Chapter 47: Enroute Corsica. Travelling Through Corsica. Moroccan Ack Ack Crew. Speaking In Languages. We Get a Stove!
March 26, 1944 Enroute to Corsica aboard an LST (Landing ship tank). I awoke at 6 AM after a night of being rolled and pitched, without having had much sleep. Our cooks prepared cereal, spam, crackers and coffee for breakfast, and I ate heartily, while half of our men were getting seasick. I spent the morning playing cards for lack of anything else to do. There was little to see on the ocean around us, other than the other vessels in our convoy. Even the sight of the other ships pitching and tossing in the heavy swells did little to ease our boredom.
Lunchtime, the cooks passed out 'C' (emergency) rations. One can with stew and another with 5 biscuits, a packet of concentrated lemon powder, and some granulated sugar packets. At l.00 PM we sighted the island of Sardinia, and at 2.00 PM we docked at Ejaccia, Corsica. (Corsica was a French Possession). We disembarked at 4.00 PM, drove through town, and spent the night at an Air Force quartermaster camp. They fed us dinner and afterwards I set up my cot and bedroll, and went to sleep because I was dog-tired.
March 27, 1944: We hit the road at 8.00AM, having 170 miles to go to get to our airfield. It is called Alto (it means high in Italian). The countryside is quite mountainous, with lots of badlands. We passed through a lot of small towns and were surprised to note that the inhabitants did not wave at us. In Sicily and Italy, the people were happy to see us and they showed it. We had heard that Corsicans were antagonistic towards Allied soldiers, having liked the Germans.
This colour film was made in Corsica about the 57th. It is introduced by the actor Jimmie Stewart.
Corsica you see was a French possession, and France had entered into an entente (understanding) with Germany after France fell. The new French government was called Vichy because that is where the seat of the French government was located. There were plenty of French soldiers everywhere in American uniforms, which were in the Free French Army and were fighting with the Allies. At 5.00 PM we peeled off the road and set up for the night.
March 28, 1944 we hit the road again at 7.00 AM, traveling over mountains all morning on narrow roads with hair-pin turns and sharp curves. After a short break for lunch with 'C' rations again, we started out again, passing innumerable small towns, with quiet, unemotional residents. The countryside soon became more level and even, and in late afternoon we reached our new airdrome, Alto. We stopped outside the airfield, waiting for disbursal instructions, and while there I met 4 Spaniards in a French-Moroccan ack-ack crew and spoke with them for a while in Spanish.
Later, we pulled out again and entered the airdrome where we set up our camp on the designated side of the runway. I met some Italian soldiers that had helped to build the airfield, and they were happy to meet an American who could speak Italian. I set up my cot, then helped the cooks prepare dinner and went to bed early.
As I was trying to drop off I thought over the events of the day, and I couldn’t help thinking that the only pleasurable moments were those when I was speaking Spanish and Italian with the soldiers I met. My American friends think I am some kind of oddball because of the way I can converse in Spanish and Italian, and be accepted by them as an equal, given that I was raised in a Polish/Austrian home.
When I tell them that I speak dialectal German also (I forgot the Polish) they just shake their heads sadly, probably thinking that I am some kind of nut! But what they do not understand is why I go to the trouble and hard work of learning these languages. When I am with Spanish or Italian, or German speaking people, I am not considered an outsider. I am accepted by them because I want to be a part of their life and they appreciate this and show their appreciation in whatever manner they can. You see, learning the language is only the entry into their lives. I also learn their jokes, dialects, songs, history, and culture. I am therefore the recipient of their good will and I feel so much at home with them that I do not even feel homesick for America. Why? Because wherever I am, I AM HOME!
March 29, 1944: Alto, Corsica. This morning I went to the French-Moroccan Ack-ack crew that I met yesterday and chatted with the Spaniards, spending a couple of enjoyable hours there.
We connected up the electric lights to our tent and made a stove from a 5 gallon can of engine oil. However, we needed a stove pipe, and I went to my Spanish friends who supplied me with one!
The airplanes arrived at 2.00 PM, and mine (#73) which was flown in by Lt. Williams was OK. The other party had pulled a 50 hour inspection on our planes and did everything except change the spark plugs. We had our Lira changed to Francs at 3.00 PM, and after supper I made the rounds of all the café’s with my Spanish friends. My Spanish is really improving rapidly, given the opportunity to chat with these new friends of mine. They got me a bottle of Wine and a canteen of cognac and it didn’t take long for me to get tipsy.