TRAINING FOR THE SOFT UNDER BELLY OF EUROPE
AT POZZUOLI, ITALY
SUMMER of 1944
The Training at Pozzuoli was quite rigorous. It was in midsummer and Italy is probably on the same longitude (latitude?) as California. On top of training we had many Divisional parades for the dignitaries to review the troops. We had a field nearby barely large enough for a parade. The dust rose as if there was a stampede of Texas steers. The officers in view weren’t always satisfied with the dress down of the troops. If one guy had his foot out of step they’d make us go around another time ’till we had it right! Surrounding the parade fields was a dense brush growth. In the dense brush growth there were pimps with girls who were earning money not always by offering to wash your uniform. GIs were known to drop out of the parade when out of sight of the viewing stand to balance his over flow of male hormones.
I was on guard duty in the brushy area once or twice and I knew what was going on after I had a confrontation with a very mean American Italian GI who knew the Italian language and was running a ‘business’ back in the brush. I think I mentioned in other pages that I ordered them out of the area leveling my carbine for emphasis. It infuriated the GI pimp so danged much I was frightened when the pimp threatened to hunt me down to kill me. They moved on to a new location. I was about to call for the Corporal of the Guard for back up. Sex hormones and resulting pressures on the male instincts promotes a confused conscience. The business flourished in spite of the patrolling. I add this as a personal observation of men in uniform! This is the reason Gays should not be allowed in this man’s army. They can get as horny as a normal GI but in a different orientation. They wouldn’t be seeking female companionship in the brushes. Stop me before I say more!
In this parade ground, the USO and “Special Services” held periodic shows for the troops. Our Division band was almost perfect playing some of the songs which were popular when we left home and a few which were made popular since. It made me very homesick. I told earlier that I was always ‘stage struck’. I hung around the stage hoping that the USO director would come over to me and ask me to do something. It happened! He went up to the MIKE and announced that he had a new budding vocalist who would like to perform! HEY! I was ON! I went over to the piano player and asked for an intro for “PAPER DOLL” which was made popular by the INK SPOTS. Paper Doll fit the occasion because I had gotten a Dear John letter any way and Paper Doll lyrics kinda fit the mood.
The Piano player struck an arpeggio intro and I sang my heart out. I remember I gazed at a faint moon, which was at about ten o’clock high while I sang. I didn’t get a ‘contract’ but at least I tried upholding my nickname of Bing. HA! My platoon was no support at all! Someone said that John Surriano had hollered out loud, “HIT ‘IM wit’ a douche bag!” His kind of guy came from South Philly-I considered it very rude!
There was a female vocalist who always ‘stole the show’. I couldn’t out do a female who looked as sexy as she looked. Man! That is too much temptation for lonely GIs. The girls in brush had a field day after a performance. I remember the vocalist singing “Bugle boy of Company B”. Hey I was a bugler once–maybe I should have mentioned it!
Pulling guard at night around our training area was a lonely experience. The only thing to make it easier was the abundance of fire flies flitting around. Fire flies are a fantastic study. It makes you wonder how in the heck they can generate ‘juice’ to light up their butts. Time flies too a bit faster trying to catch ’em till your relief comes to your post. I caught a few fire flies for closer examination. They’re just bugs with a taillight!
FED WELL, HARD TRAINING
While at this training sight we were fed quite well. We even had grapefruit juice sometimes at breakfast but my stomach couldn’t handle the acid. I drank it anyway. The amount in the canteen cup just wet the bottom. I needed whatever nutrients the juice provided. When we were through eating some of us had scraps so we dumped the mess kit contents into a sort of septic hole in the ground for sanitation. At the perimeter of the grounds were many, many hungry civilians with buckets made out of old ration cans. We were forbidden to give them the scraps. But damn it, I went through the chow line for seconds on purpose and when I thought no one was looking, I’d quickly dash over to a civilian and dump hotcakes and coffee in their bucket. I couldn’t see the reason for not allowing the giving of leftover food to the poor hungry Italians. It looked like slop in their buckets but they were grateful for the food.
