Chapter 57: Drunken Respite From War. Corte and Red Headed Girl. Impromptu Party. Another German Commando Raid
May 9, 1944 Alto, Corsica: Nothing much doing the past two days. The weather was bad over Northern Italy, with a low ceiling, which precluded operations. Last night there was a huge air raid at the next air field, with many flares lighting up the night sky.
We mounted two missions today blowing up several gasoline dumps and cutting the rail lines at several places. These low level missions can be hard on the airplanes, because seven of ours were damaged. In two months we will have been in combat overseas two years now. It is apparent that many of us are becoming despondent and moody. There is a tendency to throw caution to the wind, seek solace in hard liquor, and wild, sometimes dangerous activities.
Several examples of this follow: May 8th evening, at the enlisted men’s day room, practically everybody got drunk including me. Sgt. Beck, ONeil, Studebaker and several others passed out! Several days before that, G.E.Smith, Coyle, Lancaster and Geuin got drunk in some town in the mountains, broke up a bar, and wrecked a Jeep. They had to be bailed out of a local jail and will all receive company punishment of some kind. Sgt. Beck, Skrobarezyk, and Stewart have been drunk for three days straight now!
May 10, 1944: This morning, Gene Schnabel and I started a 3 day pass to Corte (in the mountains). The trip was a lovely one, passing through a colorful mountain range. Two hours later we arrived at Corte, which we found to be a small but neat town, nestled in the hills. We located ourselves at the Hotel du Nord and reserved the entire second floor. We ate at the transient military mess hall. Situated as we were at this hotel, we had to be on our good behavior because directly across the street from us was the M.P. Headquarters! (Military Police). After chasing skirts for a while, we tired of that and returned to our room where we got plastered and went to bed.
May 11, 1944 We spent a restless night trying to sleep because the beds were too soft! You see, we were used to sleeping on canvas cots. After breakfast we walked round town seeing the sights. I had to translate everything for Gene because like a lot of Americans, he refused to learn a foreign language.
I met an interesting red-headed girl and we made a passagiata (walked around together). She spoke French and Italian, was attending college and had studied two years of English. Although French was the national language, everybody spoke Italian because they were basically Italians. So there was no reason for me to study French because I could converse with everybody in Italian!
The morning of the next day I spent buying souvenirs, and picture post cards of Corsica. In the afternoon I went downstairs and stood on the corner just rubbernecking. I frequently do this, watching the passers-by and trying to imagine who and what they are.
While so engrossed, a young man came out of the house behind me, and we chatted for an hour, just exchanging pictures of our families, and speaking of our backgrounds. He then entered his house and returned with a bottle of good red wine and two glasses. We drank his wine and in this short time, we became friends. After a while, a neighbor of his came out and brought us some Italian pastry which we all ate while swilling the wine.
An hour later, another neighbor came out and invited us to his house, so we could have a party. Other neighbors came in, each bringing some French-Italian delicacy (sausages, ham, bread, Potato salad, etc). Young ladies arrived, someone came in with an accordion and we danced to his music.
The outcome of this was that the following morning Gene and I stumbled out of there around 5.30 AM, stuffed to the gills, and half stewed, and headed back to our hotel room. Had I not been able to speak Italian so well, these people would not have taken us into their home and treated us like friends and neighbors. I not only learned the language, but the idiom, which is the way people use the language. I knew their songs, jokes, sayings, and their likes and dislikes. This then was the pay back for the many hours I spent studying the Italian language, the people, and their way of life.
The above event was typical of the treatment I received from the Italians in Italy, and the Italian Corsicans, with whom I felt completely at home. The French Corsicans however were a different breed. They were fiercely independent and arrogant. There were frequent clashes between the French and the Italians and the police had their hands full keeping them apart.
Even though Gene and I were away on pass, the war ground on for our squadron. May 11th for instance we mounted two missions. On the first one we blew up and ammunition dump and set several trains on fire. On the second mission we attacked barges that were being loaded. The Germans made a Commando raid this morning on B-25 Medium bomber airfield close by. Fortunately the French intercepted it before it could establish a foothold there.
So ends part 57 of my Wartime memoirs