President’s Message

President’s Message


Easter Sunday brings me back memories of the Anzio beachhead in 1944. After Cassino, Anzio was more like Hawaii with hot, balmy days. Everything was green in the flats with hills and mountains on one side and the sea on the other. The poppies were in full bloom and splashed the field with red. It reminded me of the famous poem–“In Flanders Field”–where the poppies grow row and row. During the day, the view from the shell holes in the walls of our Italian farmhouse was beautiful. Everything seems so serene with a gentle breeze blowing to keep it so cool and peaceful. If there was no war going on, it would have been wonderful to stroll around and enjoy the magnificent scene. With a few cattle grazing in the fields, it felt like you were in a quiet countryside.

Alas, when you take a deep breath and smell the foul odor of war, it brings one back to reality. There was a war going on, with the Germans on top of the hills and mountains, keeping us hemmed in from three sides. There was hardly any activity during the day, for we all slept, both the enemy and we buddaheads. At night, we were busy patrolling, running into machine gun fire, taking up outpost positions, and looking for vegetables but wary of minefields.

This leads me to “The miracle of a beautiful, leatherbound [sic] Bible.”

Early on Easter morning, while it was still dark, a couple of American tanks cautiously drew up by the Italian farmhouse where one of the 3rd platoon squads was quartered. After the tanks got into position, they fired away for about 15 minutes and took off to the rear, helter-skelter, and left our squad there holding the bag. About half an hour later, the Germans began shelling the farmhouse and roadside with small 88 artillery. Our boys started scattering down the road. After the shelling ceased, Lt. Fitzhugh, our platoon leader, asked for a volunteer to gather the men together and take them back to the farmhouse before daylight. As the platoon sergeant, I felt it my duty, so I took off from our farmhouse and hurriedly gethered[sic] the men together. As we were hurrying back to their farmhouse, I kept a vigilant eye on the German side. I saw a flash. I knew it was German artillery firing. I yelled to the men to dive into the ditch alongside the road. No sooner did we land in the ditch when the first shell burst on the road. Then another and another and some more. The repercussion was terrific. Everytime[sic] a shell burst on the road, I felt my body lift up a few inches although I was hugging the ground with dear life. After about half a dozen shells, I figured this was too much so I turned around and signalled[sic] to the boys to start crawling away from the area. We crawled about 50 yards when the shelling stopped. I waited several minutes longer to make sure the shelling had stopped before I jumped up and yelled at the squad to run for the farmhouse. When I got them into the farmhouse, I checked the men; not one was hit, not even a scratch. One of them who had dropped his helmet on the road when we dove into the ditch asked for a new helmut[sic] and showed me two holes where a piece of shell fragment had gone clean through his helmet. A further check showed one man missing but he was found later in 4.2 mortar squad’s farmhouse.

After that we were shelled again but only one hit the opposite of the farmhouse.

Since it was getting lighter, the Germans quit their firing. Then I dashed out of the farmhouse and jumped into the ditch to return to ours. Before I started, I peered over the bank and the road, pockmarked with huge holes about 3 to 4 feet in diameter. I prayed to myself, “Thank God nobody got hit.” I half-crouched and started on my way back to our farmhouse when I met Lt. Fitzhugh about half-way, coming to check on us. While I was reporting to him, the lieutenant looked around the ditch and found a beautiful leather-bound Bible. He said it was a miracle that no one was hit and finding such a Bible on Easter Sunday.

We made inquiries of all outfits around us but could not find the owner. To the men of 3rd Platoon, Co. B, it was the miracle of Easter Sunday in Anzio.