In the last letter, dated June 21, 1944, Babe reveals that he had pictures taken of himself taken in Rome, and in the same letter he notes that the people “in this part of the country are pretty lucky. There isn’t half as much destruction here as there was in the southern part of Italy. Even the people themselves up here are a lot better off. They have plenty of good clothes, plenty to eat and good living facilities.”
We know that the 168th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, came ashore in Salerno, just south of Naples (and nearly 170 miles south of Rome), in September 1943. It is still a little unclear to me whether Babe moved into Italy with the division, which, according to the historical record from the army itself, landed in Salerno at D-plus 13 days, or Sept. 23, 1943. That is about a month after Babe had proudly written about his assignment to the Rainbow Division, the 34th.
In June 1944, 10 months later, Babe notes that he was in Rome and had pictures made there. This strikes me as interesting given the zeal with which the military censored the mail of servicemen. I wouldn’t have thought that kind of information would have been allowed — not that it appeared his letter was revealing any state secrets.
According to the “Numerical List of A.P.Os” document that I have, the 34th Division got to Rome on June 17, 1944, a few days before his last letter. By Aug. 1, the division will be in Follonica, another 140 miles north. This all has me realizing that I’m still very fuzzy about how the 34th Division contributed to the Allied defeat of the Germans in Italy.
It’s not for a lack of information; there’s plenty out there. It’s a lack of concentration.