Monte Grappa tu sei mia Patria,
Monte Grappa tu sei mia Patria,
IT seemed appropriate to begin this history of our ambulance service in Italy, by quoting the first two stanzas from the famous "La Canzone del Grappa." This song of the Italians, tells the story of their love for this great stronghold, as the saviour of their country. Mt. Grappa was to Italy, in the days of the Great War, as the heights around Verdun were to France. It stood out in the bright sun as the hope, the will, and the glory that would again return to their land. It stands now as a shrine where thousands of brave soldiers are buried in the great cemetery on its heights. The reaches down to the plains of the Piave River, were part of the area known as the Venetian Pre-Alps. An assignment to this sector of the front, when our troops arrived in Italy, was considered a great honor. A picture of the western approaches to Mt. Grappa shows a winding, snake-like road, exposed to withering cross-fire from foe and friend alike; but more of that action later.
It is important that we tell the events which led up to the formation of an Italian Contingent of the United States Army Ambulance Service. We must remember that this new service in the Medical Department had been first established at the request of the French Government.
Many of the men who volunteered for this service had been recruited on the basis of going to France. In fact funds had been donated for the purchase of Ford Ambulances, under the auspices of the American Field Service, and also contributions were made for American Red Cross Ambulance Companies to drive ambulances in France.
There have been many post war discussions regarding the reason for this assignment to Italy. Certainly, after nearly fifty years, we feel more or less on safe ground to review some ideas which have had the advantage of the elapse of time and of research. First, after Italy had entered the war on the side of the Allies and America had declared war, there began a steady pressure on the part of the Italian High Command for help from the United States. Second, the difference of opinion covering the necessary number of ambulance sections required in France. Third, the need for ship tonnage for supplies for the Western Front. Fourth, General Pershing's feeling that the ambulance sections could be secured more rapidly from Italy, when needed, than from America. Fifth, the real need to bolster the sagging morale of the Italian people, following their army's collapse at Caporetto, above the Undine Plains. Sixth, the fact that President Wilson's son-in-law came to Camp Crane to dedicate the new "Y" Building, and was asked to present the case to the President, of the need for ambulance men in Italy, and the subsequent visit early in 1918, of General Guilcomott of the Italian Army, to Camp Crane. For fear none of these reasons are valid, we will turn to some quotations from the report in Volume VIII of "The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War." The report is given as follows:
"General Pershing, in explaining the necessity for sending troops to Italy stated: The Italian Government early made request for American troops, but the critical situation on the French Western Front made it necessary to concentrate our efforts there. When the Secretary of War was in Italy during April 1918, he was urged to send American troops to Italy to show America's interest in the Italian situation and to strengthen Italian morale. Similarly, a request was made by the Italian Prime Minister at the Abbeyville Conference. (This was the meeting of all the generals, at which time Marechal Foch was named Commander in Chief of the Allied Armies.) It was finally decided to send one regiment to Italy, with the necessary hospital and auxiliary services, and the 332nd Infantry was selected, reaching the Italian Front in July 1918. (End of Pershing's statement)
"The regiment was attached to the Italian Third Army. Its several battalions visited different sectors of the front in order to create the impression on the enemy, as well as on the Italian people, that a large body of American troops had arrived. From October 27 to 29, the regiment assisted in establishing bridgeheads across the Piave River, and from October 30 to November 4, took part in the pursuit of the Austrian Army. On November 4, it reached the Tagliamento River, near Valvasone, crossed in the face of machine gun fire from front and flank, and pushed forward 16 kilometers to Villarola where it was in position when the Austrian armistice went into effect.
"Our medical activities," continues the quote from the Medical Department report, "in Italy were of a two-fold nature: Those in connection with the small body of American troops which has just been discussed in General Pershing's statement, and those directly concerning the Italian Army through our Ambulance Sections which served with it. For our own regiment, beside the regulation allowance of regimental medical personnel, it consisted of one field hospital. and one base hospital. The base hospital was really detailed for service with the Italian Army. Of the 30 sections of the United States Army Ambulance Service sent originally to Italy, 5 were withdrawn, While all these sections were officially for service with the Italian Army, one section was actually used to evacuate patients from our 332nd Infantry Regiment.
