March 24, 1944 – Supply lines at Anzio

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March 24, 1944 – Supply lines at Anzio

The real drama of this Anzio beachhead campaign is the supply system. I’d almost like to write that sentence twice—to make sure you get it. The supplying of this Fifth Army beachhead has been one of the superlative chapters of our Mediterranean war.[1]

The beachhead is really like a little island. Everything has to come by water. Without a steady flow of food and ammunition, the beachhead would perish.

 All this concentration of shelling and bombing against the Anzio-Nettuno area is for the purpose of hindering our movement of supplies. They have hindered it some.

I can’t give you the percentage, but you be surprised how low it really is. They certainly haven’t hindered us enough.

For the supplies keep coming, and the stockpiles have now grown so great and so numerous that we’ve almost running out of room for establishing new dumps.

Many branches of the service deserve credit for the supply miracle—the Navy, the Merchant Marine, the Combat Engineers, the Quartermaster Corp.

But in all our Allied work down here the British do their part, too (and in case of shipping to Anzio, the Greeks and Poles as well).

American Army Engineers are in command of all port facilities at the beachhead.[1]


The city of Anzio is a mess today.

Just off the waterfront, there’s absolutely nothing but wreckage.

And the wreckage grows day by day under German shelling and bombing.

We call Anzio a “potential Bizerte,” for soon it may be and as complete a state of wreckage as was that thoroughly wrecked city in Tunisia.

Yeah our soldiers and sailors continue to live and work in Anzio. There isn’t a man in town who hasn’t had dozens of “experiences.” If you try to tell a bomb story, anybody in Anzio can top it. Casualties occur daily. But the men go on and on. The American soldier’s irrepressible sense of humor still displays itself in Anzio.

Down on the dock is a big, boxlike cart in which they pick up slop buckets and trash that gets in the way on the dock front. The car is freshly painted snow-white, and printed in the blue letters on each side is “Anzio Harbor Department of Sanitation.” You have to see the bedlam of wreckage to get the full irony of the “Sanitation” part.

At a corner in Anzio some soldiers have set up hey broken statue of a woman (the place is lousy with statues), and put a sign under it saying, “Anzio Annie.” If somebody would write a poem about her, she might become as famous as “Dirty Gertie.”[2]

I know just another sign—this one not funny—along the waterfront. This sign said, “No Parking—For Ambulances Only.”

Everyone jokes about the perilous life in the Anzio-Nettuno area. Some people have had to leave because of nerves, and those who stay like to make fun of their own shakes.

The jitters are known as “Anzio anxiety” and “Nettuno neurosis.” A lieutenant will hold out his hand and purposely make it tremble, and say, “See, I’m not nervous.”

Then there is “Anzio foot,” where your feet are pointing in one direction and your face and another—the position sometimes momentarily assumed when you’re going somewhere and the scream of the shell suddenly turns you on another course.

Also, we have the “Anzio walk,” a new dance in which the performer jumps, jerks, cowers, cringes and twitches his head this way and that, something halfway between the process of dodging shells and just going plain nuts.

You wouldn’t imagine people could joke about the proximity of death; but you sometimes have to joke about it—or else.[1]


And thru all this, men keep working and supplies keep coming in.

I can’t, of course, tell you in figures the total of this magnificent job they’ve done. But I can say that today this beachhead is receiving nine times as much supplies daily as they figured in the beginning what’s possible.

It has been a thrilling privilege to be here and sees them do it.[1]

[1] Ernie Pyle. With Fifth Army Beachhead Forces in Italy. News Clipping..

[2] “Most soldiers wall agree that of all the songs sung on the African front, Dirty Gertie from Bizerte is the most popular.”

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