Chapter 25: Bad Feeding. Poverty in Italy. Using our Stolen Tent. Malaria
Sept 15, 1943 Scordia, Sicily:
I went to the beach for a dip in the Mediterranean this morning. After lunch, Capt. Mallet told us we are leaving for the marshalling yards at Messina. So once more we packed our meager belongings, rolled up the tent , loaded everything on the truck, and off we went.
We arrived there around 4 PM , hung around for a few hours, then wound up sleeping on the street adjoining the dock. We had "C" Rations both for lunch and dinner. To give you an idea just how lazy our cooks are, we investigated and discovered the following about how others in the rest of the 57th group fared for dinner.
a) Headquarters squadron had fried Chicken.
b) 64th squadron had hard boiled eggs and frankfurters.
I am here quoting what I had written in "My Diary" about our cooks on that particular occasion,. "Our cooks are so lazy that they wouldn't breathe except for the fact that they would die if they didn't."!
Sept 16, 1943: We hung around until 10 AM, and then boarded a "Liberty" ship for the 45 minute trip to Reggio across the straits of Messina. Before long we found ourselves driving through the province of Calabria on the heels of the fast-moving British 8th Army. I don't remember exactly what we had expected to find here, but what we saw was disappointing.
Reggio Calabria region
It was just as bad as Sicily. We passed through a lot of small towns while proceeding up the East Coast. We found dirty towns and streets lined poorly clad and ill-nourished natives, many jabbering "biscotto" (biscuit in English). We finally pulled off the road at 6.30 PM .for the night. I believe we still have another 50 kilos to go tomorrow. Our designated airfield is being captured right now by the British Army we are told, so it is going to be a "close thing"!
Sept 17, 1943: We decamped at 6.30 AM, drove for 30 miles , and then came to a place where a bridge had been blown out. We had to make a diversion over a huge mountain. On top of the mountain was a small village with such narrow streets that it took us a half an hour to wind our way out of town. We consumed 7 hours to get over that mountain ! After that we drove for another 20 miles and finally came to our newly captured airdrome.
The ack-ack boys say we are now around 180 miles from the "Bomb Line" (the front), so we can expect to be moving up closer to the front insteaxd of staying here.
The 7th Armored Division has re-enforced the American 5th Army and stopped the German advance, pushing them back 12 miles, meanwhile the British Engineers are still busy making this airfield serviceable. It is called "Rocco Bernardo".
Sept 18, 1943: We put up our "stolen" American pyramid tent this morning. It sure beats sleeping out in the open. First Sgt. Pettis and I went out looking for three Italian civilians that would dig holes for us in exchange for food. I acted as interpreter, and believe it or not we couldn't find anyone who would work for food. I wrote in my diary that "these people aren't hungry-I don't care what anyone says!" Our airplanes arrived at 12 noon, so we are now back in operation again !
We had a Big "canteen" this afternoon, ( 14 packs of cigarettes per man, tobacco, candy, and a cigar ! We had "mail call" also, and I got two packages (8 Spanish books and various letters from people with whom I have been corresponding in Spanish).
Sept 19,1943: My plane flew this morning, and bombed and strafed 88 mm gun pits. We have had several "crack-ups" so far on this airfield, due to it's poor condition. (It was repaired hastily by the British Engineers, so we cannot fault them for that). In one "fiasco" two pilots took up planes to test their airworthiness, one from each end of the airstrip.
They bounced off each other, and one was able to "limp" up in the air. In addition, my friend Steve Zuzze (from Brooklyn), was run over by a G.I. Truck and is "recuperating" in "quarters" (his tent). The "flip" side of getting mail in "mail call" is that now I have to answer 8 letters.
Talking about "recuperating ", Sgt. Al Schoenfield, a friend of mine with whom I was "lost on guard" at the "Mareth Line" in Tuinisia has had a recurrence of Malaria since sept 13th and was left behind at the 4th Field Hospital, Palagonia, Sicily. He finally recovered sufficiently to be released on Sept 27th to be returned to us. However, due to lack of transportation, as of Sept 30th he still had not returned !
Sept 20, 193 At 8.30 AM : my plane flew a 3 hour mission and returned safely. However after the next mission my plane did not return. One of the pilots said that the pilot had called in, said he was low on gas and would hang back a little (Lt. Schuren was flying my plane, No. 73)
I now have dysentery again (for the 7th time). There is a rumor that we'll move tomorrow. Who knows ?
So ends chapter 25 of my wartime memoirs.