THE Germans are retreating along the instep of the Peninsula rapidly, fearful of being cut off by an amphibious landing before they arrive wherever they are going. The Brits' Fifth Division goes after them. It cannot possibly catch up. The coast road, the main road, is one of the most precipitous and gully-clefted highways in the world. Every bridge, every traverse, every angle is now deftly and deeply blown. Then liberally mined.
The American Lieutenant fits Brown Roberts, Private Helms, himself and a jeep into an amphibious truck at the Messina docks and crosses the Straits. At Reggio's harbor, Italian soldiers -- you cannot call them prisoners since they are held not by guns but by a daily ration, but you cannot call them anything else just yet either -- are unloading ships and repairing bomb damage of the weeks past. They are revealing the mines that have been laid to hamper pursuit.
Our people drive up the mountain and join the interminable column of trucks, artillery, and soldiers headed North. They slip in and out of the traffic when they can. There is a bottleneck every kilometer or so. He wonders why they are not cursed from the vehicles -- "ye bluudy fookin' bastards" -- but no: unlike themselves who have a mission, to take over media and search for intelligence and useful personnel, the soldiers in line gain nothing by pushing ahead, and lose little by lagging. The precipices are frightening, the roadsides here and there mined. Weaving in and out of sight along the mountainsides ahead and behind are the beaded threads of a thousand cars.
The trip is going to be unproductive. It will take days to reach the next large city; in fact, it would be Salerno. A couple of hundred miles away. This day is the Fifth of September. The landings on the Bay below Salerno are four days off and the plan to land there is still secret. It will take another week after that for the Eighth Army to make juncture with the Fifth Army on the beaches. And the advance engineers are far from having cleared up the intervening obstacles. He turns back.
Better, he imagines, to go up to Catanzaro, a small mountain city of the instep of Italy. The First Canadian Division has been climbing the mountain roads in that direction, to protect the main column's flank and clear up Calabria. When his jeep catches up with the forward elements they are shivering from the cold. Some have found a Fascist warehouse containing blackshirt uniforms, and are wearing them under their cotton khakis. Some wear the stuff openly and play the clown. Their roads are blocked too, but rather quickly the jeep weaves its way into Catanzaro, a fine, decadent, depressed, undestroyed old town. They leave some propaganda in the town hall. There is no press or communication facilities worth seizure. Maybe a couple of amplifying systems and cinemas. The people are so happy to see the Americans that they need dosing with pessimism more than bucking up.
He sees that it may be possible to get to the cities on the Adriatic and therefore turns the jeep around toward Messina to fetch the others. Italian soldiers are scattered everywhere about, most of them trying to find their way home and to survive meanwhile. (Upon the very day of the crossing, unbeknownst to Our Man, General Castellano and General Eisenhower had met in Syracuse to sign unconditional surrender documents -- why sign if the surrender is unconditional? -- and agree that the news will be kept secret until the Eighth of September. The American meets a crowd of "prisoners" at one point, and a despairing British soldier in charge asks him how to handle their surrender. The prisoners know that they are supposed to be fed. That's one of the reasons they gave up, they claim. He says to the soldier, tell them to go down the mountain another mile to where a prisoner-of-war canteen and camp have been set up. (He recalls seeing it.) They object, saying that they are collapsing from fatigue and hunger. He exhorts them to the last mile and, with that air of distress, resignation and humor that is so Italian, they pick themselves up and amble toward the promised meal.
He recrosses the Straits to Sicily and arrives at the bombed house in Messina where he had left the others. He portrays for them the situation. Then the Italian surrender is announced. They listen to the radio stations broadcasting in English, Italian and German. What a mess! The Germans are furious at their betrayal by the Badoglio government and give every sign that they will take over Italy and every other place around the Mediterranean where Italian troops are standing. Within hours, the Lieutenant and Robbie are at the airport greeting an Italian bombing plane whose pilots are surrendering according to the plan. There are not many like them; the opposition to the Italians' surrendering is heavy; their actually joining the Allied forces is dangerous and unlikely. There is on the one hand the understandable fury of the Germans at being left to fight a desperate war alone, and on the other hand the equally understandable disgust and fatigue of the Italians at the disastrous course of events. They are less militaristic than ever, economically down and out, witnesses to their beautiful country's piecemeal destruction, and ashamed of their faith in the dictatorial figure of two decades, Il Duce, whose face still glowers at them on giant-sized posters pasted upon every wall and edifice. Nor are all of them pleased to change from cooperating with Nazi Germany to cooperating with the Allies. They have ten divisions in Russia, now trapped, more divisions perilously exposed in Yugoslavia, Greece, a score of islands, France, and of course in Italy itself.
