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'Shorts and Overs' • Brief Notes

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Faid Pass, North Africa, February 1943

... Maj. Robert Moore [2nd Bn, 168th Inf Regt, 34th Inf Div] tells of the replacements he received the night before the Germans struck at Faid Pass [on 14 Feb 1943]. ... It appears a sizable group of untrained men had been sent overseas, destination the British Isles, when upon arrival they would be given basic training. ... However, these poor souls somehow ended up in Africa. The replacements, says Moore, brought with them a wide assortment of equipment. He recalls one hapless recruit walked up to him and said, "Mr., I want to talk to you, what in the hell is this?" Moore replied, "It is a Browning automatic rifle, usually called a B.A.R." Moore asked him if he'd ever fired one. The man, a Pvt. Lassiter, as Moore remembers, replied, "Hell, no. I've never seen one before." He was then asked, "Why are you carrying it?" Lassiter replied, "They asked for volunteers back at the replacement depot for a bar man, hell I ran a bar back in New Jersey and figured it would be a good deal."

Source: Ankrum, Homer R. "Dogfaces Who Smiled Through Tears." p.180.

110102


Military Justice, December 1941

HEADQUARTERS 34TH INFANTRY DIVISION Camp Claiborne, Louisiana 12 December, 1941 DAILY BULLETIN NUMBER 197 ... MILITARY JUSTICE A state of war now existing, the attention of every soldier should be immediately directed to the fact that under the provisions of Federal Law (R.S. 1996 and 1993; sec. 1, act of Aug. 22, 1912 (37 stat. 356) 8 U.S.C. 11; 34 U.S.C. 1200), all persons who desert the service are deemed to have voluntarily relinquished and forfeited their rights of citizen- ship, as well as their right to become citizens; and such deserters are forever incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under the United States, or of exercising any rights of citizens thereof. ... By command of Major General HARTLE: NORMAN E. HENDRICKSON, Colonel, GSC, Chief of Staff. ...
Source: as identified above, found in the State Historical Society of Iowa Archives.
101010


The Princess Mary's Hospital, Akrotiri, Cyprus

... is an establishment of Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service. This item was uncovered in the course of legitimate historical research; it simply could not have been invented.
      "Not content with helping human patients Consultant Anaesthetist Squadron Leader Phil Roberts was driving to TPMH one morning with a colleague when he accidentally ran over a snake. He thought the snake was injured and got out of the car to administer first aid! Before he was unable to commence mouth-to-mouth resuscitation the snake revived and wriggled to the car and entered through the drivers' car door. The two doctors were unable to locate the snake and so had to drive to work very gingerly, where a group of first aiders were able to persuade the snake to return to the wild."

Source: The Princess Mary's Hospital, Royal Air Force, Akrotiri Cyprus
http://www.pmrafns.org/TPMH.HTM

080128


Patton Met His Match

MG Albert C. Smith, commanding 14th Armored Division, was justifiably proud of his men, and did not hesitate to defend them against unfair criticism. As the end of the war in Europe drew near, GEN George S. Patton appeared one day at the division's bridgehead over the Isar River. Seeing a medium tank carrying sandbags as extra protection, he approached the tank and began berating its crew, shouting, "Get those sandbags off that tank you yellow bastards!" The tank commander, a battled-hardened sergeant, shot back, "General, we weren't yellow bastards when we liberated your son-in-law from Hammelburg." True to form, Patton flew into a rage. He turned to Smith, and told him to court-martial those "yellow bastards." Now it was Smith's turn. He informed Patton, using a few expletives of his own, that his men were not yellow bastards. They were "good combat soldiers," and he would not put them on report for telling the truth to Patton, much less court-martial them. Fuming, Patton let the matter drop.

Source: Lankford, James R. "Soldier: MG Albert C. Smith." On Point 13 no. 3 (Fall 2007): 21-23.

071219


28 Maori Battalion, 2nd New Zealand Division, 1945 May

At the end of WW II one of the Allied units facing Marshal Tito's forces along the Morgan Line in Venezia-Giulia was the 28th Maori Battalion, 2nd New Zealand Division.

"The tension between the Allied and Yugoslav forces was relaxed in the second week of May, when friendly overtures were made by both sides. ... At [Jamiano], in the hills east of Monfalcone, the Maori Battalion was on friendly terms with the partisans and peasants, who were delighted to discover that some of its men were of Maori-Dalmatian descent, and that the Maoris shared their love of singing."

