Thursday, May 24, 2012

Don't Wake Me; Let Me Dream

ENGLAND—When Pvt. Charles Schmelze of Pittsburgh. Pa., had finished servicing a troop carrying glider of the Ninth Air Force for the big invasion hop, he was pretty well pooped. So he climbed aboard the glider, picked himself a comfortable corner and hit the hay. The glider towed by a plane piloted by F/O E. G. Borgmeyer of St. Louis, Mo., was last seen landing in a zone of heavy fighting. Pvt. Schmelze had slept his way into history's greatest military Operation.


-YANK London Bureau

Highway 6


YANK Staff Correspondent


WITH THE FIFTH ARMY IN ROME [By Cable] —Nobody will ever know for certain which were the first Allied troops to enter Rome. During the evening hours of June 4 (1944), reconnaissance units, some armor and some infantrymen crept into the city from different directions. In some cases they pulled up to spend the night in houses vacated by Jerry only a half hour before.


All night long there was sniper fighting throughout Rome as isolated Germans tried to join the rest of their forces fleeing north. German time bombs began booming from different sections of the city during the night. Armed Partisanos in civilian clothes, thirsting for revenge, roamed the dark streets, taking pot shots at German vehicles and rushing the buildings where Germans or Fascists were known to be hiding. The last few hours that night Yanks and Partisanos, some of them working together, captured a number of Germans trying to escape in civilian clothes.


The city was pitch dark. There was no electricity, no telephones, and water only here and there. The people of Rome sat up all night, peering out of shuttered windows, waiting for the Americans and spitting down curses on the Germans as they caromed through the streets on their way north. At least one of these Jerry vehicles sprayed lead at every window in sight.


At dawn, larger bodies of Allied troops began entering the city on every road leading up from the south. Most of them somehow came together, forming one great column moving up the Appian Way.


People came pouring out of the houses in a great flood. Hysterical women clasped their hands and rocked back and forth on the curbstones, moaning "Grazia, grazia."


We had reached Rome after a furious jeep trip in pursuit of a picked force of Yanks and Canadians whose mission was to punch through the right flank of the German positions south of Rome and to penetrate the city.  

The flying spearhead had met with unexpected success along the broad straight Highway 6, long used by the Germans as their main supply route. Jerry had retreated so fast that he had neglected his usual careful demolition; even the telephone poles were standing.


Beyond Valmontone, until recently the anchor of the enemy defense line, we came upon the first signs of battle—a half-dozen scorched German tanks and half-tracks, discarded helmets, little heaps of machine-gun shells, a dead German with letters and snapshots on the ground beside him.


The first Yanks we caught up with were tankers, asleep in the turrets or on the ground against the treads. A guard told us they were taking a six-hour break after three days of continuous fighting. Next we came to long lines of infantrymen, tired, dirty but determined. From a farmhouse 20 yards off the road, a couple of riflemen emerged with vino bottles in their hands and roses in their "buttonholes."


As we approached Cenecelli, a suburb of Rome, Italians lined the highway, cheering and waving. Old women in black dresses bowed and grinned

like mechanical dolls. Men on bicycles leaped off and waved their arms in wild welcome. A kid, sitting on the branch of a tree that stuck out over the road, showered down handfuls of rose petals as we went by.


At the foot of a long upgrade in the road, we came to a cluster of soldiers crouched in a ditch. "Take it easy, there," said a heavy-bearded soldier sprawled in the ditch on one elbow. "This is the end of the line. Jerry is just over the hill." We had caught up with the spearhead.


The Yanks and Canadians had been held up for an hour by a couple of German self-propelled guns and some tanks, dug in over the hill. This effective roadblock had already knocked out two American tanks.


We sat around the ditch. Nobody seemed to know what to do until reinforcements arrived. Two of our tanks went over the hill to try to root the Jerry out, and we could hear the high song of the fast German machine gun that the boys called the diarrhea gun. Two shells burst 20 yards from our ditch. We slammed our faces into the dirt. Five men crawled down the ditch to join us. They were the crew of one of the tanks, just knocked out by the Germans. "If we could only see where the bastards are," one gasped.