The Lieutenant urges his comrades to take the route of the Canadian Division as far as it has reached, and then to proceed on to Bari where major Italian press and radio facilities require securing and operation. They agree. This time the first team is made up of Robbie, Heycock, Laudando, and De Grazia. They have a tough trip. They overtake the Canadian spearhead and proceed ahead of it. The bridges are generally destroyed and at one point they have to retrace their route by many miles to find a smaller road that takes them through.
The territory is officially enemy-held but they see no Germans. "How does one know where they are?" one may well ask. You find the faces of people that seem to be most sympathetic and reliable, often female, because they are more disposed to help avoid bloodshed, also natives rather than Italian soldiers, because the natives of the mountains or of anywhere know who are passing and where they could possibly be going, and do a better job of telling what they are carrying, and how they are getting around than soldiers usually notice.
They finally drive down onto the plains of Basilicata, amidst the quaint neat trulli, the round white beehive cottages. There are many roads here and one has to stop and ask at every opportunity. One knows when there is an enemy about because the place is unusually quiet. It is like a Hollywood Western: the people disappear with a gunfight in the offing.
They enter Bari amazed at the completeness and normality of the City. As they drive along, they are noticed with rather more favor than astonishment. There are a number of Italian vehicles, civilian and military, on the streets. Italian soldiers are to be seen under arms. Asked questions, they respond helpfully; the experience is dreamlike. The team looks for the best hotel and finds it, Albergo Imperiale. It is new, undamaged, magnificent, looking upon the sparkling waters of the Adriatic. They are covered with dust, grimy, helmeted; their guns protrude; their radio is popping with static; the jeep is an eyesore against shiny civilian-type cars. They stomp in their boots over to the elegant reservations desk, already visualizing themselves immersed in gleaming bathtubs and dining at a splendid table, shaven, in clean uniforms. Not that they could be a match for the admirals and colonels and generals lolling about the lobby, dressed splendidly, like victors taking their leisure from a distant war. There is some curiosity about the newcomers.
More turn their heads, because Heycock is sputtering and gasping in fury; his face is apoplectic red, and he is waving his tommy-gun around as if he intended to use it. In fact, he is saying so. The desk manager has just informed them that all the rooms are occupied, so sorry, Signori. The American does fear he will shoot up the place and tries to soothe him while trying to get across to the clerks that they had better get rid of a couple of admirals because they had every intention of spending the night in a comfortable suite.
At the critical moment, there floats upon the scene the familiar face of Sgt. Guetta, last seen in Tunis. All action freezes: as if a movie director had called "Cut!", while they exclaim surprise, greetings, and explanations. Guetta is here with Major Ian Greenlees, "good old boy," and Mr. Williamson of OSS, "don't know him," and another officer. They'd landed at Taranto with the First Airborne Brigade and are living not far away at a place less conspicuous.
"That's all very well, Guetta, but explain to these bloody fools here that we must be given rooms." "Sure I can," says Guetta, "the Director is my cousin." Two large rooms magically empty. Bellhops leap to carry the rolls and guns upstairs, and shortly they are precisely where they had hoped to be, in steaming bathtubs. After which they descend for cocktails in the fine barroom and go into the dining room to be served a dinner. Greenlees and Williamson join them and chuckle at having beaten them to Bari by way of the air. They had arrived two days earlier with the first reconnaissance platoon, and had discovered that the Germans were gone. The Italian government of Badoglio, a farce but for the symbolic presence of the King and Crown Prince, is in Brindisi. Harold Macmillan is soon to be there, maybe is there now. He is chief of British Mediterranean political policy. General Maxwell Taylor also, the only American. They are all in a state of confusion. They are talking big about making major decisions, but events are beyond their grasp. The Italian armed forces should now be purged and supplied with equipment for battle on the Allied side; nothing is done, a battalion, a division, a corps -- something.
