Chaplain's Letters to Shipmates
It is the sacred privilege of the old and even the not so old once in awhile to look off dreamily into space, take a pull on their pipe, to start off their conversation with the well tried introduction, “I remember when.”
So very much has taken place since we stood out from Toulon that we’re going to avail ourselves of that privilege of the not so old, and reminisce. You should know first that all of this reminiscing mood was started a week or so ago as we bounced and bumped our way over the rocky road to Rome. Picking our way thru some of those ruined towns enroute to Rome, we must have all thought of days of last Spring. Here we approached Formia, for instance where we tangled with that dead-eye-dick shorebattery last March. Remember that nasty guy, the one that ranged on us for a couple dozen salvos, and whistled hot-stuff over and between our smoke stacks and plopped shells to seawards of us? Yes, if my folks ask me where I got my dozen or two of gray hairs, I’ll answer in one word, “Formia”.
Then there was bloody Anzio where those American dog faces of ours
were pinned down for five bloody months, where the PHILLY got in some
dirty work, likewise a bloody nose and a campaign star to pin on her
Bridge. Such were some of our memories as we sped Rome-wards. And before
we knew it, so sudden is the transition from country to city, we were
honking our horn in the streets of Rome. Now Rome is surely the place
to reminisce isn’t it? Where every street and square recalls
memories of Neros and Caesars, St. Peter crucified, St Paul beheaded,
Michelangelo on a scaffold in the Sistine Chapel, and Young Rafaele
fashioning his immortal Transfiguration. You could hear the swaggering
of conquering armies, the moan of captives dragged at at chariot whets,
Gen. Clark’s 5th army tanks rumbling under the Arch of Constantine,
while the haughty statues of the Roman Emperors gazed on a Via Triumphalis.
For me personally, the greatest recollection will be that of celebrating
Mass at St. Peters.
Yes, as our Admiral said, “We saw it start in the Mediterranean and we stayed to finish it.” No prouder memories can be treasured by any ship. There is so much to remember, isn’t there? Then shipmates, you take it from here on – the way you start is simple – just begin it this way – “Remember When.” Mass at 1630, Mass and General Services tomorrow.
D.J. Burke (ChC)