Italian memories of Sergeant Carl Snyder: moments of the 133rd Infantry in Italy

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edited by Carl Snyder and Edo Anzaloni

Italian memories of Sergeant Carl Snyder: moments of the 133rd Infantry in Italy

Carl Snyder, non-commissioned officer of the 34th Division, together with the partisan Edo Anzaloni (from behind)

The 133rd Infantry Regiment (part of the 34th US Army Division) was withdrawn from front line fighting in November 1944. We had been in position in the areas of Monte Belmonte and the Gorgnano church – Snyder recalls – fighting the Germans for a long time . Finally, the regiment was withdrawn and moved back to the tourist town of Montecatini Terme (about 25 miles northwest of Florence), famous for its thermal baths. We benefited from a week of rest, reorganization and total relaxation for the platoon Information and Reconnaissance (I&R) 1. We all benefited; we stayed in hotels with electricity and running water. We slept on camp beds, with a mattress and no clothes on. I remember well when I went to a spa, a very large room with about fifty bathtubs (modesty was not required). I sat there for a long time, washing off all the dirt that had accumulated over several months. It was far better than washing and shaving in the helmet, which on rare occasions was also used as a bidet.

While the platoon Information and Reconnaissance (I&R) he was staying at the tourist hotel, we became particularly good friends with an employee of the hotel. He told us that his family hadn't seen white flour for a long time. Our friend indicated that if the platoon I&R could have provided him with some flour, he would have invited us to his house, which was several miles away. The family would cook a delicious dinner of spaghetti and fresh rolls for the platoon, served with quality wine. We couldn't refuse that offer, so we pressured the company mess sergeant to give us ten kilos of white flour including a little sugar, coffee, even a little canned meat, which we passed to our Italian friend. He told us he would drive us to his house two nights later. We went in the I&R platoon jeeps several miles up the hills to his family home. As far as I remember, we were close to Barberino di Mugello. Incidentally, our regiment made a brief stop in Florence and stood in front of the Palazzo Vecchio while our company regrouped. Then we proceeded north. They served us a meal of pasta, which tasted amazing, fresh rolls, and wine. Furthermore, the canned pressed meat, prepared by the Italian family, almost tasted like real steak; completely different from what our mess sergeant served us. Since their house had no electricity during the war, we enjoyed dinner by candlelight and lantern. That night is one of my memorable moments of the war in Italy. I am sorry to say that I have lost the family name and address; I owe them another big “thank you”!

During my trip to Italy in 2004 we visited Livergnano, where I stayed for one night with a family. That is the place where the Germans had placed a hidden tank in a collapsed area in the center of the village.

The Italians also suffered

Our company was in reserve a short distance from the front. The cooks served us a hot meal; we queued at the canteen with mess tins and water bottle cups in hand, and then sat wherever we happened to, usually on the floor. It happened that men didn't always eat all the food or finish all the coffee. Then we walked towards the garbage bin to throw the leftovers there. There was usually a line of Italians with pots or metal jugs begging to tip the leftovers into their containers so they could have something to eat. Leftover coffee and cigarette butts were equally sought after... They greatly appreciated the little we could give them. Unfortunately, these were just leftovers from the war.

Another memorable event with an Italian family

Our regiment (the 133rd) was again moving to the front from a reserve position north of Florence. We stopped for two days in some small town; our men quartered wherever possible. The platoon I&R he was lucky, as an Italian family of five took us into their home. The family included father, mother, two young daughters, and grandfather. One of my men, PFC Salvatore Mucci from New York City, could speak Italian and acted as an interpreter. PFC Mucci had great communication skills with his family and we took advantage of his origins. We shared part of our rations, which the Italians prepared for us. Women were crazy about chocolate bars, and men were crazy about cigarettes. Grandfather used tobacco from cigarettes to smoke his pipe. Every now and then his pipe would go out, and then Grandpa would stretch out his bare fingers, pick up a piece of embers from the hearth, and hold it to the pipe until the tobacco had caught. You should have seen his hands and fingers; they looked like leather, covered as they were with hard calluses.