The Germans had been driven from Bari, following a brief battle, by a task force organized on the spur of the moment and led personally by an Italian general. The General had been shot, and proudly displayed to his new friend Signor Maggiore Greenlees his arm in a sling. At night there would still be occasional shooting here and there, but they slept well and had been busy and are "happy to see you" and "need you" and the rest of the advance Eighth Army team from Sicily as soon as possible.
Around the table now sat all the Allied forces there were in Bari and points North except for the aforesaid airborne platoon, which is commanded by a lieutenant. Greenlees is effectively the Commandant of the City, which is on the Front Line and in a State of War-- who with whom? -- without curfew, with electric lights, running water, orderly traffic, and ships riding at anchor.
Greenlees is admirably suited for majordomo of this mad scene. A rich literati. Handsomely tailored. Stocky, erect, large headed and curled to look like the bust of a Roman Emperor, crisp in speech and low of voice, elegant of manner, thoroughly conversant with Italy, longtime companion of Norman Douglas, who wrote superbly of his walks through Calabria and also the novel South Wind, about the Isle of Capri, where Greenlees also now possessed a villa. He should be in charge of the Italian surrender. He would squeeze out an effective political force for collaboration.
Greenlees convinces the paratroopers to patrol and to drive around conspicuously in different formations, now wearing helmets, now berets, to give the impression of an occupation in force. As his comrades from Calabria arrived, so had a tank platoon from Taranto, and this helps greatly to give the population a sense of security and the beginnings of a new society. Then the propagandists had to let everyone believe, for they were asking all kinds of questions, that the Eighth Army was swarming northwards and eastward from Calabria like locusts.
The limited size of the British force in the Taranto area was well known since it was the Headquarters of the Italian fleet and in touch continuously with Bari. The Italian forces, whether naval or ground, were under no orders to join the fighting forces of the Allies. Few at that moment could imagine the possibility. However, reorganization for the other tasks could have begun immediately to good effect, but the top leaders had only asked themselves whether the whole force could be turned around, which it obviously could not be, and, given a negative, ceased to plan for a very large and possible redeployment, especially in logistics and combat support units, road-building, engineering, and other special contributions. Sicily, and now Southern Italy, and eventually Central Italy would be liberated but millions of Italians who could have served in one capacity or another, spent the rest of the war unemployed, economically and militarily. The Italians were now in the hands of the uninspired and unimaginative, of their own kind and of the Allies. President Roosevelt could readily have thought to send Fiorello La Guardia, Mayor of New York, to catalyze the elements, as indeed the "Little Flower" had done in World War I, in the uniform of an Army Major, when the Italian warring capability was faltering. His assistant had actually been Lieutenant de Grazia's Department Chairman at the University of Chicago, Charles Merriam, Captain Merriam he was in World War I.
As matters stand, the small PWB Team, numbering perhaps six officers or equivalents thereof from OSS and OWI and six enlisted men, plus Italian staff that are being hired, is in receipt of communications from various branches of the Italian government addressed to the Allied High command, yet, to all practical purpose, present problems that can be handled just as well by the team, and are handled by the Team, that assumes an authority both imaginary and effective. Personages enter upon their premises, escaped and released Greek, Serbian, British and American Prisoners of War. The German consul is in their care. The team also directs the press, cinema and radio.
The Lieutenant is brought an Italian corporaI-driver-interpreter by Corporal Laudando along with a new Fiat, so that he can take in hand the Italian press. The Italian is quite handy but is arrested by the Italian Military Police for being absent without leave and disappears. Laudando finds out that he has been brought back by the Italian MP's to his outfit, and with another Italian soldier as guide, he takes the Lieutenant to the rescue. They drive into a large post, that looks rather more attractive than Camp Tyson, and pluck the man from his barracks. The scene gathers a crowd, of course, that has nothing better to do. They follow the jeep to the entrance, where stands the Commanding General and his Staff, more curious than angry-looking. The Lieutenant thinks that he had better pay his respects to authority, so he has the jeep pause in front of the General, salutes him, explains that he has been using the man, thank you very much, salutes again, and Laudando lets out the clutch and takes off.
