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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 94: Flight To Naples. Boat to Capri. Beautiful Hotel. Gold Stripes! Neapolitan Dialect!

Grosetto, Italy, Dec 4,1944 I awoke at 7:AM, rolled up by bed-roll, folded my cot, packed my bags and after breakfast I went to the flying line with 'A' Flight. The B-25 belonging to the 64th squadron took off at 10:30 AM with me on board headed for Naples, for a visit to the Isle of Capri. After an uneventful one-hour trip we arrived at Capo Di Cino Airport in Naples.

I ate lunch at the airdrome, and went to the 12th Air Force Rest Camp where I met Lew Todd. He fixed me up with ration cards, and then threw in a bunch extra! I then went to the pier and was just in time to catch the ferry to Capri. We arrived at 4:00 PM I established myself in a nice hotel room.

I made contact with the Sgt. who is in charge of this hotel and he is going to provide me with anything I want. The hotel hangs on the side of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, making for a beautiful view outside my window. Although it is December, it is quite warm here and one sees Red Cross Girls flitting around like flies. This is a nice set up here, because the enlisted men are in one town and the officers in another.

We eat at the hotel, and there is a bar, with a ping-pong table. A sweet blonde Red Cross Georgia Gal is taking care of the house. I hear there is to be a dance tomorrow night at 12:00 Noon. I found myself a bit tired by the events of the day, so I hit the hay early.

Capri, Dec 5, 1944 I got up at 8:00 AM and had a good breakfast of ham, eggs, cereal and coffee. I then learned something interesting about the drinking water on the island. It all comes from Naples, which surprised me to learn. I wandered around this morning not doing much, just shopping. I bought insignias of our air force and Sgt’s stripes, which were made with silver and gold braid. After lunch I received a ration which was quite small. I drew candy, cigarettes and cigars from the canteen.

I played ping pong for 4 hours in the afternoon and chatted with the Sgt. in charge of the hotel, for lack of anything else to do. I went to the dance, and found only a half dozen women there, so I left and spent a few hours walking around town gossiping with the townspeople in Italian. I was talking Italian but they were talking in the Neapolitan dialect, which created problems for me. I had to keep asking them to explain something a different way, hoping that they would then use idioms that I understood.

Although the entire Abruzzia area of southern Italy speaks the Bruzzeze dialect, the Neapolitans have their own version of that dialect. It is made difficult because it varies from the southern language in that it has a separate street language, in which different words are used. In addition to this, the southern dialect has a bad habit of only pronouncing the front half of a word leaving you to imagine what he rest means.

This was brought home to me after the war, when I purchased a home in Brooklyn. Across the street from me in an apartment house, lived an old Italian couple. The husband often stood alongside his frail crippled wife who was seated in a wheel chair, while he and I conversed in Roman-type Italian. From time to time she would say something to him, which I didn’t understand. Finally I asked him what language she was talking and he said 'in the Neapolitan dialect'. When I asked him why, he said that some years ago she had suffered a stroke, which left her only with the memory of when she was a girl of 11 in Naples! So, that the language of her childhood is the only language she uses. Italy you see is a long country geographically, and at various levels the local dialect changes as one travels the length of it.

Capri, Dec 6, 1944. This morning I had the silver and gold braid insignias sewn on my shirts with snaps, so they can be easily removed when I send them to the laundry. I took a walk through town and bought a few souvenirs, and found that my money was rapidly disappearing!

I fell in with two fellows from St. Louis and Louisiana and spent some time with them. I played ping pong fors several hours, then one of my friends Jack took me up the Anacapri hill for a black-market supper of thick rib steaks and French fried potatoes. We then went to the Valentine Club for the first time. It has a beautiful lay-out. I played ping pong there. I drank gin with Chris the Sgt. who manages this hotel for a few hours, and then staggered off to bed.

So ends chapter 94 of my wartime memoirs.

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