"The motor transport furnished by the United States Army Ambulance Service sections with the Italian Army, also carried patients to Field Hospital No. 331. This hospital, specially staffed and equipped, operated for a time in two sections stationed 95 miles apart at Lumbraga and Costoza, respectively.
"The 30 sections of the Ambulance Service sent from the United States on June 13, 1918, for duty with the Italian Army, comprised 76 officers and 1641 men. Each section was provided with transportation as follows:
1 1-3/4 ton Pierce-Arrow truck 1 Dodge truck 1 Dodge touring car 12 Standard G.M.C. ambulances 1 G.M.C. repair truck 1 Motorcycle with side car
A machine shop truck unit accompanied two of the sections."
We find that when we quote from the Government reports, we miss so much of the original story of the men who made up the contingents we want to write about. This is especially true of the men who went over to Italy---where we have been guilty over and over in getting the "cart before the horse." It might well be said here---- that those who are first often are last. For many of the sections which made up the Italian Contingent were the very first to arrive at Allentown. Their ranks had been thinned out by transfers to other sections leaving for France, or to other branches of the armed forces over the ensuing twelve months. We can read of many instances where men had joined up with this or that Red Cross or College unit with assurances they would see early service in France, only to be used to help train other sections who left ahead of them, or sent out on recruiting assignments. These men suffered through Guth Station days, the severe winter of 1917-18, in poorly heated "new" barracks at Camp Crane, and through endless false rumors of Marching Orders. A bitterness developed among some men who finally left the Ambulance Service for some other branch of the Army. There is one interesting fact--- brought out in our research covering the sections representing the United States Lawn Tennis Association. Early in the year of 1917, long before the United States had entered the war, efforts had been made by Organizations and clubs, which were members of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association, to collect funds by holding special exhibition matches of the tennis stars, for the financing of several ambulance sections to serve in France. When the funds had reached proportions large enough, they began to recruit men to drive the ambulances. Then war was declared by America, and those units ferried were ordered to report to the United States Army Ambulance Service training camp at Allentown. One man playing in matches in Australia, who had signed up for service in France came through in record time, by way of the Philippine Islands, to join his section at Allentown.
Commander in Chief
Commander in Chief
Commander in Chief
of All Allied Armies
Commander in Chief
United States Armies
We are fortunate to have some records we are permitted to quote, from a book published, entitled, "United States Lawn Tennis Association in the World War." The funds raised through the exhibition matches had been turned over to the American Red Cross for use in the purchase of Ford Ambulances, and at a meeting following our entry in the war, we quote a resolution:
"Be it Resolved: That the Executive Committee of the United States Lawn Tennis Association, instruct its officers to release to Colonel E. E. Persons, Commanding Officer, U.S. Army Ambulance Camp, Allentown, Pa., through the New York Office of the American Red Cross, $800 for each and every ambulance so designated, and each expenditure be hereby approved when made from the fund known as the Tennis Ambulance Fund." (End of Resolution)
LT. COL. C. P. FRANKLIN
"In the spring of 1918 when both ambulance sections were ordered abroad, No. 603 to Italy and Evacuation Ambulance Co. No. 8, to France, Col. Persons, fortunately for the National Association, was in command of the Ambulance Service in Italy. He personally attended to the completion of the arrangements for the transfer of $32,000.00 which had been agreed to by the officers of the Association. Under the resolution of the executive committee, previously quoted, and with the approval of the Red Cross, he tendered the money to the Italian Ministry of War. His letter of transmittal follows:
"1. I hand you herewith my check for 203,200 Lire on the Genoa Branch, National City Bank of New York, which was transmitted to me by the United States Lawn Tennis Association. This Association is comprised of a large number of sections or chapters scattered throughout the United States. The Association decided to equip two sections of the United States Army Ambulance Service, and supply each section with 20 Ford ambulances, which it was estimated would cost, not to exceed, $800.00 each. The Association, therefore, arranged to place in my hands funds for the purchase of 40 Ford ambulances at $800.00 each, amounting to $32,000.00, which transferred into Lire, amounts to 203,200 Lire. It was the desire of the Association that each one of these ambulances carry a small brass name plate bearing the name of the chapter of the Association which had contributed toward the purchase of said ambulances, and the officers of the Association furnished me with 40 of these plates suitably engraved before we left America. Just before our departure for Italy, however, it was decided that each of our sections should be equipped with 12 G.M.C. ambulances instead of the Fords, the cost of which I think, is between $3000.00 and $4000.00 each. The funds, provided by the Tennis Fund, were therefore not sufficient to purchase this equipment. Nevertheless . . . I have placed the 40 brass nameplates of the Tennis Association on the 40 G.M.C. ambulances brought over by us . . . . I beg to offer you the amount mentioned above, for the purchase of such number of ambulances as it will buy, suggesting that very probably it would meet the wishes of the contributors if these ambulances were used in the service of the Italian and American troops occupying Gattero and Fiume. . .
