D-Day on June 6, 1944, was only the beginning of the major assaults that were planned for June against the Nazi regime. President Franklin Roosevelt on June 5, 1944, had addressed the nation, saying:
"My Friends: Yesterday, on June fourth, 1944, Rome fell to American and Allied troops. The first of the Axis capitals is now in our hands. One up and two to go. It is perhaps significant that the first of these capitals to fall should have the longest history of all of them. The story of Rome goes back to the time of the foundations of our civilization. We can still see the monuments of the time when Rome and the Romans controlled the whole of the then known world. That, too, is significant, for the United Nations are determined that in the future, no one city and no one race will be able to control the whole of the world."
In response to a friend's question, "Where were you when the D-Day 'Operation Overlord' took place," the following answer was written by Carl Schlegel.
-- Ruth Moriarity
I was in Rome on D-Day, the sixth of June. Although I did not participate in the D-Day invasion, we fellows in the 3rd Division could relate, because up until then we had engaged in four landings on hostile shores from North Africa to Anzio. It so happened we just had broken out of Anzio a few days before and captured Rome. Several days before the sixth, the company squad leaders were summoned and informed we were going to go on the offensive, with the objective being Rome. After being confined to that hellhole Anzio for four months, we were ready to do anything to get out of there.
We paid a price. I don't remember how many casualties our company had, but we were informed later the division had 900 casualties the first day of fighting, but we were ahead of schedule and we had patrols in Rome on the third day. Hitler had given orders to hold Rome at all costs, but Kesseling, the German commander for the Mediterranean area, to his credit, defied Hitler and declared Rome an open city and withdrew his troops, saving the city from combat destruction. Of course, we were happy to hear this and more good news when we were told the 88th Division fresh from the states would relieve us and pursue the Gerries to the north.
We stayed in Rome two weeks and we really ate it up. Service company set up showers, kitchens with three hot meals a day, barber shops and we all were issued new clothing. And unless assigned to security, one was free to visit the interesting points of the city. I really enjoyed the Coliseum.
When we were out of combat, we all could gather around our base radio, which was mounted on a jeep, and listen to BBC and even Berlin radio. So, we got the news over BBC as soon as the invasion of France started. We were glad to hear that perhaps now some of the pressure would be taken off us. But we could relate to the guys making the invasion. So, it was a mixed bag of feelings. We were pleased that, at last, we were getting somewhere, but we felt for our friends who were now in harm's way.
As I said, we were allowed to roam the city, didn't even have to carry a rifle, but did feel uneasy without it. The Catholic boys got an extra perk -- the Pope had informed he would greet them in the Vatican on two days. It is difficult to describe such a change from combat to our life in Rome. I suppose one would refer to it as to have a euphoric condition.
But all of this was tempered by the loss of my best friend on the Anzio beachhead. A recent incident caused me to recall much of the above. Another one of the guys who became a good friend died several days ago, leaving only two of the original guys in the company.
Carl Schlegel lives in Hays with his wife, Darlene. They both grew up in Otis.