Duane Schultz, noted Author of Crossing the Rapido, a Tragedy of WWII, wrote the story, Christmas in Italy 1943  for the December 2017 issue of WWII Magazine. A somber tale of what life was like during the Italian Campaign of WWII.

“THE WAY WAS CRUEL,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle. “Our troops were living in almost inconceivable misery.” Pyle knew because he was in Italy with them, in the knee-deep mud and freezing cold and snow. “Thousands of men had not been dry in weeks. They looked like men of prehistoric times.”

The focus of this article and Crossing the Rapido was the 36th Infantry Division who lost two-thirds of there original forces during the 10 months they spent in Italy. Seventeen hundred in the two-day attempt to cross the Rapido.

Read the complete article: Christmas in Italy 1943

Duane sent his article to me as I was traveling in Italy last year, retracing the steps of my Grandfather from the beach landings near Salerno in September 1943 to the liberation of Rome in June of 1944. The arrival of his email came at the perfect time as I was walking around the ruins of San Pietro Infine and added to the significance of my journey.

The ruins of San Pietro Infine (Photo: Mike Hotchkiss)

Early in December of 1943, between days of non-stop shelling and the scorched earth activity of the retreating Wehrmacht, the small village was reduced to rubble and was never rebuilt.

The cruel Christmas of 1943 was only a precursor to the coming months. The 5th Army endured multiple attempts to break the main German Defenses, the Winter Line. The four offensives from January through May of 1944 yielded heavy losses and the destruction of the Abbazia di Monte Cassino, one of the oldest Benedictine Monasteries in Christendom. A second front was opened in January at Anzio in an attempt to lure German defenses away from the Liri Valley.

Monte Cassino after the Bombing on February 15, 1944 (Photo: Public Domain)

Rome was finally captured on June 4-5, one day before the most famous D-Day was launched at Normandy furthering the relegation of the Italian Campaign as the Forgotten Front.

Captain Ralph Hotchkiss – Rome, August 1944 (Photo: RRH Archives)

Read the complete article: Christmas in Italy 1943

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