Art Austin, Salerno, Italy
My dad Art Austin was with the 5th U.S. Army when they sailed on the Duchess of Bedford on September 9, 1943. They were a part of the assault waves of the landing at Salerno. The Duchess landed at Paestum south of Salerno.
The excitement started a few nights after the Paestum landing. I was comfortably relaxed in a bed in Baron Ricciardi’s castle—the first bed I had seen in months on end. My but it was grand! The Colonel winked when he gave me permission to guard the office that night, ‘if I felt like it.’ Without the proper authority, a foxhole, as usual, would have been my home. Of course, I felt like it—an understanding man, that Colonel.
Near midnight, however, a messenger rushed through the room wildly proclaiming, “The Germans are coming! Burn all secret papers.”
A groan from across the room proved that the Master Gunner, who was sharing the office defense with me, had heard the bad news. We hesitated a few moments. One who has not seen a bed in months, does not get up readily under any circumstances. But duty and self preservation demanded action.
We looked for clothing, secret office records, emergency chocolate rations; hunted for the absent Colonel’s belongings to take along (might as well be captured as to leave them behind); searched all night long until daylight found us in a safe location. Still, it was not a total loss. From that time on, everything missing on inspection days had been lost at the Baron’s.—Art Austin.