Chapter 3 – Attack

ATTACK!

The German army launched a counterattack to shove us off the beach.  We withstood it somehow. I can’t write down the accurate dates and times.  It was noisy and frightful.  When there was a lull, we went out into battlefield to retrieve some GIs to help the medics.
On one such night we were told there was a GI with every bone in his body broken.  The mystery of how our squad leader found the wounded GI, I’ll be danged if I know.  I just have to say sergeants are heroes.  A German tank was firing its 88MM over our head all the time we were edging up towards the GI.   When we got there the GI was making weird sounds and yelling, “I can’t see, I can’t see”. We didn’t need the announcement that we were under the Jerries’ noses.  Somehow we got him out of there under the constant firing of the 88. The shell would go over our heads a few feet with a sucking sound and crash into trees or whatever. Our jeep was parked in that area, but didn’t get hit. There was also a German soldier equally badly wounded. His screaming seemed to be begging us not to kill him. He was lucky to have the same priority as the nearly dead GI. On every move of his body the Jerry yelled. I suppose that our medic hadn’t given him the usual dose of morphine. So went the nightly events of the A&P platoon on Anzio. More of it happened as the weeks grew into months of the stalemate.

As we were loading the stretchers on the jeep, we heard hobnailed boot steps behind us.  Out of the darkness came one lone German soldier. He had a blanket and a loaf of bread in his folded arms.  As he came up he was saying in German over and over again, “Kreig fertish!  Kreig fertish”.  “The war’s over. The war’s over!”  One of our platoon members named Palermo grabbed him by the shoulders and twisted him in reverse direction. Then he actually booted him in the ass and said “Get the hell back-we ain’t got room”.  But somehow we did bring him in. I wonder who got the loaf of bread.

FEBRUARY 1944

The time was February 1944.  In one of our central areas there was a walled-in small city or farming complex with all necessary equipment to withstand and sustain a siege.  It was called “CAMPO MORTO”.

campmorto

CAMPO MORTO

 

In Italian it means “Camp of Death’.  There were underground tunnels and a central well that provided protection and essential water for a long siege in medieval days for preservation against raiders.  I don’t think this complex was a Mussolini project. It was medieval.  Our outfit was pulled back to stay at Campo Morto at times for reasons unknown to me.  It was a target for the German artillery. They hit it constantly.

I have to tell you this.  All civilians who wanted to evacuate could leave but there was one stubborn family who chose to stay.  We were in part of the complex that was some sort of a mill.   There were paper sacks of lime or cement, which I used to form a foxhole of my own for added protection. Near where I made this foxhole was a small window. The civilian family sat around a smoldering fire keeping warm and over which they cooked. The smoke tried to find its way out the window that became a target!
The family had a baby that was constantly crying. I just knew it had malaria. It bawled and bawled.  We didn’t bitch but we offered whatever we could to comfort the old man at the fire and the wife and others. We used the fire to warm a ration or the water for a cup of coffee.  We made the coffee from our instant coffee in the army rations.
I can recall the wife and grandmother sitting on a chair cutting up a loaf of rye bread into a pot. She would make a bread soup to stretch the bread to its limits. At times we gave them some of our rations. They were stubborn and would not leave the Anzio Beachhead. Our ships would have hauled them away somewhere.
Once the cooks bought a cow for the meat. We actually had a veterinarian who checked out the edibility–for TB and other diseases. It was not edible he declared–. Somehow I had to help dig the hole to bury it. A Big Cow and a Big Hole! A guy couldn’t get out of details like this it seemed.
Also one other memorable thing is that some of the engineers had a mascot–a big goose that quacked away. It was very friendly and not afraid of humans. Some of the guys even brought a monkey from some place and kept it with them in the rear echelons. I wonder what happened to the goose. It was almost human so I believe they would not have cooked that goose.
I saw these animals when I was being instructed in the use of some of the demolitions by the engineers. Also, I was shown how they made napalm. They could “jelly” gasoline for the use in a flame-thrower that we were being taught how to use a flame thrower when we approached the German positions on the day we would break out. I was amazed at the function of a flame-thrower. I was hoping I would never be chosen to use one of them. Fate led me away from that danger somehow. The flame-thrower was heavy enough just to pack on your back, let alone having to use it.
Dangerous details were given us when we were ‘at rest’ in the “Pines”. We roamed and swept with mine detectors, the beaches and picked up dud shells, piled them and then detonated them. Once, (often is a better word) on another detail, we heard an “ANZIO ANNIE” shell tumbling in the sky toward us. It sounded as if a jeep was being tossed at us. Then yet another came over… It landed on the other side of a sand dune in the midst of other GIs sweeping mines. I headed for the nearest foxhole for cover and I jumped the last few feet. I landed on top of a lieutenant! I apologized,” Sorry about that”-, I said, but he knew why I jumped in. I also saw a dud that the engineers had defused. It was as tall as a man and about as big. They stood the shell up so all could see.

ANZIO ANNIE

 

bh57aa

 
Once a squadron of British Spitfires came overhead returning to base from a raid. One was trailing smoke. The pilot bailed out when he reached friendly territory. He landed in our company area. His plane buried itself not far away. I went to take a look. I could fill pages with events such as these. There’s a story between every line.