June 18, 1944 — The most uncomfortable back massages in the history of the Army

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June 18, 1944 — The most uncomfortable back massages in the history of the Army

Sgt. Norman Mohar continues his letter home about the 3rd Division’s training at Pozzuoli, Italy.

We came upon several coast artillery pieces. One was a huge cannon pointing out to the bay. I noticed the logo of “BETHLEHEM STEEL” in the breech. It made me wonder about the world a bit. USA made gun in Italy!

Often times we’d get aboard a ship, drift out to sea, unload on Higgins boats and head for the shore to make a fake landing. Some smart aleck had to spoil it for me every time by lighting up a cigar! Diesel oil smell and a cigar stink make me ill and on a HIGGINS boat it’s a certainty. “Urppy” is a good homemade word to describe it.

On occasion my platoon was detailed to simulate opposition from the beach. We’d ride in on an assault boat then fire our weapons and make a fake opposition. This would doom us to a hike late at night back to the tents that were 12 miles away!

Once a 6×6 truck stopped and the lieutenant ordered us on board. We were nose-to-nose with “standing room only” on the bed of the truck. It had no canvas canopy. It was dark as a night can get.

The truck driver was flying blind. In Italy a road can come to a ninety-degree turn any time. It takes a sports car to maneuver those roads.

All of a sudden the truck driver slammed on the brakes and we all fell forward against each other. We were so crowded that we had to have our M1s held at our bellies with the front sight about nose high. At least that’s where I had mine.

I fell against the sight of my rifle. It bounced off the other guy’s helmet and I gouged my face. I bled quite profusely. Others maybe would have gotten a Purple Heart for that. I wouldn’t have dared to pull such a stunt. I healed up okay.

The lieutenant ordered us off the truck. When we got off we saw the reason for the sudden stop. The truck driver saved us all from going over the brink into the sea!

The only thing was a rock wall barrier to prevent maybe a jackass from plunging hundreds of feet into the sea below!

We walked, hiked, marched and straggled back. They graciously had chow waiting for us.

On other training we were instructed in the use of Bangalore torpedoes. They were like a three-inch stovepipe loaded with TNT. They would connect to each other and were slid under barbed wire entanglements and ignited.

The person would pull the igniter and have time enough to try to get out of the way. Then the blast would peel the barbed wire out of the way so troops could cross the wire.

In other demonstrations they showed another method of getting across barbed wire–the hard way! The first GI threw himself on the barbed wire kinda like the India trick of lying on a bed of nails.

Then the next GI would run over the first GI’s body using him as a bridge. If the wire entanglement was wider it took more than one GI’s body on the wire.

It’s one way to get your back massaged quite vigorously. [1]

In case you haven’t read or listened to Dad’s book, you can learn more or order it here.

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