He is supposed to supervise a large daily newspaper, the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, which now prints news of the King's doings. It refers to him as the King of Italy and Emperor of Ethiopia and Albania. It is not an important article, but gives umbrage to Our Hero who has to show his authority and teach them about the new order of affairs: these unlawful conquests are not to be given any semblance of recognition. He catches some on the newsstands and the rest undistributed and orders them all destroyed, snatching several out of the very hands of the startled purchasers.
He hastens to remove his gear from the Albergo Imperiale, for the British Royal Navy is wetting its shorts to set up a sweet nesting spa in Bari. Of course, the port grows busy right away, and if they would spend as much time guarding the rapidly growing fleet in the harbor as in feathering their nest, they might imagine a German attack, for the Germans still have airplanes to the north and east, and on the Second of December send in thirty of their precious few bombers to loose their loads upon the glut of ships, sinking no less than 19 of them, beginning with two ammunition vessels. One blasted ship carries mustard gas, that burns hundreds. But Our Man had been long gone from this awesome carnage.
Moved out of the Imperiale, he joins the rest of the enlarged team at Albergo Maggiore, a perfectly comfortable hotel in the center of the city. His seniors, the Brits, are, as indicated earlier, woman-shy, and Greenlees, in his flippant fey way, foists upon him the task of clearing the rooms of the hotel for occupancy by their growing numbers. Evidently a simple order passed along by way of the Italian concierge is not working. He discovers why, after giving the sternest of instructions to the Manager: a knock on his door introduces a beautiful young woman, smiling, call her Letitia: "Mio caro Tenente, I understand your problem, but surely we can arrange for a small room for myself, and even yourself, when you need it." No, no, mi dispiace, we need all the rooms. Many officers are coming, you understand. She understands: all the more reason for her keeping a little room. Impossibile, he has to say, suppressing all note of regret. She leaves. Another knock, another entrance, tears this time, beautiful again. And then the loud-voiced indignant one: accusations of cruelty, hard-heartedness, ma, more kindly, there must be a way out, no? No. He sneaks past them as he skulks down the stairs. They are packing, talking to each other in despair. He is pleased at his own fortitude in the face of the invitations and imprecations, but annoyed at having the dirty job inflicted upon him; they are, after all, humans, whores, so what, beautiful, courtesans, mistresses, prostitutes, still he isn't evicting disabled old ladies, no, but this is harder, no, they would do extremely well, if only they knew, in the coming days and months, getting rid of their money-poor Italian majors and soliciting the wave of bill-wagging British and Americans. So he breaks up as handsome a circle of ladies as was to be found on the Continent, despite every reason they could give for remaining, including connections with high officials, friendships with rich provisioners, promises from members of the police force, and, of course, free trips around the world whenever he could tear himself away from his work.
Hardly is this scene enacted when he is given the message from Greenlees by the Front Desk Manager to the effect that the Committee of Italian Liberation from Fascism is soon to arrive and that the Lieutenant should carry on with them until his possible late arrival. And here they come, a dignified, formally attired half-dozen gentlemen, several of advanced age, looking forward to the occasion, believing Greenlees, the Lieutenant, their Team, to hold all directives needed to extricate Italy from its predicament.
He explains the delay; they are nonetheless pleased. A Signor Giulio di Giovinazzo, who seems to be their chairman, presents him with a remarkable photograph: it is of their predecessors of another war, World War I, in Bari, and sitting in the middle of the group is Major Fiorello La Guardia, now His Honor, Mayor of New York, as big as life. A couple of faces are the same, after a quarter of a century of Fascism. It is an excellent preface to the meeting to come and he begins to hear what they have been up to, wondering also whether he should not invite them into the salon. These are the people to bring democracy to Italy, not the monarchical idiots of Brindisi.
