Loading up on LCIs
The day finally came to load up on landing craft. Everything we owned GI wise was in our packs. The tents were struck and packed in GI fashion. There’s is only one way allowed to fold up a pyramidal tent and it had to be right. Poles pegs and ropes neatly packed in GI shape. You did it until it was right. In our tent one night, someone had a candle a bit close to the canvas and the canvas caught fire. I doused it out in some sort of instinctive manner – I ran my finger around the hole which was only about ten inches now and in a slow burn, but ready to catch a draft. I was able to douse the flame which if there was more of an air volume the flame would have been fed into a fury. No medals for that! I had a burnt finger but it was not hampering me at all. How much does a pyramidal cost? The next user could use the hole for a chimney.
This time the convoy of 6×6 trucks took us to the loading area where we were assigned LCIs (landing craft infantry). I should have written down the number of my ship, but I didn’t have the means. I cuss myself now for not having kept a diary like P.I.Thome did. He must have written down that information.
It seems to have taken hours to finally get to the gang plank, but we shouldn’t have been too anxious at that time. We had great apprehensions. The day was a beautiful August day. No rain in the prospect. There was no breeze. It was like Shank always said, “It’s a beautiful Day in Chickagoe”. This was the harbor of NAPOLI.
It wasn’t long after boarding that I felt the loss of good old terra firma. I am sooo very sensitive to the motion of the sea that I soon became slightly nauseated. Somehow, since this sensation is said to be “all in your head” (as I was always told,) I tried to conquer myself. I succeeded to some degree. One of my newer buddies Ed Viscount from New Jersey said, “Bing let’s offer to do KP, there’s good food in the galley and the work will keep your mind off the sea sickness”. By golly he was right! Especially about the good food the navy guys had! Wowee! They had Ham and eggs and toast and pancakes and real coffee! And a small dining area. Man oh man! I saw food left on the trays! I didn’t mind if it was partly consumed, I ate some real Ham! And some real homemade bread! And the coffee was good to the last drop! It was kinda humid in the August heat being in the galley but there was a good cross breeze through the port holes while we washed trays and utensils and did some cooking. Not bad! It’s another example of the “soft services”. Inequity!! I know it can be different! However the Landing could be hazardous to the sailor’s health if the ship hit a mine or was torpedoed. I know that! Out on deck, Viscount and I and another soldier were co- miserating about the landing. In our discussion group was our fearless Battalion doctor. I mean ‘fearless’ in the true sense. He was not a coward as he proved later on. We were kinda trying to make a ‘bargain’ about the amount of sacrifice we would be willing to make to get out of the landing. One of us offered a foot to be amputated. I thought I would have to gamble on letting my leg go up to the knee—not above because that’d make a wooden leg harder to manipulate. No one offered an eye–just limbs. Some of this bargaining was morbid in this day, but in light of the landing upcoming, we had some chances of losing everything. I don’t remember how many nights we spent in the convoy. There were ships as far as the eye could see–on sea! The ships stopped in a rendezvous. I was told that the islands off in the distance was Corsica. Ha! Now I knew we weren’t going to Jugoslavia!
SWIM TO CORSICA
The officer in charge said we could take a swim if we wanted to. I donned a life preserver and inflated it and jumped overboard with a few other GIs. Some other GIs inflated a rubber raft and headed for the shores of Corsica. Heck, why not me? So I set out dog paddling close to the rubber rafts. I have never had a cramp in the water ever in my life! But I developed one then! I sweat the cramp out and lost some distance from the raft. I finally made it to shore. I’ll bet it was nearly a mile! I made the sandy beach and there I stood on the shores of CORSICA! Greeting us was an anti-aircraft gun crew. We exchanged some conversation. Then it was time to go back! The ships looked further out than the shore did from the ship! I could never have made it back. The guys in the rafts offered to take me back and I readily accepted. I was once on the shores of CORSICA!! How about that? What if I had decided to stay? I thought that over several times after I got back on board ship.
It was probably another day of sailing that we were off shore of the beaches of France. Our outfit landed on St.Tropez which was a nice sandy beach. After the LCI rammed up on the shore as far as the ship’s Captain could, the ramps were lowered and a sailor went out with a pail- a big bucket– the bail of which was tied to a rope. He went out as far as the rope allowed and sat on the bucket to anchor it in the sand. The first GI off and all following, held his rifle above his head and used the other hand to steady himself in the water. In my area the water was up to my neck. I was weight less for a short time until my Pack and ammo took on water. I had a couple of clover leafs of Bazooka rockets on top of my pack. As soon as we made shore we were ordered to hike as fast as we could to a point where we would establish an ammo dump. My pack must have weighed in the area of a hundred pounds with the Bazooka rounds. The bazooka rounds were in water proof canisters and actually helped me as a buoy. The rope was really essential .A guy could slip and turn upside down and drown before you could get help.