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Follies of a Navy Chaplain

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Tanks for the Memories

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They were all young kids

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Nine Lives

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©2014, Aaron Elson

 

   

9 Lives: An Oral History

The online edition

© 2014, Aaron Elson

cov-9lives.jpg (4837 bytes) "... an absolutely wonderful collection of WW2 Vets' stories! Aaron Elson has collected some of the most exciting and informative stories I have yet to read on the European Theater. This book is basically a group of mini-memoirs that range in scope from paratroops to tank personnel to frontline infantry. Each one tells his or her (yes women did serve!) own story in his or her own way but all of them are fascinating and will give you a different glimpse of how average americans saw the war. You will enjoy this one!"

--Amazon.com reviewer

Order "9 Lives: An Oral History" from Amazon.com..

Chapter 9

    "No matter where you were you had to be careful because [the ship] was so crowded with soldiers. You could hear guys saying, ĎWhen I get back home Iím gonna do this, Iím gonna do that.í And the soldiers, who had his shoes off, nobody had their helmets on because youíre inside the ship, and they all knew it was just a dry run. That was what they knew. But they never knew it was the real thing."

Patsy Giacchi

94th Quartermaster Railhead Company

Survivor, LST 507, Exercise Tiger

Clifton, N.J., April 25, 1998

        I was born and raised in Hackensack, New Jersey. I went to Hackensack High School for a couple of years. And then I quit to make a living, because things were rough in those days. I helped the family out. I met my future wife, Emily, and then Pearl Harbor was bombed, the war broke out, I turned 18 and I got drafted.

        I went for my physical in Newark. There were ten busloads that went from the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack. I passed my physical. Then they gave me ten days to clarify things, like I was working in a supermarket, to tell them that Iím going into the Army.

        Then I went to Fort Dix. I stayed there about a week. From there I went to Camp Lee, Virginia, where I took my basic training. After that, they gave me a furlough for 17 days. I came home, went out with Emily, had a good time. Then I went back to Camp Lee, and within a week I moved on to Camp Chenango, Pennsylvania, thatís where they issued me my steel helmet, the carbine gun, a gas mask and everything else.

    We stayed at Camp Chenango another week. From there I went to Orangeburg, New York, and we took a ferry across the Hudson River to a big ship called the Mauritania. That was a Cunard liner.

    It took a couple of hours to get on this troop ship. My number was 13. And as they get to Number 13, youíve got to call your name. I said, "Patrick J. Giacchi!" And as Iím getting on board, thereís military police on each side so you canít escape. Youíd see some of the guys break down; they donít want to go, but you have to go.

    The Mauritania took us to Liverpool, England. I stayed there for a while, and we started to train, train, train. Then, after six or seven months, they take us out and then bring us to a marshaling area.

    There they started to examine my teeth, they examined my eyes, and if I needed a pair of eyeglasses it would be made special to fit the gas mask.

    Before you know it, from this marshaling area they took us to Brixham.

    I said, "What is this for?"

    "Weíre gonna be in a program called Tiger Exercise."

    "Whatís Tiger Exercise?"

    "Weíre going to make a fake run to go on land in Slapton Sands."

    "Whereís Slapton Sands?"

    "By the time we get down there youíll see what it is. What weíre gonna do is weíre gonna have a fake problem."

    But on the ship, they load us up with tanks, we got the Ducks [amphibious vehicles] and everything else, as though it was a real invasion. And there were three or four companies of the boys. I was in the 557th Quartermaster Railhead Company. So we got on this LST, and the first thing I did, I went down to the tank deck. They said, "Go find a place to sleep." We slept on top of the trucks. We slept anywhere we could find a place. I found a stretcher on the side where the two big doors open up. I stayed there in a corner.

    Up above there was another stretcher, and my friend Patty Moreno took that. He was in the motor pool, and was from Brooklyn. We start talking. In the meantime you look at the ship and the ship is about 300 feet long, about 50 feet wide. You see all the tanks and the trucks and everything down there, and the guys are all sitting down, whoís writing to their loved ones, whoís playing the harmonica, a ukelele, little things, just to pass the time.

