world war ii: mediterranean theater

“Warships of the British Mediterranean Fleet bombarded Fort Cupuzzo at Bardia, Libya, on June 21, 1940. On board one of the battleships was an official photographer who recorded pictures during the bombardment. Anti-aircraft pom-pom guns stand ready for action.”


Even as a soldier fighting I’m denied many of the privileges as a Negro, to which the guys who wear the swastika are welcomed. Negroes are doing their bit here, their supreme bit, not for glory, not for honor but for, I think, the generation that will come. If the blood that flows here on Italy’s mountains will wash from some folk’s minds the stigma that has been bred there for years, then I think that the men who have gone so bravely here will not have given their lives in vain. I’m proud to be one of these few men who are fighters. The American papers call us ‘Tan Yanks’ and other fancy names, but the Italians call us 'Americans,’ just plain Americans. That’s all we want to be, and one day I hope we will just be plain Americans.
—  US Army PFC Joe Johnson in a letter to his wife, early 1945
Some soldiers told about running onto another soldier stretched out in the back seat of a jeep, way up front, almost in No Man’s Land. His helmet was down over his eyes, and he had a half-smoked cigar in his mouth. They were in dangerous territory, and they went to take a closer look at the soldier so nonchalant.

He was dead. A sniper had shot him through the back of the helmet. He was just lying there, looking perfectly relaxed, the cigar still in his mouth. He had been dead over two days.
—  Ernie Pyle, Brave Men
Shells and big guns cost money, but it’s better to spend money than lives. Along that line a bunch of us were sitting around conjecturing about how much it costs to kill one German with our artillery. When you count the great price of the big modern guns, training the men, all the shipping to get everything over, and the big shells at $50 each, it must cost, we figured, $25,000 for every German we killed with our shelling.

‘Why wouldn’t it be better,’ one fellow said, 'just to offer the Germans $25,000 apiece to surrender, and save all the in-between process and the killing? I bet they’d accept it too.’

It’s a novel theory, but personally I bet they wouldn’t.
—  Ernie Pyle, Artillerymen (Italy, December 1943—April 1944)