Remarkable stories of war told by those who fought for a proud nation. Their words. Their voices. Our first episodes tell riveting stories from World War II, then we move on to the Vietnam War and other dramatic conflicts.
Capt Warren “Bing” Evans Part I: The Invasion of Sicily
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Captain Warren “Bing” Evans served in World War II as a Ranger. The Rangers were an elite American unit that trained and operated with the famous British Commandos. Using the element of surprise as their main weapon, the Rangers played an important role in the Invasion of Normandy, the Dieppe Raid, and many other significant campaigns.
In this first part of his interview, Captain Evans describes the Rangers, Operation Torch (the invasion of North Africa), the Invasion of Sicily, almost losing his life, and the nightmares that have haunted him since.
In the next part of his interview, Evans recounts the battles of Monte Cassino, Anzio, and Cisterna, and describes being captured and escaping from a prisoner of war camp in Poland.
If you’d like to learn more about Captain Evans, check out his book, Heroes Cry Too.
If you like listening to Warriors In Their Own Words, check out our other show, the Medal of Honor Podcast. The link is in the show description.
I’m Ken Harbaugh, host of Warriors In Their Own Words. In partnership with the Honor Project, we’ve brought this podcast back at a time when our nation needs these stories more than ever.
Warriors in Their Own Words is our attempt to present an unvarnished, unsanitized truth of what we have asked of those who defend this nation. Thank you for listening, and by doing so, honoring those who have served.
Today, we’ll hear from Captain Warren “Bing” Evans. Evans served as an Army Ranger in World War II. In this first part of his interview, Captain Evans describes the Rangers, Operation Torch (the invasion of North Africa), the Invasion of Sicily, almost losing his life, and the nightmares that have haunted him since.
Capt Warren “Bing” Evans:
We were the first division overseas, one of the first divisions. There was the 34th Division and the first Armored Division were the first two divisions overseas in the European Theater. The 34th Division that I was a part of was the first federally inducted National Guard unit. It was an old square division, probably 25,000 men. I was in that National Guard unit because I needed spending money when I was in school. I got a dollar a drill. So every 13 weeks I had $13. That was my spending money.
Let me tell you that in my company, I had a man who was beating several federal indictments for moon shining in Kentucky. I had a man in my outfit who was in from the seminary, a Presbyterian seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. I had another man who ran a house of prostitution in New Orleans. Then I had a lot of farm boys from the prairies of South Dakota and Iowa that had grown up hunting, grown up in the harvest fields. So I can't tell you physically what set them apart. I think it was more of a feeling of gung ho, of esprit de corp, of a certain confidence in themselves, a certain spirit of, "I can do it."
In fact, I've often wished that somebody would ask me about something in the Rangers that has nothing to do with the action we went through. There's so much pathos, humor, fear, politics, and there are so many stories that no one never hear about. And the men who are living are so filled with those stories and no one seems to want to hear them.
You see, we were inducted before war was declared, and we were going to be back in a year, little darling, they didn't even defer us for college because we were going to be back. So that was February 10th, war was declared December 8th, and we went overseas, well, the first week in January of '42 that would be. And so the Rangers became activated in June 19th of '42, but before that time, were really part of the British Commandos, under their command.
They asked that as part of the volunteering program, that there was someone who wanted to join a commando type organization. At that time, the British Commandos were quite active with raids on the continent of Europe, and so they wanted an American prototype of the British Commandos.
First thing we heard were that they had to all be volunteers. That they had to be in very good physical condition, that they were expected to be able to march five or six miles an hour, which was almost unheard of in the American army at that time. That they had to have the right attitude, somehow or another. It's hard to put a finger on it, but you recognized it when you saw it.