For at least an hour enemy fire kept us pinned down. Whenever a shell burst close to a church near our ditch, it set the bells clanging. We looked at each other and remembered it was Sunday. Suddenly we spotted a wedding procession walking down the road toward the church, eight couples, arm in arm, all dolled up in their Sunday best. The white-gowned bride giggled

prettily, as if the roar of shells were her wedding march and the ricocheting bullets were rice.


After another 15 minutes, the lieutenant in charge decided to move up closer to the crest of the hill. We stooped over as we walked up the ditch and carefully avoided stepping on the shoulders of the road—Jerry's favorite place for mines. As the shells whistled and crashed all around us, we turned off the road and sprinted for a half-ruined farmhouse. Some of our tanks roared past, on their way over the hill for another try at Jerry.


Four hours passed while we listened to the battle. Everybody grew restless as the sun got hotter and the flies and the dust increased. Without telling the lieutenant, T-4 Nellis Johnson, an Indian from Pima, Ariz., and Pvt. Neal McLean of Chicago, Ill., crawled through the grass toward the hilltop. McLean had a bazooka, plenty of shells and hand'grenades. Johnson had grenades and his favorite weapon, a Johnson automatic rifle, which he calls a "Johnny gun."


Nearly an hour later the two came crawling back. McLean had fired all the bazooka shells into a house where he thought the German guns were located, and had been kept skipping around by machine-gun fire that came back. Johnson was plastered. He had crept around a house to "surround the Jerries" and found a vino cellar. The lieutenant burned their ears off for going up without orders. Johnson swayed back and forth, listening meekly and mumbling: "But, sir, we got so tired sitting here!"


Then Jerry began to work on us in earnest. Shells exploded all over the field and the road. "Airbursts," so-called because they exploded before hitting the ground, sent a shower of jagged steel into the backs of the men below. Broken window glass tinkled on our helmets. We had to get shelter—and quick. One of the Canadians shot the lock off a cellar door, but it was no use.

The place was full of wine barrels, and we couldn't get in. A shell fragment cut into the Canadian's back; he fell like an empty sack.


An Italian stuck his head out of the farmhouse and told us there were caves in the fields to our left. One by one we rose and walked at a stoop across the fields. The first man didn't run, so neither did the second. Not a man broke into a run. We all crossed safely. The caves were enormous. They were green with fungus, dark and smelly, but they seemed like heaven. There was six feet of rock between us and the shells.


At last the main body of our tanks arrived. In a half hour the job was done; the roadblock was smashed and the advance could continue.

We had been held up five hours.


Then a long column of doughboys plodded up the hill. It looked as if the whole damn Army had arrived. The doughboys had marched at

least 12 miles in the hot sun, but they just unslung their rifles as they approached the hill crest, bent over a bit and kept going.


The dome of St. Peter's showed up on the horizon through the mist and smoke. We were nearing the center of Rome, but there still seemed to be German snipers and machine gunners in every other cellar window. It took vicious street fighting before Jerry was driven back.


We stared at the enormous fountains, the huge statues and the gray stone buildings—relics of ancient Rome. There were many priests on the streets. The surprisingly well-dressed crowds were getting wilder every minute. Everyone wanted to shake our hands. Some said "Welcome" and others just yelled "Viva" and waved handkerchiefs and flags around and around their

heads. A brown-frocked Franciscan monk stood on the corner and blessed each Allied vehicle as it rolled by. A woman held up her bambino so that he would see and remember the great day when the Americanos marched in to liberate Mother Rome. Screaming swarms of kids clung to our jeep and tossed bunches of flowers all over her until she looked like a broken-down

hag made up to look like Hedy Lamarr. A well dressed gentleman jumped on the radiator and hung on precariously for a block while he got off his chest in broken English the wish that America and Italia be closa friends forever. Two

girls, eyes flashing, climbed on the fenders, drew their hands across their throats and shrieked "Morte Tedeschi! (Death to the Germans!)"


Around a long bend we sighted the ancient Colosseum, and under one of its huge arches of crumbling gray stone something that it had never seen before in all its years—a jeep with four exhausted Yanks sprawled out sound asleep.

