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The Stars and Stripes, Mediterranean
Throughout the Mediterranean Theater in World War II, it was respectable to be a poet.
Men in uniform who might have once regarded poetry as a matter for "long hairs" and "softies" were writing poems themselves and, what's more, signing them.
Truck drivers were no less inclined toward the muse than the company cook; a machine-gunner would dash off a verse during the lull of battle; the stony-faced topkick was producing love lyrics, and there was a laureate in every company. As one CO remarked,
"It's a wonder we get any work done."
I've seen "the crosses row on row," I've seen the graves at Anzio, In Flanders Field men cannot sleep - Their faith, the world found hard to keep. Versailles' fate was slyly sealed Before earth's gaping wounds had healed, And now again rows of crosses Mutely tell of nations' losses. In how many fields, In how many lands Will soldiers die by soldiers' hands? Until at long last mankind yields To truth and reason's studied choice Ignoring hatred's strident voice. - Pvt. Jack P. Nantell
"At eight AM we're pulling out," The general sternly said, So the colonel sent the order down, "At five we leave our bed." Well, the captain took no chances, Because captains never do, And so he told the topkick, "Have the men get up at two." At midnight the sergeant woke us, And here we sadly sit, Because it now is noontime, And we haven't pulled out yet. - T-5 Carl D. Westerberg
Where once stood a whitewashed villa Covered over with climbing roses, Gay with shouts of playing children, Hope and future of the land, Totter now in dust and ashes Crumbling walls of stone and plaster, In smoking piles of debris - Here a foot and there a hand. Men and women of tomorrow Lying there in dust and silence, Who shall carry on your future? Who shall bear your family name? From a box among the wreckage Safely placed there by his mother Just before man's hell from heaven Took her to the great unknown, Climbs a child of two short summers, Unperturbed by death about him: And, though not knowing its import, Turns to face the coming dawn. - T-Sgt. Stanley R. Gibson
So very often do poets write Of flowers, birds and such, That one gets tired of seeing them And reading them so much. Now, I have a thing more dear to me, Romantic and divine, Its shining face a symbol of That appetite of mine. God bless each little rivet, The knife, the fork, the spoon - Forever may they render forth Their sweet metallic tune. And when these days of corn-beef hash Are memories all aglow, There'll be a place for it somewhere Where all good messkits go. - Lt. H. S. Davenport
A flare-lit night, a frosty breeze The chequered light of moon through trees The gelid quiv'ring battle glow This is Nero's Anzio. The monster stalks; the cannon roar Is this Dunkirk, Corregidor? In sharp riposte our guns bark "No" "These are the men of Anzio. By day the wedgewood sky is bright With vapor trails of Allied might; By night the scudding clouds resound With sounds of war from air and ground. Against this mighty fist of mail Our lines hold firm, They shall not fail, Thus slowly, Europe's bloodstained yolk is seized from puerile herrenvolk. This inchoate beach, this spot of sand beyond the Paperhanger's hand Will share in history's hallowed glow Remember it, this Anzio. - Lt. Richard Oulahan Jr.
