Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

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.

Lieutenant 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.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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