What a dreary looking place I thought as our LST pulled alongside another anchored off the Anzio -Netuno beachhead. I guess on such a cold, blustery February afternoon, the playground of the Gods would appear so.
Our friends from Palermo lined the rail of this second ship. Lashing the ships together took a little doing in these seas, and the process of
The beachhead from the ship.
transferring tools and supplies began. Frankie Sorrentino was letting a55 gallon drum of lube oil roll along two planks spread between the ships. I said, " Take it easy. Someone's going to get hurt. What's your hurry?" "You'll see," came the reply.
The barrel went over the side where it was crushed between the ships, its contents spreading a blue coating over the water far below.
Our indoctrination to Anzio came shortly after the others left. The barrage from the Alban Hills commenced. One to the port, one to the starboard, one to the bow and to the stem. Some small boats began laying a smoke screen for the night. That was when the Luftwaffe came on in full force.
I am convinced the human animal is the most adaptive thing ever. This combination of blustery seas, enemy shelling and bombing and once again c-ration chow was all taken in stride. The following morning's work load resumed without a hitch. There was a job to do and many had it tougher than did we, in particular, the infantryman. At least, for the most part, we had a dry bed to come back to and did not have to face the enemy hand to hand.
About the only diversion at the beach head came over the airwaves. I salvaged a radio after it fell from the pilot house of one of our LCTs, and during periods of little work at Karouba, altered the power supply to run off AC,DC or batteries. Being in an ordinary looking wooden box, it escaped the confiscators at Palermo, and we had radio reception at Anzio.
During the day the Armed Forces Radio at Caserta played soothing music like Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, The Longine Symphonettes and an occasional comedy show from Bob Hope or Red Skelton. Frequently, a more powerful carrier interrupted with a voice like Inner Sanctum saying, "Easy boys. There's danger ahead." After the bombing ofCassino he added,"(so many days) since the bombing of Monte Cassino, and no victory yet."
Sometimes before, sometimes after the air raids we would listen to Axis Sally. The queen of Nazi propaganda came on with Lilli Marlene as her theme song. She and George would throw back and forth some banter, at times risque by American standards, read a list of the war prisoners, give their version of the war news and all the time giving the impression she and George were just having a ball. The program ended up with a female chorus singing, "Heppi Dace Ah Heah Ahgin."
We took turns between repairing aboard ship and on the beach, always striving to keep the LCTs running. They shuttled back and forth between the liberty ships anchored offshore and the beach carrying the lifeblood of the beachhead. However, one LCT we wished to avoid. It was the one carrying the wounded to the hospital ship. It represented the reality that only a fraction of an inch or second separated us from a place on this same deck.
I came in one morning feeling quite invincible after our coxswain had zigzagged successfully through a burst of artillery from the hills. I jumped over the side of the LCT I was assigned to repair. There on the stretcher covered tank deck, I stared into the face of a kid my own age... only, he didn't have any legs!
Even when these men got to the hospital ship, their troubles weren't over. The predecessor of the present ship was sunk at night even though fully lighted and marked. A clearly marked red cross on the remaining wall of what had been a field hospital faced us every day at the end of the quay. German barbarity began to show as it became more apparent that they weren't going to win this war.
The LCT taking the wounded to the hospital ship
No part of the text or personal photos may be copied in any form without the express permission from the author.
© 2000 LCT Flotillas of World War II ETO PTO