Pictured above is Henry J. Gregorio. Henry is in good health and lives in Highland, New York. What follows are the WWII memories of Henry Gregorio
as received in a phone interview on 1/19/05.
I was drafted in April of 1941 and was supposed to stay in for one year, but the war began in December and I stayed in for four years. I went to Albany, New York and spent the night in a motel and was
inducted at Camp Upton. From there I went to Fort Belvoir, Virginia to begin my training. I was assigned to duty as a truck driver, driving the truck and trailor hauling a ponton boat, and that's what I did through out the duration.
we went on maneuvers in Louisiana and built a bridge on the Red River. We got word that a hurricane was coming and so we had to separate the bridge in the middle, leaving it in two parts with one half on one shore and the other half on the other shore. While
it was separated in two halves one half of the bridge was captured by the enemy unit during the war games we were participating in.
After Louisiana, we went to the Carolina Maneuvers. During these maneuvers they would have airplanes fly over and
drop sacks of flour on the road we were traveling. If a sack hit the road ahead of us, we would have to pull off the road and practice road repair where the sack had landed as if it had damaged the road.
During the Carolina Maneuvers I went on pass
to a small town nearby and met a group of girls at a bus station. Believe it or not the next day I married one of those girls. We'd only known each other one day.
From the Carolina Maneuvers we returned to Belvoir and then, while preparing to go
to Plattsburg, New York, they told us we would all be getting a furlough. So I had made plans to meet my wife, but they decided to cancel our furlough and grant furloughs only to those southern boys who lived nearby. I was really upset and so when we arrived
at Plattsburg I decided to go "over the hill" so I could meet my new wife. Needless to say I got in some trouble for that and when I returned to the barracks I had to dig two four by fours and then fill them back up the next day.
we went to Camp Maxey, Texas. I don't recall very much about my time there, but what I do remember is that we were near Paris, Texas and it was a dry county and so we had to drive 15 miles to Oklahoma just to get a drink.
From Maxey we were sent
back east to ship out for North Africa. The boat trip took 13 or 14 days. There were 80 nurses on the ship with us and they were constantly stopping up their toilets and we would have to go up and unstop them. But that was all we were allowed to do. Those
nurses sure were messy and I remember they had their shorts laying around everywhere. Another thing that stands out in my mind about that boat trip was the way we were bunked. They had us bunked in stacks of five, one on top of the other.
in North Africa at Oran and half of the company had to go to Casa Blanca. From there we went to some place called Mostagamen. We practiced building ponton bridges on dry sand, and then we would tear them down and build them again. They were checking to see
how fast we could build a bridge. During this time we would also have to go on 20 mile hikes and then we would strip down on the beach and go swimming in the Mediterranean to cool off. About 200 feet off shore there was a ship that was split in half and sitting
on the bottom with its deck above water. We'd swim out to that ship and I remember the ship had water depth marks on its hull and we were able to determine that the water was 45 feet deep by those marks. But the water was so clear you could see the bottom
and it looked like it wasn't very deep at all.
From North Africa we went to Italy and landed right around the corner from Naples. Before leaving Italy we would travel as far as 100 miles north of Rome.
While in Italy I remember being
sent to Salerno to pick up some wire and while there I got to have a meal with some Italian troops. We had pasta and wine. Those Italians drank wine like it was water.
I remember one day, I don't remember where we were, but we had to turn our boats
over on our trailors so we could haul infantry troops in them to the front. I guess they were short of trucks or something. We could fit 50 infantry soldiers in each boat. While at the front we were shelled by enemy artillary. We heard it coming in and we
all dove into a ditch for cover. But there was this chaplain there handing out tracts to the troops and he took a direct hit and was killed instantly.
While I was in Venafro, Italy we were repairing a road that had been damaged by tank traffic and
I managed to sprain my ankle pretty bad and had to be helped up a hill to a church to get off my ankle. There were a couple of Italian girls there and they helped me get around, and even offered to help me to the toilet when I needed to go but I managed to
do that by myself.
I can recall when Sgt. Kramer was killed by a mine near the Volturno. Steve Puto was in a truck nearby when the mine exploded and the blast blew out his windshield and wounded him. I remember that just before all that happened
I had hopped in my truck to go up to where Sgt. Kramer was, but Puto pulled out in his truck ahead of me and they would only let one truck go forward at a time and so I had to wait. That's how close I came to being there in the blast instead of Puto.
Another thing I remember about Italy was seeing these black fellas who looked like they were 8 feet tall. I don't know who they were or where they were from, but I remember they were getting paid to kill Germans. They would cut off the ear of any German
soldier they killed and turn it in for money.
I went to rest camp in a small town in Italy. I don't remember the name of the town, but I do remember there were these six girls who would sing as they walked to work each morning. At rest camp there
were trucks with showers built on them and they would have ten soldiers at a time take a shower on those trucks. It would be the first shower we would have in weeks. When we came out of the shower we were issued clean clothes. The clothes were used but they
were clean. I remember one of the shirts they gave me had a hole in it that looked just like a bullet hole. I always wondered if they had taken those clothes off of dead GI's to re-issue them.
The only other memory I have of Italy was the bombing
of Monte Cassino. Cassino was up on a hill and we were down in a valley only one half mile away at the time. Boy did they bomb that place.
From Italy we went to France aboard LSTs. We loaded our trucks on the LST and there was enough room to line
them up three across. I know because I was in charge of lining them up. I don't remember how many rows of three there were, but I remember we would back the trucks into the front of the ship, down each side of the ship first and then we would back a row down
the middle. We shared our LST with some British soldiers and they were sure filthy, especially in the bathroom. They made such a mess in the head that we would wait and do our business at night over the side of the LST.