Eighth Army News No 143 Vol 3 March 11th 1944

2 EEGHTH ARMY NEWSLETTER FROM ANZIO Over a month ago the Allies landed on the beaches of Anzio, south of Rome. Hitler issued an order that this approach to the capital of Italy must beheld at all costs. Three times since British and Americans have beaten off attempts to crowd them into the sea. Back home some people are wondering whether our Anzio venture was worthwhile. Casualties have been heavy on both sides. The Germans have lost over twenty thousand in killed, wounded and prisoners. Will the Allies be pushed into the sea? These are the things that are worrying some people back home. The Editor of the «Eighth Army News »went to see for himself and he has written the following letter to one of the people who wrote to him about Anzio. The letter is to his brother. DEAR Fred,—In your last letter you remarked that if Anzio was going to be re­peated when we launched the Second Front then you were preparing yourself for years of war to come. I may re­assure you. From the beginning we have been out­numbered at Anzio: from the beginning the Germans have used their -preponderence in numbers to attempt to wipe us cut. I can tell you now that nothing the Germans may do will shift us. The enemy is suffering more than he can afford. To­day we hold our bridgehead so firmly that we are only waiting for the weather to give us the opportunity to attack. This is. naturally, my opinion, but I have some­thing to back it up: I have seen for myself and tested what I have seen against ex­periences in Africa, Sicily and Italy. Communiques and the like are murky-windows through which to peer for a view of a battle as a whole. Ib a t is why I am going to tell Itf the port where infantry and tank craft offset for the beach-head with reinforcements, food and munitions of war. to Battle It was a drab port with cobble— stoned streets strewn with rotten vegetables. There were groups Of soldiers, lolling against trucks and the quayside, steel-hatted, rifles slung, loads of kit, and all with that quietness which is part of men on their way to battle. I put my kit on a tank-landing Fhip and returned to the shore for a walk and a drink. I found a bar less crowded than the other Fagin's dens and ordered a cognac. There were two soldiers drinking as well as myself. They had returned from Anzio. They spoke of the shelling. They were making the trip regularly and their uniforms were grease- staged and shabby. Two Italian children, white­ faced, with caps too big for them and dressed in pieces of cast-off blue-green Italian uniforms, en­tered, and the elder of them (he was moreno than seven years of age) ordered two cognacs, was served without hesitation, drained his glass at a gulp and gave the other to a child about four who sipped the alcohol with lips still pouted from the breast. I looked at the soldiers and what we had to say needed no words. Dangerous Cargo 1 returned to the ship whose holds were choked by trucks carrying ammunition, and on deck more vehicles also loaded with explosives. I spoke to one of the ship's officers. «A dangerous cargo ...*«We’re getting roused that. It’s our third invasion. You should see us unload—we’ve cleared the holds in four and a half minutes during a raid.* 1 walked past silent soldiers looking vacantly out to sea. The ship rocked and there was the vibration underfoot of the engines moving into life. We glided sea­wards, one of a convoy bound for the beach-bead. I shared a cabin with a officer.ships There were photographs of his family pinned to the walls, some pieces of green bronze he had picked up in Naples and a few books. I lay on my bunk reading. The owner of the cabin was not in a mood for talking. He went out and returned half an hour later. He slung me a life-belt. Later on he said: «I’m sorry I ’m not in a conversational mood. I ’ve made fifteen of these trips. People become part of a constant background you hardly notice.* <Do you get a lot of trouble on these trips?* «A few ships have been sunk. They bomb and shell us. There are some mines. They’ve used glider bombs and there is always the chance of running into a U-boa t.» lie lay down and changed the subject. He spoke about a bawdy exhibition he had seen when on Italian fishing boat pulled along­side. Police looked up at us from a fresco of debried buildings. A notice said: «A11 ranks will wear steel hats.* Everything began to move. The men, the lorries and the crew of the vessel. Everyone to their task, knowing it and requiring few orders. I needed transport and I needed information. I left my bed-roll with a British MP and walked up the hill towards Anzio. I could hear the whistle of shells and I turned into an American police post. A young officer offered to help Heme. would take me in his Jeep when it returned from a job. While we waited he asked me questions: When would the Second Front start? Was a battle starting round Cassino? He had the soft voice of one who came from south of the Mason Dixon Line. He had been in Africa, the Salerno landing and he spoke confidently about Anzio. «Ever since yesterday when a thousand of our planes blasted those sonsofbitches they've kept pretty quiet.