June 29, 1944 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

June 29, 1944
No. 33
Anzio, Italy

Dear Folksies,

            A few days ago I had an opportunity to travel to Rome for a visit as Don Vallar had to go up there to pick up some things and the Old Man O.K.’d someone else going along.  Morduant went also sort of half and half on business and we had quite an enjoyable time.  We walked around the city a great deal, saw the muddy Tiber, and visited the Vatican.

            We had lunch with some of our former Sicily friends — intelligence guys — and then went to St. Peter’s Cathedral.  What a joint that is!!  It certainly is tremendous and very beautiful with its mosaic copies of Michelangelo’s paintings (the paintings being in the Sistine Chapel which was closed to visitors), its gold ornaments, columns, etc.  The statues, like all of Michelangelo’s works, are very life-like with perfect anatomical shapes, as our guide repeatedly pointed out to us.  Incidentally, we were rather unlucky in the choice of guides, for the guy that picked on us was 73 years old, and had been a guide there for some 60 years.  His English might not have been too bad, but he had difficulty with any language — whether it was his false teeth or what, I know not, but in his halting, hissing and sputtering way, we managed to understand about 25% of what he was trying to tell us.  Some of the other guides we saw, of course, were considerably better — some left over from the Old Cook’s Tour times. 

            When one looks upward toward the dome from the inside of the Cathedral one is amazed at the height of the building, but when one goes to the top and looks down, then one is even more stupefied by its height.  Looking upward into a cone it doesn’t look nearly so high as it does when looking downward from that same cone.  Yes, we were foolish enough to go to the very tip-top, not quite realizing what a job that climb actually was.  One has to go round and round the circular staircase until, when the top is finally reached, one is so dizzy that he continues going around and around on the level top.  At the start of the climb one is rather deceived, for the steps were inclined gradually so that the height of the individual steps was no more than four inches.  But then, suddenly, all that changes and you are climbing up precipitous steps in a very tight and rapidly ascending circle.  In fact, near the top you had to walk bent over sideways at a 45 degree angle to conform to the shape of the dome.  We managed to get some pictures taken from the very top and sure hope they come out O.K., for they included the Tiber, the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, and most of Rome in them.

                                                                                        Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for the conclusion of this letter
June 30, 1944


René tells his parents that a few days earlier he had the opportunity to travel to Rome for a visit – including going to the top of St. Peter’s Cathedral.




St. Peter’s Cathedral.




View from the top of St. Peter’s.




The Tiber River and Castel St. Angelo.



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June 30, 1944 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

June 30, 1944
Conclusion of No. 33
Anzio, Italy

Dear Folksies,

          Have been pretty busy the last few days with the V.D.s, as we had a bunch dumped on us from elsewhere. The rest of the hospital, however, is busy being a hospital for the beat-up civilians, it seems. The majority of our surgery cases have been civilians – everything from mines to wrecks, etc.

          We’ve had some darn nice pilots staying with us these last few days – they had to put down for gas and then repairs and then found they couldn’t leave again for a few days, so they boarded here. They were just young kids.

          We’ve also had some French Officers and Flight Officers as boarders here. We’ve been boarding more people here than we ever did before, and goodness knows we did our share of that in Sicily. Of courses, in Sicily we boarded some very large groups, but here it has been a constant stream of people – anywhere from 8 to 25 at any one time, not to count the enlisted men that wander in from time to time.

          We had some very interesting stories from these French fellows.  They tell of how the Goumes (the French Moroccan troops) have to be bargained with before they will go into battle to take any particular objective.  When they come to a certain objective – a hill or a town – the French officers have to sit down and bargain with the Goume leaders and agree on the price that will be paid to the Goumes for the taking of that objective.  They bargain in food, clothing, booty, and money. Then, when the deal is fixed, off go the Goumes and nothing is heard of them for maybe 24 or 48 hours.  They go off singly or in small groups and no word is had until finally a runner shows up to tell the officers that the objective has been taken.  Of course, this story is somewhat in contradiction to others we have heard concerning the necessity of the officers leading the men into battle and consequently the very high mortality rate among French officers.  The latter I know is true — the French officers have a tough job and the mortality rate among them is pretty high.

          Another funny story concerns the French Foreign Legion, which is composed of all types of men from all different countries, including Germany.  There are even some of Hitler’s Afrika Corps among them — Germans who consider themselves ex-patriots or without a country.  These men were put through a rigorous training, of course, before they are taken anywhere near the front.  Well, in the big push when they have had the Germans on the run, they have captured some German tanks and these ex-Germans hop aboard these tanks and if they will still work, off they go to fight the German Army with their own weapons.  One American pilot nearly had conniption fits when he spotted a German tank behind our lines heading hell-bent for election toward the front-lines to enter combat against the Germans.  He couldn’t figure it out until someone explained that the French Foreign Legion was in that vicinity.

        A couple of days ago I had some fun swimming and getting dunked.  A gang of us were taken out in a couple of those big DUKWS (otherwise known as “Ducks,” or Amphibious 2-1/2 ton trucks).  We went bounding out into the water, the engine stalled and all got soaked by the wave that came up just at that time.  I had quite a good ride around in the water for about an hour or so.  I had been in one of those before, both before and then again during the invasion of Sicily, but this was a bit more fun, as there were no shells bursting around us.

        We’ve had some more movies here lately, but it has been so hot in the movie tent that we are attempting to rig up a good outdoor screen so that we still will be able to maintain some semblance of black-out at the same time.

                                                                                        Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter
July 2, 1944


René tells his parents stories he’s heard from some French Officers and Flight Officers who have been staying with the 59th – including stories about captured German tanks, like the one pictured above.




Other stories have been about members of the French Moroccan troops, known as the Goumes.




René and others in the gang were taken out in a couple of big DUKWS – amphibious 2-1/2 ton trucks, like the one pictured above – for “some fun swimming and getting dunked.”



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