Have you ever tried to march with a full pack loaded down with ammunition and a gun at a rate of six or seven miles an hour? Do you realize that a four-minute mile is about as fast as a human being can go? Now think about going six or seven miles in an hour and you're loaded down. You're not in track shoes and running on a flat surface. You're going up and down and we were climbing the hills. And then the last 100 were weeded out when we went across the Irish Sea to Glasgow and from Glasgow to Spean Bridge, they call it. We were probably seven or eight miles from the castle at Achnacarry and you had to go over a mountain to get there. And you had your full gear, everything that you owned you were carrying. And the Scots that were leading it at the time were unladen. But those that made it were the ones that they kept. They weeded out about a 100 then. That was the way they did it. However, when we got to Achnacarry, that's when really the hard part started. The repelling, the mountain climbing, the swimming with loaded gear across the swift, Scottish rivers. We lost some men doing that.
They were going to show those Yanks, they were going to weed them out and show them they couldn't do it. And of course, the Yanks that were left were just as sincere about showing those damn limeys. This was the type of thing, the competition between the two of us.
I think possibly the common thread would be, "They can't make it too tough for me. There isn't anything they can throw at me that I can't handle. If they can handle it, I can handle it better than they can." And I think we did wind up breaking about every record the Commandos ever set.
They were experts and we were all guys that were pretty good at back alley fighting. Sometimes I think the back alley fighting would probably be just as effective as all of the training. But nevertheless, because they had an advantage, they made it as hard for us as they could in every respect. Many of us had been raised, born and raised, on the prairie, had never heard of the word repelling down a cliff, a mountain cliff. And so the first time we did that, there was some that height bothered. But by this time, I don't think there was anything that these guys wouldn't tackle that was thrown at them, I mean, really.
We knew it was a pretty special outfit, and we knew that they were in the front of almost everything. And I suppose that's one of the appeals of volunteering for this was the fact that we thought it was time for us to be doing something and that we'd better do our part to end this war. I think we thought we could win it all by ourselves.
At that time, I think that the dangers that were to come were not a part of why we were there. The reason we volunteered was that we felt we weren't doing our part, and there was something we could do and that we could do better than most. And this sounded like the kind of an outfit that could get it done.
Venafro starts at Naples and opens up in a northerly direction across the boot and narrows down into almost a funnel shape. At the end of that, in that funnel, they sat atop of a mountain there and they were observing us. And every time we'd try to advance, they'd throw the book at us. It's a beautiful valley ringed on both sides with mountains. The old monarchy used to have their castle there. Now, it was a hospital. We used it for a hospital. Colonel Darby, at that time was colonel, I was in the third battalion and I was a lieutenant commanding a company, and he asked me to take a patrol on top of that mountain to see what we could find. And of course, the one thing that most people don't realize is the fact that rangers probably, there are no way to count the number of patrols that would infiltrate through the lines, come up in behind and get in amongst them and find out what they'd have. That was a lot of our expertise.
So I did. I took a patrol up there and found out what was on top of the mountain and came back and reported to the colonel and he said, "Do you think you can take the top of that mountain with your company?" And I said, "Yes, I think we can." So he said, "Good. Tonight you take your company up there and take it." Well, I took my company up there and we took what we thought was the top of the mountain, but it wounds up in daylight, there are two tops. And there's a gully there. It was pretty sheer on one side and pretty sheer on the other. They couldn't reach us and we couldn't reach them. They'd pick us off like flies. And I reported that to the colonel, and I don't think you want to hear some of the words he used, but in essence, he said, "I don't care what you do, get to the other side of that mountain."
I thought about it for a while, and I did something. You know, on top of a mountain your voice carries like you're in the same room. And I yelled over and I said, "Can anyone over there speak English?" And the voice came back as though you were answering me, said, "Yes, I can." I said, "Fine. This is an unusual situation. Why don't we declare a truce and I'll stand up over here and you stand up over there and let's talk this situation over." He said, "Okay." And I said, "Well, give me five minutes." He said, "Well, let's make it ten." First gave me an indication he might have had more over there than I thought he had. But at any rate, at the end of that time, I yelled over and I said, "Are you ready?" He said, "Yes, but you stand up first."
