Italy, December 1944. We were somewhere between Villanova and to our right Mezzano.
I would like to point out how resilient the Italian peasant was. Like all farm folk anywhere in the world, they excelled in their getting on with life after so much hardship. I had the occasion to return to the Piangepane site about a day after we had moved from there. Here the Italian family whose property we had dug great gun pits and slit trenches were busy shoveling the dirt into the pits and trenches. As I rode up on my motor cycle I saw the padrone [owner ] coming from a corner of the field where he had dug up a small sack of grain. Probably winter wheat as they were getting the ground ready for a crop .
For centuries armies of all sorts had fought over this country and all the Italian peasant wanted was all of us go home as he had work to do, seed to plant, and a family to feed. A most admirable trait, and if we stopped to think about it we had to respect their tenacity for family and life in general. The part of the country we were in was much more developed and also better off with larger farms and bigger, better houses. On one advance party in this area I went into the large house to tell the civilians it was our intention to set up our guns in and around their buildings. Tthe civilians should move out because when we started to fire our guns, Tedeski would not like it and would fire back. We did not want women and children to be causalities. There were a lot of tears and all would leave except an older man who had been on the land for years. He would stay to look after any livestock and hope we would not wreck his buildings.
In this particular house I asked in broken Italian if Tedeski had been sleeping or had been here last night. This old fellow said no, niente Tedeski. Well I went upstairs and said to him Tedeski slept there over there and in fact I said about ten had slept in this room last night. The old fellow looked at me as if I had second sight, But here was my secret. I could smell Tedeski. I knew he had been here. Then upstairs each spot that Tedeski had had his blankets down was a spot not dust covered as these old houses when under shell fire rained a shower of dust, so it was not clairvoyance. The smell, well my dad always spoke of that from his first war experience with the Germans. It was a musky type of smell. Apparently we Anglo Saxons have a very pronounced body odor more so than the Germans.
But I impressed the old Italian fellow even if it was no big deal. Somewhere in this area we had a gun position near a house and in this house were quite a few older and younger women and a couple of older fellows. We were to learn the younger men had been captured in the desert or were on the Russian Front with the Blue [Italian ] Brigade or some of the men were conscripted to work on labor battalions for the Germans.
One of the women about 28 or so was very pregnant. A couple of days after we left this area a driver with a truck and I went back to this house to pick up some signs or something. What a welcome we received! The much pregnant girl of a day or so ago was really excited and grabbed the driver and I by the arms and took us into the house. Now we knew what the excitement was about She had her baby, we ascertained from what she told us, at ten o’clock that morning and here at two o’clock in the afternoon of the same day she was out working in the fields. I said before life went on, birth and death with the Italians, all had a celebration. Great rural folk .