"And then the next morning, we seen all the farms around there, ripe tomatoes, that we hadn’t seen for years, for two years."
I wasn’t a front line trooper but the first day we’re getting in, that was on the 12th of July I think it was, because we were over on the island Etna, the island that was getting bombed all the time, in the Mediterranean. That was the worst place they ever got bombed, 10 times a day they were getting bombed. We stayed there for a day and then we moved into Syracuse harbour. And we had a smokescreen and that was the first time they were bombing us. The planes were coming from an airport about 15 miles away and they were bombing us. And you could hear the bombs and it was all smoke.
And eventually we got off the boat, off the big boat and got in one of them pontoon boats. And we got into the harbour. We got in at land and then the next thing we were walking and they lost their way, so we stayed overnight, just where we were in a big field. In the field, there was a, first time we had muskmelons, cantaloupes. That’s the whole thing was ripe cantaloupes. And then the next morning, we seen all the farms around there, ripe tomatoes, that we hadn’t seen for years, for two years. Lemon trees, orange trees, grapes. And the next night I think or two nights later, we got bombed. Well, the Germans come over and they put the lights up, you know, flares, the flares way up in the sky, you could see, you could read practically on the ground, they were bombing. And then we used to have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning because of our paratroopers jumping down. And then we watched – they got us pills, quinine, so we wouldn’t get malaria. And then everything would stop at 2 o’clock in the afternoon or 1 o’clock, and for two hours, nobody even shot a gun. But there is – we were always within I’d say a few miles from the front lines, that I could recall, some times it was a little farther but most of the time, it was right close.
And then we went up the coast. After Sicily, we went across up the coast of the, that would be the east coast of Italy, right up and then different places we’d stop, I forget some of them. And then at Christmas, just before Christmas, that’s when it got as far as Ortona. I don’t remember too much about that. Like a lot of things you forget and you never get them back. And then we got Ortona, went up Ortona and our station was about three miles due south of the main line, where they were fighting, but we had to go up, over the other side [of the Moro River], to pick up some wounded that same night. But we couldn’t make it because a bridge was still out and it was getting night, we were there for about six hours, right up the, they were more, they were shooting mortars at us.
And we went up in a Jeep. But before we got across, we had, it was starting to get, I’d say about 7 o’clock at night, it was already dark and we got across, the Bailey bridge [portable, pre-fabricated bridge used by military engineers] was up and then we went up to the front lines, where the tanks were burning, there was a couple of tanks burning, and that was where the troops ended up for the night. And the no man’s land was there and the Germans were I’d say 200 yards away at that time. They weren’t far. And we picked up a bunch of wounded and moved them back, and took them back to the dressing station. And then after that, I didn’t go back up, we didn’t go back up again, the other side of the river, we were stationed down. And when they come down into the station, we had to take them from there up to San Marino I think it was, where the hospital was. And the main unit of our unit was stationed down on the water. And when you could walk, you could look out and you can see Ortona across the water. It was about three or four miles, if you had to cross by water. And then we stayed there until it was over, until after Christmas.
And we had our Christmas dinner in that there. We’d come back, we closed up there and then we come back to our campsite, the main camp. And they were shelled very bad, the whole … It was, everybody was lined up for supper or dinner, I forget what it was, and the Germans started hitting them, where all the tents were, little pup tents and stuff like that we were staying in. But none of the, I don’t think there was anybody got hit there. But they all went, scrambled into these houses and that was it.