Segment 5

Annotation

Charles Coolidge recalled walking in a column in Italy and at that time Patton did not mean a thing to him. Coolidge looked out and they passed this vehicle with General Patton in it. He jumped out of the jeep and kept walking along chewing a Lieutenant out and telling him to fasten his chinstrap. The Lieutenant said he would but when General Patton left he would unfasten it again. Patton repeats his order two more times with the same response from the Lieutenant. The third time the Lieutenant said he would unfasten it again after Patton left because if a shell came in and exploded nearby he did not want his helmet to break his neck and have him finish the war like that. General Patton did not say a word and turned to the following Jeep and stepped back into it and left. The next day an order came down from Headquarters that from that day forward the chinstraps would be fastened behind the helmet and not under the chin. Coolidge felt like Patton would listen to his troops. Coincidentally Coolidge and that Lieutenant became good friends. Coolidge said he remembered the Germans making a big mistake at Salerno. They came down the road and when they did the Lieutenant was on the road and had four tanks turn and face toward the ocean. It was dark and an early morning when he lined the tanks up and he motioned for them to move forward. When they did they fell into a swamp and the tanks could not get out and the men could not get out and rendered them useless. Coolidge recalled that it put the fear in all of the Germans. He also recalled he had a man jump up on another tank and got shot through the stomach and begged his buddies to kill him but they said they could not do it and he would have to shoot himself. Coolidge recalls that they got into some elevation and had stone walls that marked property lines as cover. They invaded at Salerno with no shelling at the beach until twelve thirty or later the next day. In his opinion it was not good and it was supposed to be a secret invasion. They went in with resistance but not heavy resistance and set up a line and waited until daylight before heading up to Altavilla which was the high mountain past the beach head. The division took the mountain and held it. They also found a little boy there whose parents had been killed and he ended up after the war coming home with one of the mess sergeants to live in Texas. Coolidge remembered they were called on to bring rations to the 143rd Infantry Regiment or whoever was on the mountain just before San Pietro. He recalls getting to the foot of the mountain and seeing many dead or wounded laying along the base of the mountain. The path went up the mountain and you could take a box with twenty-four K rations on your shoulder. Coolidge and his men went up the path and gave out rations to the people. After they got up there and delivered their rations they started coming back down the mountain. He recalled the view as they came down the mountain was beautiful on a sunny winter day. He could hear Germans over to his right starting to laugh. He stepped off the path a little to relieve himself and he heard the Germans chuckling. He heard a small voice say to him to get out of there and he was pulling his pants up to get out of there and started moving. When he got about twenty-five feet from where he had been he looked back and a round came in with a direct hit on where he had been standing. He got back down the mountain and the Germans finally gave up. They could have put that round anywhere they wanted but instead tried to drop it on him.

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