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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 33: Angelo at San Marco. Hair Raising Drive Down a Mountain. Last of the Gobblers

Nov 4,1943 (Amendola,Italy). Things were quiet today so I rested in my tent. At 5 PM, my friends Ceferino Vigil, 'Indian' White, and Stripling and I left in White’s Italian fiat car to visit San Marco, at the top of Foggia Mountain.

San Marco In Lamis

The complete name of that town is San Marco in Lamis, and it is actually above the clouds, so high is the mountain of Foggia. It is an old quaint town, and being so high it is naturally cold up there. The men walk around wearing 'mantas' (capes). We found a nice restaurant there, owned by a man named Angelo, who had owned a restaurant in America for 20 years before the war, and made a bundle of money. Then he made the mistake of returning, figuring that his American money would go a long way in Italy; however the war happened along then. So, he opened another restaurant and went back to work.

Naturally, Angelo liked us and spent a lot of time with us when we visited his place. We had chicken, omelets, spaghetti and lots of wine. We all became somewhat inebriated (as soldiers often do) and we headed home at 12 PM. As we proceeded down the mountain we had to navigate through many hairpin turns, where we had to slow down at each turn. Before long we developed a short in the electrical system and we lost our lights. We had to drive down most of that mountain without lights, and I can tell you it was a hair-raising experience.

Just before reaching camp, we spotted a motorcycle lying alongside the road. We tied it on top of the car and took it back with us. The next day, upon examining it, we found that it needed a lot of repairs to become serviceable.

Nov 5th 1943. Sgt. Moulton (the chief of “A” Flight) didn’t need me, so I worked on the motorcycle all day, with Bill Tillson, and we got it running fine. We even gave it a paint job, for recognition purposes, when we found out that it belonged to the medical Captain of the 64th Squadron in our Group.

At 6.00 PM, Moulton, White, Greg and I went back to San Marco, carrying a hide from the last bull we had killed. We gave the hide to Angelo, and he was so tickled to get it, he provided us with free food and drink all night. He has it tanned and then sells it. We all got potted again, and got back around 2.30 AM after a rip-roaring time on the way down the mountain in the dark. Angelo told us that we were lucky there was no snow yet this year, because they sometimes get 9 feet of snow in winter.

Nov 6th 1943 . I slept all morning, got up at 10.30 AM, and found that White, and Greg are sick as dogs (no doubt due to having over-indulged somewhat the previous evening). After lunch I killed the last gobbler (turkey), and par boiled him. Tonight I expect to broil him and also make some soup.

Stripling is on guard duty this week, and we can look forward to a supply of milk, coffee, sugar and tea. Strangely enough I find that I miss the tea which was our only beverage while with the RAF.

Tillson says I can use the motorcycle when next I go on pass.

Nov 7th,1943: I slept all morning, then cooked up that soup before lunch. When I ate it I found that it was hot as hell, and I immediately knew why! Sgt. Spracks who resides in my tent along with another Texan, has a bad habit of dumping a handful of black pepper into every pot of soup I make, when my back is turned. It seems that Texans like their food almost as spicy as Mexicans do.

We got a Canteen issue of 2 packs of cigarettes and a little candy today. Tonight White, Stripling and a few others went back up to Angelo’s in San Marco. Stripling was still under the weather from last night, and he didn’t go with them. He was so sick that he was excused from guard duty. I am going to try to get a 5 day pass to go to Naples. We hear that it is still being bombed and strafed however.

Nov 8th Little happening this morning, so I studied Italian verbs for several hours, and did sewing repairs to my leather jacket. We now have an electric light, but every time Capt. Mallet (Our Adjutant) plugs- in his 1400 watt electric heater, the light dims.

It rained very hard this afternoon, and it keeps getting colder and colder. After spending a year in North Africa and 3 months in Sicily, enduring very hot weather, our systems are not prepared to cope with cold nasty weather!

We moved the position of our tent this morning, from North to West, because the wind was whistling through the tent. Before lunch, Ceferino Vigil and I took his Fiat automobile and went for a ride. We visited San Angelo, San Marco, San Severo, San Giovanni, and Foggia. We bought picture post cards in all those towns, and we hung around with a couple of Italian ladies in San Severo for a while. We visited Angelo in San Marco and he provided some fried chicken (on the house). We drove Angelo’s brother in law to Foggia. He was a monk, and a decent sort of guy. He gave us pictures of Mt. Vesuvius.

I find to my delight that I have become quite fluent in Italian, due to my incessant studying and practicing Italian whenever I can.

So ends Part 33 of My Wartime Memoirs

P.S. July 22,2004: I saw a news item on the television that a large modern Church has just been built in San Marco. I cannot understand why this was done, given the inaccessibility of this town and its smallness.

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