I was killing a few minutes yesterday, taking empty hangers out of the closet to make a little room, when I ran across an old manila envelope on Alan’s shelf. It was part of the things he brought home from his mother’s house. I knew it contained some of the family’s World War II ephemera, and I knew there were some V-mails and old telegrams in there; did you know that if your son was wounded, the Army would send you periodic check-the-box postcards assuring you he was “recovering normally?” Now you do.
I knew there were letters in there, too, but I hadn’t read one. Thought I’d dig one out. It’s from Alan’s dad, Roger, to his mom, back home in Defiance:
Dec. 17 ’43
Few lines this morning before I take off for town. They gave us a whole week to rare and tear & I’m going to make the most of it.
Well, as you probably guessed, I was one of the paratroopers they dropped behind German lines last Sept. (16 mi., myself.) My God, what an experience. On the way back we split up in small groups, 5-12 (none over 14) so we would stand a better chance. Anyway I spent eight days back there, enough to last me for quite a while. Some spent 21.
The Italians we run into back there treated us well. If it hadn’t been for them some of us would still be back there. We’d be on the top of one mountain when some Dagos would discover us. They’d bring us up food, water & that’s how we’d live. It looked like a pack train when they started bringing up the chow. After we’d eaten we had to take off. Caused too much attraction. I don’t know what we’d (have) done sometimes if they hadn’t been on our side. Then we had them as guides when we started through the lines.
Our guide brought us to the English one night about 10 o’clock. Boy did those lymies look good. They got right on the ball and gave us ciggs and food. Right then it bothered me what I had gone through with, after I was safe. Some of those narrow escapes I had, well, it was downright luck, that’s all.
One nite for example, eight of us came through a German bivouac area without a shot being fired. We run into several Germans, but they must of mistaken us for one of their returning patrols; anyway they didn’t bother us. Some of them spoke to us and boy did we shag ass. Knew that such a small party of us wouldn’t have a chance if the fireworks started to fly. The next morning a Dago said there were a thousand of them.
We had many narrow escapes, really too many to mention. It was eight days packed full of things a guy won’t forget in a hurry. I’ve had some since that job, but those were in a separate category.
What made that job kind of special was that Gen. Clark personally complimented five of us one day. We were eating breakfast one morning after we’d gotten back when who should drive up but old Mark himself. Well, five of us snapped to as if one man. He said we’d done a good job back there, etc. Shot the bull like a regular guy. Those stars on his shoulder didn’t keep him from being a swell guy.
Guess that’s about all for this morning. Have been pretty busy the last couple of weeks is the reason I haven’t been writing. Looks like roses for a while now, so will write more regular. Have got a bunch of bracelets, etc., am gong to send. Some of them, the black one, are made from the lava from Mt. Vesuvius. Anyway that’s what the guy said.
Hope you all had a merry Xmas. Looks like turkey this year for us.
Well. As Peter Riegert said in “Crossing Delancey” — “Your bubbie is giving you diamonds. You should write them down.”
When I first transcribed this, I puzzled over one word. I asked Alan when he got home, “Did your dad ever mention ‘dagars’ or ‘dogars’? I can’t find them on Google, at least not in Italy. There is a Pakistani tribe called the Dogars, but he seems to be describing some sort of, I dunno, maybe an Italian subculture? Could it be ‘drovers’?”
He looked at me like I was the stupidest person in the world and said, “Dagos.”
Yes, that was Gen. Mark Clark. He served in World War I, too. According to Wikipedia, he was only a lieutenant general at the time, but I guess he had enough stars to get a few salutes.
Isn’t that a great letter? Sometimes I’ll have to dig out some of my brother’s letters to me from Germany when he was in the service. Different time entirely.
Today’s Embarrassing Photo isn’t, just an old picture from our first weeks in our new house with our first baby:
Both his ears stick straight up now. How did that happen?
Not much bloggage today; I’m thinking I’m going to have to do some disk maintenance this weekend — my Mac is a draggy, beachballing fool of late and could probably use a hard-drive massage. I’m hoping for a happy ending.
But there’s this. This is one of those stories I studiously avoid, until the day I find the story or blog post that explains everything. I think this link tells you all you need to know about Miss California USA, and if you don’t care, don’t click.
Have a good weekend, all. I’ll mainly be working.