"2. I beg to take this occasion to renew assurances of appreciation of the many courtesies which have been extended to this Service by your office."
In response to this letter Lt. General Zupelli wrote to Colonel Persons, quote:
"This War Department ... begs of you to be the interpreter . . of the sentiments of the heartiest and sincere gratitude for their generous gift, which, by the noble motives that have inspired it shows once more what a great spirit of sincere friendship animates the generous American people towards Italy ...."
When Colonel Persons forwarded this letter to the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association, he made the following comment: "I feel sure that the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association has not only provided ambulances for use in the war zone, but has rendered a service to our Government by helping to cement the friendship already existing between Italy and the United States."
"After this payment had been made and all other charges against the Tennis Fund were met, there was a balance of about $9000.00 which was returned pro rata to the donor clubs, after having been released both by the Government and the Red Cross."
Shortly after the decision to send the ambulance sections to Italy, arrangements were made for Colonel E. E. Persons and his staff to proceed to Italy by way of Paris, France. Ft. Col. C. P. Franklin, Captain Robert L. Harper, Lieutenant Adolfo Caruso, and a compliment of 59 non-coms and enlisted men comprising this small "contingent," went down to Italy and made things ready for the main contingent coming direct from the United States. Here is an account of the departure of the Italian Contingent on June 13, 1918.
When the contingent for Italy left the Fairgrounds all good citizens of Allentown were supposed to be in bed, but to the contrary, there were lots of "Good-byes" from porches and pavements. The crowds increased as we neared the railroad station. At Mealey's Dance Auditorium, the steps were crowded. Men dropped out of the lines on the pavements to clasp the hand of a soldier who had endeared himself to the families of the city. We were on our way! After being settled on the train, the men were really happy. Some tried to sleep, but soon the ukuleles were strumming and the pent-up feelings burst into song, and it seemed fitting to some to pick the marching song, which ran:
|"They sent us down to Allentown to get an ambulance,
To go abroad and let her go and drive for sunny France,
And then it took us seven months to get a pair of pants,
Oh! there's something rotten somewhere in this bloomin' ambulance,
Of course to drive an ambulance, you've got to learn to drill,
So every morning, afternoon they put us thru the mill,
And when this war is over, you will find us at it still,
For we never saw an ambulance and never, never will!"
Soon things quieted down, and as the train sped through the countryside that night, the men started to fall asleep, each in his own odd position.
