We arrived mid-afternoon in Salerno where we were to spend three nights. Our goals were to see the site of the Allied Forces’ September 9, 1943 landing (following their victory in Sicily), marking the beginning of WWII’s brutal Italian campaign; to visit the Museum of Operation Avalanche (MOA) in Eboli; and with luck, locate where our father’s 168th Infantry Regiment (of the 34th Infantry Division) had landed, from North Africa, about 30 miles south of Salerno about three weeks after the initial invasion.

     We had booked a walking tour of Salerno at 6:00 pm with a guide who didn’t show up. So, we wandered around on our own, looking for the restaurant my friend had recommended. We spent a good ½ hour trying to find the place, only to realize that the restaurant had been replaced with a new one, whose logo was a “red bull!”

     This seemed like a serendipity “cosmic convergence,” in that the “Red Bulls” was (is) the nickname of my father’s 34th Infantry Division. We were also learning, that the earliest time Italian restaurants open for dinner, was 7:30 pm.  Finally, after more walking and waiting in a small park across the street from the restaurant, we were seated at the “L’ Osteria” restaurant, where we had, perhaps, our best dinner in all of Italy. Photos 1-6

     The next morning, we found our way to the Salerno bus station, and after many questions about which bus to take to Eboli (and through miscommunication, missed the 9:00 am bus), we boarded the 10:00 am bus. We were off to visit the Museum of Operation Avalanche (MOA). “Operation Avalanche” was the code word for the Allied Troops’ landing in Salerno and invasion of Italy on Sept 9, 1943. Allied losses for that poorly planned invasion were 2,349 killed, 7,366 wounded, and 4,100 missing.


     At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, Allied leaders decided to follow successes in North Africa by invading Sicily; success in Sicily led to landing in Italy. Allied objectives were to clear the Mediterranean Sea, force Italy out of the war, divert German forces threatening Rocca, and weaken the Germans prior to the 1944 Cross-Channel (Normandy) invasion.

     In the second week of September 1943, my father’s 34th Infantry Division sailed from North Africa to Italy, landing 30 miles south of Salerno.

From an interview with my dad: The initial invasion of Italy had been made about two weeks previously, and had pushed the Germans back ten miles or so into a semi-circle. That was a bloody battle with major losses on both sides. So we, the 168th, did not actually land under fire; but the Germans were about ten miles away—we could hear their artillery fire, and they could have shelled us if they had wanted to. We didn’t see any action for a while, in person.”

     From the bus station in Eboli, we walked about 20 minutes uphill through the narrow, winding cobblestone streets of old Eboli to reach the museum, housed in an ancient monastery. There were colorful handmade art flags hanging everywhere in the streets, that might have been remnants from a recent festival or community celebration. 

     When we finally arrived at the massive wooden doors of the MOA, we were excited to see the exhibits and learn more about the U.S.’s invasion of Italy in September 1943. However, we were disappointed to see that none of the museum’s signage/photo captions were in English. The volunteer attendant spoke no English and was unable to answer any of my questions. My father’s 168th Infantry Regiment had landed south of Salerno, in Paestum, about 2-3 weeks after the Allied Troops ‘ landing in Salerno. This was the location my brother and I wanted to learn about and maybe even find. But alas, the Museum had no information about the second landing of U.S. troops. Photos 7-24

     In an attempt to help us, the volunteer called one of his “bosses”, Luigi, Art Director of the museum and event organizer. After several phone conversations, Luigi showed up in person to answer our questions. (he lived close by)

     Luigi Nobile, a professional musician, musicologist, music teacher, and passionate WWII historian, was gracious and knowledgeable and spoke very good English. After a few minutes of conversation and my giving him information about the general location of our father’s landing in Paestum, he announced, “I must take you there. I think I know where that is.” Paestum is about 20 minutes south of Eboli, and we were thrilled he was willing to drive us.

     At this point, it was ~ 1:00 pm and Luigi dropped us off at a wonderful little restaurant close by while he went home to fix lunch for his daughters, 10 and 14. He said he’d be back at 3 pm to take us to Paestum. True to his word, he picked us up and off we went. Of course, the added bonus was conversing with him all the way and learning so much more about his work with the museum and Eboli-related WWII history. 

     I showed Luigi the notes I had taken from the 168th’s After Action Report referencing and misspelling “Fock” or was it “Rock” del Sela as the precise location of the landing. Luigi immediately knew what I was talking about and said “No, it’s “Foce del Sela,” which translates to “Finish of the River Sela,” or where the Sela River runs into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Luigi knew how to access this beach through a private camping ground that was equivalent to a trailer park. 

     After making our way through the camping trailer park to the beach, we arrived. I couldn’t believe it.  We had found the precise location of my father’s and his 168th Infantry Regiment’s landing that had been incorrectly recorded in the military records.

     It was emotional standing on that beach and thinking about all the young and courageous young men who lost their lives during the brutal and bloody Italian campaign.

     I am forever indebted to Luigi for his time and commitment in making it possible for us to get a glimpse of our father’s first days in Italy. Little did we know that we would spend another entire day with Luigi, who devoted his time and navigational skills in helping us find another important location in our father’s perilous journey through Italy. (see Caserta/Volturno River Crossing)  

     Back in Salerno, we visited the Museum of the Landing and Salerno Capital, which didn’t seem as impressive as the MOA in Eboli, but perhaps Luigi’s charm had cast a spell over us? 


Posted October 05, 2023

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