An average of two or three times every block somebody would pump our hands up and down, wild with excitement, and ask whether we knew

his cousin so-and-so who lived in Newark or Chicago or Brooklyn. Six Yanks in the jeep ahead made it a rule always to say yes; then the Italians would drop off, ecstatic.


We were moving more and more slowly until we came to the great square known as the Piazza Venizza where Mussolini used to make

his famous balcony speeches. Here the crowd was so thick that the column stopped completely.


A group of Yanks and Canadians who had fought in the spearhead force worked their way through the crowd and up through the side door of Mussolini's palace, through its great gaudy corridors with their gilt ceilings, to the office where the great man used to sit.


Mussolini's huge desk was located at one end of the long room, so that visitors who had to walk all the way across would feel properly humble by the time they came to the big cheese himself. Sgt. Sam Finn of St. Louis, Mo., sat in the chair, put his feet up on the desk, clasped

his hands behind his head and said: "Not bad, not bad at all." All around us bustled palace guards and police in musical-comedy uniforms, with yard-wide cocked hats like the kind Napoleon used to wear. We stepped out of the office onto the balcony, and a great roar went up from the crowd in the square below. We were on Mussolini's own balcony, undoubtedly the first

Yank uniforms ever seen there.


"Viva Americanos!" yelled thousands of people as they waved their handkerchiefs up at us—the same sight Mussolini must have seen as he

looked down. It was then that Sgt. John Vita of Port Chester, N. Y., pulled the historic stunt that will be talked about for the duration and six. He stuck out his chin, threw out his chest and did a terrific take-off of Mussolini, speaking in Italian. The crowds loved it. They nearly went mad with

joy when Vita made the exact kind of slap with his left palm against his right bicep as he shot his arm up in the Fascist salute.


That sort of thing went on all day. The fiesta spirit was broken only by occasional shots as mobs went after the stores and homes of Fascists.

Once in a while we saw trucks and busses jammed with armed Partisanos, who fired into the air as they combed the side street and alleys.


It was a great day and one that no American soldier who was there will ever forget. By late afternoon the Yanks who had come in first and then scattered over the city were swinging into line and joining the steady columns of doughboys pouring through Rome all day from south to north. The doughboys were so tired they made little attempt to straighten up and parade.


These infantrymen were tired as only men can be who haven't slept two nights in five days. There were beards on their faces, and their eyes were sunken and red as they plodded silently forward. They held their rifles any old way over their shoulders, and many had tied pieces of burlap and odd rags around their helmets in place of lost camouflage nets.


These were the dirty, tough, goddam wonderful infantrymen who had fought their way up the long bloody mountain path from Salerno; the men who had lived in underground holes at Anzio for months, sweating out the deadly German shellings; the men who always seemed to have to fight straight uphill into the muzzles of German guns; the men who had won Rome.


They had won Rome, but they did not have time to stop in it now. Their job was killing Germans, and since the Germans were running north, that was where they were heading.


In one long brown column a couple of doughboys were chanting a jingle that expresses, better than anything else, the spirit of the Fifth Army. It goes this way:


From Sicily to Rome,

Then Berlin and home....




Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Song of the Islands

Song of the Islands

GUADALCANAL — When Guadalcanal’s "Radio City" conducted a band-popularity contest recently, the GIs who operate the new station got the surprise of their lives. Harry James and
Benny Goodman trailed Roy Acuff's Tennessee hillbilly band, which received 400 of the 1,000 votes cast by soldiers, sailors and marines of the 'Canal,' on smaller South Sea islands and on patrol ships offshore.

But James is still going to get top billing from the Jacksons who run the broadcasting plant in a three-room shed in a muddy coconut grove. These GI operators, who hail from big cities (Chicago, Salt Lake City, Duluth and Cincinnati) claim the vote was a fluke.

They blame T-5 Hyman Averback of Los Angeles, who conducts the station's "Section 8 Program/' a session of recorded music and Averback chatter. Far from being a friend of hillbilly chants, Averback is such an ardent hot-music man that he lets his prejudices creep into his running commentary on the platters. "I've got some hillbilly records here," he'll remark, "but who likes hillbilly? Let's have a Harry James."

That got them riled up," the other operators of the station say, "and resulted in concerted pressure when we took the poll." Just in case this is the wrong explanation, though, the station is going to give more air time to that good old mountain music.

