Chapter 79: Back to Rome. Romancing. Singing the Night Away! Shot At By Comrades! Death of Bud the Rooster
Sept 26,1944 Ombrone Airfield, Grosetto, Italy
Gene Schnabel woke me this morning at 6.00 AM, and I awoke the other men that are going on pass to Rome. After breakfast Baker drove us to group headquarters where we caught our truck to Rome at 8.00 AM. We arrived at 12.00 noon after a 4 hour one hundred mile uneventful trip.
I then took Gene to the Fei boardinghouse where I had stayed the last time I was in Rome. We took two rooms to the delight of Mrs Fei who was genuinely glad to see me. She came up with a couple of nice young ladies for us which occupied the rest of the afternoon. We went out for dinner at 7.30 PM and gorged ourselves on a meal consisting of vegetable soup, roast beef, spinach, a tomato and onion salad, fried potatoes, a half dozen fried eggs each, and washed it down with a liter of white wine.
After that we took a leisurely walk around Rome seeing the sights. Since Rome was an 'Open City', it had not been bombarded by either the Germans or the Allies. As a consequence we saw no destroyed homes or buildings as we had always seen in other towns we visited. The town is full of all kinds of soldiers, such as Polish, American, English, South African, Swazi (From Swaziland), and French. The American Officers have a large hotel here. We finally grew tired around 11.00 PM and returned to our rooms, going right to our comfortable beds.
Sept 27, 1944 Rome, Italy.(on pass) We got up at 8.00 AM and went downtown to a restaurant I had previously used, for a breakfast of eggs, bread, potatoes and tea. The owners of the restaurant treat me pretty good so I always eat there when in Rome. The hotel owner, Mrs Fei introduced us to some more ladies and this consumed the morning. In the afternoon Mrs Fei’s daughter and a girl friend accompanied us all afternoon, seeing the sights. We took them to dinner and then returned them home. All in all, we considered the day to be well spent. While we had not done anything spectacular, it was still quite a change from our usual daily routine, and then quite enjoyable.
Sept 28, 1944. Rome, Italy (On pass); we got up at 6.00 AM and went shopping for souvenirs, we spent the morning romancing some ladies that Mrs Fei knew and then reluctantly shouldered the boxes of pies and headed home. We went to the Red Cross building, met our truck, and started the trip back to camp.
We arrived there at 5.00 PM just in time for dinner, and then I sent out some dirty laundry, straightened out my bed and clothes. I had a bunch of things to send home to the folks, but I will do that tomorrow. My dear friend Ceferino Vigil came in with a bottle of rum, and we proceeded to become potted while singing many Spanish and Italian Songs.
Ceferino has learned Italian well, being of Mexican-American heritage. We constantly converse in Spanish and for three years he has helped me with my Spanish. We became aware that we were too raucous while singing late in the evening, when some of our neighbors started firing their carbines over the top of our tent because we kept them awake.
During dinner we were told that Cassidy and The Lip were out on a vegetable run, but instead went to Rome, got roaring drunk and picked up a couple of girls in their jeep. They subsequently had a bad accident in which one girl broke a leg and both men suffered internal injuries. We do not know what kind of punishment is in store for them when they recover, but it has to be quite severe.
Sept 29, 1944: Grosetto, Italy. Got up at 6 AM and after breakfast we built a stove because winter is here now, with cold and drizzling weather. With no operations this morning, I hung around the tent and mailed my gifts from Rome to the folks back home.
I was told that lunch was meat and vegetable hash, rice and chocolate cake, so instead I cooked up a can of meat and beans and made coffee. This, together with the bread and peanut butter I got from the kitchen, made a pleasant meal. Afterward I wrote a letter to Mom, one to Murray, and then studied some Spanish and slept for an hour.
It was still raining dismally, foggy and damp, not very nice weather. While I was in the kitchen earlier I saw Cassidy and he was bandaged up, but he didn’t look too badly injured.
While I was in Rome some of the other men got in trouble back at Camp. Woody killed Uncle Bud the 65th squadron’s mascot (a rooster). I don’t know the details of the rooster’s demise, except that they had him for three years and were attached to him. They went after Woody to lynch him but fortunately he was able to get away in a jeep.
Pat Malone stole a jeep from the PBS (government agency) this morning and has already
re-painted it and put our squadron’s markings on it. Sonnen swiped a motorcycle and repainted it. After two years overseas, it appears that the morale of our men is at an all time low. They simply do what comes into their mind, unmindful of the consequences. I suppose this is an expected syndrome, given our circumstances.
So ends part 79 of my wartime memoirs.
Addendum 12/9/04 When Dave Hutton received a copy of this memoir he sent me the following E mail. Dave publishes 'Calling Jackpot', the 66th Squadron’s Newsletter.
Sent : Thursday, December 9, 2004 4:03 PM
Subject : Re: Part 79
Uncle Bud, the mascot of the 65th Fighter Squadron, was a rooster brought with them from the U.S. to Africa. Hence their designation and insignia, 'The Fighting Cocks'. After his death they found another rooster who lasted through the war. The 65th squadron members were very upset but cooled down when it was determined it was unintentional.