In honor of the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team’s Summer Jump School and Open Hangar Day, I thought I would use this week’s column for another of my dad’s stories. When he was stationed at Naples, Italy, he met a woman who remembered that America had liberated Italy during World War II:
I pretty much lived at the Christian Serviceman’s Center on Via Roma when I was stationed in Naples. Normally, I would walk out the front gate on base and out to the entrance to the civilian airport. From there, I would catch a city bus, and for 50 lire, it would carry me downtown.
One particular day, I had missed the bus and so I stated walking. I like walking, and I’m a good walker. I cover ground quickly. I started down Campfire Hill, it was called thus because the women of the evening had their mattresses lined up along the street and built campfires with old tires.
I was headed downtown when a taxicab pulled up next to me, and I was asked to get inside. It was an old Italian woman who was concerned for my life. The Communist Party had the street blocked further down in the direction I was heading. Had I continued on foot the way I was heading, I could have been killed.
The old woman could barely speak English but she kept repeating, “Vive America! Vive America!”
She remembered that America had liberated Italy during World War II. I remember reading about Italy in World War II at one time. The fighting was terrible and it seemed that the Germans would win the battle when American Airborne Units concocted a plan that would turn the fighting in their favor.
There’s a book all about the Airborne Units called U.S.A. Airborne: 50th Anniversary, 1940-1990 by Bart Hagerman. In it, he discusses different operations by the different units.
“The Germans held the jagged mountains which overlooked the Allied positions and had stopped the inland advance cold. Reinforcements were urgently needed in the Paestum sector to prevent the invasion forces from being driven into the sea. Just eight hours later, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 504th with two platoons from C Company, 307th Airborne Engineers attached, were dropped on the designated drop zone marked by the new Airborne pathfinder detachments, who were used for the first time.
“This mission is still regarded as history’s greatest example of the mobility of Airborne troops—troopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry and Division Reconnaissance elements became the first Allied soldiers to enter Naples. The following day, the 82nd Airborne Division led the Allied Army into Naples. The Division was assigned the duty of ‘policing’ the city.”
It really is an interesting book and I enjoyed reading about the history of the place where I was stationed.
In any event, back to my story about the old woman. She must have been a young girl at the time, but she remembered enough good about Americans that she wanted to help one. I wondered if the United States Military had saved her or her family from the atrocities of the Germans. I’ll never know, but I will always be thankful to her for saving my life.
Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.