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#547676 06/05/19 07:27 PM
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gjw Offline OP
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Hi all, just thought I'd mention this as today is also the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Rome.

My father was in that liberation, he was in the 88th Infantry Division, the division that was the first in Rome (the 1st Special Service Force was the very first allied unit in Rome).

I remember dad talking about that the Italian campaign was the forgotten one of war. And how they were fighting long before D-Day. He never took away from what they did in France, he had a lot of respect for those in France. Just that nobody remembered what they did in Italy.

Anyway, my hats off to all the living WWII Vets regardless of theater!

God Bless you vets!

Greg


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gjw, I speak Italian. I lived in Rome for 5 years and know very well that campaign. Anzio was a horror (and I once played a golf tournament down there). I will offer an opinion about Marc Clark though. He was an egotistical A$$. He had the chance to cut off the Germans after the French mountain troops finally breached the Gustav Line West of Monte Casino. But for the first time ever he acted on the Eureka code break information that the Germans were evacuating Rome and decided he'd be the "liberator." He never paid much attention to the signals intelligence before.

The Italian campaign was grinding. I had a friend in charge of the Battle Monuments Commission in charge of the South US cemeteries - Tunis, Anzio, Florence, Marseilles...they are amazing and the missing air-crews at the Anzio graveyard...bomber after bomber which angered in to the Serbian mountains is difficult to see.

I once called an Indian Lt. General I was friends with in New Delhi who had been wounded at Monte Casino... I told him I was sitting in the Monestary and I could see ever gnat below me,....how did he survive?


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Argo,Greg,

My father, like both of yours, was a WWII vet who served in the Desert Air Force, 79th Fighter Group, supporting Montgomery and from there Tunsia, Sicily, Anzio, The invasion of Southern France, and occuaption in Austria. I am about finished cataloguing his negatives, and prints, some of which were published in the unit's combat history, before I send to the Air Force museum. I collected some of the stories and recollection of events from the unit's yearly gatherings before he passed hoping to write a ahort piece about the unit. Sadly, there are few around today and an era will pass into history.

We owe they all more than we can ever repay.

John

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Argo, I totally agree about Clark, so did dad and many others at the front.

You mentioned Monte Casino, quick story, A friend of mine was talking to a German Para vet at a Gasthaus and my buddy asked if the German vet saw any action in the war. When the German vet tapped his foot with his cane it made a clank on his metal foot. All the German vet said was "Monte Casino"

John, good luck on your project, sounds like it will be a great benefit to historians.

Best,

Greg


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Greg, a sincere thank you for mentioning the Italian campaign. Lady Astor called our Canadian troops there the D-Day Dodgers, who fought with our Allies for a year from Sicily up the boot to Rome two days before D-Day, the US/Canada Devil's Brigade first into the city. I've written on it extensively.

They were the most intense and costly battles ever fought by Canadian soldiers. Allied infantry casualties were greater in Italy than entire Northwest Europe campaign, Italy's natural defences of rivers and mountains crossways the country. My wife's paintings of the Liri campaign are slated for national tour.

We go back frequently to Cassino and Liri battlefields, know the locals who remember it well. The Germans fought magnificently in retreat, their cemetery a mile or so east of Cassino so beautiful its architect must have been a poet.

Less said about Clark the better. The French North Africa corps were the real heroes on the offensive to get into Rome, Poles in a class of their own, usually on right of Canadians throughout the war, Italy and Normandy particularly.

PM if I can help your research. One of Nancy's paintings is B24s bombing Cassino. An honorary member of the Devil's Brigade living at Ceprano near Monte Cassino is a dear friend, knows every inch of their astonishing campaign.
.

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The unit in which I enlisted, 1/133rd Infantry, was part of the 34th (Red Bull) Division. They participated in Torch. Their 168th Infantry got mauled pretty badly at Kasserine Pass. The 34th fought its way up the "boot" and was still fighting there when the war in Europe ended. The famous 442d Regimental Combat Team (Go For Broke) of Japanese Americans was attached to the 34th for part of that campaign.

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Had a DAV who worked for me as a handyman. He hated Clark with a burning passion. He could tell you names of his friends who died stupidly, going up the boot. Nothing like attacking, uphill, into dug in and sighted in defenses. He remembered every buddy, both where and how they died. A lot of bad memories. Vic carried a flame thrower most of the time. Germans hated them and went to great efforts to kill them.

But even in war, Vic could remember humor. Like his best friend who chipped a lower rear molar and went to a field hospital to see if they could fix or pull it. They had a treadmill operated, belt driven dental drill, that they used to drill out his tooth and put a silver filling in it. No novacane. Doc told him he had a bad tooth on the other side and if he came back the next day he’d fill that one.

That night he volunteered to take ammo and supplies up to the frontlines the next day, leading a pack animal under direct fire much of the way. Told Vic the Germans were only going to kill him once, where Doc could kill him with pain over and over again. He never did go back to get that tooth fixed. Vic was still laughing about it 40 years later.

God bless all those brave men. I’m sure we all knew a Vic even when they tried very hard not to mention the war at all. My mother had a uncle who earned a bronze star and a silver star in less than a month. Never told a soul. Found the metal in a drawer after he passed. I’ve read his citations and shudder to think how he earned them. In the 35 years I knew him before his death he never talked about the war. Not once. Told me all I needed to know about his war. As they use to say he had a hard war.

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One very interesting account of the Italian campaign is in the book 'Whicker's War' by Capt. Alan Whicker. He was a British Officer and official war photographer which meant that he was not necessarily 'in the action' but more often than not ahead of it. He was in Rome before Clark entered it photographing the city sights and enjoying a glass of wine when he rolled in. Some of the photos that Whicker took of Clark entering are often seen in history books. It's in his chapter entitled 'Hitler Would Have Hade Him Shot'.

I recall talking with one old Army Officer who was at Monte Casino who said he saw some of his Gurkha soldiers having a private joke and finding something most amusing. Apparently, they had been out and about during the night and come across three German soldiers fast asleep and lying side by side. In their usual stealthy manner they had cut off the heads of the two soldiers on the outside without waking the one in the middle and laughing about his possible reaction when he woke up. Great sense of humour those Gurkhas! Lagopus…..

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A memory of the Itlain Campaign by one of my father's contemporaries : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE5Cgvc3JqU

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