knows that the most effective way to attack a target is in line with its longer axis. In attacking via the long axis the range is unimportant. All bombs and bullets will strike somewhere within the long axis limits. Alignment with the target is not a problem. It is visual.
Had the three planes attacked in line with the highway, the two bombs that fell short and the two bombs that overshot the highway would have landed somewhere on the target that was more than a mile in length. Also, all of their strafing bullets would have hit somewhere on the target area.
While shear stupidity was the cause of the attack, it was that same stupidity that kept it from being ten times the disaster that it was.
The attackers' squadron was identified from the markings on the planes. They were from a squadron that has received much acclaim for their exploits during the war. I have seen several television programs lauding their activities.
I could divulge their identity here but I will not. It would serve no useful purpose now and would only reflect badly on the entire squadron. I am sure that most of their pilots are deserving of the praises they have received. I would not want the actions of these three to bring down the reputations of the good pilots.
Soon after this attack, the Army and Army Air Corp (as the Air Force was then known) came to an agreement that yellow smoke would be a signal that the troops on the ground were allies. We were never without a few yellow smoke grenades. This signal worked quite well for us.
Negligent, Lost and Lucky
Dreams! Some people say they never dream. I dream almost every time I fall asleep. For many years after the war the majority of my dreams were spawned from my war experiences. In recent years I have pretty much gotten over the war related dreams and now my dreams run the gambit of whatever the subconscious can imagine. However, there is still a war related dream that comes back occasionally in different forms.
This dream is spawned by an experience I had on June 2, 1944, during my Battalion's drive on Cave, Italy, a small village about 10 miles north of Valmontone. The battalion's mission was to clear enemy from the area between Valmontone and Cave, and to protect the division's right rear from surprise attack.
My platoon was assigned in support of Company G, commanded by Capt. Hugh E. Wardlaw. At this time, I held the rank of Corporal and I was the liaison between the rifle company and my machinegun platoon. My primary responsibility was to move with the headquarters personnel of the company we were supporting and to be available to the commanding officer when our machineguns were needed. Normal procedure was for the CO to give me general directions as to the fields of fire for the guns. I was then to reconnoiter the area and choose specific gun positions. While I looked for gun positions, Pfc. Chester F. Borowski, my runner, would go back and guide the platoon to the forward positions.
In the late afternoon, as we were advancing toward Cave, we stopped for what turned out to be about ten minutes for some reason not shared with me. We were about to pass through a field of very tall brown grass. I recall that it stood some seven or eight feet high. It was obviously intended to become hay at harvest time, which would be soon.
About fifty yards to our left, the ground dropped away quite steeply and a crystal clear spring flowed freely from a pipe that had been driven into the bank. Seeing several soldiers filling their canteens at this spring, Chester and I decided to fill our canteens that were nearly empty.
As we waited our turn at the spring, three teenage girls came up to express their joy and appreciation for being liberated. Chester and I engaged them in conversation for awhile, and then filled our canteens. When we reached the higher ground where we had been, everyone was gone. Apparently the time we spent with the girls had been much longer than we realized. Following the trail of bent grass where Company G had traveled, we charged ahead as fast as we could. As we came out of the hay field we were confronted with a real dilemma.
We were at the fork of two valleys passing on opposite sides of a hill to our front, and not a soldier was in sight. The terrain was now a combination of large brush and trees giving us very limited visibility. Did Company G go to the left or to the right of the hill? Or, did it proceed straight ahead up the hill?
At this point I realized that I was in serious trouble. I had been negligent and derelict in my duties. I was not where I was supposed to be and was not able to carry out my military obligations. Since this was a combat situation, I could be tried as a deserter. The penalty for desertion in combat is execution by firing squad. I did not need to be reminded of past notices posted on our company bulletin board reporting the sentences of other 3rd Division soldiers which used the phrase, "to be executed at dawn by musketry". (They used the time honored word "musketry".)
