The Winter Line Stories

Real-life accounts of the unheralded heros of the Italian Campaign of WWII


Photo Credit: Dominique Taddei via John Sutay, former 57th Bomb Wing Historian.
Photo Source:, Don Kaiser


Between March 18 and March 23, 1944 the skies over southern Italy were full of smoke, dust and falling ash. An unstoppable force moved unyielding down a steep slope and through towns like San Sebastiano al Vesuvio. The airfield of 340th Bombardment Group of the US Army Air Forces in Pompeii sustained damages greater than any other Allied airfield during the whole of World War II. Around Salerno, the landing point of the Allied forces less than six months prior was blanketed in ash and soot up to three-feet deep. This was not a result from a major German Blitzkrieg, it was all because of the eruption of mainland Europe's only active Volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

While this eruption paled in comparison to the massive eruption in 79 AD, it certainly would have been more broadly reported as one of the biggest natural disasters to have occurred in the first half of the 20th century except for the fact it occurred at the peak of the largest armed conflict in history, World War II.

My grandfather covered the eruption as part of his duties for Army Public Affairs Office. It was during this time that he became close friends with Eric Sevareid of CBS who went on to routinely appear on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. They exchanged numerous letters after the war and Grandfather was referred to in Sevareid's widely acclaimed book "Not so Wild a Dream"

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