April 17, 1944
A miserable rainy day in muchly disputed, torn-up Italy. Hope the dull gray outside is not reflected in this letter as I sit here in my dugout scratching away.
Excepting toady's weather, the sunny Italy of Cook's description has, lately, been living up to expectations. Summer is now definitely in the air ... the days are longer and warmer. Tree's are budding and, now that the winter crust has softened, green shoots are forcing their way out. Quite a different Italy into which they are growing this Spring.
First of all, let me thank you all for the razor blades and the 24 hour watch sticker. The blades are keen - well liked and appreciated. The newest addition to my time piece is most handy. Using the 24 hour system, as we do, continually found myself going through mental gymnastics figuring the hours after 12 o'clock noon.
Thanks to my very faithful correspondents plus the steady appearance of "Stan Bits", I'm rather fully informed of all the big doings at the "factory". Also received a very nice letter from Mr. Adams which I intend answering shortly.
Things here are much the same so actually there,s not very much on which to report. Shells whistle in and whistle out, planes drone overhead, bombs crash thunderously on both sides - everyday activity, and we've come to take it all in stride.
There are few civilians left hereabouts - those remaining tend the scattered flocks of sheep which roam about quite oblivious to the missiles which continually whittle away at their numbers. Too, a few women still remain - acting the part of G.I. Laundresses. As the domestic animals, these people appear totally unconcerned with the dangers which constantly threaten. The women sing as they scrub - and that they do aplenty, mountainous stacks of G.I. fatigues and woolens awaiting their attention - even mastering the currently popular "pistol Packin' Mama". G.I. tutelage!
We are well
fed and fresh vegetable are now coming in. Even had some lettuce and celery this
past week. We are also issued vitamin pills and there's an occasional ration of
fresh butter so there's not too much of an excuse for ill health.
Of course, the
mosquito menace is quite a problem right now. It's worried Mussolini for years
and we don't anticipate immediate and complete control of the situation. However,
in typical army fashion we're tackling Malaria at both ends - doing our level
best to exterminate the pest in the natural breeding places and through daily
doses of atabrine, building up body resistance against the sickness.
The bakeries continue their enormous output of bread and that, in itself, contributes much to the morale of our troops. German prisoners call our white bread cake. Continually go into song and dance routine over the deliciousness of this front-line miracle. They are issued hard "black" bread - as unpalatable as baked saw dust (I've tasted some) - poorly baked and with inferior ingredients. Coffee is another rare treat for the prisoners.
one day when I was manning a forward observation post and my corporal was just
preparing a tin can full of coffee on our little Coleman stove. It was incidentally
a good O.P. and we were giving the Jerries a mean dose of artillery fire. Well,
our man on the lookout post spotted this lone kraut coming our way, hands high.
He approached to surrender and was a sight! Hollow-eyed pale and the most miserable
looking one I'd seen in some time. Had a pretty good wound in the leg too. Said
he had enough of our artillery - couldn't stand anymore of it and well he sure
looked it. He looked at the coffee being brewed, first with unbelieving, and then
finally, living eyes. We poured him a tin can of the Java and he gulped that black,
scalding coffee down just as we would a cold beer after a few hot sets of tennis.
Coffee and bread - unheard of he said on his side of the fence. Yes, those two
very important items plus all the other fine advances Uncle Sam has made in the
rationing of his troops makes them more willing - better fighting men.
This letter, through no fault of my own, has been several days in the writing. Since starting it, I have received very fine letters from Carol Hesse Weil, Betty Forrest and Messrs. Stetler and Lemke. Wish I could answer each one individually but on that, I'll have to beg off. There's just not the time for it - we're kept fairly well tied up.
It's surely good news hearing of all that our Company and all it's employees are putting into the war effort. My congratulations to you all on your generous donations and all the good work.
It's mighty good to read of Ev Thiele's progress - tell him I'm pulling for that complete and speedy recovery.
Met an anti-aircraft lieutenant who used to do layout and art work for Benton and Bowles. We've had several interesting chats since then on that peacetime occupation in which we are so throughly enveloped.
Well, after two and one half days of doodling with note, think I'll sign off and post it.
Many thanks for all the wonderful letters and please, if at all possible, keep 'em comong.
My very best wishes to you all and may God will us a quick, complete victory and an enduring and successful peace.