The Last Jump: Chapter 41
“Be slow to fall into friendship but when thou art in,
continue firm and constant.”
Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC)
December 24, 1943
Thanks for your letter. I was surprised at the return address. I never thought that’s where you would wind up. Anyway, at least I have your APO address.
After you and Jake disappeared from Sicily, we kept asking about you guys. Nobody knew. Other guys have been transferred but at least we were able to have a party and say goodbye. But you guys disappeared off the face of the earth. Even that freaking heel Bancroft didn’t know.
Anyhow, after you left, we moved into the line defending the right flank of the 504. The Krauts backed off and retreated north. We marched north along the coastline. We passed Castellalmare, Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius before marching into Naples. We were first into the city. This was early October. The Germans pretty much destroyed the place and the harbor on their way out.
Old Cannonball is still our CO. He raised his American flag over the post office. The same one he raised in Gela on Sicily. He carries it around with him all the time and intends to raise it over the first town in France that we liberate. He’s still the same asshole he’s always been.
We spent some time in Naples. Teddy came through for us. He looked up Dom’s relatives. They took him in like family and they fed us real good. These are remarkable people. They hardly had enough for themselves but they shared everything with us. We left them whatever we could, some C and K rations, D bars and cigarettes, which are like money here.
The Third Battalion was ordered to guard Naples while the rest of the regiment pushed on north with the Limeys. All we had to do in Naples was keep the peace and beat the shit out of any rear echelon mother fuckers we caught wearing jump boots. We caught a bunch of them.
That’s why the replacement boots hadn’t been making it through to us. Those REMF bastards were pilfering the boots for themselves. All of a sudden, after we kicked some ass, that problem went away. Paratrooper ingenuity!
Colonel Gavin got promoted to Assistant Division Commander. We’re all happy for him. He still looks too young.
Danny Boy and Teddy are doing fine. We all pal out together. Danny spent two months in the hospital but came through OK. We took on replacements after Sicily. It’s hard for those new guys to fit in.
By early November we got orders to ship out. Nobody would say where, but the rumors were flying. We sailed on the SS Fredrick Funston, a true troop carrier ship. It was still crowded but there were enough showers and working latrines for all the guys and the food was great compared to our first trip over. We left the 504 behind in Italy. I don’t understand why Ridgway let that happen. They’re being used up in the mountains like straight-leg infantry. Sure, they’re great soldiers but what a waste and now our division is split up.
After 21 days at sea with a brief stop in Oran, where we spent Thanksgiving, the rumors kept flying. Finally, we pulled into Belfast. Then we came here to Cookstown by train. We’re in a camp once occupied by British troops. The land is mostly farmland. We can’t do maneuvers so we train on all types of weapons.
The people here are great although some of the Catholics in our company get a rough time from the Protestant locals. I can’t believe how important religion is over here. It’s freaking ridiculous. Not like back in the States where nobody cares. At least these people speak English, they’re clean and they’re not begging all the time. It’s a pleasant relief from the places we’ve been. It’s still a lousy place to spend Christmas! Rumor has it we’ll be heading for (blacked out) in a few months. When we get there, I’ll contact you and Jake and maybe we can all meet in London. That would be great to get together before the big one. Say hi to Jake.
Johnny assumed the censor wasn’t paying strict attention to let so much information through. Or maybe he never read past the first few sentences. Whatever the reason, Johnny was glad to hear from Sky after so many months and looked forward to getting together in London.
He handed the letter to Jake.