They arrived at the docks in the gray dawn. All were sleepy and hungry, but these discomforts were overlooked as they lined-up by sections to go aboard ship. The Italian Government had arranged for the contingent's transport on the liner "Giuseppe Verdi," We were soon on our way down the New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty, end out on the great Atlantic. We expected the next day to pick-up our convoy, but no, we were making the trip across alone. We are privileged to quote excerpts from a letter written on June 24, 1918, by Leslie Craigen to his family:
" At sea, 24 June 1918
After a week at sea we have had no submarine battles as yet and no prospects of any. Weather has been great. Have seen Lake Washington just as rough if not rougher than any sea encountered so far. Officers and non-coms are travelling regular passenger quarters, with real waiters to serve us. This is the first time this ship was used as a transport. We have 3-5 course meals per day, and tea at 3:30. The men have third class and steerage. The ship is well equipped and speedy. Some of us were seasick a few days, but all seem to be OK now. We have lifeboat drills every day. One half hour of physical exercise, and one hour of language. We wear life-belts all the time. Lots of books and magazines from the Y.M.C.A., on board. Our band plays retreat every afternoon at 4:30. Then several popular selections. We play deck quoits, and other deck games, and there is a boxing match about every afternoon. There is plenty of pop, candy, and gum available at the canteen . . ."
(Editor's note --- The above quotation was made for the benefit of the boys who made the crossing to France in the Pastores" or the Antilles.")
On the arrival of the Giuseppi Verdi in the Mediterranean Sea, where one small troop ship, more flippantly dubbed the "Joe Green," was escorted by two, and part of the time, by three destroyers and was met by a fleet of sub-chasers as we approached land, it appeared for about 72 hours, we were the most important troops in any Allied Army. We of course, got a tremendous ovation when we landed at Genoa. There had been the usual rumors both before and after the landing that there had been two or three subs laying for us and a big reward offered for the sinking of the "Joe Green." The fact that the Italian Army and nation needed a "shot in the arm" was proved by the arrangements made for our reception, which included the greeting by dignitaries from the Government and the military, the forming of an Honor Guard, and our parade through the streets of Genoa. There were five hands, including our own, with the people straining to reach out to touch the soldiers and strewing flowers in their line of march.
The United States Army Ambulance Service had taken over Italy! While the equipment for the sections was being assembled at the quartermaster base at the port of Genoa, headquarters and one motor repair park were established at Maistua, an advance base for supplies, a bakery, and a post office at Vicenza, and another motor repair park at Castelfranco. The sections were distributed among the several Italian armies and began operations, the locations selected for them being in a semi-circle to the east, north and west of Vicenza, and extending from Lago da Garda to Venice Four of the sections worked in the mountains and the remainder on the plains.
To confirm some thoughts which have been offered as reasons for American troops being sent to Italy, we have these ideas from a man who came with those troops. He said that one of the principal functions of the Ambulance Service in Italy, and of the 332nd Regiment, was propaganda and morale building. Many will recall that one of the duties at the various section headquarters was to fly high the American flag so that all who passed could see it. These section bases were frequently mistaken as headquarters of "another American Division." Even the uniform was kept distinctive with canvas leggings and campaign hats, so that the American forces could be easily identified. Travel was encouraged, and Jazz Hamp's Band was hauled around here and there to play "distinct American music" in many public places. The climax came when shortly after the cease fire, this Jazz Band played for the Venetians, from gondolas being propelled by gondoliers up and down the canals. But that detailed story must be saved for the next chapter.
Back to the Government report. In August 1918, our Government requested the Italian Government, that 15 of the United States Army Ambulance Service Sections with it, be sent for service in France. Six were forwarded at once by rail on August 24. At the same time the remainder of the 15 going overland under their own power, a distance of some 960 kilometers (600 miles). To compensate for this loss to the Italian Army, 3 ("Provisional") sections were organized and equipped, by reducing the number of men in each section (old and new) from 45 to 36, and by supplying the new units from replacement material. After dispatching the 15 sections to France and the 3 Provisional Sections to the Italian Front, headquarters moved to Castelfranco where it remained until the Service was withdrawn from Italy.
It is interesting to read the experiences of one of the sections transferring by motor from Italy to France. "On August 29, 1918, we left Genoa by way of Tortona, Alessandria, Asti and Torino. Then to Rivoli, following the Dora Riparia River to Bussoleno, Susa, turning northwest into France and through the famous mountain pass, Col du Mt. Cenis. This had been the route used many centuries before by Caesar and Hannibal. When we were through the pass, our convoy turned south to Modane, then to Bauges on Lac du Bourget, north to Bourg en Bresse, Chalon, Dijon and Chaumont for assignment. Some of the sections going to France had served on the Italian Front before their transfer."