YANK Staff Correspondent

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment
SOMEWHERE IN ITALY—There's a tiny village of about 20 houses here, where every person in town thinks he's the luckiest man alive.

Some drunken German soldiers had wandered into the village, broken into the houses, filled themselves with vino and used the wine barrels for target practice, laughing loudly when the old wine gushed onto the ground.

Finally the American artillery started shelling nearby, and the Nazi drunks began to stagger out of the place—all except one, who decided to see how his “tommy” gun worked.

He lined up all the Italians he could find and was all set to start shooting when some shells hit the top of the building across the street and the falling rubble killed several people, including him.

The townspeople buried their own dead but they left the German where he fell. For a week the body lay there, stinking in the sun, and nobody would bury it. Instead, every time the Italians passed the body, they spit.

When the American soldiers entered the town, they buried the German. The Italians still haven't forgiven them for doing that.

-YANK Field Correspondent

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

GIs Take Over Rome



[By Cable]—Eight days ago I was in Teheran, Iran; a few hours ago I was in
Naples; now I was in Rome. I entered the city under sniper and machine-gun fire, with the point
tanks of the 1st Armored Division, accompanied
by riflemen.

Behind a big Sherman, the third tank to enter
Rome, our jeep bounced at 1930 hours into this mad town filled with happy, hysterical people, sniper fire, pretty girls, mine explosions and free wine. How I happened to get here is a strange tale.
In Naples we were talking over my plane ride
from Iran, the major and I, when a corporal from
the censor's office came in and said our troops
had entered Rome that afternoon. The major, who is my commanding officer, apologized for
interrupting my story. "I'd better get up there and find a press to print YANK on," he said. "I'd
better get up there and find a story," I said.

By 1400 hours the major and I, with Cpl. Sal
Canizzo as our driver, were speeding toward
Rome up Highway 7, the famous Appian Way.
The major had decided to take Highway 7 because Sal said that, on the map, it seemed the straightest and easiest road to the Eternal City.

The highway was in excellent condition, and we 'moved quickly toward the front, slowing
down only in towns like Formia, Terracina and
Cisterna. There we had to pick our way through
rubble-strewn streets. But if the streets were
bad. the towns themselves were terrible. They were towns no longer—just lopsided masonry,
dazed peasants, mangled trees and burned tanks.
In every town there was the smell of death. You could tell the nearness to war by that smell.

Until we hit Velletri, there was little traffic except an occasional small convoy, and we had the highway to ourselves. But when we were about five miles out of Velletri, the road became clogged with traffic—on one lane only, the northbound lane that led to Rome. We zoomed up the outside lane, dodging back into the convoy whenever we spotted an MP.

We passed endless rows of crowded ammo
trucks, gas trucks, ambulances, weapons carriers
loaded down with equipment and six-by-sixes
filled with infantrymen. The road was all dust,
dirt and confusion. Whenever we stopped and asked the way to Rome, the MP would shake his
head in a puzzled way and point hesitatingly
toward the forward end of the dusty column going north on the Appian Way. There was no sign of the enemy; no gunfire of any kind; no planes-ours or theirs—in the sky; no foxholes or
tanks. On this sunny afternoon the hustling,
bustling column, noisy with yells and friendly curses, reminded me of the impatient crowds
bound for dinner after a Saturday football game.

We sped through Albano, where the final push
for Rome had started. No sooner had we passed
through the quiet town than the whole scene changed. You'didn't have to know much about war to sense that you were nearing the front.

You could tell by the dust, rising from the road
like a giant smoke screen and blotting out the warm caressing sun; you could tell by absence of vigilant MPs, who up to now had kept shooing our jeep back into the noisy column. 

And the column itself had changed.  It now consisted of tanks—mostly heavies and mediums—and trucks mounted with heavy weapons. Straddled out in two single lines, 15 paces apart on both sides of the road, were infantrymen.   Their faces were dirty and partly covered by
handkerchiefs that helped keep the dust out of
their mouths. As they walked up the road, they
kept their guns on their hips. Neither the riflemen nor the tank crews talked much; they just moved silently up the road.

