Pisa, Italy and Surrounding Area
July 1944 - December 1945

"When I was flown back to Italy, I got another surprise when I walked into the welding tent, and the Master Sergeant in charge was making a big mess on welding something. He saw I had been watching, so he handed me the welding rod, and said see if you can do anything with so and so. I could tell that he had the machine turned up too high, so I cut it back where it was supposed to be and started welding. Afterwards, he acted like he was all mad, or either surprised."

"The Italians had it rough eating. A guy named Martinee in our tent was an Italian-American. He met people in the street who carried us in to their houses. We would have Italian wine in glasses, which was good. We would open up their icebox to find they only had mustard greens to eat. Every home had wine though, in big glass jugs which were 3 feet tall full of wine within the house. Most houses had wine cellars. Grapes grew everywhere, in people's yards, had stakes like we have beans here, and also grew out in the fields. Kids ran around in the winter barefooted. Their feet looked like they had never been washed. They would walk around with empty coffecans, asking for food scraps. Saw them looking in garbage cans, hunting something, anything to eat. The Italian word for food was "munjatti", and was symbolized by putting their hand to their mouth."

"When they waved bye, it was different than our custom, and would wave towards them. Nearly all Italians rode on bicycles, if they could get ahold of one. They didn't have cars."

"I was in the 12th Army Air Force Service Group. Planes that got shot up too bad to make it back to their base landed to be worked on so they could make it back. It wasn't any trouble to catch a ride along the main highway on the Italian coast from where we were into town, which was about twenty minutes away. I was at the field in Pisa, when a truck load of us went to see the Harlem Globetrotters play at Leghorn (or Italians called Livorno) one night.

Before they played, they had another game, made up of regular players. When the players started warming up, Billy James was on the team! We were on the same basketball team at Puckett. I went out on the court, and tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned around. I don't know which one had the biggest surprise. He looked like he had gained a hundred pounds. We visited several times until I had to move up closer to the front lines. He was in the Medics Hospital at Leghorn (the American name, the Italians called it Livorno. Billy James is now dead. His brother, Curtis James, a preacher, is still living."

Billy James

"I wrote Ches during the war, and told him if close to Rome, to look me up. While we were staying in Grosseto, we went to Rome on a three day pass. When I got back to the tent, someone was in my cot, with his head turned where I couldn't see him. I bumped the cot, and told him to get up. He didn't respond, so I bumped it again, and Ches (my brother), jumped up. He wanted to know where I had been, and I said to Rome at the rest center. He said he thought I was in one there, compared to what he had been in."

"During this time, I knew something was fixing to come off. They had pulled back part of the army from the frontlines in Italy. When coming back from Rome, every airfield base I passed was covered with planes, ready to take off. This was when the Normandy invasion was occuring. "

"When the army pulled back to Naples, Ches asked his sergeant if he could come to meet me. After spending the night with me near Naples, Ches was still wearing his "O.D.s" (old winter wool pants and shirt). We had oil drums on a steel frame, with piped water up to the drum to heat for showers. Drums were also cut in half, with burners under them to clean dishes and stuff from the mess hall. Ches said that the only bath he had out in the field was with his steel helmet. Ches said that I had the best job in the army."

Some of Dad's buddies -
Billy James