Even if I managed to catch up before my services were needed, I could still be court-martialed for dereliction of duty, which I was clearly guilty of. A merciful sentence would be reduction to private and the court martial would be on my otherwise clean service record.
I had three choices: left of the hill, right of the hill or straight ahead up the hill. I chose to take the valley to the right. After about ten minutes, moving as fast as the brush and rocky terrain permitted and without seeing any sign of Company G, I decided to move to the hill to our left. Perhaps high ground would give me a better chance to spot the other troops. It would also give me a chance to get glimpses of both valleys.
There was a foot trail along the ridge line that I chose to follow. We had only traveled a short distance along this trail when we came upon two American soldiers who were lying in pools of blood. Their throats were cut so deeply that their heads were nearly off. There was no sign of their weapons near their bodies. This told me that they had been taken prisoner earlier. Occasionally, the enemy would execute prisoners that could slow them down when they were retreating. From this, I knew that the Germans were retreating in a hurry. The bodies were well below normal temperature, but not totally cold either. I guessed that they had been dead more than a half hour, but less than an hour.
Shortly after this, we met five Italian women moving toward us as fast as they could travel. One of the younger women was carrying a very old woman piggy back. As they went past us they were obviously frightened out of their wits. They were shouting and pointing excitedly in the direction we were heading. They were telling us that the Germans were near.
To continue in that direction was very risky. But risking ambush by the enemy was still better than the certainty of the firing squad if we turned back. So, we continued on, but more slowly and with much more caution.
Finally, as the sun was setting and twilight was upon us, we came to the end of the ridge. Before leaving the high ground I searched the hill to our right with my field glasses. I thought I had seen people moving about. Through the binoculars, I saw soldiers frantically digging foxholes. Refining the focus of the binoculars, I was able to determine that the helmets were American, not German.
Chester and I made the four or five hundred yards from one hill to the other in record time. I could not be more relieved when the soldiers turned out to be Company G, 30th Infantry. How lucky can you be?
I reported to Capt. Wardlaw immediately. He was noticeably irritated that I had not been available sooner. He had already decided on gun positions which he pointed out to me. Since gun positions were already selected, I was free to go back to guide the platoon forward, which I did. By this time it was totally dark. I found my platoon sergeant, Jim Pringle, first. He asked, "Where have you been?" I said, "I'll tell you the details later." Jim told me that Capt. Wardlaw had called our platoon leader, 1st Lt. Donald L. Haynes, on the radio to report that he could not find me with his headquarters personnel. Lt. Haynes told Jim that if I had dropped behind, he would file court martial proceedings against me immediately.
When I found Lt. Haynes he asked me, "Corporal, where have you been?" I deliberately avoided the question and said, "Sir, I have just come from Capt. Wardlaw and am prepared to take you to the gun positions he has selected." Lt. Haynes said,"Lead on Corporal" I moved out quickly before he could insist that I respond to his question.
Later that evening I gave my platoon sergeant, Jim Pringle, a full, detailed, report of my misadventure. Jim responded that, since I had arrived in time to meet my obligations, no harm had been done. He told me that unless Lt. Haynes specifically asked for a report, he would say nothing. Thanks to Jim, I escaped formal punishment, but did not escape a gnawing sense of guilt that I had been negligent to the possible detriment to fellow soldiers.
Since this was not something that I was proud of, I have intentionally left it out of my memoirs until now. Maybe this will help my subconscious to let it go.
A Lost Day
May 23 through June 5, 1944, was two weeks of constant fighting and pursuit of the enemy. This time period began with the breakout from the Anzio Beachhead and culminated in the capture of a portion of Rome. Opportunities for rest and/or sleep were very limited. These opportunities varied from only a few minutes to a few hours. Seldom did we get more than four or five hours of sleep at one time.
By evening of June 4th, we were just outside the city limits of Rome. At a late night briefing, we were informed that Germany had declared Rome an open city. They pledged to withdraw without fighting inside the city. However, we would have to clear a sector of the city that was assigned to our regiment. Our mission was to make sure that the enemy had indeed withdrawn. This required moving on foot through all the streets in our sector, from south to north.
