Secrets and my Recollections of World War II - Avalanche

Secrets and my Recollections of World War II

Gardner L. Friedlander 1990, 2000


The Invasion of Mainland Europe

Salerno, Italy

We were getting smarter. For the invasion of Oran, we were not combat loaded, and lost most of our materiel when a cargo ship went down. Going to Sicily, all of our operations gang (except me) were on one landing ship, which luckily got through. This time, we were well split up to avoid a mass disaster, the possible loss of all experienced radar troops. Thus my second independent command: About 150 or our enlisted men - about half British, with their radars - and I boarded the British LST (Landing Ship Tank) "Thruster" for the short ride to Italy.


The British already had a couple of divisions ashore in Italy right across the Straits of Messina, but we "Americans" were leapfrogging northward, to just south of Naples.

I was the only American officer on board "Thruster", and was in the wardroom when it was announced on the radio that Italy had surrendered. Unlike American naval ships that were "dry", our British captain offered drinks all around to celebrate. I fainted, went out cold, after a few good gulps. I revived fifteen minutes later in a bunk where they had carried me, no worse for the experience. It was a full month later that I dared try another sip of demon rum.

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Clip for pistol carried throughout Africain and European campaign.

D day, September 9, 1943. Again we were part of a large armada. Our ship didn't start towards shore until about noon, which suited me fine. Our men were still patching our trucks. One job was to replace the transmission of a 2 1/2 Ton 6x6; this on the way to the landing! Even with the mechanics working all night, with all the help we could muster from the sailors, we still had one truck not in running shape. It had to be towed ashore by another of our vehicles. I was on the bridge as our ship approached the beach. Our captain pointed out a tank battle going on not half a mile away. He (with my fervent blessing) ordered engines astern, and hauled in the anchor which had been dropped a few hundred feet back to assist getting off the beach. We went ashore without trouble a mile or so down the line.

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I forgot to mention this earlier: the mobile operations room set up in a trailer, with which we had been so happy, was left in Tunisia, I know not why. We therefore reverted to the old routine: we started an ops room in a farmhouse half a mile from the water, started vectoring planes to repel intruders and to hit targets of opportunity (mostly tanks, and an occasional house where troops were meeting resistance.)

The Germans started the inevitable counterattack, to try to drive us back into the sea. I had barely left the ops room (for what reason I don't remember) when a German shell scored a direct hit. My closest friend Art Hall with whom I had sailed from the U.S. almost two years before was one of the dead. By this time our men were so experienced that the replacement officers found that the best way to get the job done was to say nothing and keep out of the way.

Salerno Commendations
Personal Commendation
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Wing Commendation
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Gardner L. Friedlander 1990, 2000
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