Now, Mule, you say you work too hard, That you have a life of pain, You never seem to get a rest Through ice and sleet or rain, You climb the highest mountains, But remember I do too. You have four legs to take you home, But me - I've only two. And when our journey's over And the time has come to eat, A generous hand brings food to you While you rest your weary feet. I carry mine for miles and miles, Have C rations every day, Unless my luck's against me And the cook throws me a "K." And when it's time for us to sleep There's one thing I can say, I have to sleep on mountain tops While you bed down on hay. Now, Mule, would you take my place, Even though you know you couldn't? Would you be content with a life like mine? You know darn well you wouldn't! - Pvt. Richard Hiorns
Dear Dick, you wrote and asked me, If I'd trade my place with you Because you think my life is free And I've little work to do. Well, brother, for your information I work like hell to the very last, And no matter what the situation I still end up a sad, old ass. Look at me in this same old hide, Wouldst though wear this ugly skin? Would you daily drink from riversides And forsake your whiskey and your gin? And I can't get a small promotion No matter if I work both hard and fast, But you at the very slighest notion Rise up to the rank of private - yes - first class. Now, Dick, after all I've told you, If you still wanna be a mule, Your request will not be considered, For we won't accept so big a fool. - Lt. Bernard Knighten
From olive groves near Venafro Where ancient trees grow row on row To surrounding mountains capped with snow - How many died there? We'll never know. They traded the enemy shell for shell, And took the place where comrades fell Amidst the whistling, bursting shell - How many died there? We'll never know. They are all brave both old and young All are heros, some unsung. They gave their lives without regret - These men, these men, We'll ne'er forget. - S-Sgt. Robert J. Dewey
The moon is nearly down; the night's quiet, Unbroken save by the soft trill of a bird Soloist to the chorus of the marsh. Around me in the woods the air is heavy With the breath of sleeping men - Peaceful they lie Dreaming not of the morrow and its dangers. All day they growl and grumble, yet I know Their childlike trust in me to lead them through This grim trial of battle safely home - A thousand hearts of loved ones far away Depend on me, Lord, I am weak and human, And cannot walk alone. Guide Thou my way - Steel Thou my heart and let me keep the faith. - Maj. E. H. Thompson
They are bathing in the strand, And sprawling on the sand At the fashionable sunlit Riviera, But they float face down, And the sands are painted brown With the stains of these sun-bathers' lifeblood For the dead now take their ease By this loveliest of seas Whose beauty and music are wasted. They'll be buried, each by each, And we'll tidy up the beach For the benefit of those who will come here, So the ladies may be gay and the men forget the day When these waves were freighted with corpses - But the dead will have their rest For their slumber is blessed And the burden of their battle is transferred. - CWO Edwin J. Hoff
... it feels so unreal falling here without pain ... without fear ... unable to move ... alone on the ground ... furiously the battle rages overhead weaving the sky with tracer thread! - Capt. Milton E. Tausend
Sing a song of El Guettar, A song of Kasserine; Sing a song of all that was, Of all that might have been. Sing a song of old Mateur And sing a song of hate; Sing a song, Salerno-born And sing a song of fate. And sing of old Cassino - Of an abbey on a hill - And sing of old Nettuno and a demon driving will. Sing a song of all that was, All that might have been, But sing it strong in accents bold - These things that have made us men! - Lt. John V. Peterson
Not if ... but when We meet again And the hearts of men are free Once more: Not if ... but when In your eyes again I see what I was fighting for: Not if ... but when In my arms again You whisper the words I adore Then in my dreams of the long battle nights Will come true in the reality of you: Our love will be again Not if ... but when. - Pvt. F. J. Stebbing
Which came first, the egg or the hen? Puzzled a lot of prewar men; But will someone ever live to tell Which came first, the whine or the shell? - Cpl. Max Greenberg
Out of their tombs they crawl Weird, misshapen men. Faces tattooed with cordite, Eyes sullen and red. Nine hours in the tanks Have made them kin to the dead. - Capt. Milton E. Tausend
"Opus to My Draft Board !"
Know all men by these presents That a jury of your peers Awards you greeting pleasant As the Christmas season nears. You put us where we are today, We tender you our thanks. A million games we've learned to play - Like hide-and-seek with tanks, And blind-man's bluff with hand grenades, And hop-scotch with a mine, Plus many dandy dress parades We've had behind the line, So greetings, Draft Board buddies who Have filled our life with cheer. This festive verse we share with you - But wish, of course - that you were here! - Cpl. W. S. Westcott
Twinkle, twinkle, little flare I see you hanging in the air And wish to hell you'd go away Before the bombs begin to play. - T-Sgt. Bob Wronker
Why is it that the mail I write Gets home okay, without a blight? But all the mail that's sent to me Takes ten damn months to cross the sea? - S-Sgt Gray Wilcox Jr.