Before the U.S. Army Ambulance Service took over for the Italian Sanitary Service, the front lines had been pushed back to a point from Riva, at the northern tip of Lago di Garda, to Asiago, Valstagna, through Mt. Grappa to Nervesa on the Piave River, to Cortellazo on the Gulf of Venice. It was at this point that the Allies sent reinforcements to stem the Austrian offensive against the city of Venice. Some of the remnants of these British and French troops still were in Italy when the United States troops arrived, and when the advance of the Austrian armies had been checked. During this time, and when the final great battles on French soil had begun, Italian armies had been sent north to help. This has often caused confusion in connection with the reported assignments, and the awarding of both French and Italian honors on the field of battle in France.
It was found in practice, that under some circumstances, much transport service was needed where no dressing stations were required, and that under others, dressing stations were needed, in excess of the regulation number of ambulances attached to them. No difficulty was experienced in finding assignments for all the ambulances available, just as it had been the case in France. The men of the United States Ambulance Service in Italy were often kept busy day and night, for long periods at a time. The sections assigned along the Lower Piave had extremely heavy work evacuating malarial patients, as that disease proved a serious cause of disability to such units of the Italian Army as were located at certain places on the river.
There was a considerable time lapse between the arrival of the Italian Contingent and the final assignment to the Front. For some sections, much of this time was taken up with M.P. duty. As the bulk of the men preferred to bathe in the warm, clear waters adjoining their camp, at Lido L'Albaro, there was little for the M.P's. to do in the city. The result was that they spent much time inside the large railroad terminal. The reason being, that an elderly American woman who had been marooned due to the war, "did her bit" by establishing a snack bar for military travelers. The M.P's. found her, and one of her assistants, a Miss Rountree, the daughter of a cocoa tycoon, most generous in serving them "cool comfort." There are not many times when soldiers are sorry to give up M.P. duty, but the seniority of this section's officers, made it possible to get their equipment and obtain a most important assignment.
"The section was sent to the Mount Grappa area which was the center and pivotal point on the Front. The English and French forces assisted the Italians on the left flank, while our troops defended the center and right flank, along the Piave River. Our headquarters at Borso was at the base of Mt. Grappa. One of our posts was located in a stone hut known as the Smoke House, on Cima Grappa. It was the highest point on any of the fighting fronts. A Galleria, or tunnel, connected the trenches with the first aid station at which our ambulances parked. During some of the heavy Austrian counterattacks, it became our custom to only drive a couple of miles down the mountain side to a Teleferica station. There Italian soldiers transferred their wounded from our ambulances, to strap them in the small cars suspended from steel cable lines, to be lowered to waiting ambulances. The Austrians were known to direct their shells at the supports, which caused death to the wounded, in the event a cab dropped to the deep valley below. However, valuable time was saved in using this method of transport and saved many lives. Our trips over the exposed road had to be timed, if at all possible, when the enemy shells were not coming over. Many times we missed in our calculations!"
A report, from one of the men of this section tells of their being moved down on the plains of the Piave, after the big push had dislodged the Austrians from the Mt. Grappa area. An interesting story developed at this time, covering the leak to the Italian troops of the pending "cease-fire," will be told as a part of the Austrian Armistice in the next Chapter.
"One of our men was taking a load of wounded down the mountain from Post No. 1, Cima Grappa, when he noticed several brilliant flashes on the mountain peak across the Brenta River. These flashes were immediately followed by flashes from various new batteries on surrounding crests. From the build-up, which had been noticed by us for several days, we felt that a big drive was eminent."
In their travels over this winding road before, at all hours of the day and night, they thought they knew where every battery was located. It was, therefore, a surprise and somewhat of a shock, when they would pass under a hitherto harmless cliff, to have four guns go off at once, and nearly knock them off the seat of their ambulance.
