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                       Letter #1 of 2

Letter from Cpt. Ralph Hubbard 
Appeared in the Day Spring
July 1944

From Rome

(Editors Note:  A letter from Captain Ralph Hubbard, serving with the infantry in Italy, was received this week by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Hubbard, Hartford.  The Hartford serviceman describes the entrance of American troops into Rome, the retreat of the German armies, and the subsequent four-day pass, which he spent in Rome)

                         Hartford Soldier Writes of Entrance into Rome

   "After having such rotten mail service for weeks–ever since we drove out of the beachhead, we got a bag full today, and I really fared swell–so morale is sky high.  Will answer your letters first, then tell you about my four-day pass in Rome.  Got a big kick out of your letter of the 6th–who knows, maybe you are in Rome tonight–you’ll never make another guess any closer, believe me.

"Yes, it was the former beachhead troops that poured into Rome and then hot on the ‘krauts’ heels.  The French have received a lot of publicity, and the British take a lot of credit, but oh, man, when the Americans turned it on in the big push here, the Germans in Italy regretted, I am sure, ever tangling with the Yanks.

"It was an American divisions who drove up the coast to contact the beachhead forces, and it was Americans who sat and waited, taking a pounding day and night in the beachhead, and then suddenly let ‘er go–and, plainly speaking, knocked hell out of them until we got them well north of Rome–when the well-earned rest came our way.  It gives one great satisfaction after such a long period of inactivity and defensive fighting.

"It was such a devastating, crushing drive, that hundreds of dead Germans–really thousands I guess-littered the roadsides and the gulleys and gun positions they had defended–so rapidly was it necessary for those still alive to leave they could neither evacuate or bury their dead.  Hundreds and thousands of trucks littered the road on both sides–shot up and burned–the most of them caught on the roads by the air corps in their attempt to pull out.  The air corps did a marvelous job.

"It was a wonderful satisfaction too, to see the many, many guns deserted by their cannoneers in haste to get out–the same guns that put us thru hell in Anzio.  None of our artillery ever fired a round into Rome–for the simple reason the Jerries had to withdraw so fast they could not stop to put up a fight–except a few snipers, etc.  So you heard the Germans blew up the electric and water plants in Rome–well perhaps.  They did disable them temporarily, but in just a few days they had running water and electricity–there are practically no signs of war in the city.  The only reminders (besides all the soldiers there) are the freight yards in the outskirts, where bombers accurately knocked the devil out of the yards–you get a 100 yards away from there and you’d never know anything had ever happened.  It is a wonderful tribute to our air forces.

"Rome is a beautiful city–it’s impossible to compare dirty, backward Naples with the beauty of Rome.  It’s hard to believe you are not in a city in the states–wide streets–just as clean as can be–modern buildings (but no Tribune tower or Empire State building)–and it’s just as complicated to get around in for me as Detroit always was.  The city is full of prazzar–circles with statutes in the middle and streets running every which way in wagon-wheel fashion–no system to it–doubt if there are two streets running parallel.  I still get lost in the place.  I hardly dared go a block from the hotel for fear of never finding my way back.

"It was a wonderful four days and nights I spend in Rome. Stayed in the Excelsior Hotel, which has been taken over by the fifth army as a rest center for officers.  The meals were wonderful. . . . . even had steak.  French fries, ice cream, green vegetables–all that and heaven, too. . .The high spot of the stay, tho, was seeing "This is the Army’–it was rushed to Rome–after it had been taken–the show put on in the king’s opera house–a very beautiful place, just like the opera houses you see in the movies–sort of horseshoe affair with five tiers of boxes  running completely around the building.  The boxes were reserved for officers–so a guy felt real important sitting in a box–meant for dukes or counts or something.  The show was wonderful.  Of course, all the cast is of the original that started in New York a couple of years ago . . . .To top even that off, had dinner with Irving Berlin the day the show opened.  I had just happened to meet his public relations officer, who, with Berlin-stayed at our hotel . . . .

"Visited St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican–walked all the way up in the cupola–the dome on top the cathedral–it’s a wonderful sight–saw the Coliseum and many other antiquated spots and ruins–and many statues and monuments. It was really an experience. . . . .

"We really have gotten a swell rest–and in wonderful places."


                      Letter #2 of  2

Letter from Cpt. Ralph Hubbard 
Appeared in the Day Spring (?) 
March 30, 1945

From the Anzio beachhead in Italy

     A bright, spring like afternoon finds me with a brief interval which I’m devoting to a little letter-writing.  Many times in the past months I’ve thought about sitting down and trying to do justice to a letter to you, especially after reading much correspondence from Greg Cummings, the Kelleys’, Bob Conolly, Larry Olds, Paul Richter, and many others of the old gang serving overseas through the medium of your column. I’ve appreciated so much word of my old friends in clippings from the paper which come from  home.
     You’ve heard about India, China, Ireland, England, and the Sough Seas, so will give you a picture of us here at the beachhead.  Southern Italy has been a big disappointment to us, because of the antiquity and backwardness of the way of life of these people, so we got the surprise of our army careers when we landed up here and rolled through Anzio and Nettuno, finding them modernized to the Nth degree and practically untouched by the war’s progress.  In recent months, though, the effects of the battle can really be seen in the resort towns.
     However, as you drive out of the towns once again, you are whisked back several hundred years in civilization, finding the farming populace living in thatched huts (this very different from only stone buildings in the more southern sector) and using crude instruments in their farming and home tasks.  Electricity, running water, and sanitary elements can only be dreamed of by these peasants.
     Even over here the radio is one of the biggest morale factors for us.  We have a portable in our C.P.  An AEF station in Naples daily re-broadcasts all the favorite programs we remember so well.  So in between missions, the men get a chance to hear Harry James, Bob Hope or some of the others.  You have to be away from the states for many months to realize how much you can appreciate a little real American music.  
     We also have a ‘vic’ with some well worn records which we air at times.  We have an ample supply of athletic equipment, so we get out and play catch or kick a football around during lulls in our firing.  Many a time a visit from enemy bombers has broken up a recreation period.
     Of course, even with all this, there is a war going on over here and how well we know it; nor will we forget it very soon. It’s too bad that there still seems to be too many back there that aren’t fully conscious of what’s going on over here.  Might serve to end this much sooner and prevent a recurrence.  Well, thanks for staying through this tirade with me.  

As ever, Ralph Hubbard


Information for this web site was gathered from personal interviews, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, personal photo albums, and other documented materials - many available to the public at the Hartford Public Library or Van Buren County Historical Museum.  Please report any typographical errors, updated information, or incorrectly stated information to the webmaster for correction.  Reprinting for personal and instructional purposes is permitted, however, unauthorized commercial reprinting of this information or unauthorized linking to photos-pictures on this site is strictly prohibited without written permission from the webmaster. 

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Revised: March 23, 2009