So I did. And then he stood up. Now I'll skip a lot of the story. For a couple three days there, we had a truce every afternoon about that same time, and we couldn't quite throw the souvenirs far enough to get back and forth. But I found out his name was Hants. That's all I knew. He was in this country at Michigan State at the Kellogg Center learning hotel management. His father and mother ran the largest hotel in the center of Leipsig, Germany. And in the meantime, we had patrols coming up in and around, and we knew pretty much what they had, and we knew what we had to do. And so they sent a paratroop colonel up, he was going to send the company up to relieve us. And I was pointing out to him where they had their sharpshooters, where they had the machine gun placements, where I thought their headquarters was. And every time I'd say something like that, he'd come back and say, "There's nothing over there, lieutenant." And I'd say something else and he'd say, "Lieutenant, there's not a damn thing over there." And finally in exasperation, he stood right straight up and he said, "Lieutenant, there's not a damn thing over there. Why haven't you taken the other side of that mountain?" And it was then that Hants stood up on the other side, nursing his burp gun. Gunner said, "He hasn't been here long has he, lieutenant?" And those are stories you don't usually hear. We infiltrated through. I gave the order to try to take Hants alive. He would never tell me his name. He did tell me the reason he could not come over. I tried to talk him into a steak dinner. I hadn't seen one in two years. I tried to talk him into coming over and I'd introduce him to a Red Cross girl. He was interested, but I hadn't seen a Red Cross girl either, although I heard we had them. But anyway, I gave the orders to take him alive if we could, but he was killed that night.
Now there's a sequel to that story. I spent 15 months in a prison camp. I escaped three times, twice I was recaptured. The third time I made it to the American lines at the Elbe River, and they took me to Leipzig, Germany. And the headquarters of the 5th Army was in a hotel in the center of Leipzig, Germany. And I asked some questions because all of a sudden the thought went through my mind, "Hants, Leipzig Germany, hotel." As you know, you'd get to thinking about it. And I found out that it was owned by an old couple and I couldn't find them for a long time. But an MP was helping me and he found an old couple that he thought might be the couple. And I went to them. They were about a mile from the hotel in a little three room apartment. She was short and squat, sitting here as I am now, she wasn't much taller than I was. He was about as tall as I was and very spare. And their name was Schuler. I didn't tell them any story at the time, but I had got orders to move out. So I went to see them the last time, and Mrs. Schuler, knowing it was the last time, said to me, "You know something about our Hants, don't you?" And I told her the story and she put her arms around me. I cried and she put her arms around me and leaned her head on top of me and said, "Thank you for that. Thank you." Now, those are stories you don't often get told and my outfit is filled with them.
This was one of the reasons that the Rangers were a hush hush outfit at the beginning because at that time, the mothers at home would've really raised cane if they knew their boys were being trained under live fire. They do it more now. On the landings that we had, we've had the paddle shot out of our hands. We had one man who raised a part of his anatomy that he shouldn't have, and he received a bullet right through it. This is the type of thing.
“I hope he's a good shot.” That's really what you were hoping at the time, that he was a good enough shot so he could get close to you and scare you, but not hit you. You wondered that every day you got up and then the next phase of training. "Why did I go for this? Why didn't I stay back where it was comfortable?" The same thing that kept me in it all the way through, "I'm good enough to be good."
Part of our training was of course in water. The cold Scottish mountain streams are cold. They're the kind of cold that absolutely takes your breath away, I mean, literally. We had to swim those streams with rifle ammunition and Lamont Hoctel was the boy's name, was the first casualty in the rangers in training. He drowned in that river. We did some landings on the east coast of Scotland that very much could be compared with the landing at Pointe du Hoc that you're familiar with. And in climbing that we lost a man or two. Going through minefields, we lost a man or two, this type of thing.
We felt that what we were being trained for that it was something we'd better know. We'd better know the feeling. We'd better know what it's like. And it'd be better to learn this way than to learn all of a sudden under fire and have it take you by surprise and have you break down because of it. And if you could live through it, the training under live fire, why you could fight through it.