The men would get three or four hours sleep, when we became completely exhausted, and then they would be right back at it again. Driving these roads, in wet or dry weather, was a challenge in itself, with its hair-pin turns; but with a load of wounded and guns going off at their backs, and in front of them, exhaustion would come upon them suddenly.
The sections' principal posts were first at Cima Grappa (the highest point), Mount Costone, Mount Columbera Borso and Gheria. When the Italians of the 4th Army moved into the liberated territory, a large number of the U.S. ambulances followed them to Undine. Their base moved along and was at Tricesimo, for some length of time.
No effort was spared by the Italian authorities, to make the general conditions under which the ambulance service operated as pleasant as possible. As a rule the sections were assigned excellent living quarters at their headquarters, many being famous old castles or ducal palaces--- as reported by the men in their reviews or diaries.
'In the final great battle on the Italian Front, led by General Diaz, known as Vittorio-Veneto, October 27 to November 4, 1918, the United States Army Ambulance Service sections accompanied the troops to which they were attached, across the rivers, some going north into the Trentino area, and others following the contingent of the Italian Army, which pursued the retreating Austrians around the head of the Adriatic, taking stations in the neighborhood of Goritzia and Trieste. As the demand for transportation for wounded and sick became so urgent, all vehicles available, including heavy draft trucks and all personnel, including clerks in the offices, were sent to the Front to augment the strength of the ambulance sections.
"When the Austrians had been driven out of Italy and a new line had been established, the distance from the Front to the hospitals, south of the Piave River, was from 75 to 150 miles. The Italian people, living in the areas over-run by the Austrians, were starving and ill, and required help from the Ambulance service men who controlled the transportation. Fortunately, the mild winter on the plains presented no obstacle to this transport of wounded and sick, which continued uninterruptedly until late in March 1919, when the main forces of the American troops and the ambulance sections were withdrawn and assembled at Genoa, for the return to America."
Much of the detailed experiences of the work of the ambulance sections on the Italian Front, have been so wonderfully preserved, in the histories of each section in the "Ambulance Service News," that we have reserved their telling for the Appendix, under "Section Reviews." However, two thrilling experiences have been reported, which we feel should he recounted here as fitting memorials to the courage and resourcefulness of the men of the Italian Contingent.
These stories told in the words of the men who took part in the events, add the touch of authenticity which makes history worthwhile:
"It was during the great battle of the Piave plains, with the Italians and their Allies driving the Central Powers back (Our 332nd Regiment of U.S. troops was at the third line of trenches at this time), and winning so many battles on all fronts, that the enemy was finally driven out of Trieste, which the Austria-Hungary nation had held from 1849, when it was taken from the Italians. On November 8, 1918, Captain Arthur E. Murphy, Commanding Provisional Section 'C,' was visited by a representative of the Queen's Regiment. A request was made that an ambulance and driver be furnished to take the safe, which contained all the old Regimental papers and the 'old battle scarred flag' from 1849, up to Trieste. All ambulances of the Section were out at the time of this request, but Captain Bateman had ordered me to bed with the grippe. Captain Murphy could not turn down the Queen's representative's important request, so he told the facts to me, and with another driver, I agreed to accept this mission. It took three days to make the round trip from Treviso to Trieste to turn these important relics of the occupation of Trieste 69 years earlier, over to the Commanders of the 1918 Queen's Regiment, now occupying the city."
The two ambulance men who had been entrusted to carry this precious cargo, reached Trieste on the morning of November 11, 1918, and at about 11:30 a.m., an Austrian girl, very well educated and speaking perfect English, told the men that word had just come over the wires that an armistice had been signed between Germany and the Allies. The story ends with these comments:
"I got back to our base the next day to find all the fellows out celebrating; so I had our headquarters to myself, but was ready for bed rather than celebrating anyway. Maybe some of the stuff the fellows consumed might have helped my grippe, which had not been improved by the three day trip! On our way back from Trieste, we had passed Major Weber who was going "like-a-bat-out-of-hell," to be the first American in the old city. The experience had been rewarding to we privates, in many ways!"