"Except for the Maoris who could overcome the language barrier, however, the New Zealanders did not get to know the Yugoslavs well."

Source: The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 19391945: II.12.II Confrontation with the Yugoslavs, p. II.559.
[ http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-2Ita-c12-2.html ]

071205


The 'Mille Miglia' at Futa Pass

"... When the Mille Miglia began [in 1927], this road [Highway 65, with the race's most dangerous stretch, the Futa Pass] was the only way to drive from Florence to Bologna. These days, most cars take the autostrada, but all along the two-lane blacktop overlooking the valley 2,000 feet below, families have come out to picnic and watch the nostalgic parade. Around one especially crowded 180-degree turn, I remember the words of Stirling Moss. 'If you saw an enormous crowd, you knew it was a really bad corner,' Moss recalled in 1995. 'If they were encouraging you to go faster, you knew it was even worse.' Climbing the pass, the road snakes like a blue highway in the Rockies. In the little town of Loiano, it cuts between a concrete wall and a row of bars filled with spectators. Back when he way a boy, spectator Vittorio Alberini tells me, the cars hit 100 mph through Loiano, zipping beneath spectators perched in trees. ..."

Source: Smithsonian Magazine, May 2002, V. 33, n. 2, p. 94. "A Rally to Remember" [Italy's annual Mille Miglia raod rally].

050921


Kaddish

From a plaque on a wall in the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo in Venezia, Italy:

Men, Women, Children, Masses for the Gas Chambers
Advancing toward horror beneath the whip of the Executioner
Your sad Holocaust is engraved in History
And nothing shall purge your deaths from our Memories
For our Memories are your only Grave.

Below these words were the notation,

"The City of Venice remembers the Venetian Jews who were deported to the Nazi concentration camps
on December 5th 1943 and August 17th 1944.
   - Il Sindaco [Mayor] Mario Rigo
    c. 1979
050506


Dogfeet Ask What Nation Is This Now?

TARVISIO - Members of the 351st Infantry, which moved [in 1945] to the Italo-Austro-Yugo triangle, are wondering just what country they are actually in.

Walking down the main drag, the dogfeet may hear some old people from four miles away in Austria speaking German. A short distance further along, they find a group of laborers from Yugoslavia, six miles away over the mountains, speaking their own [Slovene] language.

At the same time, the pail-holders around the chow line are speaking Italian, usually vociferously. At length, the boys meet some girls at a dance, nearly all of whom speak English.

There is no language guide for this area.

Source: The Blue Devil, The Red Bulletin [combined edition]. Vol. 1, No. 16. 5 October 1945. p. 1.

040705


Camouflage

" ... Another enemy decoy, built in occupied Holland, led to a tale that has been told and retold ever since by veteran Allied pilots. The German "airfield," constructed with meticulous care, was made almost entirely of wood.

There were wooden hangars, oil tanks, gun emplacements, trucks, and aircraft.

The Germans took so long in building their wooden decoy that allied photo experts had more than enough time to observe and report it.

The day finally came when the decoy was finished, down to the last wooden plank. And early the following morning, a lone RAF plane crossed the Channel, came in low, circled the field once, and dropped a large ............... wooden bomb.

Source: Attributed to the book "Masquerade: The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of World War II," by Seymour Reit; Signet, 1980.

040704


II Polish Corps

The II Polish Corps had its origin among the Polish POWs in the Russian prison camps. After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, Premier Stalin agreed to form fighting units from these prisoners. About 40,000 Polish military personnel and their families were allowed to transfer to the British-controlled sector of Iran. The Poles then spent a year training in Iran and Palestine. At the time they went into battle, the Corps was 50,000 strong, consisting of:

• 5th Kresowa Infantry Division
• 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division
• 2nd Warsaw Armoured Brigade, and
• support and service units.

Each division had two brigades, each Brigade had three battalions.

This Corps earned Battle Honors for:

• Monte Cassino, May 1944
• Adriatic Coast, May-August 1944
• Gothic Line, September 1944
• Ravenna, December 1944

General Wladeslav Anders, who commanded the Polish troops in exile, made it known that when he died his mortal remains were to be returned to Cassino and there interred with his men.

040330


Christmas, 1944

Colonel Wallace M. Hale, Division Chaplain, 88th Infantry Division, writes in his Christmas letter this year about the "Blue Devil" Division on the Winter Line in the sector east of Highway 65.