    The lights were on. And no matter where you were you had to be careful because it was so crowded with soldiers. You could hear guys saying, "When I get back home Iím gonna do this, Iím gonna do that." And the soldiers, who had his shoes off, nobody had their helmets on because youíre inside the ship, and they all knew it was just a dry run. That was what they knew. But they never knew it was the real thing. And you look around, you see guys talking, some guys are sleeping. I was scared. I didnít sleep that night. I lay down on the stretcher. Patty Moreno was writing a letter to his grandfather, and I was looking at the two big doors, and I could see little puddles of water where the big doors open up. Then I looked around and I said, "Let me see now, the steps are over there, just in case," and then, boom-boom-boom, I heard a couple of noises, boom-boom, whatever it was, outside. I donít know what it was, the guns were shooting, other LSTs were shooting. I waited a while, and then the second time I heard something, and it jarred the ship. I said, "Patty, Iím going."

    "Aw, Pat, donít go! Itís only a dry run."

    I put my helmet on. I put my life belt on, and I checked it. And I started to go up the stairs. As I got to the top, I couldnít believe it. I saw the ocean was on fire. It was the real thing! I said, "This canít be a joke!" Behind me comes another guy, his name was Bradshaw, and we look around. He said, "Oh my God! Whatís this?"

    Then we got a direct hit. BOM! And I knew that who was down there, forget it. I knew right away because I flew up, ten, fifteen feet, I came down. Bradshaw landed on the side of me. My forehead hit the corner of a piece of sharp, square metal, I donít know what it was. I hit that and I started to bleed. But I said, "Iím all right! Iím all right! Iím gonna make it!" I was dizzy. I got up. Bradshaw looked at me. We turn and look and we can see the ship, the 507, was in half.

    Bradshaw says, "Pat, weíve got to get off of here!"

    Only one torpedo hit the 507. I thought the second explosion was a torpedo but they tell me it was something else. But whatever it was, had it been a moment earlier, as I was coming up the steps, I wouldnít be here. Had I been down there Iíd have been with those guys.

    I had a gash in my forehead and I was bleeding. I lost my helmet. I had it with the strap loose, and when I went up and came down, it fell off.

    I remember another thing vividly. We had a bugler; his name was Eintracht, and he was near us at the edge. On the edge of the LST youíve got a bar that goes around, and to jump off youíve got to go over that bar. All of a sudden this bugler is coming near me and anything you do, if you donít do it fast, youíre gone. Youíre in a daze, you canít move, youíre like doped up. All of a sudden heís coming by me and heís trying to grab my life belt, because he had no belt. And Iím trying to push him away. I didnít have much strength left, but Bradshaw gave him a push, and he fell down. Then we went over the side. I donít know what happened to Eintracht. It was just in a split second. Some guys were brave but some guys, theyíd kill you to get that life belt.

    When I came up, I saw a Navy man; they had gray helmets, we had green ones. He was wrapped around a gun, dead. He must have been firing the gun when the torpedo hit. He was wrapped around the gun and there was blood all over him.

    As I was looking at him, I saw a vision of my mother. She said to me, "Save yourself!" in Sicilian. "Patsy, save yourself!"

    This is the truth. Thatís the feeling I had.

    Bradshaw was on the side of me, and as I turned around I saw the Navy man killed on the 40-millimeter gun, I saw the ocean on fire, then a split second, wow! It was like an angel. And my mother said to me, "Patsy, save yourself!"

    I said, "Mom, I will!" I never said anything to Bradshaw. I was too excited. And I feel this Ė I never gave up. I hit that water and never gave up. And I was not a good swimmer. I feared water. That belt saved me. When we hit the water I swallowed so much salt water, because I wasnít prepared for that part.

    We start to drift away. And as weíre pulling away, we held hands, and we could see other guys in the water. The water was on fire, there was a gasoline smell, but the worst thing was the death cry of the sailors and the soldiers, "Helllp! Helllp! Helllp!" And thereís nobody to help. These are guys that were wounded. I was all right. I mean, compared to those guys. The blood was coming down my forehead, but I didnít care, I knew what I was doing. We held on together, Bradshaw and I, and we started to drift, and by that time, you could see the difference between us. He looked at me and said, "Patty, hold on, weíre doing fine."

    [Mumbling] "Yeah, I know. Ö"

    As we drifted, every now and then youíd see something like a shadow off in the distance; it could have been an E-boat going back, whatever it was. But the four or five hours we were in the water seemed like four or five days.