The other story which we felt was of great interest in the occupation of Trieste, was told by the man who had done much to compile the histories of the different sections, and who first reported the delivery of the "Queen's Regiment" colors, as related above, in the columns of the "Ambulance Service News." Even in his own words, we note the great disappointment at not being the first Americans to reach the historic city of Trieste.
"Later I was part of the Headquarters staff of the Italian Contingent. . . . One of the sideline duties was to collect news from the correspondents for our contingent newspaper and I made regular visits to all sections at their posts, scattered over the Piave area. We were still working out of the headquarters at Mantova.
"I think perhaps the 'greatest achievement' of the USAAS was the 'capture,' or the part they played in the fall of Trieste. . . The Armistice on the Italian Front was signed several days before the one on the Franco-German Front. As soon as a pontoon bridge was swung across the Piave which had separated the two hostile forces, the Major (Major Stockton --- this time) in a Cadillac with an American flag flying above the radiator and accompanied by me as a chauffeur, drove across the river and then up the highway headed for Trieste. We 'captured' thousands of Austrians that day, as they knocked off their helmets and flung their arms into air. My job was to motion them to leave their arms behind them and move toward the Piave. Our main worry was that we might run into some outfit which hadn't heard of the Armistice.
"New Allied headquarters was to be established in Trieste, as a possible base for swinging an Allied armed force through Austria-Hungary into the heart of Germany. (Editor's note--- This must have been a long-range maneuver, most unlikely to have been entrusted to the Italian Armies.) In any such case, hotels were needed for the American staff. We 'liberated' three hotels that day . . . . And on November 11, I was sitting on a pier out in front of 'my hotel' which I was supposed to be 'guarding,' when I learned of the German armistice."
The Major and his chauffeur may or may not have known in advance of the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen's Regiment colors, but in any event the chauffeur's account adds this: "We didn't take over the railroad station. There was no need. Before we had ever arrived, somebody had been there and painted a huge sign and posted it over the station front, proclaiming it as 'Woodrow Wilson's Station.' And the principal street had been renamed--- New York Street!"
During the early part of November following the Austrian Armistice, Colonel Percy L. Jones, Chief of Service, made a visit with some members of his staff to the Italian Contingent. He was welcomed in Genoa, Italy by Colonel E. E. Persons, Chief of Service with the Italian Army. It was during his stay in Genoa that the news of the signing of the German Armistice was received, and this party of American officers was the center of enthusiastic demonstrations on the part of the Italian populace of that city.
From Genoa they went by automobile through Northern Italy to Mantova, the Headquarters at that time of the USAAS with the Italian Army. Trips of inspection were made to various bases and sections serving the Italian Army, where Colonel Jones manifested great interest in the individual work of the men. After inspecting the ambulance sections, he was taken on a tour of the Italian Front and visited countless cities which several days before had been under bombardment by the victorious Allied armies. The party journeyed along the Piave, stopping to see the various battle grounds, including the famous Mt. Grappa area about which so much has been. written. They also visited the Austrian city of Trent, and then over to Venice on the Adriatic Coast.
On the visit to Mantova, the members of the Ambulance Service presented an entertainment in honor of Colonel Jones. The music was furnished by the famous USAAS Band and the Jazz Band, formerly with the "Good-Bye Bill" show. The feature was a humorous sketch entitled, "Mr. Proctor's Booking Agency." Colonel Jones was called upon following the entertainment, and expressed his appreciation and also his regret that the sections in Italy had not had the opportunity to work hand in hand with their companion sections, which had trained at Allentown. He also expressed pleasure over the spirit he had found among the men he had visited at their posts.
On the 15 June an Austrian offensive on the Piave, at first victorious, is thrown back. By the 23 June the Austrians fail back across the Piave. It is the last effort of Austria.
(A holding action followed for several months --- Editor's note)
On the 27 October a massive Italian offensive on the Piave, led by General Diaz, crosses the river. Seize Conegliano and Asiago (30 October). Mt. Grappa --- Vittorio-Veneto surrender. Feltre and Belluno (1 November), Trento and Trieste fall November 3rd, bringing an Armistice with Austria on November 4.