The column's pace had slowed down to a crawl when the sounds of shellfire suddenly came from up ahead. The men on the road dove for the safety of the embankment, and the tank crews ducked into their turrets. Sal nudged our jeep over to the embankment, and the three of us got out and lay down with the men on the side of
the road. The shelling was over in five minutes, although it seemed like ages; then the column started to move again.

We got into the jeep, and the major looked at
his map. For a moment he was silent. Then,
taking off his helmet, he scratched his head. "It
looks as if that kid from the censor was wrong.
We might end up selling these blasted things to
the Germans," he said, pointing to the bundle of YANKS we had brought along for promotion work in Rome. "Are you two willing to go on?"
Sal, an Italian boy with a terrible yen to get to
Rome, yelled "Hell, yes!" I waved my head indecisively. The major took that for an affirmative
answer. Our jeep moved on.

Soon the tanks stopped again, and now our
jeep was parked protectively behind the third
leading tank. There was more fire. It was not the same kind of fire we had heard before; this had
a whap instead of a whoosh.

A rifleman came over to our jeep; he was a short squat kid with a dark dirty face, and when he tried to smile you could see he was
tired. "Hey, YANK," he said, pointing to the sticker on our jeep, "you're pretty far up to be getting autographs." Then he spotted the bundle of magazines. "Can I have one, sir?" he asked the major. "Sure thing," the major said.

I reached down and handed the rifleman 10 copies. He pulled a knife out of his hip pocket. "Wanna German souvenir, bud?" he asked. He
threw the knife into the jeep and started across
the road. He gave the rest of the magazines to "a
bunch of his buddies, and one of them yelled across: "This sure is first-class distribution."

Just then there was another dose of whaps, and one of the infantrymen behind us must have noticed my shaking hands. "Don't worry," he said. "That's just a couple of snipers over in that farmhouse. We're gonna go up and get the bastards in a minute."

The Appian Way had now widened out into a four-lane highway with a trolley line running down the middle. Through the dust you could see the city of Rome. Down the street, ignoring the sniper fire, came citizens of Rome, some of them carrying wine in jugs and bottles. One man came running down the road alone; he wore no coat and was crying. The short dark rifleman
talked with him in Italian for a moment, then
turned to us and said: "This guy's wife was
blown up by a mine. He wants a doctor. You
better tell one of the medics."

On the right side of the road three or four
dogfaces were talking to the wine-carrying civilians. One of them took a big slug out of a bottle.
Suddenly there was a shot, and the GI fell over
in the road. The civilians scattered, and the other soldiers bent over their buddy. One of the crew of
the lead tank yelled to the crouching rifleman: "Is he hurt bad?" And the little dark kid yelled
back: "No. he ain't hurt. He's dead."

A second lieutenant and a squad of riflemen started up the embankment on the left toward
the farmhouse from which the shots had come.
The lead tank began to move again. We decided to stay with the tanks, hoping they would
finally make town. We felt uneasy on the road and nudged close to the third tank. The three tanks
in front of us were the only ones moving; the rest of the column had stopped.

We made it this time. No sooner had we passed
between two long rows of apartment houses, at the point where the Appian Way ends and the city of Rome begins, than the three tanks and our jeep were engulfed by screaming, hysterical Romans. Some were laughing, some were crying and all of them wanted to touch us. One old
lady kissed our jeep as if it were her lost son.
A dark-haired girl placed a rose in Sal's ear.
Somebody threw a bunch of flowers into the jeep and someone else put two bottles of wine alongside the flowers.

The three tanks had met the same fate. Romans swarmed over them like ants. The tanks couldn't move without killing somebody. I jumped out of the jeep and headed for the first tank to get the names of the GIs in it for my story, but it was impossible. Twice I was halfway up when the yelling crowd pushed me off.

Then I spotted an officer in the center of the road, trying to clear a path for the tanks.  I went over and talked with him. "How does it feel to be one of the first tanks in Rome?" I asked. He was a tall thin-faced captain. "We're not staying here long," he said. "We're supposed to move up that road toward the Tiber but these crazy people won't let us.  They don't know it but they're holding up the war."