    Bradshaw was a year or two older than me, about 22 or 23, and you know how the Southern boys speak very softly. "Patsy," he says, "weíre gonna beat this thing."

    I said, "Oh, yes, Bradshaw, oh, yes, weíre gonna beat this!" But I had that doubt in my mind: "What happens if nobody picks us up, what if we drift into the middle of the ocean?" I didnít know what part of the Channel we were in. Then we saw a light off in the distance, and it came close, oh, we were saved! I told Bradshaw, "I donít care if itís the Germans. Weíve got to get out of this water or weíre gonna die."

    He said, "All right, Patsy. If itís the Germans, weíll go. Weíll do what they tell us to do."

    The light got bigger and bigger, and before we knew it it was right on top of us. It was a British corvette. They let down a big special wire with a big bucket. Bradshaw was in better shape than I was, so he put me in the bucket first. It pulls you all the way to the top. They pull it inside, and itís a big corvette, with beautiful red rugs and British pictures of Her Majesty the Queen.

    "Hiya Mate," they said. "Weíll take care of you, Mate, right away." They took off my clothes that were soaking wet for hours and hours, they gave me a needle, they gave me a shot of scotch, they gave me dry British clothes. Then they picked up my friend. By that time it was almost morning, and as weíre going in, the British corvette canít help it because theyíve got quite a few soldiers that they picked up. As theyíre going in, you could hear the boat hitting the bodies in the water. "We canít help it, Mate, weíve got to go, we canít help it, Mate."

    Before you know it, itís the next morning. Me and Bradshaw are in this room, and theyíve got a tremendous table set up. And on the table thereís all wallets that theyíve picked up, because they had two colored companies going out, graves registration, with grappling hooks to pick up bodies. On the table they had all kinds of wallets with money and pictures of loved ones, pictures with their wives and their kids. All kinds of money was piled, singles, soaking wet with the salt water. Fives, tens, twenty dollars bills. They asked me, "If thereís anything that belongs to you, take it." A big pile of false teeth, eyeglasses, you name it, yes, they were there. Nothing was mine.

    Now weíre on land. They had sent an LST out to pick up some bodies, and they came back and opened up the two big doors. You looked in and you could see piles of soldiers and sailors, dead. They closed the doors right away because the port was loaded with English police and civilians, and they didnít want everybody to see what was going on because it was supposed to be hush-hush. This was a tragedy. It never should have happened, especially with D-Day five or six weeks away.

    They chased everybody away, and they took us and put us in another company. They didnít say anything to us, so we thought we were coming home, because at the slightest noise I went crazy. Bradshaw said, "Youíll be all right."

    I said, "Yeah, Bradshaw, I think weíre gonna go home."

    "Weíre finished," he said. "We saw our action."

    Then, a few days later, a buck sergeant came and said, "Survivors of the 507, follow me."

    We follow him. Weíre waiting for him to tell us weíre going home.

    We get into a truck. We ride and we ride; before you know it, weíre back in the area of Brixham.

    I said, "I can smell the gas! I can smell the oil. I can smell the water! What is this?"

    The sergeant said, "Sorry, boys. My orders were to deliver you here. Youíre going on an LST. Youíre going back."

    "Going back WHERE?"

    This was May 28th. Two or three days later, weíre on an LST again, and then before you know it, you look out there, and by the hundreds the LSTs are all lined up. Then they waited till it got dark that night, the night before June 6th. So weíre taking off. I go on the tank deck of the LST. I stand there. The officer comes out; he says, "Soldier, what are you doing here?"

    I said, "I-I was told that I could stay here, Iím one of the survivors."

    "Oh, okay." He says, "Do you feel better?"

    "Yes," I said. "Please."

    By that time everybody started to gather around me, all bunched up. Then the chaplain comes up. And the boats are all going. You could look out, itís starting to get light. By the thousands! LSTs and other ships! Which one I was on to make the invasion of D-Day I donít know, but I know I was with the 94th Quartermaster Railhead Company.

    So weíre going, and thereís a priest there. He says, "To all faiths, to all you service boys on this ship, to Catholics, Jews, whatever your faith is, may God speed, may God bless you, and letís hurry up home!"

    Now weíre starting to go. Itís getting lighter and lighter. Then we start to hear, "Boom! Boom-boom-boom-boomboom! Rat-tat-tat-tat." And as you get a little closer, it gets louder and louder.