He cannot attend to what they are saying very well and is growing uneasy, because a half-dozen men in Allied battledress, without insignia, reporters probably, have burst into the small reception area near them and are berating the Desk Manager, who, his apologies and genius failing him, finally turns upon the Lieutenant and the men at the same time, saying "you will have to speak to the Lieutenant, please." They are indignant and pounce upon the Lieutenant now, who is generally irritated from his unusual labors of the day and is feeling an acute embarrassment before his Liberation Committee; they are shouting and demanding rooms from him, telling him that these people, embracing the Committee, to whom he is giving his undeserved attention, have damned well lost the bloody war and have no rights to be respected, and ought to be thrown out the door -- taking off generally upon a series of insults directed at them, not listening to him at all saying that the Hotel has been requisitioned by the Allied military and is restricted, and they would have to go elsewhere, but exclaiming at all the woes they suffered in fighting their way here from Africa, with an insistence upon the rights of journalists over the rights of the bloody Italians. In exasperation, glancing uneasily at his listening Committee and essaying a bit of psychological warfare, he exclaims that "If these people had really wanted to fight, you might still be there," whereupon the burly self-chosen ringleader, shouts "You're a disgrace to your uniform, that's what you are," which is not a well-conceived description of a young man who is coming to think of himself as a one-man army and therefore becomes excessively inflamed, impelling him to shove, push and send the man sprawling and to escort brusquely the lot of them into the street, declaring "Get out, get out!" then turning to the Committee and continuing as if nothing had happened -- I am very sorry, but you know, si capisce, this is the way we behave -- and soon Ian Greenlees comes marching in and takes over the proceedings in the salon, His Excellency of Bluff.
Actually, had they spoken to the Lieutenant politely, he would have tried to help them out, or if they had expressed themselves indignantly to him, he would have still borne with them and tried to guide them to accommodations, even though as correspondents they were supposed to be taken care of by a special staff of the Army Headquarters and should not have to go blundering about like a gang of hooligans. But they had misinterpreted the situation that they came upon, and he had lost his temper, already high-strung from the day's events.
In any event he had put the incident out of mind, but that evening, as they sit at dinner, an American correspondent comes in, sweet as pie, asks for him, and is invited to sit with them, which he does, and then lets the cat out of the bag, saying that he going to tell this story that has been told him -- of an officer knocking down worthy members of the press, abusing them, denying them a place to rest their combat-worn heads, siding with the Italian enemy -- to the people back home and "the public will not like it." To which the Lieutenant angrily retorts, with more learning than prudence, "As Jay Gould once said, the public be damned," and this, too, says the correspondent, will not go down well with the people back home. The dinner party breaks up, the correspondent persists, until Heycock finally orders him out of the building.
The incident was not to be, as the Lieutenant believed, just another brawl. The reporter does file the story and the army censor scotches it. The Lieutenant's friends are not without informants, who report that the ringleader and the others deny that they were drunk, as the Lieutenant asserted -- which would imply that they act that way normally? -- but do not want to press the matter, except that this American correspondent, whose name, they say, is McCarthy, wanted to take it up. Further, it develops that he is a correspondent who is regarded as most troublesome, an isolationist and Anglophobe, here masquerading as a friend, and, in fact, at a Press Conference in Washington, President Roosevelt took time out to present him with a German Iron Cross Medal for damage done to the American war effort and civilian morale. This, too, nonplusses the reporters, for the downed man is British and the American Lieutenant is backed solidly by his British fellow officers.
Still Army Headquarters likes to sacrifice lieutenants who make waves and he was lucky to be the only American around, hence doubly useful. Major Greenlees is delighted over the incident; he chuckles over it and recounts it periodically. He is quite fond of the Committee of Liberation and the American. In later years, while Director of the British Institute in Florence, he would embellish the story to match his whetted appetite for getting at journalists, until he had Alfred knocking the gang of them about; quite untrue it was, though a slight domino effect could be discerned once they had stumbled into reverse.
Only two other Americans of appropriate rank are in Bari at the moment and Army Headquarters puts it upon them to deal with the case. One is his new acquaintance Williamson from Delaware's Eastern Shore, who ranks high in OSS, though a civilian. The second is General Maxwell Taylor, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who is looking into the local situation after returning from Rome. (He had landed secretly there to determine whether his outfit could take over Rome when the Italians would announce their surrender, but had been shown by the Italians that the Germans were reacting too fast and had already moved in two divisions. It was a dumb idea anyway because Rome would have suffered grave damage, and local Italian forces were poorly equipped, there as everywhere.) Williamson knows Taylor and introduces the Lieutenant to him in a chance encounter as they walk along the street. The Lieutenant gives him a Class AA salute, and Williamson says jocularly "Well, this doesn't look like a man who would go knocking people down, does he General?" (Actually, among paratroopers, bulk is not highly esteemed for physical prowess, so the remark probably is off-target with the Number One paratrooper.)
