Salerno

Sept. 9: 5:10 AM we headed for the beach, hell broke loose, I’ll never forget it.

George Buttenschoen kept a detailed account of the campaign in Italy during WWII. His journal spans from his enlistment in the Navy in 1942 to a three-year campaign in the Mediterranean. Most entries are the size of a modern text-message. Short and simple:

July 19: Heading back to Bizerte.

Some read like newspaper headlines, recapping what’s happening in the war:

Russia recaptures Rostov and are doing good by going further on.

Others are haunting in their brevity:

More raids, we got two planes for sure.

 

Troops and equipment land in Salerno, Italy, 1943 (From lonesentry.com)

There is a certain type of psychic energy that follows these words. It’s an idea that many writers and artists contemplate. There is always truth in the first draft, whether its an unrefined impression of a character or a grammatical error.

When I read George’s journal I am reading the unfiltered account of a sailor in WWII. Phrases like “hell broke loose, I’ll never forget it” are dark, monotone and chilling, especially when compared to the rest of the entries, which illustrate an upbeat young man on the winning side of the war.

We forget. And I think that’s why George kept his journal in the first place.

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