    Okay. Weíre starting to come in. The LST goes as far as it could go. They have the ropes on the side. Big, thick ropes. I start to come around with a full field pack and am coming down the cargo net on the side. Someone gets his foot caught and is hanging in midair. "Forget him! Theyíll get him down! You keep going!"

    As weíre going in, guys are being hit and we say, "Oh my God, I hope the next oneís not for me." You keep going in. As you get onto land you can see the engineers with the minesweepers. And then you see the medic guys trying to put up a big Red Cross hospital. As theyíre putting it up, a Luftwaffe plane comes down and strafes the hell out of them, right near us. Weíre running on the side. But luckily, no bullets hit us. So we kept on going. And they got those guys who were setting up the hospital.

    Then as youíre coming in, youíve got to follow the rest of the guys; they tell you where to go. Then we hit on the side like where the big hedgerows were. We stayed there, and we were soaking wet, and in the meantime theyíre firing away. We were there for one or two days. Then they told us to move, and as youíre getting up you looked out, and you can smell all the dead bodies. The Germans and the Americans. They tried to pick up the Americans as fast as they could because it knocks the morale down when you see an American soldier there.

    I was going to look up the Morenos; it took me fifty years. There are a million Morenos in Brooklyn. I never did. I wanted to tell his family exactly what happened.

    After Tiger Exercise, I was assigned to the 94th Quartermaster Railhead Company. Our job was to go down to the LSTs. They had big cranes that would take a big pile of K rations or whatever it was, and put it on a Duck. The Duck would drive from the water, then when it gets on land, it drives away. They would bring it back to our area, and we would stack the stuff and cover it with camouflage. Our job was to bring the supplies to the boys. We werenít rear echelon; we were right up there with the guys. We werenít actually in combat hand to hand, but we were right there. They were doing the fighting, the infantry and the engineers and so forth, and we had to supply them.

    And a few times Ė this was later on, after me being torpedoed Ė they hit an ammunition dump. You ought to have seen that thing go up. All kinds of ammunition, the big blockbusters, they used to store them, and we used to dig holes around it, in case there was a fire, so it wouldnít go beyond that big, deep hole.

    We went through Ste. Mere Eglise. Now, we were quartermasters; we went through with the guys we were attached to 18 or 20 days after D-Day. But the paratroopers landed there H-Hour on D-Day; we used to hear stories about those guys, that theyíre coming down, the Germans were strafing them, they had them like sitting ducks. A lot of them got killed as they were coming down. And we heard that a lot of them drowned. The Germans opened up the reservoirs or something like that, and when they were dropping, they drowned, because they had a full field pack, and they drowned in water four or five feet deep. They found a lot of paratroopers the next day bloated up from drowning. I heard those stories.

    And then we used to hear stories about the Germans with their artillery gun called the 88. The 88 was so damn accurate they used to pick up an American soldier walking maybe two or three miles away; they could pick him up by himself, thatís how accurate their guns were. We used to hear this every day. And we knew that their burp guns were sensational, their machine guns. Everything they had was more superior than ours.

    I remember I thought, "Wow, the warís just started, weíve got a long way to go." And then, every now and then weíd see maybe three, four, five hundred German prisoners, they were taking them away and bringing them to England. Theyíd be saying, "No! No! We want to go to America! Because in America theyíll spare us. The English will kill us." They were very afraid of the English. And then Iíll never forget, on D-Day I saw some Japanese in German uniforms.

    But then along the beach on D-Day youíd see all kinds of LSTs there, and then youíd see the barrage balloons all over, so that the Germans canít get in with their Luftwaffe to strafe them, to keep them high above and away like that. And then every night at the beach there, while we were having our K rations, or youíd be trying to walk down the beach, the Germans would drop flares that used to make our area look like Broadway, and if it lit up they told you, no matter what youíre doing, freeze, because if you moved they could spot you with the planes.

    I pulled guard duty on D-Day. I was scared. They go by alphabetical order, my name is G, Giacchi, and mine was the last one to be picked.