* Excellent Guide His Jeep arrived and we drove along a road which had been well registered by the enemy gun­ners. I felt a shell was going to land near us. I didn’t believe the stories I told myself about the odds against it. I never do. We passed a large hole in a wall. «Dug one of mah boys out thereof this morning,* said the GENERAL ALEXANDER strides through shattered Anzio After the war? He would like to travel. Then he said, smiling: «But not like this,* and dozed off to sleep until he was on watch. I went on deck after the even­ing meal and looked at the sky where there were dark moving continents of clouds. I thought once I heard an aeroplane and the excitement in my stomach only left when I realised it was the hum of the ship's engines revving up. Off my way to sleep I caught a snatch of conversation. cThey’ve had a lot of mucking casualties...* <When’g mucking J^rry going to chuck it in?* I was tired and when I woke it was dawn. I went on deck. The ship rested still and I could see land, a crescent of land with snow-painted mountains to the north and could distinguish a cluster of shore buildings. Hang­ing overhead, borne, so it seemed, of their own conception, were fluffy balls of anti-aircraft shells bursting. We moved shorewards. Drivers, most of them negroes, were seated ready at their wheels’. British soldiers stood patiently with their kit. An American officer who had made the journey before said,: «It’s quiet to-day.* Our ship touched land and the big hold gates swung open. American and British Military Lieutenant, and added, «He was really dead.* We contacted my friend Wicker, of the Army Film Unit. He lived in a house with its back to the harbour and facing the road along which I had come. Wicker’s job, photographing the war, gave him freedom of move­ment. He was an excellent and knowledgable guide. We drove along the Rome road. There were bomb craters in the soggy green ground wherever you cared to look. There were ammo dumps, prisoner of war cages (sparsely populated because over three thousand Germans had been taken away by sea) and we shot past mundane signs like «Fieid Cashier,* «Keep Your Distance,* «No Overtaking,* until the traffic thinned out, and there were gun pits on either side of the road. We drove on for a few min­utes. Wicker spoke about some nursing sisters who had been killed in the Anzio hospital by bombs. «From hereon we are under observation,* he announced as we turned off the road. We got out of the Jeep and I had the ehance to speak to the men, infantrymen, sappers and gunners, who were holding the bridgehead. They spoke happily while they brewed tea. Their dug-outs were clammy and some were water-logged. Jerry had fought hard they said. He had fought madly. The Germans had been told that the wAllies rere weak and they had found the Allies were strong. Many of the Germans had died to get that knowledge— so many that they were buried in bulk by bulldozers. The men 1 spoke to had fought the Germans and are fighting them now in the mud and sandy slush which is the front on the Anzio beach-head. He had nearly broken through, but they had held him. He had some advantages: his shelling was good and he was using his long-range guns effec­tively so that our ourn were more forward than usual to meet the challenge. He was a tricky cus­tomer, too—speaking to onr sen­tries in English to trap them. Short of Water The enemy was short of good water and cigarettes. A German patrol had bellied upon one of our advance dressing stations And tried to rob the wounded, but three wounded Jocks caught five of the patrol, killing three of them and taking two prisoner. The Luftwaffe boys were cunning, too: pretending to dog-fight, rivet attention from the ground and then dive to release their bombs and machine-gun. But Jerry had been made to pay. The Air Force and the British and American soldiers had seen to that. 5^)u could walkout in apart of No Man’s Land and step for a hun­dred yards over dead Germans. You could if you were tired of life. British I met spoke in praise of their American comrades, and this was quiet praise rarely given by men who are not in the habit of handing out bou-’quets to their Allies. This much I learnt from the infantryman, the gunner and the sapper. They were confident, sure and calm. Later 1 went to Corps head­quarters nrtfl from the Operations and Intelligence staffs I checked facts and MMjliWrgt I '*enemy was hi5 !?).His troublesome