I don't think history has related the fact that there was a Dieppe Raid before. There was a Dieppe Raid that was aborted because of the weather. At this time, I was the First Sergeant of E Company in the Rangers. And as First Sergeant, I put myself on that detail to go on the Dieppe Raid. And I could name you the fellows that were there, but I don't imagine you're interested. But nevertheless, we went on the first Dieppe Raid and it was aborted and we came back.
Now in between that time, I'd been made to Command Sergeant Major, and I couldn't put myself on the detail, but 10% of the Ranger force was. In other words, of the 500 men, there were 50 on the Dieppe Raid. So we were not at full strength. We were supposed to be observers to see how it was done, but they got into the action plenty and we lost men on that. The same as... It was primarily a Canadian show. The Canadians did well, but they weren't trained. They didn't have enough of the commando training to have accomplished what they wanted to accomplish on the Dieppe Raid, although I think it was considered a success.
We were trying to learn what it was like to make a raid on the continent, to spearhead an invasion because we knew it was coming up. We didn't realize that that's what we were there for. And I think they were also looking for... Well, now I'm going to what I've read and not what I know, so I think they were looking for facts about radar. And if that's true, well, fine.
There was a landing at Arzew, North Africa. That was the first, really the first action for the Americans. The Dieppe Raid, they were observers, even though they were 10% of our group. Arzew was the first action at a battalion strength.
I wasn't in my right mind. I actually looked forward to it with anticipation. This is what we were trained for. This was why we were here, and we were going to do a good job. Never had a moment's doubt. We split up into two. Three companies landed on the port side because to take the fort and the gun emplacements and the barracks on the port. The other three landed up the coast a ways and came in behind and climbed the mountain that had the four-gun battery on top of the hill that protected the port of Arzew or controlled it. In both facets of it, we were completely successful. But nevertheless, it made you realize what you were up against if you had many of them. It was a good introduction to combat.
The landing was a complete success. I think we had three men killed. One of them was a lieutenant. Gosh, don't tell me I've forgotten his name? Gordon... Forgive me. It makes me feel bad. But anyway, that was when I received my commission. We landed on November 8th, and on November 10th, I suspect that it was the first battlefield commission in the European Theater. Whoever else was ahead of me had to have been awfully fast because that was with the 8th and 10th, there wasn't much time in between. But at any rate, he died and I became a second lieutenant. So you see, you can take that two different ways.
You see, the success of a Ranger type organization is built around surprise, that was our major advantage was the complete surprise that we were supposed to try to attain. And we knew that we had it that night. We think that they knew that we were going to land someplace, but they didn't know where. And so you had some sleepy soldiers that were guarding the harbor that night, and our surprise was so complete that actually it was one of the smoothest operations we've ever had. For an example, though, when you say, did we get overconfident? I think I can use my own reaction to that. The second time we landed in Sicily, there was a good deal of apprehension. That first time, there was really anticipation is what I felt. But the second time, there was some apprehension along with it because I knew that there was going to be... It couldn't always go that smoothly and it didn't.
The Americans didn't purport themselves too well in the Tunisian Campaign. The British were the better soldiers. They were more experienced. The Americans didn't have many Rangers at that time. This was their first real test, and they were up against some of the crack German troops. The German soldier was a good soldier, and they were up against some of the best, and they didn't fare too well. And probably the Rangers had the only real initial success in the Tunisian Campaign on the Sened Station raid. Oftentimes because we were called a battalion, we were used to fill places in the lines and cover retreats and stuff like that that full battalions would cover, and we were 500 men or fewer by that time. So the first real success of the Tunisian Campaign came at Sened Station was a Ranger operation. I think it was a supply depot power station. There was sort of a command post, the center of the command for the Tunisian Campaign as far as the Germans were concerned.