We began our march through Rome early the next morning, June 5th. We were mobbed by wildly celebrating citizens the entire day.
We were so exhausted that we were literally walking in our sleep half of the time. Now that we felt reasonably safe, it was just natural to relax. Being relaxed, our adrenaline was pretty much turned off. Occasionally we would stop for some reason known only to those at the head of the column. Many of us would fall asleep every time we stopped and would have to be nudged awake when it was time to move again.
This continued the entire day until about 5PM. We had just cleared the north city limit and were approaching an Italian fort. We were told that we were to secure the fort and hold. Other units were going to move through us and continue the advance.
When we were maybe 200 yards from the fort, an enemy rear guard force opened fire on us. In an instant, adrenaline kicked in and everyone was suddenly alert and awake. However, the enemy pulled out with only a very brief firefight. I don't think either side took casualties in the exchanges. Apparently the Germans just wanted to make it official that the war was on again.
That incident demonstrated how quickly exhausted troops can be revitalized on adrenaline alone.
After making certain that there were no more enemy in the fort, or lurking nearby, we were ordered to set up defenses and settle in for the night. I lay down in a sheltered spot on a concrete slab just outside one of the entrances to the fort. This was around 6 PM on June 5, 1944. I fell asleep instan tly.
When I awoke, the sun was about 45 degrees above the horizon. I judged it to be about 10 AM. I smelled a very pleasant odor that went straight to my taste buds. I was as hungry as I have ever been. Investigating, I saw several Italian women gathered around an outdoor community oven that was about 100 yards away. They were removing large round loaves of bread from the oven on long wooden paddles. I decided right then that I was going to supplement my " ;C" ration with some of that hot, fresh bread. I grabbed a couple of chocolate bars from my pack and a few other items and headed to the bottom of the slope to where the oven was located. I was going to do some trading.
Proceeding down the slope, I passed a group of GI's gathered around one of our tanks. They were listening to the latest news on the tank's radio. Everyone was very excited. I asked what was going on. They said that the Allies had invaded France at a place called Normandy.
I asked for more details and was told that some of our troops were already several miles in from the landing site. I was puzzled by that information. The landings had taken place about daylight. Now it was about 10 AM, only four or five hours after daylight. How could they be several miles inland so soon?
I remarked that that was incredible progress in only four or five hours. One of the men responded that the landings had taken place the day before. I wondered aloud, why hadn't we heard something about the landings while we were moving through Rome yesterday?
One of the men responded that it was the day before yesterday that we had moved through Rome.
It took some effort, but the guys finally convinced me that it was June 7th. I had slept for about forty hours without stirring. I cannot say that I remember D-Day, June 6, 1944, but I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when the boys hit the beaches at Normandy.
I continued on to the oven and traded the chocolate and other items for a loaf of hot bread. The bread was a real treat that I shared with the men in my platoon.
The Failure at Anzio
The following is an excerpt from R.J. O'Rourke's book "Anzio Annie", as it appeared in the Aug. 1997 issue of Watch on the Rhine, the official newspaper of the Society of the Third Division.
Recommended reading on the subject of Anzio:
A Plan Not Needed
The other experiences in this book are about events that really happened. This one is about an event that never happened.
At the end of our first week on Anzio Beachhead it became obvious that we did not have the resources to break out. By the end of the second week it became uncertain that we could hold the beachhead.
With this uncertainty, Fifth Army Headquarters quickly devised an evacuation plan to salvage as much as possible. It was a plan that we troops in the front line were not told of. We first learned of it four months later, after we were in Rome and taking a very welcomed breather.
The plan was to be executed only in the event that the enemy should make a major breakthrough that seriously threatened the entire beachhead.
The plan called for placing a maximum concentration of artillery and naval gunfire along a line that stretched completely across the beachhead, and between the beach and the enemy. The plan would require every gun to place continuous fire on its designated zone until its entire supply of ammunition was expended. This gunfire was to be supplemented by continuous bombing and strafing by our air force along the same line. No guns would be available to support our frontline troops who would be trapped beyond this line with the advancing enemy.