The officer gave me the names of the men in the lead tank: Lt. Henry Schoberth of Versailles, Ky.; Sgt. John Brown Jr. of Canton, Ohio; T-5
Ernest Barnett
of La Grande, Oreg.;
Pvt. Tiberio
Di Julio
of Orange, N. J., and Pvt. Antonio Cano
of Los Angeles, Calif.
From somewhere came the whoosh of a selfpropelled gun. The captain headed for his tank, and the tanks began to move to the side of the road for protection. Somehow nobody got hurt, and this time the Italians cleared a path. Then the tanks disappeared down the dark street.

When I reached the jeep, I found that the major had picked up an ex-colonel of the Italian
Army. "We're going to his house for dinner," the major said. It was a confusing ride. We would start up one street and meet a bunch of people at
the corner. They would either swarm all over our much-abused jeep or scream something about
Tedeschi. This, Sal informed us, meant that there were still snipers up the street.

After backtracking over half the city of Rome, we finally arrived at the ex-colonels home.  He
lived in a modern apartment house. We parked
the jeep in his garage, locked the door and, after fighting our way through the mob that had
formed in front of the entrance, arrived at our
host's apartment. There we were introduced to
his wife, his mother and two of his friends, a middle-aged couple. We had a dinner of ham sliced thinner than a Walgreen special, peas, salad and white wine. We knew food was scarce in
Rome and went easy with the ex-colonel's larder.

Through Canizzo's New Jersey-style Italian, we learned that, besides being very happy, these
people were interested in two things. The ex-colonel wanted to know how the Allies were going to treat the members of the Italian Army. The other gentleman, a banker, wanted to know what the AMG would do with the lira. We could answer neither question.

After thanking them for the dinner, we took off with a volunteer guide for the Ambasciatori, one of Rome's swankiest hotels. Our guide found
it easily, and we went inside. There were no
lights, since the Germans had knocked the powerhouse out of commission. At the desk we found a tall thin man in charge. He spoke good English and did not seem at all ruffled by our presence. "Aren't you surprised to see us?" we asked. "No,"
he said, "we were expecting you, but not quite so
fast." "Are there any Americans here?" we asked. "Not yet," the man said, laughing quietly. "There were German officers in this hotel an hour and a half ago."

A bellboy took us to our rooms. Sal and I shared one with twin beds. He was asleep in five minutes, but I couldn't doze off. There was a lot of sniper fire, and with every whap I could picture some Kraut working his way toward our room. Soon the roar of tanks came up from the streets below. I went out on the balcony and
breathed a sigh of relief when I saw they were ours. For a minute or two I watched and then I went back to bed. Soon the comforting roar of
the tanks made me drowsy. I remember saying: "This all must be a dream." Then I went to sleep.

Early next morning I went down to the bar and met Charlie Castellotti, a famous bartender in the Paris of the hectic 1920s. Three German officers drank at Charlie's bar only a few
hours before the arrival of our jeep. "They were sad," Charlie said. "They have felt for a long while that you were going to take Rome."

There was a pretty girl sitting at the other end of the bar with a beautiful dark cocker spaniel at her feet. I went over and petted the spaniel.
He didn't seem to like my touch. "His name is
Blacky," the girl said. "He was given to me by a
German lieutenant last night."

It was a warm lazy day. There were still crowds in the streets. GIs whizzed through town with flowers in their helmets, bottles of wine in
their hands and girls hanging on their jeeps.

On one of the main streets a water main had burst. Four happy dogfaces were pushing each other into the stream. A large crowd gathered and watched the horseplay, cheering whenever a soldier was thrown into the drink.

But not all the Roman scene was hysterical
that day. Through one main street, in long serious lines, marched the infantry on its way to the
Tiber and the forward positions. On another street tanks, trucks, guns and ammo rolled toward the front.

On still another street a band of civilians, armed with machine guns and wearing red bands on their sleeves, stormed a radio station. They brought out the proprietor and beat him to the ground, using their guns as clubs. Then they carried him off. yelling "Fascisti."

The pace was too fast to last. Pvt. Charles
of Dunbar. Pa., a rifleman who had fought

from the beginning of the push to the very outskirts of the town, put it this way: "Come the MPs and the 'Off Limits' signs, and this town will slow down."

YANK 7 July 1944