At that time, I was a brand spanking second lieutenant commanding a platoon in A Company. We were on the left flank, I think E Company was in the middle, and then F Company on the right. We were taken to a French outpost. And then we, in the dark, let me say anywhere from 10 to 15 miles into the Sened Station, but we actually held up in the hills overlooking the Sened Station and studied it all that next day. Then that night, under the cover of darkness is when we attacked Sened Station, those three companies. Probably 180 men total. But we advanced abreast. We didn't come one column and then another, then another or anything like that. We were abreast, A Company here, and I was on the left flank with explicit orders to make certain we weren't surprised from a flanking movement. We advanced in the cover of darkness and were given the orders not to return their fire if we were discovered.
This sounds strange, but we had found out and in our training and the combat we had had in the dark, defending troops always tend to fire high. And so we were not to answer their fire, and we were almost within them before they knew we were there. And so they were firing way high. And the next thing you know, we were in having hand-to-hand combat. We were completely successful. I think we lost only one man. We carried him out. There again, the element of complete surprise. When you think of 180 men would've been the maximum pulling off what they did there, it was a tremendous success. And then we had to get back, however, to our own lines at 10 or 15 miles before daybreak or they could find out how few we really were. History might prove me a liar, but I'm going to say they must have had 1,000 men guarding that area. Yeah.
The outposts, they had the same weapons you would expect from World War II, burp guns, rifles, grenades, this type of thing. It was too close for any artillery or any mortar or anything like that, so it was strictly hand-to-hand.
Let me digress a little bit there. A Ranger hero is not supposed to have this kind of a reaction. When we went in there and we led them in there and we got in amongst them and we had this pretty, it was fierce fighting for a while. And then the flares started flying, and so it got bright as day every time one of those flares would go off. Well, one time when one of these flares went off and it was bright like that, this man came charging at me, my enemy, here bent on killing me. But as I looked at him, I looked into his eyes and they were big and frightened and so forth, and I froze on the trigger of my piece. I couldn't pull it. I had a little runner who was with me because the walkie-talkies weren't always what they were cracked up to be, so we always had a runner that would be our communication with other units, and he killed him for me or I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you today. That's the kind of combat, that's how close it was that I could look into a man's eyes and freeze. Now I hadn't frozen before that and I haven't frozen since, but at that time, I did.
What do you think it was that sort of just paralyzed you for that moment?
I don't know. It sounds noble to say perhaps compassion for a fellow human being, but I don't know it was that. I honestly don't know. My wife has told you that I have nightmares. I still do to this day. That's one of them. I look into that man's eyes. You'd be surprised how many times I've looked into his eyes since, and I cannot tell you why I froze on the trigger at that time, but I did. And as I say, it hasn't happened since, but it happened then.
I have three distinct nightmares. That's one of them. The other one is on Anzio beachhead. This is the sixth campaign now on Anzio beachhead, and we had infiltrated through the lines in two battalion strength, and we were completely surrounded by Kesselring's reserve forces. Had no chance. Our own troops didn't get a thousand yards out of their foxholes, and they were supposed to reach us the next day. And you've probably have heard a lot about that.
But anyway, as they closed in around us like that, they were dropping mortars on us. They couldn't use the artillery because they'd shoot their own men on the other side, so they were dropping mortars on us and one exploded out here some way. Now I can remember the ground coming up to hit me, but I can never remember hitting the ground. I still have that nightmare to this day, and I haven't hit the ground yet, but it's one of those. Other things enter into that same nightmare, but that's the basis of it. That gives you an idea of the couple of the nightmares that I have. They're strange. One is looking into the eyes of this guy that I couldn't kill. The other was the ground coming up to hit me, but I hadn't hit the ground. I came to in a prison camp.
My wife has learned how to handle them. They come often. My system has to be right somehow. I think perhaps if I get overly tired or if I get into a bull session that they start talking about something like this, then the memories come back. Otherwise, you kind of squeeze them out. But they'll come in at the most surprising moments. And there's a third nightmare that I have that I'm not going to tell you about. I don't want to even get into it, if you'll forgive me. That's a part of my military life that I'm not going to talk about. Now I would've had those nightmares three or four times a week when I first got back. Then it got... After we were married, and the first night I had a nightmare, and my wife took a hold of me and I knocked her across the room. And when I came to, she was under the sewing machine table across the room crying. And that's when she learned never to touch me.
