Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division
Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Rest At Sorrento
Early in November
1943 Lt. Robert M. Ives, Division G1, came to see me. He told me that I
was to leave the division. I asked him what was the trouble. He said,
“you will find out when you get your orders.” I was worried. I thought
that maybe one of the Corps staff with whom I had had trouble at the
Vannulo Cemetery had recommended my transfer. I did not want to leave the
36th Infantry Division.
When my orders
arrived they were for T.D. at Sorrento for a week. I was “leaving” the
division for a short rest.
Colonel Harold L. Reese went with me and we shared a room at the Grand
Hotel Vittoria with a balcony overlooking the Bay of Naples. Colonel
Reese and I had been close friends. We shared packages from home. He was
a fine soloist and often sang at our church services.
While we were at
Sorrento we visited the Isle of Capri. Ever since my youth I had wanted
to see the famous Blue Grotto. We saw it together. We also visited the
villa owned by Count Chiano, the son-in-law of Mussolini.
Later on the Air
Corps took over Capri and “dirty” Infantrymen could not go there. We
wanted to ride the famous Amalfi Drive, but that was controlled by the
British and “no Amercians can ride.”
At night we used
to sit on our balcony and watch the air raids over Naples. We had a
wonderful view of the planes, the tracer bullets of the anti-aircraft, and
the bursting bombs. As a display of pyrotechniques it was marvelous. As
you thought of the poor people of Naples, it was terrible.
When I returned
from Sorrento we were bivouacked in a new area. My tent was near an
Italian cemetery. In the cemetery the bodies were not buried, but were
placed in crypts. One night as some German planes were flying over us to
bomb Naples, one of our men got trigger-happy. He grabbed a light machine
gun and began firing at the planes. Naturally the tracer bullets
disclosed our position.
One of the planes
turned around and dropped a bomb near us. It landed in the cemetery.
Fortunately the wall protected us from the fragments. In the morning we
found shattered bodies all over the place. After that we left the planes
to the gentle mercy of the anti-aircraft batteries.
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by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission