After visiting Pantano, we headed to the small village of S’ant Angelo d’Alife, where my father’s 168th Infantry Regiment retreated for rest and repair in December 1943 after the intense Battle of Monte Pantano and again, after their final, unsuccessful assault on Monte Cassino in February 1944.
This excerpt from one of his letters:
12 December 1943; Italy [after the Battle of Mt. Pantano]
". . . We have moved since the hurried note that I wrote you last. We are now licking the wounds of a fairly hot deal and everyone is duly appreciative of the lull. We are located in a quaint little mountain village in one of the larger houses in town, the home of one of the leading families. [Mayor’s?]
The house is quite a place, quite large, with many balconies, gardens, balustrades, stairways and passageways, tiled floors and old-fashioned furniture. I spotted the place when we first looked over the town and made arrangements for a room since it was located near where our headquarters was to be. After we arrived, the whole regimental officers’ mess moved in with me, so the rambling structure is full of American officers . . . and also the band.
It’s strange how well the people take the whole thing. They are very polite and really don’t seem to mind our occupancy and do many things for us spontaneously. I have watched for some evidence of their dislike for us, moving in on them this way, but have never seen any.
Tonight, I was called in consultation to see one of the family who has been ailing. Her husband is a dry wiry little fellow who dances around muchly trying to be nice to us all. It’s all very interesting in a desolate sort of way because I certainly am homesick to see YOU, and incidentally, the good old U.S.A."
Unfortunately, we were unable to spend any time in S’ant Angelo, as our guide, Luciano Bucci, had arranged an appointment with a town official in the neighboring village of Piedimonte to tour the dilapidated Duke’s Palace, site of “Exercise Blowout.” (see photo of regimental memo) Because I was in possession of this 1944 “HEADQUARTERS 168TH INFANTRY REGIMENT" memo about the party, and my father had referenced it a few times in his letters home, visiting this site was an unexpected bonus. Luciano's extraordinary effort to secure access to the Palace, was greatly appreciated.
And so we pressed on to Piedimonte d’Alife to visit the Duke’s Palace. It must have been quite grand in its time. It has since been closed and left in disrepair. The small community of Piedimonte is trying to raise funds to restore it to its former glory.
𝗔𝗻 𝗲𝘅𝗰𝗲𝗿𝗽𝘁 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗺𝘆 𝗱𝗮𝗱’𝘀 𝗹𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿𝘀 re: Exercise “BLOWOUT”:
“A party to “end all parties” is scheduled for the officers tomorrow night. I have been requested to furnish 17 litter squads to handle the expected “casualties” of this “magnificent” social event. I hesitate, sometimes, to write you about our social events for fear that some people over there may get the idea that life is just one social whirl over here, but actually, it is much the opposite. When we are drawn back from the line, parties are about the only function that we can have, and the contrast between parties and combat is so great that the former loom in magnified dimensions, whereas at home we would be very much bored by the whole thing and you probably would have a hard time getting me to go to one (if you could stand them yourself) more than once.”
And this one:
𝟲 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗰𝗵 𝟭𝟵𝟰𝟰; 𝗜𝘁𝗮𝗹𝘆
. . . Well, the last and biggest blowout that we have had since coming out of combat was pulled off Friday night. It was a huge, colossal, athletic and somewhat alcoholic success. We “engaged” the ballroom or banquet hall of a Duke [Antonio Gaetani] that has a castle in the next little town [Piedimonte d’Alife.] The music was provided by the “Rhythm Majors,” the dance band from the old outfit (133rd Reg.) that I used to belong to, and their style is still smooth. There was plenty of feed and beaucoup liquor and much enthusiasm. I stagged the party, drank less and danced more than most anyone else and had a swell time.”
Posted December 21, 2023
S'ant Angelo d'Alife is a small village in the Province of Caserta in the Italian region Campania, about 37 mi north of Naples and about 22 mi north of Caserta. This is where my father's 168th Infantry Regiment retreated for some rest and "repair" between battles (Mt. Pantano, December 1943, and approach to Cassino, Cassino, February 1944).
S'ant Angelo d'Alife 1943-44. The 168th Infantry Regiment retreated to this village for rest and "repair" after heavy combat on the front lines of WWII.
On the way from S'ant Angelo d'Alife to Piedimonte, we stopped to see the 34th "Red Bulls" Infantry Division commemorative plaque in Alife, Italy.
"This plaque is dedicated to the memory of those Americans and Italians who joined together to bring freedom to this country. Let the sacrifice of the soldiers and civilians who died in World War II never be forgotten. September 1943 to May 1945." Presented by the 34th Infantry Division Association May 1997.
Official memo from the 168th's Headquarters re: Excercise "Blowout" on March 1, 1944 at the Duke's Palace in Piedimonte. Some highlights: "Uniform: Blouses, if you possess such, otherwise field jacket and normal uniforms. (no fatigues); Transportation: To be coordinated within each Battalion. All vehicles to be left in parking lot in main square at Piedimonte except those being used in the shuttle service to carry officers and nurses to the party; Music: By the Rhythm Majors; Warning: The steps leading from and to the court yard at the Palace are very slanting and it is rather difficult to maneuver on way down. Guides will be furnished to assist anyone that can't make it. Litterbearers and litters will be available in quantity to take care of those who "drop out." Col. Mark Boatner.
Waiting for the Piedimonte city official (he was an hour late) to open up the Duke's Palace for us to tour. It's been closed and in disrepair since the war. The 168th Infantry Regiment held a "blow out" party here on March 1, 1944, after heavy fighting on the Cassino front.
Donato Pasquale, Luciano's friend and colleague at the Winterline Museum, with "Otto", our official mascot.
The Palace's courtyard and fountain. The city hopes to one day restore this closed and rundown Palace.
Jeeps traveled up and down these stairs from the Palace courtyard to the grand ballroom, delivering and retrieving guests. This raucous party was also referred to as "The Second Eruption of Vesuvius."