guns had been punished by our airmen and by shelling from our cruisers. Supplies w T ere incoming nicely, thank you, though there was rarely a big margin. The Germans were using Danes, Poles, Frenchmen and Norwegians to bolster up his numbers. Did they fight? Did any man with a re­volver behind him and death in front? He fought. When Ground Dries And the future? When the ground dried we would show them. Until then we would give them no respite and expect none. The headquarters talked about the many acts of bravery, but I will not repeat them because they were part of the whole and be­longed to them all. I stayed in the bridgehead a little longer. A trip forward led tome «Anzio Ritz,* a cinema in a dug-out which could seat six and take fifteen standing. After Betty Grable there was a newsreel the in­congruous sound of shells on the screen finding their echos in the real stuff outside. When I boarded the ship back it was with tired infantry who were on the way out. They were asleep within a few minutes. I went into the wardroom where the skipper was swearing at a bill for tuppenee the naval autho­rities had sent him. We moved out and as we did so we saw an explosion. It burnt a red glow on the horizon long after the dark blur of the coastline was swal­lowed in the dusk. I will never forget a soldier who looked out the next morn­ing when we docked. «This ain’t Glasgow, <the mused, cbut it ain’t Anzio either.* There you have my impression of our beach-head. Pieced to­gether I hope it tells you that the fight was hard, but the fight has been won. We are waiting to attack. There is no hope for the Germans who out-number us at Anzio, and if this beach-head is their standard there can belittle hope for them In the Second Front. But there you wait for the moment, too. Good luck to you. WAR WICK CHARLTON SOMETHING MUST BE OverDONE... ninety thousand mi­ners outcome on strike. The Miners leaders declare they are trying to convince the men of the folly of strikes in these critical days. The miners say: «We know people are saying that we are letting the soldiers down. But what we are doing is fight­ing a battle for improved conditions for them when they return*. We think the miners have a stronger case than that, but let us goon. The Government have ap­proved a decision to increase miners .wages, following a meeting in London between representatives of the mine owners and Major Lloyd George, Fuel Minister. Now what do the men of the Desert Air Force and the Eighth Army think about the strike? Many of us have not much background infor­mation about the miners, the conditions under which they work and only a hazy concep­tion of the miners' lot in «peace time ».Notice we put peacetime in inverted commas. There is no «peacetime» for the mi­ners. Oar comrades of the Rhondda Valley and the North of England have lived in fear of the pithead siren all their lives. Maybe^there are those among you who have seen the pitiful rush of women and children to the pithead when that siren has sounded. Maybe there are those of you who have seen the Rhondda and the North of England when it was thought snobbish to wear shoes and stockings because so few could afford them. Maybe there arq tliose of you wuo have known the coalmi­nes where men worked under perpetual war-time condi­tions for a wage of L2.15s. a week. Do you think that these conditions, the years of unemployment, degradation, malnutrition, and Means Tests, have embittered the craftsmen—for the miner who knows his job is a craftsman? Do yon think the miner wants to let us down?' A t this particular moment token inaction, our opinion, should have been deemed sufficient. The strike is regrettable. No one realises this more than the miner. The MINE OW­NER may raise the miners’ wage as a consequence of the strike. We think this is only a temporary measure. The coalmines should have been nationalised before this war. The coalmines should bethe property of the nation. Through the Government elected by the people they should be administered and the men employed there paid, a just and proper wage, work under just and proper cond­itions. Politically the miner is by no means as green as his valleys used to be. We are 1 vhting for better conditions and it is shameful that the miner should have to resort to strikes to force the mine owner to meet his case.In peacetime he was the forgotten man, the hunger marcher. In wartime he must shoulder the great responsi­bility of mining for victory. We suggest that the sooner the nation owns the basis of its industrial power—the bet­ter. We suggest that it is about time the mines ceased being w 7 orked for private pro­fit, even excess profit, and then (if they choose), the Mine Owners may strike. Something must be done. And soon. —EDITOR.
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