"I will always recall that Christmas of 1944 in the midst of hand-to-hand conflict. The weather that year was atrocious and only young men could operate in the sleet, bitter cold, and 3 to 4 feet of snow. The Germans were trying to hold up our advance, and they made any gain expensive."

"I asked my Division Headquarters to print over 5,000 Christmas Bulletins. We asked for six volunteer choir members, loaded our public address system into a jeep trailer, had Ordnance construct a portable Christmas tree lighted with 50 auto bulbs. Van Iderstine - my driver, assistant, professional organist (all, while being my best friend) - and we headed for the front."

"Wherever we found 20 or more soldiers we played Christmas carols, sang carols, read the Christmas story from the Bible - concluded the service with a GI, 5 feet tall, wearing a steel helmet singing 'Away in a Manger' with a tenor voice that must have made all the angels stop and listen - and I wept along with the battle-weary 'dog-faces' as we prayed that someday we would be home again."

040330


Armistice Day • 11 a.m., 11th Day, 11th Month

The Washington Times reported that of 4.7 million US veterans of World War I, only 44 were still alive on 11 November 2003, the 85th Anniversary of the Armistice, and that history is replacing memory.

031111


168th Commandos

As the 1st [Ranger Battalion] trained in Scotland, the [National] Guard's 34th Infantry Division organized a similar unit of about 200 men. Known as the "168th Commandos" it was organized from volunteers drawn from Iowa's 168th Infantry [Regiment] and Minnesota's 175th Field Artillery [Battalion].

Commanded by Captain Mark Tracy of the 168th, they underwent extensive training at the [British] Commando Center at Inverary, Scotland. The unit's first action was in support of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa, 8 November 1942. They rapidly captured the town of Sidi Ferruch, Algeria, and secured the road running to Algiers.

The 168th Commandos' next and last action was the attempt to capture the town of Bizerte, Tunisia. Just outside the town a large German armored force attacked them. Though the unit had no heavy weapons, its men successfully repelled the enemy. With heavy losses, the unit withdrew back to the 34th.

Due to the increased need of manpower, the 168th Commandos was disbanded and the men returned to their parent units. However, they proved that men from Guard organizations could produce effective, specialized troops for units like the Rangers.

Source: "National Guard"; 2003 April; vol. 57, no. 3; pp. 82-86.
Provided by Lloyd Jerome, 34th Inf. Div. Assn., Council Bluffs Chapter.

030930


Who Is This 'We'?

"There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not ours, they were those of our allies; and if we had no allies, the allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest - why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. We were always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors ... The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies, it was manifestly our duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs."

...

Who is this 'we' that is being written about?   It reads like current news!

...

Source: "Imperialism and Social Classes", by Joseph Schumpteter.
Published in 1919, it was written about the Roman Empire.

030930

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What and Why • A personal note

The pages and files on this website focus primarily on Allied operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations during and after World War II. After reflecting on my father's military career and my own observations while in post-war Italy 1946-47, I had decided its time for me to do some sharing.

I have been prodded here by gentle serendipity.

  Serendipity:
    - The faculty for making desirable discoveries by accident.
    - The gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.


These 'discoveries' leave me with a hunger for yet more information, and for pointers to help fill that hunger. I hope that this place will have the same effect on you.

I hope, through the information and resources of this website, to help:
  • veterans to share, confirm, and extend recollections of their own service, their units, their comrades;
  • veterans to make and maintain contact with their comrades and their veterans' associations;
  • veterans' families to gain an awareness and understanding of what happened in the WWII and 'Cold War' eras.

I am drawn to this project from several directions:
  - My father's service and records as Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division (1944-45) and later as Public Information Officer, 88th Infantry Division (1946-47).
  - My own experience as a military dependent in Veneto and Venezia Giulia (1946-47).
  - My continuing friendship with (and support from) a number of veterans of the 34th and 88th Infantry Divisions, and
  - most especially with Wilmer Murray, R.I.P., who served with B Battery, 913th Field Artillery Battalion, 88th Infantry Division, from 1942 to 1945.

This work is dedicated to the memory of Col. Walter J. Skelly (1903-1974) and to the Allied Forces in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations - past and present.

- Patrick Skelly
34th Infantry Division Association
British Element Trieste Force Association
Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation
Army Historical Foundation
Army Heritage Center Foundation

040510


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