The Pittsburgh Press (January 12, 1944)
By Ernie Pyle
In Italy – (by wireless)
In one frontline outfit I was with recently, I noticed the boys always used the word “Uncle” when they meant the powers that be. They said, “You do whatever Uncle tells you,” or “I wish Uncle would hurry up with those overshoes.”
Another slang term is “eyeballing,” which means viewing and gendering around, such as “eyeballing into Naples.”
At the front one morning, I heard another expression which may be old, but which sounded funny at the time. About a dozen soldiers and I were sleeping in a goat shed. The soldiers hadn’t shaved for weeks, or washed either. And they always slept with their clothes on. When they first came out of their blankets on a cold morning, they were enough to frighten children.
It was at that early-morning moment when one soldier looked for a long time at another one and then said:
Cripes, you look like a tree full of owls.
Mess sergeant gains 46 pounds
Imagine my surprise and delight one day when, after several days of C and K rations, we wandered into a division command post and sat down to a luncheon of fresh, crisp, American-style fried chicken, the kind we have in Indiana. Texas’ now famous 36th Division was the provider.
One of the jovial mess sergeants in the 36th Division is Charles Morgan of Gladewater, Texas. His wife is in Mexia, Texas, and she’s hardly going to know him when he gets back. When the sergeant went into the Army, he weighed 189 pounds. Now he weighs 235.
The soldiers who fight on top of the mountains, who don’t dare build a fire even in daytime because the smoke would attract attention, have discovered that the paraffin-scaled pasteboard box the K ration comes in will burn without smoke, and will burn just long enough to heat one canteen cup of coffee.
The other day I was on a mountain trail and met three German prisoners coming down, with one dogface trailing behind them with a Tommy gun.
Some Signal Corps movie photographers were on the trail and they stopped the little cavalcade for pictures. They asked the soldier to take the Germans back up the trail about 50 feet, then march them down again past the cameras.
At first, the Germans were puzzled, but when they sensed what was happening, they began their overcoat collars snugly and straightened their pants, and came marching past with big grins on their faces, as vain as children.
Christmas brightens Nazi prisoner
Speaking of vanity, one regiment of the 36th Division had some fine photographs of me taken at their outdoor box toilet on the hillside. They think it’s a great joke, and no doubt plan to blackmail me into buying the film from them.
But I’ve got them whipped. I’ve lived the war life so long, where everything is public, that I just don’t care. In fact, I might even pay them to publish the picture.
A strange little incident happened a few weeks ago at one of the prisoner-collecting points, where German prisoners were being interviewed.
One of the German kids who came through seemed terribly depressed. When the examiners get a case like that, they try to find out what the trouble is, other than the normal depression over being captured. But they couldn’t seem to get at this boy.
Finally, just to make light conversation, one of them said:
Well, cheer up, at least you’ll be able to spend Christmas with us.
Thereupon the boy sat up and said eagerly:
Do you celebrate Christmas, too?
He didn’t know that we knew about Christmas, and apparently had been brooding over the prospect of spending it with a heathen people.
After that, he was bright and chipper.