Major Ralph Hotchkiss served in the US Army from 1942 to 1945. His story can be summarized as being recruited by the newly formed OSS followed by a long trek up the Italian peninsula. His duties required him to remain near the front. No Division in Italy was closer to the front than the 36th Infantry: the “T-Patchers” from Texas. He stayed embedded with this group while engaging in clandestine operations that were his real assignments.

There were few positives during the Italian Campaign. Solace was taken in somber moments when artillery was silent. Such a moment occurred for Major Frank Pellegrin in the late winter of 1944 near Cassino. A linchpin of German defenses that would become a five-month-long series of battles that destroyed a thousand-year-old Abbey and yielded over 50,000 Allied casualties.

Major Pellegrin wrote a song. A tale. A representation of the Campaign that became a scorched Earth strategy of both advance and retreat. Retreat by the Wehrmacht to impede the Allied advance while scarring centuries-old olive groves and vineyards in the process.

Advancing forces comprised of British, American, Canadian, Polish, Indian, Free French, Turkish, Australian, New Zealand and others were compelled to chase. The chase strategically required ousting defenses that demanded an increasing number of offensive tactics, aka, bigger and larger quantities of bombs and artillery. A force that would obliterate villages like San Pietro and create the backdrop for stories to be written.

Frank Pellegrin related such a story after the destruction of San Pietro followed by one of the biggest tragedies of WWII that occurred at the Rapido River on January 21-22, 1944. The American 36th Infantry, specifically the 141st and 143rd regiments sacrificed 2000 men in 48 hours on a fool’s errand with no hope for success. My grandfather and Frank Pelegrin bore witness to these events.

Of all the items my grandfather left, the most unique was a copy of song lyrics written by his buddy Frank Pellegrin. I am presenting them as a matter of record. I hope at some point, to get this song produced for the sake of history and…because it would be cool.

Without further adieu, the original song lyrics I have named “San Pietro Rose:”

Words by Major Frank Pellegrin
Music: Anonymous

CHORUS:
Oh roll me over easy,
Roll me over slow,
And I will tell a story
Of the bloody Rapido.


(1)
My pal was Joe Maloney
Of the Brooklyn grenadiers
We were pfc’s together
When we met in old Algiers


(2)
We fought all thru Tunisia
And Sicily and then
We hit the beach at Paestum
And we had to fight again.

(3)
We fought the Jerries backwards
Past rivers running red,
We lost some pals and buddies
But a lot of Krauts were dead.


CHORUS(Repeat)


(4)
We soon reached San Pietro
And we blew the town apart
But ‘twas there my pal Maloney
Lost his fighting Irish heart.


(5)
She was just an E[x]otic maiden,
Her name was Rose she said,
Her mother and her father
And her relatives were dead.


(6)
She was weeping in the churchyard
“Oh, you killed my family,
In our home in San Pietro
With your heavy artillery.”


CHORUS(Repeat)


(7)
He put his arms around her
And said, “Don’t blame the Yanks,
We had to wreck the village
To get those Nazi tanks

(8)
You stay right here he told her,
Until some peaceful day,
I’ll return and ever after
And kiss those tears away.


(9)
Then we pushed to San Vittoro
And we had a bloody fight,
But we hurled the Nazi’s backward
On the left and on the right.


CHORUS (Repeat)


(10)
We attached at old Corvaro
And we took the smoking town
Then we drove to Cassino
But there they pinned us down.


(11)
We stormed the Liri Valley
And Captured Trocchio
But they stopped us twice and held us
At the bloody Rapido.

(12)
On the third try, Joe Maloney –
He was a sergeant then –
Went in a-shootin’, and at dawn
Came shootin’ back again.


CHORUS (Repeat)


(13)
Twas then we heard that Johnny,
The youngest in our squad
Was out there somewhere, wounded
Atop that bloody sod.


(14)
The medics all were busy
With wounded all around;
So without a word of warning
Maloney hit the ground.


(15)
He started crawling forward;
I yelled to him to wait
“I’m bringing in the kid,” he said,
And then he met his fate.


CHORUS (Repeat)

(16)
He never knew what him
And he died without a sound
And we buried Joe Maloney
In the cold silent ground.


(17)
And still, in San Pietro
Does a hopeful maiden yearn,
Praying for sweetheart
Who will never return.


(18)
Her eyes are dark and shining
As she thinks of what he said,
And I don’t know how to tell her
That the one she loves is dead.


(19)
The years fly swiftly onward
But I think, each passing day,
Of the Rose of San Pietro
A-wooing far away.

(20)
Oh roll me over easy,
Roll me over slow,
And I will tell a story
Of the bloody Rapido.