After Salerno, Karouba became a ghost town. Most of the other Amphibious units began heading for the British Isles. A rumor had us heading for Cardiff, Wales, but I believe the Cairo Conference changed that.

Then came the rainy season. When it rains in North Africa its a continuous cloudburst. The temperature drops to the point where coats are required. The dust which blinded us all summer became ankle deep mud. Many of our craft had returned to Sicily and weren't getting much usage. There simply wasn't that much work. Morale sank to its lowest point, and yellow jaundice began to appear, adding to the ever present dysentery. A special team of experts flew in from the States to combat this new disorder.

Fortunately, along about the end of November we got orders to move to Palermo.

The harbor at Palermo is cradled in a semi circle of lush green hills which rise abruptly in back of the city. This colorful beauty offered a welcome change from the flat mostly brown terrain at Karouba. The LST pulled into a dock which appeared to be that of a commercial steamship company,. There was no great amount of activity, but the brightly painted two wheeled carts drawn by small boney horses were present for they are island's trademark.

At first we were quartered in a hotel further along the coast, but after Christmas we moved to the former Italian Naval Base in town. Our workstation was on one of the breakwaters and work continued as usual. Chow here rivaled any we'd seen since the States. Real eggs and bacon to order was not unusual. Liberty came up to the same standard. As I've said, these are the things a sailor looks for in a cruise.

Ah, but, there was trouble in paradise. The Captain of the base, a regular Navy man, believed in spit and polish and strict discipline. Downey's boys went back to boot camp. Everything not Navy was confiscated one day while we were at work. Court marshals were handed out, en masse, for being outside the barracks after hours.

Nevertheless, our boot camp seemed trivial compared to the problems of the people. Sicily is a land of optimistic, happy people even in the terribly impoverished condition we found them. We always brought back things from the mess hall for the many kids and washerwomen who hung around the street entrance of our barracks. These people didn't seem to have any source of income.

Tangerines and oranges in abundance caused us to gorge ourselves until it got to the point where, if a sailor went to sick bay and didn't have an obvious wound or disease, the diagnosis was a standard, "Too many tangerines." When one of ours would show up at the shop after a really good liberty, the others would nod their heads in unison, "Too many tangerines."

The good Captain didn't allow smoking in his mess hall. Sometimes the line would start moving just about the time one lit up a cigarette. Therefore, the comer of the marble steps leading up to the entrance produced a quantity of long cigarette butts. A small fellow in his sixties, wearing an army coat which almost dragged on the ground, controlled this most lucrative area. I don't know what kept him from burning up, for many times I've seen smoke emanating from his pockets. In his haste to get them all, he had neglected to snuff one.

One day, a newcomer, about the same age and size as "Pops" arrived. They sized each other up, and the newcomer stayed in the background picking whatever came his way. Then the inevitable happened. A good sized

butt came sailing over landing in a mud puddle between them. As the newcomer ran the thing between thumb and forefinger to remove me water, "pops" landed on him. There we witnessed a tragi-comedy as those two old-timers fought tooth and nail for a soggy cigarette butt. Mussolini's promises had come to this.

About the second week in January of '44, some of our group were told to gather a few tools and equipment for moving to a new base closer to the front.

On January 22, 1944, we got news of a new Allied landing at a place called Anzio.

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