I shall forget? Perhaps ... if you can tell me when I shall forget! Or, if you have the answer, let Me know how memories once aroused are stilled. Grant me this ... then, I shall forget. - Sgt. O. D. West
Felice is happy, triste is sad, Buono is good and cattivo is bad; Male is ill, bene is well, Morto is dead and war is hell! - Pvt. Clyde Hermann
Oh, gray steel ship with flag on high Why must you always pass me by? You brought me here, then went away Am I forever doomed to stay Upon these shores to which we sped? You left me here and then you fled. The name affixed to you is truly One that was applied unduly - For when we sailed across the sea You ended then my Liberty! - Lt. Roy Johnson
Milk, we know, is pasteurized, But this old Army is alphabetized. To be a Pfc. or a glamorous NCO, You have to be authorized by a damn TO, The CG in the HQ and the BC in the CP Throw ARs at a guy like me. All is fubar, all is snafu, so - The EM in the AAA at the APO Get munched from the tough CO, The SOS, the AGO, WOJG and CWO. Whether it's AAF, QM, FA, or FD, The RA, AUS, NG, OCS or ERC, The Army's not the place to be If you never passed the ABC. When you're on guard or CQ, Thinking is the only thing you do; You remember the USO and the ARC, and cuss the guys in the ASTP. AWs are enforced by the OD, VD is classified now as LD; Even here across the seas We have trouble with the MPs. Whether WAC, WAVE, or GI, No matter how hard you try - This axiom is apparent yet, The Army's run by the alphabet. - Cpl. Norm Rachlin
A pair of soft brown eyes, now red with pain, Looked into mine through tears like warm spring rain, He whispered slowly, very haltingly, "I'll be all right, they'll take good care of me." I touched his fevered hand, smiled a bright smile. "I'm sure you will, in just a little while." And then in both our glances something died, Because we each knew that the other lied. - Pvt. R. Moore Smith, WAC
We know that many questions will arise Within your minds ... questions to ask Of desolate isles and shell-torn skies, Of blood ... and filth ... and death ... and swarming flies; Of weary duty through the night ... or torturing tasks Which scourge the living as a comrade dies. We know that you will ask the temporal thrill Of tales born from the womb of mute despair ... A graphic picture of the human lust to kill, Of swamps, gut-deep in mud ... of cratered hill We took by hell's own punishment ... the echoing blare Of bugle. and the "forward march" while time stood still. But when we come again ... we who come home From out this world-inferno, souls seared deep; Ask not of us, for grandizement, a written tome To cherish as historic lore, with froth and foam ... Just let us rest awhile within the deep And pregnant silence, never more to roam. Give us clean sheets, and blue cups brimmimg-filled; Give us gay laughter flowing over tears; Give us forgetfulness of things that thrilled You in your reading ... Let tired hearts be stilled To gentle silence through the fruitful years Which needs must come ... warmth for hearts long chilled. Just give us this. Is this too much to say, We who have prayed, through hell and back, for such a day? - Sgt. Will D. Muse
What happens when the bugles cease to spill Their early morning song across the hill? And once-clean guns are laid aside to rust - And once-strong men are crumbling piles of dust? What happens when the tattered banners fall Defeated - and the final battle call Has died away across the distant fields, And friend and foe alike lay down their shields? What happens when the treaty inks are dry And men refuse to kill - refuse to die? When battle-wearied men go home again - Tell me, warrior, what happens then? - Pfc. Maynard Johnson
So many things they've promised us Our burdens will be carried, And like wide-eyed kids at Christmas time Our wants are great and varied. Some want a farm with many cows, While others will acknowledge They want a job, a happy home Or chance to go to college. Despite the many promises There's one thing I would take Don't give me special privileges - Just give me an even break. - Pvt. William Hudson
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