The Squire sailed past a smoking mountain. It was Vesuvius, the volcano that had destroyed Pompeii in 79 A.D. It had erupted in March, 1944 for the first time in four hundred years, and the live volcano welcomed you to the shell-torn port of Naples, about 275 miles south of the army’s front line along the Arno River. The harbor was littered with sunken ships, scuttled by the Germans as they were pushed north. Army engineers built a causeway across some of the sunken ships, and you carried, pulled, rolled, or dragged your duffel bags to trucks waiting in the port. The cases labeled “Shovels” were left behind.
On Sunday, July 30, as dusk was just creeping over the smelly, littered streets of Naples, you disembarked. You remember no cheering, but do clearly remember that urchins were begging everywhere, and accompanying the roar of trucks carrying the materials of wars was the clatter of horse-drawn vehicles and the whine of a multitude of adult beggars pleading for good in the fetid air. They snatched any article not tied down. Trying to chase them down the darkening streets was useless. All along the line young girls were offering themselves for soap of cigarettes. To men who had seen no women for two weeks, officers and enlisted men alike, the women were a great temptation, but you moved on and soon arrived by truck at Naples’s main train station. At the staging area, Lieutenant General Jacob Devers, commanding officer of United States forces in the Mediterranean theater of operations, commended the combat team for its discipline and fine appearance.