The plan hoped to provide a protective curtain to buy time for evacuating the beachhead to the maximum extent possible.
As it turned out, there were a few very serious gains made by the enemy, but all were successfully driven back before any of them reached a state that would trigger this last-ditch order. Had the order been given to execute this desperate plan, we frontline troops would have been trapped without help or supplies. We would have met the same fate as the Darby Rangers.
Pfc. Myles F. Pratico
My brother, Frank, and I were inducted together and were sent to Ft. Jackson, S.C. for basic training. We were assigned to the 106th Infantry Division. I was in the 422nd Regiment. Frank was in the 424th Regiment. We were able to see each other often when off duty. From my visits to Frank's barracks, I got to know many of his friends. His closest friend was Myles Pratico.
Myles was of Italian ancestry and was from New York City. His hair was thick and very black.
Fast forward to Anzio Beachhead, February 1944.
One morning in late February my battalion, 2nd Bn., 30th Reg., was moving through a staging area where 1st Bn., 30th Reg., was relaxing. I noticed a 1st Bn. soldier that stood out from the others because of his snow-white hair. As I got closer I thought that I knew him, but could not quite identify him.
I also noticed that he was looking at me as though he recognized me. When we were about twenty feet apart the soldier said, "Hi Al". It was then that I recognized him. It was Myles Pratico.
I broke formation to stop and visit with him for a couple of minutes. We compared notes about things that had happened to us since Ft. Jackson. I wanted to ask him about his hair, but was hesitant for fear that he might be sensitive about it.
Finally, I got the courage and asked him what had happened to his hair. He said that he didn't know. He said that in a period of a few days after landing on the beachhead it had just changed from black to white.
I wondered if it might have been caused by some chemical changes brought on from the stress of combat. I guess I'll never know.
We said goodbye and I hurried to catch up with my unit. I never saw Myles again, so I do not know if the color ever returned.
In the History of the "Third Infantry Division in WWII", he is reported as being a prisoner of war. He must have been captured soon after our meeting. Since we were in the same regiment our paths would have crossed occasionally if he had stayed around for any significant time.
If he were captured in the early fighting, as I assume, he would have been in German PW camps for more than a year. If he fared no better than most of our PW's that we liberated in April and May of 1945, his situation was worse than being in combat, in my opinion. I do hope that he survived the ordeal.
After Anzio and the two week drive to Rome, we had a "Roman Holiday" that was much too brief. We entered Rome on June 5, 1944, and moved to a training site on the coast about twenty miles south of Rome on June 14, 1944. There we resumed intensive training and conditioning for another amphibious assault landing. The landing actually took place on August 15, 1944, near St. Tropez, Southern France.
It was during this period that the following incident o ccurred. One morning the company was assembled in preparation to move out to begin the day's training activities when the First Sergeant called my name and ordered me to report to Battalion Headquarters. He explained that my personnel file indicated that I was past due for a dental checkup.
Battalion Headquarters was bivouacked in an orange grove about five hundred yards from my company's area. I walked the five hundred yards and reported to Battalion Headquarters. I was told that the dentist awaited me between the next rows of orange trees.
Passing between two trees to the place indicated, I saw a 2nd Lieutenant and a Corporal. I also saw a cast iron dental chair, a foot powered dentist's drill and a table with assorted dental tools and medical supplies on it. The lieutenant appeared to be very young. I was twenty at the time and I am certain that he was no more than two or three years my senior.
I saluted the lieutenant, gave my name, and stated that I was reporting as ordered. The lieutenant returned the salute and invited me to take a seat in his nineteenth century dental chair. The chair was very high. It required a full leap assisted by push ups with both arms to get into it. If I had known what was about to take place over the next four hours, I would have declined the invitation and signed whatever papers would be required to relieve the US Army of any responsibility for my teeth from that day forward to eternity. It was straight up 8AM when I took my seat and it was 12:00 noon when I made my grateful descent.
