"Let's Get Outta Here!
That's the Object When Unloading at Anzio"
By: Ernie Pyle

April 22, 1944
     The greatest apprehension I've found in the Anzio-Mettuno area is not among the men on shore who have been under it constantly for weeks, but among the crews of ships that sit out in the Mediterraneann, unloading.
     It takes several days to unload a big freighter, and during all that time they are subject to shelling from land and air raids from the sky.  Their situation I'll admit, is not an enviable one.
     It's true that few of them get hit, considering the amount of shooting the Germans do out there.  Yet there is always the possibility.  And what gives them the creeps is when they're sitting on a ship full of ammunition or high explosives.
     The crew of these big freighters are members of the Merchant Marines.  They merely operate the ship.  They don't do the stevedoring work of unloading.  That's done by soldiers.
     They have a good system for that.  At Naples a whole company of port battalion soldiers is put on each ship just before it sails.  They make the trip up and back with the vessel, do the unloading at Anzio, and when they return to Naples they go back to their regular dock jobs there.  A different company goes aboard for the next trip.
     The result is that each one-time unloading crew is so anxious to get unloaded and get out of Anzio that everyone works with a vim and the material flies.

     Up until a few weeks ago all unloading was done by port battalion groups based at Anzio.  As soon as the crew finished one ship, it would have time to go to work on another.  There wasn't any end to it.  The boys just felt they couldn't win.  Since the new system went into effect, efficiency has shot up like a rocket.
     The bigger ships are unloaded just as they would be a the dock, with winched hoisting out big netfuls of cargo from the deep holds and swinging them over the sides and letting them down - not onto a dock, however, but into flat-bottom LCT's which carry the stuff to the beaches.
     Each hold has a dozen or so men working below, plus the winch crew and the signal men.  They are all soldiers.  They work in 12-hour shifts, but they get intervals of rest.
     I was aboard one Liberty Ship about 10AM.  All five hatches were bringing up stuff.  You could lean over and watch the men down below piling up ration boxes.
     And on the deck immediately below us you could see scores of other soldiers trying to sleep, the deafening noise of the winches making no difference to them.  They were the night shift.  They slept on folding cots between blankets, with their clothes on.
     One crew boss was Sgt. Sam Lynch, of Wilmington, Delaware.  He is a veteran soldier, having served four months in the Arctic and 14 months on this side.  Before the war he was a fireman on the Pennsylvania Railroad and later railway mail clerk.  He is married and has one child.
     I asked him how he liked coming up to Anzio on a ship and he said he didn't like it too well.  "The trouble is," he said, "that you feel so darned defenseless.  If you could just man a gun and shoot back it wouldn't be so bad."
     But the Navy operates the gun crews aboard all these freight ships and the soldiers can only sit there idle and sweat it out when bombs or shells start flying.

     You should see the work when the ship is about finished and it looks like though they might not get through in time for the next convoy.
     They laugh and tell a story about one ship which finished 45 minutes after the convoy started.  The skipper pulled anchor and started chasing the convoy.  The Navy radioed him orders to stop and wait.  But this fellow kept right on going.  He simple figured he rather face disciplinary action at Naples than German bombers for one more night at Anzio. 
     The Navy's premise was that he was in greater danger from German subs and E-boats while running alone after the convoy than he would be from another night at Anzio.  They have it all figured out by percentages, and they are right.
     But this fellow was lucky and caught up with the convoy.  I never heard what his superiors did when he got there, but I bet they didn't invite him out for a round of golf.

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