So now, she says I make a funny sound when it's coming, and she will awaken me by calling my name over and over again, and then I come to, and then it's fine. And so it hasn't been nearly as serious because she's a light sleeper, and so she can tell when they're coming. And so she awakens me before they get serious. So the last few years, they have not been that bad. That's really the reason she came with me this time. She figured, because talking about it, I would probably have some pretty nasty ones.
It's something, you know, just keeping my mouth shut for 40 years because people didn't understand or couldn't understand. It wasn't their fault. Was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me. I should have been talking about it all that time. I think it would've relieved some of the whatever built up inside of you.
In the case of Sicily, you'll take, this is one example. The First and the Fourth Battalions landed at Gela. The Third Battalion landed at Licata. The Germans were expecting the First and the Fourth Battalions to land there somehow. So they had a Normandy all of their own, and it was fierce fighting and it was fiercely contested. But the reason for the Third Battalion landing at Licata was so that we could get one of those ports that would be untouched. Before we landed, the... How do you explain this? A flat barge-like vehicle loaded with a whole barrage of mortars. I would suspect the 4.2 type mortar, the big one, and it almost *boom boom boom*. They just keep going, and they'll lay down a barrage for you that you'd wonder how anything can live. The naval guns usually wouldn't come in at that time. This would be close-in support. You'd land under that and they'd lift that, and then you'd advance. At Licata, we had a pretty good surprise and we accomplished our objective and it was defended well, but we had the advantage.
We were in three ships. Ours was a Dutch ship. I forget the name of it, but that's incidental. And they had the landing craft, LCAs, they're called, and you could get a platoon into each one. So you'd get 30 to 40 men in the platoon into one LCA. They'd load those and then they'd circle until they all were loaded and ready to go, then they'd come abreast into the landing area. You have a lot of seasick Rangers before you get to the landing itself, but then you forget that the minute you land.
Well, from the time you get off of the ship itself, it seems like confusion, but it's organized confusion and every man knows what they're doing. Oftentimes you have to clamber down a netting to get to it. The LCA is already in the water, so you clamber down a netting and you get into your position. You have already a preset position on the LCA, and usually you'll have a section down each side and a section down the middle. The platoon leader will be the first one off, and then the platoon sergeant would be the last one off, seeing to it that all of them got off. And going in, of course, you're looking to see all the landmarks that you possibly can. I would've been because of my position, looking to make certain that they were hitting the right landmarks and what it was going to be like when we got there, if it was like we had trained for. And so all the time, you're really doing, you're thinking hard, you're looking for landmarks, you're looking for something recognizable. And if you think they're going the wrong place, you tell the Navy they're going the wrong place or you want this turned about. So you don't have time to do anything more than just think about that.
Now for the men themselves, if they would get, they had more time to think about getting seasick and they were down, they weren't looking. It's quite an experience. But by this time, the only ones that had a problem were the replacements that came to us. Those that had gone through it all with you, they were the same as you were. You knew what you were getting into, and you waited to hear the crunch of the sound of the sand underneath your vessel because you knew then that as soon as it come to a stop, that front ramp was going to go down and you'd better be on the move. Because for a while when that front ramp goes down, anything that's on the shore has only one place to aim. They don't have to search. They've got their target right now, so that is your danger point. Once you get beyond that, and if you've landed in the right spot and you haven't landed on a sandbar and you have to wade through or swim for part of it or whatever it is, then you just wade yourself ashore as fast as you can and get to the first objective. Usually, the first objective also gives you a little cover.
