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Tales from the old-timer

Letter From A Friend

I got a letter from an old friend, Mel Sharpe of Peshtigo, and it will be used for this week’s Old Timer column.

He wrote:

Several years ago you interviewed me for a few stories of my experiences in World War II and you published them in the Peshtigo Times.

I was overseas for over 2-1/2 years for the North Africa, Italy, and Sicilian campaigns. A few days ago I happened to think of a few humorous incidents that happened to me in Italy and on the Italian Island of Sicily.

When Italy surrendered to the U.S. my unit was stuck with about 70 Italian prisoners of war. We were told to keep on feeding and housing them, but also get rid of them. They couldn’t go anywhere because they didn’t have any money to get back to their homes. The First Sergeant and I were given the task of making them useful until they could be on their way home.

Our barracks and the prisoners were housed in a beautiful modern Fiat dealership with fine facilities including bathrooms. Sarge says to me, Why don’t we each have a butler? I quickly agreed and I got a guy named Walter Fasina. (To describe Walter better, he was the spitting image of the well-known and loved Bob Pearce of Peshtigo, always laughing or smiling. You could never get mad at him).

Walter spoke broken English, and it turned out that he had been a driver for Benito Mussolini, the Italian Dictator, before he had been captured. Incidentally I saw Mussolini and his mistress and several others who had been hanged by their feet by Italian Partisans in the framework of a bombed-out garage. We couldn’t stay long because the Partisans kept firing hundreds of bullets into their dead bodies and we were afraid of stray bullets. (This was on April 28,1945 - Old Timer)

Maybe I got carried away a little bit because the funny part of the story is this:

My butler, Fasina, did a great job. Kept things clean, made up my cot, etc. In the mornings I found that my toothbrush was always wet. I asked Sarge if his was always wet, too, and he said no. I quickly figured out what was happening. Facina was using my toothbrush! I looked him up, and I said, Walter, have you been using my toothbrush? He stuttered and looked down at the floor and up at the ceiling, and finally said, Si. I think he was sure he would be fired. So I let him sweat a while, then told him not to do it any more, and he could keep the toothbrush. It took me over four months before I could find another tooth brush!

Another story I can tell is one where it can be said, It only happens in the Army.

One day our Motor Pool Sgt. got a bunch of us together to plan on building our own jeep. Smashed up Jeeps were lying all over the place and each of us brought back needed parts. It was taking a lot of time and it was no secret that we were building that Jeep after hours. Finally it was finished and we fired it up to take a ride. Before we got it out of the Motor Pool, the Captain came out of his tent with two Military Police, and said, This Jeep is being confiscated as reconstructed equipment. We were dumbfounded and realized the Captain was planning this from day one. We never even got to drive it! We never saw it again! You can imagine the names we gave to our Commanding Officer!


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841 Maple St
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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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