Taylor is not as friendly as Williamson, but at any rate they strike a deal later on, whereby both the correspondent and the officer would return to Algiers; the Lieutenant is assured by his friends that he will only touch base in Algiers and they will get him back to the Italian Front soon, in the West where the next big scene is to occur.
We may suppose that the British correspondent principally concerned, last heard of relaxing at a bar in Algiers, also found his way back later on. The idea is that the Army could protect itself by pointing to some action, rather than a cover-up, in case the issue of the brawl were raised again. The Lieutenant considers the matter and decides that he would indeed prefer Naples and points North, where Greenlees and the rest of the team will soon be entrenching themselves.
He takes no chances on missing Naples, however, and decides to head over there right now, so cuts orders to Foggia and Naples and drives with Cpl. Laudando over the Apennine mountains by way of the town of Benevento. These fall to the Allies around the same time, as October begins. Laudando goes along with him, through the mountains and the town of Benevento. They encounter one destroyed bridge after another and it is tiresome, because they can get across gullies and stream beds only by searching for passage up and down the river banks and over fields and through woodlands. He is determined to avoid the land mines that he is sure lurk beneath the stream bed and the rubble alongside the destroyed bridges.
After one particularly trying detour, when they sank in mud far from the road and had to persuade farmers to help extricate the jeep, he tells Laudando that at the next blown passage they'll stay close to the bridge where they'd be sure not to get stuck again, and, as might be expected, the next little blown bridge is only a couple of hundred yards down the road at a bend. As they crawl up to it watching carefully the road for signs of planting, they are taken aback by an explosion; truck parts, tires, seats, and duffle bags go flying into the air from the channel bed.
They grasp quickly that it is not the Germans, but an American convoy, proceeding through no-man's land from the opposite direction, a Company of Combat Engineers at that, which had gotten to the bridge just ahead of them, and had let the half-ton lead vehicle carelessly go down upon the stream bed. Had they been Germans, of course, the amazed pair would be in trouble. So they laugh in relief at their own escape and at the crazy sight, despite that something bad has occurred, and the Commander, walking up to them, does reproach them, saying, "You know, there is nothing funny about this. Men have been hurt!" But he cannot be too nasty; their jeep has Army HQ markings and he would not want it known how his men had plunged into a probable minefield. The Lieutenant apologizes. They give the Engineers information on the terrain that lies ahead for them and wind around the mountains to Napoli.
There a German-planted delayed charge in the central Postoffice, Telegraph, and Telephone Building has just exploded, killing and injuring many civilians, and anti-German sentiment rises high, bouncing directly to America now via the press corps that has come in with the liberating troops; it relishes to tell of innocent women and children being hurt by rotten Nazis. The 5th Army combat propaganda nucleus has settled into a billet, and they check in and spend a day and a half exchanging information around town before heading back to Bari.
One of their men, Fred Faas, has been shot in the ass, a painful wound, taking long to heal. It happened at Salerno while he was stooping outside a doorway to take a shit. Charlton, too, has arrived via the route of the 8th Army from Salerno and is publishing the Desert Rat News again, so their departure is delayed by a bottle of Scotch.
How do they find these people? -- simple: they go to the presses, the radio station or wherever communications or intelligence are involved, or Army G-2 and there somebody knows where they are. Laudando (literally: he must be praised) is a prolific information source on food, billets, army and civil gossip; while you are doing something else, he is never slumping in his jeep. The huge Chicagoan was even born in Naples; he speaks Italian fluently, he is Figaro with a Neapolitan accent. They encounter a pretty little girl, Maria, daughter of a Neapolitan Viscount, who he knows is beyond his barbaric reach but who admires the Lieutenant and wonders why he doesn't pet her like he pets her cat. Laudando says he wonders, too. But the Lieutenant has all he can do to write letters home, what with all this dashing about.