I think that as far as the Third Battalion, which I was a part of, there was that same old nighttime firing and they were firing high. I think they were firing over us. And you must remember that there was also a barrage that landed before we were there. And so some of those guys were shell-shocked at the time, and they weren't really thinking about what they were supposed to be doing.
I think the feeling would be apprehension, wondering if you're going to be able to get through this one, wondering about, when you got there, would you recognize the targets that you were looking for? Somehow, we always did. Somehow, we always accomplished our objective, but those are the thoughts that would be running through your mind. Sometimes, apprehension takes a back seat when your thought is so filled with what it is you're supposed to be doing. Fear comes afterwards, after you've realized that you haven't reached your objective, and wondered if you're going to get there. Then is when the fear sets in. Apprehension is a better word about the time that tailgate goes down, or that front ramp goes down.
We usually had the advantage of surprise, number one. So their casualties were always greater than ours. Once we got across that beach, we seldom had too many casualties then. Our casualties would come on the beach, or stepping on a mine, or tripping over a barbed wire and spraining an ankle, and this has happened. Really, that's a hard question to answer. Because of the surprise of most of our landings, we initiated far more casualties than we received.
The third Battalion was so successful at Licata that they were given the chore of infiltrating through the lines, but the harbors were in bad shape, and they couldn't land the troops the next day. They needed a harbor that was relatively untouched. We were given a job of infiltrating through the lines, going several miles up the coast, to the west, it would've been, and taking a town called Porto Empedocle or Porto Empeticco, I don't care how you say it. We did that, and we were successful, and it was one of those nice raids that you talk about, although Colonel Damer, who was a colonel at that time, was chastised for getting out of range of communication. I don't know how you could have gotten that far and stayed in range. Nevertheless, we were successful, and we took the port, and so we had the port that they needed to land the allies. It was such a success, the real action and the real difficult part came with the first and the fourth battalions at Gela. They had a Normandy of their own. It was fierce. And all the same elements were there. The only difference was our surprise was complete and theirs was not. And so if ever we were in danger as Rangers, it was when we lost the element of surprise.
We fought our way through to Palermo then across the northern coast of Sicily all the way by leapfrogging. Most people don't realize that the Rangers went in and then they would cut off the Germans here, then our troops would advance. And we kept doing that and we picked up some pack mules and we climbed the mountain with 75 millimeter howitzers on the back of those mules up a very narrow trail. And we lost a couple mules on the way, but we got to the top of this mountain overlooking Messina and we saw the Germans from our mountaintop going across the channel there, the two or three miles straight that separated the boot of Italy from Sicily. And we wanted to fire our 75s because we could have wreaked havoc. Instead, we fought every one of those men again in Italy. I might as well say it, I'm thinking it: simply because the British had to be first in Messina.
But we were in Messina and watched what they were doing and watched from the top of the mountain and could do nothing. That would've been one of the places where we could have really done a good job.
Well as I told you, Sicily was a great deal of apprehension when we landed on the left flank of the Salerno beachhead. Now there was apprehension but laced with a great deal of fatalism. I had lived through two spearheads, two landings and had been lucky and I felt that somehow or another with this much under my belt that this time I wouldn't be that lucky. And so I entered into that with a great deal of apprehension and a great deal of fatalism.
I don't think it interfered with the job that I did or the job that I was supposed to get done, but it was there. And after the landing had been completed and here's where your training comes in handy, although we had a lot of replacements by this time, we still negotiated that four or five or 6,000 feet up to [inaudible] Pass from the time we raided and got up there and took the pass. And then I suspect you've heard, we fought off... I've heard everywhere from 10 to 12 to 15 major counter-attacks. But this landing and answer to your question was more difficult from a personal standpoint because I didn't like that fatalism. It wasn't defeatism, it was the fact that I didn't think I could live through three of those. That came with the next landing, the sense of detachment.
That was Captain Warren “Bing” Evans. Next time on Warriors In Their Own Words, Evans recounts the battles of Monte Cassino, Anzio, and Cisterna, and describes being captured and escaping from a prisoner of war camp in Poland.
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