CECINA - SOUTH OF LIVORNO (LEGHORN) ITALY, JUNE-JULY 1944

The going had been exceptionally rough these last few weeks. I only had two officers left and it was working us to death. Then we had a day of rest and back to it. We were to advance with four (4) tanks in the lead followed by my destroyers plus a company of infantry, some riding the armored vehicles and the remainder walking along side. We had no maps and no clue what may be out there - just instructions to go. And so, we went until the lead tank encountered a blown bridge - mined on both sides (For better understanding, when the column stopped at the bridge, we were located on a narrow built-up roadway with deep ditches on both sides - no way to maneuver - ideal for trapping. The tanks have a 75mm cannon and a .30 cal machine gun mounted in a closed turret operated electrically - they can quickly switch their guns from side to side. The destroyers have a 3" high velocity cannon mounted in an open top turret which is turned by a hand crank - they simply cannot handle close up enemy infantry).

With our column stopped, German 88s and other self-propelled can began a systematic picking off of our armor - the tanks first. At the rear of the column, we know that something was awry. Norred and I left our jeep and entered a two story house beside the road to try and get a better view. In the meantime, our infantry followed their instincts, jumped off the armor and retreated down the road ditch to get away from the shelling that was going around the armor. Our upstairs view verified our suspicions of a trap - enemy infantry was closing in on both sides of road and our location. We had been joined at our location by a machine gun jeep pair, a communication jeep pair and Bn. Staff pair - we were making a futile attempt to slow the enemy infantry with small arms fire.

We were helped mightily by the boys in the machine gun jeep until the jeep was set on fire. I told Norred to try to get to one of the jeep radios and inform the destroyers that they were in a trap and to slowly back out. He got as fare as the door and a sniper's bullet caught him just above the knee, severing an artery and splintering the bone. I put sulfur into his would, made a make shift bandage, and asked him to hold a tourniquet - he was losing blood and consciousness fast. It wasn't hard to figure that we need to make a break but we couldn't leave Norred.

It was plainly panic time, and I was most grateful that I was still thinking clearly - another Sgt. and I crawled into the yard on our bellies - a high (cyclone type fence surrounded the place and opened in front to face the enemy fire - we had pretty well ascertained that there were a couple of hundred of the enemy around us. At first, I thought to try to jump the fence and try to get a destroyer to come back and pick up everyone. I raised my hand to get up and a shower of lead greeted me. Realizing that this was impossible, I crawled over to the fence and the Sgt. and I tried cutting a hole in the wire to crawl out - each time I tried a machine pistol spoke harshly to me. By now the air was a dusty haze from exploding shells - it was getting awful hard to see a happy ending to this mess. The communication Sgt. was hit in the shoulder but he could still operate. I sulfured and bound his wound and then a ray of hope. We could hear the destroyers slowly moving back. God, if one would stop at the gate to protect us, we might get out - but how to signal one of them without jumping in front of all that enemy fire. But the Gods had already smiled. When the machine gun jeep had been set on fire, one of the boys had crawled down the road ditch to the first destroyer, jumped in, and explained the entrapment situation and our personal dilemma. As the destroyer came abreast of the house, I made a dash for it, hung on, and managed to swing up and jump into the open turret. I told the driver to back up into the gate so we could get the others out - he did this and then I had to crawl out to help with the wounded - oh brother, I sure hated to have to leave the security of that armor.

Two of us vaulted out, fell flat, and crawled back into the house. We checked Norred - he was unconscious from blood loss - we checked for a heart beat (no need to risk lives for a dead man) - he still had a small one. We dragged him across the yard and (I'll never know how) hoisted that big ox onto the destroyer among a raft of bet rolls for protection. We felt that we had accomplished a miracle getting to this point without further casualties. We checked - two (2) missing - called out but no answers. The Sgt. stepped from behind the destroyer to check the ditch - burp - he was dead before he hit the ground. We swung over into the destroyer and slowly moved back out of range of enemy guns. The missing two had managed to get into another destroyer.

We reorganized, changed our approach, and took the town, but Livorno is just five (5) miles away. We got smart, moved 8-10 miles east and then turned north and came in behind Livorno. It was fun to see the Germans scramble in a trap.

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