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Archive for the ‘Anzio Italy 1944’ Category

During the summer of 1943, I received the inevitable “Your friends and neighbors have chosen you” letter from President Roosevelt. After about three weeks reprieve at home, we landed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts for processing, during which I was interviewed by a Classification Specialist. When he heard that I was a History Teacher, he threw up his hands. “If you were a Science or Math Teacher there would be no problem, but the Army doesn’t know what the hell to do with fellows like you or me. I’m an English Teacher.” He paused momentarily, then, “What do you do in the summer?” was his next question. “I have worked quite a few summers as a substitute letter carrier”, I said truthfully. His face lit up at once. “You mean you walked 15 miles or so each day with a heavy pack on your back?” I had no recourse but to answer miserably, “That’s about it.” A few days later I was one of 500 men “railroaded” to Fort McClellan, Alabama “Basic Infantry Replacement Training.”

Anzio, Italy: March 13, 1944
We moved up to the front lines tonight after six days of rest and training. Back to the same brook and ravine I had struggled with the night I went up with rations. On the way up we had to cross and bridge and road which had been receiving heavy shelling. Sure enough, we had to hit the dirt, myself in the middle of the road, and sweat out a half dozen shells about fifty yards away–possibly nearer.

I was assigned to a hole with Shorty Powell [later killed in action]. Because of the water the hole was only about a foot deep, but was built up about three feet by sods and dirt. We had been there only about fifteen minutes when a shell landed fifteen feet from our hole and seemed to almost lift us into the air. The explosion was deafening and part of our side wall was knocked in, and our blankets which we hadn’t unrolled had gaping holes ripped through them.

For a couple of hours more the shells came pretty close and had us pretty well frightened. Then it was fairly quiet. We couldn’t both sleep at once, so we slept and watched in two-hour intervals.

–Donald E. MacDonald, from his soldier’s diary of war time experiences on Anzio Beach-head, Italy, 1944.

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