    In the meantime everybodyís scared on D-Day. You could hear the guns going bom-bom, tat-tat-tat-tat-da-da-da. All of a sudden I pulled guard duty. And my job was to go up there and watch the K rations. There I am with a steel helmet on, Iíve got the gun, and then they said that if you hear anything, thereíll be another soldier near you, just give your call. We had the signal, we had the little information like the cue card to tell us what to say. All of a sudden, they started to bomb up above us, and the flak was coming down; you could see the hot flak, and weíre standing there. A piece of shrapnel came down and started to light a fire on the grass. I put it out. I was so scared. The Germans are here! So finally, thatís it, one hour, it seems like about 50 hours. The corporal comes. "Pat? Itís me. Corporal Gray. Yeah. Youíre gonna be relieved."

    "Oh thank God!"

    Another guy asked me, "Pat, how is it?"

    I was scared, scared, because there were Germans all around us. But I was lucky because if I ran into a German I donít know what my reaction would have been. If they told me to stay awake, I would stay awake; some guys were sleeping on guard duty, that I would never do. But I wasnít firing my gun. I was just holding and protecting it.

    I think the first time I took my shoes off was after about 21 days. So when some of the guys took their shoes off, uggh! Things like that. Some guys had swollen feet. But with me, we used to wear the paratrooper boots, because I was assigned to the combat engineers. These guys always were right near the front.

    I was a loader. I would lift up stuff and put the rations onto the trucks. All of us had to do it. We had to bring the supplies up to the guys. And every now and then, somebody would come in Ė some soldier maybe got drunk, he wound up getting some cognac Ė somebody would come in, theyíd have two chickens, somebody would say, "Iíll kill those chickens, give them to me," and weíd eat them. Because we never had chicken like that. We always had the K rations, the special chocolate thatís got vitamin this and vitamin that.

    I was in the service for almost three years, but from the time I left the States, I couldnít believe, everything happened so fast. I went in one day, a week later Iím in Pennsylvania. Iím there, the next day Iím in Camp Lee, Virginia. Thirteen weeks of basic. Come home. Take a furlough for 17 days. Go back. Before you know it, I canít believe it, Iím on the high seas. They said over the loudspeaker, "Okay, we can tell you where you are, now that we are outside the jurisdiction of the United States. You boys are now going to the ETO." What the hellís the ETO? ETO means European Theater of Operation. "Oh thank God, we arenít going to fight the Japs!" Because the Japs are dirty, they donít care. The Germans are more civilized. The Germans used to value their lives, too. But they were good fighters.

    I got seasick, very bad. I pulled KP on the Mauritania. I pulled KP, my second day on this tremendous ship, and here I am with all the other guys, downstairs in the kitchen, all of a sudden, "Boom! Boomboomboom-boom!" I dropped that pot. "Man your stations! Man your stations!" Youíve got to go by a certain station where the lifeboats are. It was a fake drill, to show us what to do.

    Then they told us while we were there to turn around and look at the back of the boat, and you could see the path in the water. It was never a straight line. It was zigzag, zigzag, zigzag. You canít torpedo a boat zigzagging like that.

    I said to a couple of British guys, "Tell me the truth, are we being chased?"

    "Are we being chased? Theyíre on our tail!" The German submarines, I donít want to exaggerate but they came close many times near New York. They picked up strange noises. And I believe the Germans could do that. Probably they followed a lot of the boats going out.

    My parents both came from Sicily, but they got married in Paterson, New Jersey. In those days, the boat would come in to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and they separated them there. They went to Paterson. I heard the story from my older sister and brothers; theyíre all dead now, but I would hear the story that they had come to Paterson. Then they moved to Hackensack.

    My father was a farmer. When it was tomato season and celery and so forth, he used to make so much a week. Of course their pay was very little then for farming, but long hours.

    I had two brothers. My brother Johnny died of a heart attack. And Joey is my other brother, heís about now 68, because Iím 75 and Johnny would have been about 80 if he was living. I had five sisters. Half of them died of bad hearts and whatnot. Because in those days they didnít do much about rheumatic fever and murmur of the heart, youíd die. Today they can conquer it. And my mother died when she was about 80.

    My father died while I was in Germany, in a town called Schweigenhausen. My father passed away, and the thing that I want to say is that my mother was always a sickly person. She had a stroke when I was 12 years old; she had rheumatic fever. So when my sergeant came to me and said, "Captain Ashley wants to see you," I said, "Ohhh, donít tell me I made corporal again!" So when I went there Ė they slept in the pyramidal tents; we slept in a foxhole, they slept in a big tent. All of a sudden he chased everybody out of the tent. It was just me and the captain. Heís got a letter, and itís all burnt on the edges. So Iím nervous.