The Brits of Bari find Laudando indispensable, and the Lieutenant realizes that he cannot hold him. But they will appreciate the Corporal's strengths and tolerate his foibles. He is a rough and cheerful guy, who conducts himself with rare prescience and gentility toward officers, who is reliable in reporting on the state of the masses, and a genius at living off the country. He does get into trouble later on, but the incident can wait the telling.
They head East by North to return to Bari and strike en route upon the great air base of Foggia, that has been found untenable by the Germans, wrecked by countless air raids. The two men arrive at pitch-black night in a downpour, the field is empty, a British patrol huddled in one corner of a building. Our Man does not wish to be blown up by a mine and would rather sleep in the rain, so makes up a tent of sorts beneath a piece of wreckage. In the morning they go through the city. It is in poor shape as well. He assembles a cursory intelligence report for the Naples and Bari people. Then it is back to Bari and on to North Africa.
Very little can be expected of the Italian government. Already there are tough problems over the admission of all or some parties to the coalition that is to run the civilian offices of the government. Actually the country is in the hands of foreign armies; the Allies address the Naples - Foggia line from the South, the Germans are dragging their heels while organizing resistance north of a Volturno River line.
Why the fighting and most of the British forces should be shifted to the West puzzles him. Along the Adriatic coastline, there runs a better plain for driving North and there are many fewer Germans in opposition. But everyone has eyes focussed upon Rome. It hardly occurs to the high command of the Allies, who are little different from ourselves on larger strategy, to conquer Italy from the East. As a matter of fact, the Allied 15th Army Group will offer for the first time in history a conquest of Italy from the South. (I do not really believe this, but that's what General Alexander and the historians have said.)
Ah, yes, they would most likely be saying something like this: "If we move rapidly up the East Coast, the enemy will come over and cut us off." But the Allies can wreak havoc upon any sizeable German forces moving across the Apennines. Furthermore the Allies can then reinforce the West by sea or air. You cannot move the Germans' equipment-poor army back and forth across difficult mountain road, such as the Lieutenant and Laudando have just driven through, especially with demolitions everywhere. And if they swing over to block or trap the Allies, will they not be in even worse danger of being snared themselves? A law of warfare, from grand army to patrol, seems to be: a) logically, the one opponent can trap the other, like two wrestlers, b) the better equipped, trained, aggressive, cleverer and more numerous, wins, c) but, not content with thus explaining victory, the winner claims to have performed a brilliant flanking movement.
On October 9, he cuts his orders, gets them signed by Greenlees, and heads for the small Bari airfield. There he finds a DC-3 leaving for Catania with a load of sick and wounded men for the evacuation hospital. He climbs aboard. The night is stormy, visibility nil, the men anxious, himself included. The interior of the plane nothing but a metal cylinder with strings of wires, with metal bucket-seats and a ragged rug on the metal floor, so that stretchers incline this way and that, and the men sit as best they can, holding whatever part of them hurts the most as best they can to ease the painful bumps. The noise, the smells, the groans, the thunder, the lightning, the dips, yaws and jolts -- almost like continuous collisions.
The other healthy passenger aboard is a flight lieutenant of the RAF, born in the West Indies, graduated from Yale, named Kennedy, a man who has spent a year in the Soviet Union and speaks Russian -- a good man for dinner-table in Catania, he thinks, whatever that may be like now. At Catania he finds his villa -- the same that they had taken possession of, it seems, years ago. Only Beauclerk and a couple of others are old faces among the dozen there now. But their welcome is hearty enough, and the cuisine has continued in the respectable tradition set by Captain Robertson and Company.
The next day, he lucks onto a plane to Algiers, so bids all good-bye and flies smoothly to Africa. The people in Catania are really enjoying the war, it seems, but life is even better in Algiers. Sometimes, you know, at odd moments for some, most of the time for others, not only these characters, but soldiers even down to where the other guy's machinegun can be heard, say, "I pity those poor bastards back home; they don't know what they're missing." And they really mean it, at least for a couple of hours now and then, maybe even for the whole long time they're gone.