In a flash back to the days when I first came to Naples and while awaiting my trip to the Casino front. I was on guard at the perimeter of the Race track Replacement depot. One Italian girl begged and begged to be allowed to go to get some food at the chow line. I noticed her hands. They were hands of malnourishment—swollen and blue. Her hands were larger than mine. I turned my back and let her through. I don’t know if she ever got any food or not.
I might mention too, that the depot had an area which was fenced in like a chicken pen. In the pen were a couple of “Fruits’– they call ’em “GAYS” nowadays. They wore their fatigues really tight and had all the shape of a girl–even the lip stick–.They looked like WACS. Everyone was ordered away from the chow line by MPs or special guards, and they’d allow the ‘girls’ (whatever) to come get their chow. The GIs waiting in line resented the preferential treatment but most of them made ‘cat calls’ and many whistled the wolf whistle. The “Fruits’ enjoyed it I thought. They might not have been gays. They might have been smart enough to avoid front line duty by pretending to be gay. The army, then, never would have allowed them to get to the front
Meanwhile back to Pozzuoli training
GI’s were allowed passes to visit Naples on weekends. On one occasion, while on pass, I passed through some old Roman ruins, I came upon a GI who had bought some of the liquor from an Italian hawking his bad alcohol. We were warned about buying liquor. Much of it was poison–made up from wood alcohol which is lethal. The GI had a wicker covered bottle in his hand and was bent over heaving–urping up with violent seizures. He wouldn’t drop the bottle. His hand seemed frozen in a grip on the woven wicker like cover. Then I witnessed another GI who came along who probably knew him. He aided the drunken GI by repeatedly slapping the face of the ‘deadened’ GI. Slap slap! – back and forth and shaking him at the shoulders. I had to pass on and never knew the outcome. Someone had previously instructed us that before you buy or consume any of the liquor you should pour some in your hand. If it evaporated quickly, it is most likely to be the lethal alcohol. I heeded the instructions but I didn’t need or buy any wine or other liquor. I was a ‘teetotaler’. On one of those ‘passes to town, Mac sold the P38 I gave him! One of the three I had from Anzio! I gave him a sound scolding! The bugger used the money for wine, women and very little singing! The other pistol was also lost on our breakout. I gave it to a Lieutenant Tatlock who was killed in his Jeep on about the second day or so of the breakout. Two Spitfires did ‘their thing’ on his Jeep which was parked next to a British Jeep while they were exchanging battle plans. I saw the planes swooping down–time after time after time. As usual we cheered as they were diving thinking they were strafing German troops. It was a very sad day when we learned that the Lieutenant was killed—and he had my p38 strapped on. I told about the next day we were strafed by the P51s at Cori.
We took many prisoners on those days and I kept busy looking for watches and insignias and razors. It’s the only “pay” a GI gets in addition to his rations and 50 dollars a month.
Bombing raids on Naples now were quite less frequent. Now and then there was an alert. While roaming the Streets of Naples, I walked past a Catholic church. Outside of the doors was a person–almost a person with a tin cup asking for alms. I must say that he was the most hideous specimen of mankind you could have ever seen–he had teeth like a monster–like Dracula. He was half laughing and making gluttering ape like sounds, and froth came from his mouth. I am not exaggerating. I can’t go further into ugly words to describe this creature of God’s. I felt fortunate that I was as I was made. I don’t mean to be ‘jesting’ telling this. It’s inscribed in my memory bank.
I attended an opera in one of Naples theaters. The prima donna had a beautiful soprano voice which impressed me but the other GIS weren’t very kind to her. We (they) were a bunch of uncouth Americans not ‘into’ opera and ballet. For me too, it was the first exposure to the higher ‘arts’. Ours was just mostly Glen Miller and cowboy music. I remember the prima donna being quite irritated at a ‘cat call’ from the balcony. Us ugly Americans! Whew! I am still embarrassed!