Dad actually got to go on one of the boats like the ones pictured in this postcard set from Sicily on September 6, 1943.
Dad could read German, but not Italian. He didn’t know this was a “letter of love.”
Here’s another WWII postcard from Palermo, Sicily. This was sent to Mom on September 6, 1943, as mentioned in the story. Dad didn’t know of anywhere in Sicily where a house sat on level ground (as shown in the postcard).
Part 12: More WWII letters from Sicily
By: Staff Sergeant and radio chief Marvin A. Palecek
From: Glen Palecek
The war in Sicily is now over. American Generals Patton, Roosevelt, and Allen have all been relieved of their respective commands in Sicily, and the troops must wait for new leadership and for the planning of the invasion of the mainland of Italy. In case you’re wondering, General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was the son of a president and related to the current one, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. I would tell you more about why he was fired, but I’m not trying to write another history book. Let’s just say that, in war, it’s important for everyone to follow orders, even the son of a president. This is one of many times I must pass up an interesting story or I will never finish this series.
For Dad and the troops, it’s a time for rest and relaxation. Let me take this break in the war to quote some of Dad’s letters to Mom to show you what a little R and R was like in the middle of the war. Here is Dad’s continuing story from his letters, mostly in his own words:
(August 20, 1943) “The conquest of Sicily has come to a close with the Germans doing a Dunkirk of their own. Hitler’s favorite song, or No. one on the German hit parade, should be, ‘It all comes back to me now.’
“There’s a sharp contrast between our men and the civilians in the towns we pass thru. A couple months without a roof over our heads has made us red as Indians.”
Note: By now, Dad and his fellow soldiers who had been in Sicily since the D-Day invasion had had their appearance transformed drastically. No longer would they look anything like the new replacements who were constantly added to their ranks. This difference in appearance increased throughout the war. Hollywood tried to make movie stars like Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt look like hardened veterans, but, in Dad’s eyes, they still looked like newbies. This extreme change has been forever immortalized in the famous wartime cartoons of Bill Mauldin. Mauldin was a war correspondent for the Army newspaper, “Stars and Stripes.” Dad and Mauldin spent time together in the war (more on that later in this series).
(August 21, 1943) “I’ve been sitting on a hill gazing across the blue Mediterranean.”
Dad encloses a copy of the division newspaper. He finds out later the censors won’t allow this. He tells Mom he thinks he needs glasses.
(August 26, 1943) Dad writes to Mom that he wished they had “crossed to the mainland and kept right on moving.” He sends Mom three postcards that he had bought “in Palermo some time ago.” He tells Mom that one postcard is not realistic, “the ground is much too level for Sicily.” He adds that, “the buildings, however, are stone as shown in the picture, or piles of rubble.” He remarks about the second postcard, “Just a card of a scene typical of the rocky Sicilian coast, showing a few of the fishing boats which speckle the water again now that we control the island.” A third postcard is a “letter of love,” but Dad didn’t know that because he could not read Italian. (See pictures.)
(September 2, 1943) Dad talks about a movie shown on the side of a hill. There is no sound, so the troops can only watch.
(September 3, 1943) Dad writes more about Army demotions: “Adams is a private after busting became the rage around here again. They intended to make Mckane corporal, but he turned it down. Colonel Nolen got relieved shortly after we hit and his predecessor has been a big improvement. Captain Cantrell is in a rifle company.”
Here’s a pleasant surprise to find in Dad’s letter:
“I had a ride in a native fishing sail boat, and also get to go swimming once in a while. We buy nuts (almonds), fruits, etc., from the civilians. There are a lot of lemon orchards along the coast wherever the mountains don’t rise straight out of the Mediterranean. A few more blows like Hamburg and Berlin and I don’t think the Germans will have much stomach left for the war.”
(September 5, 1943) Dad sends Mom the following poem:
“Time is fleeting, we’ll be meeting, now ere long
And, as time’s passing, we are massing, millions strong
Folks are weeping, no one’s sleeping in Berlin
While dismaying, they are paying for their sin
London’s gloating, bombers floating in the sky
Hills resounding, from the pounding as they fly
We are sighting, swiftly righting Axis wrong
Time is fleeting, we’ll be meeting, now ere long”
The above poem shows Dad was optimistic that he would be home soon. He had no idea the hell he had already gone through was only the beginning. Through it all, he kept his optimism as well as his Christian faith and values.
(September 6, 1943) Dad mails Italian money and souvenirs and asks Mom to notice some of it has been printed by the Allies. His letter continues as follows:
“It rained again in Sicily. Sergeant Adams became a private a while back — too much vino (wine).
“When you hear of Sicily’s and Italy’s olive groves, don’t picture beautiful green trees. They’re about as homely as Texas mesquite and furnish about as much shade. But, I guess it sounds nice to tell the home front we’re living in olive groves.
“We get a fairly regular issue of gum, hard candy, and cigarettes. The boys don’t mind me being allergic to the latter. Also, we draw plenty of shaving cream, razor blades, tooth powder, and some soap; so you see, old Sammy takes pretty good care of us.”
That is the end of Dad’s letters and stories from Sicily. The next episode will plunge you back into the war, starting with the massive Allied D-Day invasion of the mainland of Italy at Salerno.