    He says, "Patsy, how long have you been in my company?"

    "Well, Sir, from the time after I got torpedoed."

    And he says, "Now Iíve got to tell you something. Youíve been a very good soldier. Ö"

    "Well, gee, thank you, Sir."

    He says, "Iíve got a little sad news for you."

    I go crazy right away. Some guys could take it. I just canít. I looked at him. "Sir, is it my father or my mother? I know. My mother."

    But it wasnít my mother. He told me it was my father. But I thought it was my mother. Because my mother was always sick. He says, "This letter is addressed from your parish, St. Francis Church," which is in Hackensack, on Lodi Street, itís a Catholic church. He says, "Iíve got a letter here from the priest. He says your father has passed away."

    I said, "Gee, I know, she was very sickly."

    He says, "No, not she. Itís your father."

    "Oh, Iím sorry, Sir."

    "Your motherís living, itís your father."

    He opened up the letter. He showed it to me; it was all burnt. But the letter was already seven months old. My father was dead seven months! They couldnít get to me because we used to move up so goddamn fast. When he showed me the letter, it said that the priest said, "Patsy, weíre very sorry to inform you that your father has passed away," but this was seven months later they brought it to my attention! My father had been dead and buried for seven months. And I said to myself, "No wonder Iím not getting any mail from my sisters and my girlfriend" Ė she was my girlfriend then, Emily, that I married. Because they were writing to me. But then when I got the mail, whoa! They had a whole special truck for me alone. "Patsy! Weíve got a big box for you!" From Emily, loads and loads of letters, from my sister Jane and everybody else. They said they tried everything to save my father but they couldnít. At that time they didnít know too much about cancer of the throat. He smoked. Here I thought it was my mother. And they were good about it, they sent me back to the rear echelon and gave me two weeks off. Then I came back and kept on moving. By that time, I didnít realize it but we were getting closer to the end of the war.

    When the war ended, I was in Germany, in a town called Ulm, U-L-M; we say Ulm, but they say "Oohlm," the Germans. Out of the clear blue sky over the loudspeaker they say, "The war has ended! The war has ended!" Here I am in a foxhole talking to one of my buddies. "What did they say?"

    "Pat! The war has ended!" Youíd see there were some of them out there going crazy. Guys were shooting each other by mistake! GIs, yes, they were shooting themselves, from the excitement. They tried to tell everybody, "Calm down! Be careful!"

    And I was in a foxhole down there. "The war is over! The war is over!" I was crying in the foxhole from joy, I couldnít believe it. The following morning they called formation outside, they said, "The following names, please step forward." Finally, "Pfc. Patsy Giacchi!" I step forward.

    "Okay," the captain says, "you guys are all going home. "

    Boom. One guy passes out from the excitement. I couldnít believe it. I think I was 21 years old then.

    The following day, it was a clear blue sky. "Cover up your foxholes." Before you know it, they put us on trucks, the big Army trucks, they load you up in there, hold the back door, the driver takes off, and heís going for miles and miles and miles, before you know it, youíre riding almost a whole day. You ride from one part of Germany to another part. You bivouac. Five in the morning you get up, take your tents down, they give you coffee. Boom! We start to travel. Before you know it weíre deep into France. Another couple of days weíre in Le Havre. And thereís the big liberty ships waiting. But before all that they had to give you the inspection, because a lot of guys caught venereal disease. If you had a venereal disease, they took you out of line. They put you in the hospital, and they cured you there, then they would send you home. A lot of guys were pulled out, who had syphilis, the clap. A lot of soldiers caught VD over there. They taught them how to use prophylactics, but a lot of guys were stupid, they got drunk.

    Now Iím on a liberty ship coming home; I canít believe it. All of a sudden, after about a week, they said, "Here it is, boys." We come around a big bend, and they say, "You guys want to see it? Go up on the top deck, you can see it."

    What is it? Weíre hitting Newport News, Virginia. And you look, as you come in, you canít believe it, the United States! And thereís a big sign that says, "Welcome home, boys! Well done!" Iím on the deck there, Iím crying, I canít believe it.

    All of a sudden you start to line up. I said, "Pat, be careful now, Pat be careful, you made it through the whole war. Donít get killed, donít fall off the ship or get hurt."

    Then they call your name; you step down. When I got off, I kissed the ground. I cried.