The first five or ten minutes was spent with the lieutenant checking all my teeth one by one. He then announced those happy words, "no new cavities". I was delighted that I was not going to find out how well the foot powered drill worked. As I prepared to leap from the chair, the lieutenant added, "But, you have one tooth that is being crowded out by the teeth on either side of it." He went on to say that if allowed to continue, all three teeth would be adversely affected. But, if he removed the tooth that was being pushed outward by the other two, the others would then move together and close the gap. He strongly urged me to allow him to remove the tooth that was being pushed outward.
I had been brought up to trust doctors and follow their advice. So I agreed. The lieutenant picked up his tooth-pulling pliers from the table and began. The tooth to be removed was the third tooth right of center in my lower jaw.
My tormentor began pulling upward with all of his strength, almost lifting me from the chair. Then he began rocking the pliers with a twisting motion. Then it happened. With a sharp "crack" he broke off the top half of the tooth. I noticed the lieutenant turn a little pa le and the corporal, looking on, was not smiling. I said, "You broke the tooth didn't you, sir?" He replied, "Yes, but there is enough left so that I can still get a good grip on it." I said, "Get on with it then."
So, in round two there was no change in plan, he still lifted with all his might while applying the same rocking and twisting motion as before. "Crack!" Same result. The lieutenant turned two shades whiter and the corporal's jaw was almost touching his chest.
I stated the obvious, "Broke again." The lieutenant confirmed.
Then the lieutenant said, "I have a confession to make. I never finished dental school. I was drafted into the army while I was in my junior year." Then he added. "This is my first extraction." I responded that this was also my first extraction and that it appeared we were going to learn together.
He swabbed my gums thoroughly with alcohol and then, with a scalpel, opened my gum all the way to the base of the tooth, exposing the jawbone. Then, using the foot powered drill, with the corporal doing the work, the lieutenant began drilling a horizontal groove across the tooth. The drill was far from being the fastest spinning drill in the world. The lieutenant kept yelling at the corporal, "faster, faster". This was between late June and early August and it was a very hot, sunny day. We were all soaked in sweat. I was concerned that the corporal would collapse before the job was finished.
Finally, the lieutenant was satisfied with the groove and, with a chisel seated in the groove, he began pushing and lifting on the tooth with the chisel held firmly in both hands.
The chair was equipped with a concave headrest mounted on an adjustable steel rod. It was this headrest that prevented my head from being separated from the rest of me as my tormentor used all the strength he could muster. Occasionally, the chisel would slip out of the groove and the chisel would lunge deep inside my mouth, but always stopped just short of doing damage. After surviving four months on Anzio Beachhead, I could see me dying from a chisel to the brain by way of my mouth.
After ten or more minutes of this, my ingenious tormentor came up with another brilliant idea. He picked up a small, but heavy for its size, mallet and handed it to the corporal. He instructed the corporal to strike the end of the chisel with the mallet whenever he, the lieutenant, gave the command. So, for several more minutes it was, push, lift, "tap", push, lift, "oops", tap.
Finally, the portion of the tooth above the groove separated from the bottom portion. My two tormentors took a well deserved ten minute break. When the break was over, they returned to the same procedure, drill a groove and with a chisel, lift, push and "tap" until, finally the same result was achieved. This continued until the entire tooth lay on the lieutenant's table in a total of six pieces.
Then, after another break, the lieutenant obtained a needle and heavy black thread from his table. He threaded the needle, then looked me in the eye with a whipped puppy look, but didn't say anything. I spoke for him. I said, "I know, this is your first suture." He responded in the affirmative and promised to do the best that he could. I told him to proceed. Whatever the result, it would be better than I could do.
Finally, as stated earlier, I dismounted from the chair and headed back to my company area at 12:00 noon. All of the above took place without benefit of any type of pain relief.
The lieutenant had none to administer.