In the evening we sat around the fire, the family and our platoon I&R together. We talked and tried to sing. We also passed personal photos to each other, showing them our families in America. The young daughters seemed to be thrilled to hear about America, they sure loved the chocolate bars. As night fell the family retreated to their rooms, and we slept on the floor in the rooms left empty or in the corridors. Of course, we slept in our clothes and under an army blanket. But we enjoyed the luxury of taking off our boots for the night, in the shelter of the house. Again, I don't remember the place or their names, except that one of the daughters was called Yolanda, she was the prettiest. Again, I would really like to say “thank you” to that family.

Advancing beyond the Gothic Line towards Bologna

To conclude, after many long months on the winter line, near the village of Pianoro, where it was no man's land on the Apennine Winter Defense Line, we broke through the front and advanced. On April 21, 1945, we were moving towards Bologna. I remember that day well! We advanced in column with Company K, Lieutenant Col. Bruno Marchi, commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 133rd Regiment, and Lieutenant August F. Carioto, in charge of the Battalion's operations. Vompagnia K was aboard Sherman tanks as we headed north on Highway 65 toward Bologna. While traveling along state road 65, we approached a destroyed bridge, which crossed the Savena, to get closer to the city. The small town was not populated; apparently, they had all fled to the countryside, to hide from the Germans. I, with the information and reconnaissance platoon of the 133rd Regiment, had 7 jeeps and a certain number of noisy Sherman tanks. For a time, these vehicles were our means of transportation.

Lt. Col. Marchi was determined to make us the first American troops to enter Bologna. Since the bridge had blown, we had to find a different strategy. So the colonel and his troops dismounted from the Sherman tanks and began a rapid march on foot. I, as a platoon sergeant of theI&R, I took the initiative and identified an area a little to the left of the bridge where we drove the vehicles across the river. We crossed the river in the jeeps, but the river banks were slippery, and we needed support to reach the city. I signaled to the driver of the Sherman tank to come closer to the river and cross it so as to tow our jeeps up the slippery bank. Finally, after a certain time, all our equipment was across the river, marching towards Bologna.

With the Sherman tanks and jeeps in position, I now found myself leading the parade of jeeps into the city. Eventually we caught up with the other troops on foot and proceeded to Bologna. On board the Sherman tanks were the men of Company K of the 3rd Battalion of the 133rd Regiment. The platoon I&R it is a special unit and that day we were assigned to the 752nd Tank Battalion, together with Company K of the 133rd Infantry on board the tanks. We were the first American soldiers to enter Bologna, and the first troops to set foot in the central Piazza Maggiore.

In April 2005, fifty years later, I revisited Piazza Maggiore, and from the bottom of my heart came the feeling of being in Bologna again like then, except that 50 years had passed, and the circumstances were completely different. I remembered the seemingly endless arcades. Instead of military clothes, I was in civilian clothes, instead of being on board a jeep, I arrived by Eurostar at the central station. The Bolognese were still friendly and generous.

I also had the opportunity to re-establish my friendship with Edo Anasaloni. Edo was with the partisans, and today he has published a number of books concerning the Second World War. One of Italy's many patriots, Edo was very generous. Thanks to you EDO!

21 – 22 April 1945, the 133rd Infantry enters Bologna

S/SGT Mike Kometz (left), and PFC Alex Lambrosof Company M, 133rd Infantry Regiment near Bologna Italy. April 1945.

Sergeant Mike Kometz (left) and Private First Class Alex Lambrosof, both from Company M of the 133rd Infantry Regiment, smile serenely before entering Bologna in April 1945. Their expressions reveal the weight of their experiences during the Second World War. An emblematic photo of the sacrifices made by the soldiers during that period of suffering on the Apennines in the winter and spring of 1945. Captain Karlson and Lieutenant Silverstein went on reconnaissance at 07.15. At 12.00 the forces of the 133rd Infantry began their transfer towards the outskirts of Bologna, quartering on 22 April after midday in an assembly area.

1. Editor's note: the I&R platoon was part of the headquarters company of the infantry regiments.

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