Secrets and my Recollections of World War II - Anzio

Secrets and my Recollections of World War II

Gardner L. Friedlander 1990, 2000

The ANZIO Beachhead and the rest of the Italian Campaign North to Florence

We soon were back in action. Our high command decided to outflank the stubborn German resistance by a waterborne invasion at Anzio, about two thirds of the way from Naples to Rome. Some of my observer crews and one radar were chosen to participate, along with three other radars and one of the satellite operations crews  from headquarters company. I missed this "D" day landing; it turned out that I had been on my last D day invasion. Every man in our battalion however was credited with all the D days previously mentioned: Casablanca, Algiers, Oran (Africa); Pantelleria; Gela and three water invasions on the north coast (Sicily); Salerno, Anzio and Corsica (Italy); and St. Tropez (France). This comes to twelve arrowheads and also 12 "campaign stars" for our campaign ribbons, little consolation to those who didn't make it back to the States. I was told that these were more campaigns and initial landings than any other battalion engaged in, in the European theater.

Orders to Anzio
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New York Times. Feb. 13, 1944
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Anzio was difficult although the initial landing was almost unopposed. Our troops were stuck there, surrounded for about four months on a beachhead possibly ten miles long and five miles wide. The ops room was set up in a railroad tunnel and was relatively safe; not so the radar and observer positions. We had casualties from ground fire and artillery firing from the perimeter heights, as well as from strafing fighters. Their forward airfields were so close that by the time we spotted their planes either visually or with radar, it was usually too late to warn the antiaircraft units, or to get fighters (from down south).

Since a good part of our battalion was not operational, we set up a rotation system so that enlisted men and officers were relieved after perhaps a week or two "in". I had my stint there, and it was no joy. Enemy artillery seemed to pound continuously.

I well remember my trip out of Anzio. It was in a twin engined plane, smaller than a Piper Apache. I was in the copilot's seat staring at a placard reading "This aircraft certified for three passengers only", and there were four crowded on the rear bench plus the two of us up front. All four in the rear were pilots who had been pulled out of the sea after crashing, and the two who were sitting on the laps of the others were slightly wounded. I asked about the plane's capacity even before the door had been closed, and the pilot said the plane could carry all that could be loaded into it, since his gas supply was low.

Our ops room knew I was going out, so was broadcasting "in the blind" information about enemy planes. Our pilot skimmed the water, and we did spot some announced Jerries, but they didn't bother us.

Well over the Mediterranean the pilot asked me to hand him a map from the glove compartment. None was there, but one of our back seat pilots said he had flown this area so much he could do it blind. He did vector us right to his airstrip, where he and another pilot got out, and we got a map and some gas. We let the other two passengers out at their airstrip before going to our destination, Casserta. Just another routine trip.

I got a note to go to a specific address near Naples to meet a General Ralph Immell. Shades of the notes from the London Embassy! I got my class "A" uniform from the bottom of the footlocker where it had been for the past year +, shined the buttons and insignia, and presented myself as directed. It turned out that General Immell was a friend of dad's, an attorney from Madison, Wisconsin, who was on an inspection tour to see what could be done to stop the pilferage of supplies coming through Naples. The rest of the general's guests were impressive to me at the time, but now I don't remember who they were. More of the general later.

The Mt. Cassino line was finally broken, bringing the relief of Anzio. We leap-frogged radars and observer posts as we ran northward until the Germans dug in to a solid position about at Florence. I remember seeing a highway sign announcing "Leghorn" but never got into the city. As the line stagnated, we were relieved by the same radar battalion (the 593rd) that had taken over for us at Naples.

Again this gave us a breather, and I got another 3 day pass. Most of this was spent in Rome sightseeing, but I also managed to visit cousin Dave Silberman, who was with an antiaircraft unit.

The R & R set up in Rome was much better than it had been on Capri, including better food. Our wing had rented its own flat there, so a bunch of us could go together, first class. While in Rome I looked up the interpreter who had been "courier" (guide) for my mother and brother Ted some years previously. He accompanied me to a restaurant for my first non-GI  meal since leaving England some 18 months earlier. His name was "Cerio", and my first hunting dog Don Cerio was named for him, as a faithful guide. Cerio the courier showed me a place where I could buy carved tortoise-shell jewelry. We designed initialed pieces for handbag ornaments for my Aunt Gertrude Gardner and my mother.

One of my radars landed on Corsica on D day, to provide radar coverage for the upcoming Southern France landing. The rest of us relaxed at a chalet on the peninsula of Orbatello overlooking the Mediterranean before we headed south to Naples to load for the next invasion.

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Saturday, 08-Sep-2018 05:44:14 MDT

Gardner L. Friedlander 1990, 2000
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