    Then, "All the guys from New Jersey, line up on one side. Youíre going to Fort Monmouth." All the guys from another state, they line up somewhere else.

    So I went to Fort Monmouth. The following morning we had to go to a big church. You had the organist up there playing songs.

    They said, "When your name is called, step up, salute the officer whoís giving you your discharge papers, make a turn, go back, youíre discharged from the Army."

    "Pfc. Patsy J. Giacchi."

    "Pfc Patsy J. Giacchi!"

    A guy goes, "Hey, thatís you!"

    "Oh, yeah! Yeah!" I go up there, nervous. They give me that paper. I walk back.

    "You donít go back and sit down! Get the hell out of here, youíre discharged!" I see an officer go by, I salute him. He says, "Youíre not a soldier anymore."

    "Iím sorry, Sir."

    "Thatís okay."

    Iím the only guy thatís coming toward Hackensack. They told me where to get the next bus to go from Fort Monmouth to Newark.

    Iím on the bus a couple of hours, and then the driver says, "Newark, Penn Station!"

    Penn Station! I remember that from when I was a kid! Penn Station in Newark.

    I got off the bus. I went to a telephone booth. There were many guys there. My time came. I took out my wallet. Now I didnít know my phone number, because when I left it was three years ago. So I opened up my wallet to look for my phone number. I had my mustering out pay. They gave me three hundred dollars when I got discharged, plus I had another two hundred dollars. Thatís 1945. Thatís a lot of money. Iím nervous. All of a sudden, "Hello. Who am I speaking to?"

    "Youíre speaking to Nellie." Nellieís one of my sisters.

    "Nellie, please, now donít get excited. This is your brother Patsy."

    "Who?"

    "Patsy."

    "Who?"

    "Patsy!"

    Boom. She dropped the phone. She passed out.

    Jane picks up the phone, my older sister, and she says, "Whoís this?"

    "Jane, please, itís your brother Patsy. Please, donít get excited. Iím in Newark, New Jersey."

    "Oh my GOD!" Weíll send somebody."

    "No, no, no. Iím coming home. Iíll take care of it. Iím coming home."

    "Patsy, please be careful. Oh my GOD!"

    I left my wallet there. I had some change in my pocket, and a couple of bills. I got on the bus. I took the bus from Newark to Hackensack. Then from Hackensack on Main Street I took a taxicab to West Street, where I lived.

    As Iím coming around the corner, theyíve got a big sign for me in front of my house, "Welcome home, Patsy!" All my Italian neighbors are waiting for me. I get out of the cab, and theyíre grabbing me, my motherís trying to grab me, my father Ė no, my fatherís dead Ė my mother was trying to grab me, my sisters were there. The neighbors were there. Across the street the DeLorenzos. "Ohhh, Patsy, itís good to see you" and everything else. Whoís pulling me here, whoís pulling me there.

    After about two hours, some of the neighbors disperse, we go inside, we start talking.

    Then Jane says, "Gee, Patty, have you got any pictures?"

    "Iíve got one or two pictures. Ö JANE! My wallet! I left it in Newark."

    "Oh my God! How much was in it?"

    "Five hundred!"

    "Five HUNDRED?!!!" Then it was like five thousand.

    We call up Newark. They say, "Would you please come down?"

    We get down to Newark. I go where I made the telephone call from. Behind the counter, thereís a couple of cops there, security or something else. They said, "Soldier, we get this every day. Youíre going to have to give us some real good detail. Everybody tells us "black wallet, brown wallet," something like that. Tell us if you can whatís in your wallet.

    "Well," I said, "Iíve got a couple of this, a couple of that."

    "Keep going." The other guyís writing it down.

    I said, "Okay. Iíve got it! Okay, now look." I was always excited.

    "Take your time now," he says.

    "Okay. Youíll see a picture of my girlfriend, an Italian girl with long black hair. Sheís got a dress on" Ė I bought her this dress Ė "and the dress has got an emblem of a little parrot."

    That did the trick. They gave me the wallet, with the money in it and everything else.

    "Sir," I said, "who returned this for me?"

    He said, "A little old lady. She said, ĎSome poor bugger left his wallet here with all his money. Please see that he gets it.í "

    I said, "Can I give her a reward?"

    He said, "She doesnít want a reward. Just take care of yourself, she said."

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    Contents

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