The Wolves of Calabria by Paddy Kelly

EXTRACT FOR
The Wolves of Calabria 
(Paddy Kelly)


CHAPTER ONE

Villalba, Foothills of the Monti Erei
27 Miles North of Gela, Sicily
06:35, 27 June, 1943



Now, mercilessly pulsating the sun had long ago burned away the morning mist and the scenic but rugged hills of Villa Alba now stood indomitable against the blue-grey sky of the green western Mediterranean. Despite the early hour thirty-seven degree heat rained down on the rustic settlements between Gela and Licata.
Salvatore Lucania, alias Charlie ‘Lucky’ Luciano, had been born less than fifteen miles from here in Lercara Fridi, where his relatives still worked for the most influential Mafioso in Sicily, Don Calò Vizzini.
Above the settlements, tucked away, high in the foothills, the folds and crevices were peppered with sentries.
In their traditional white collarless shirts, black waistcoats and brandishing sawn off shot guns, the Mafiosi guards, perched high up on cliffs and ledges were there to watch, record and report all Nazi troop and equipment movements. Working in pairs one slept while the other stood watch. They had been there since the invasion two years ago and would be there as long as the most hated conqueror in their country's history remained.
Tucked away in one fold of a rock outcropping a man, barely a teen, sat in the shade tossing pebbles into a small circle drawn in the dirt a couple of meters away when a distant noise caught his attention. He sat up and listened more intently.
“Ehi! Veglia!” The young lookout nudged his sleeping mate with his foot. “Ehi! Veglia!”
“CHE?” Rubbing the sleep from his eyes he looked up from his blanket roll just as the hum of a small aircraft engine came into earshot. Both scrambled and took cover in a large crevice of rock as they turned their eyes and ears to the sky.
“Dove è?”
“Chiudere!” Seconds later a U.S. Army, O.D. green, Piper Cub appeared lazily gliding over the peaks. The two sentries raced into the open area and waved wildly. The scout plane dove to 100 feet and buzzed their position. On the pull up he dipped his wings signaling he had seen them. The plane flew out another half mile or so, looped around and headed back in towards the peak, flying considerably lower this time. The pilot opened his window, banked left and dropped a weighted piece of cloth through the opening then faded into the distance back south and out over the sea.
In an unintended competition the two dashed to where the cloth had landed, retrieved it, removed the stone and unfurled it.
It was a bright yellow scarf emblazoned with an embroidered, red upper case “L”. The older sentry handed it to his partner with a broad smile and, in a barely restrained whisper ordered, “Andare! They come!”
With shotgun in hand and stuffing the scarf into his shirt, the younger Sicilian half hustled half stumbled down the mountain, vaulted into the saddle of his horse and in a cloud of dust vanished down the winding mountain pass.
Twenty minutes later, still at a gallop, the young rider arrived at a small chicken farm on the northern outskirts of the small village of Villalba. Abandoning his horse and out of breath he ran around back of the main house but saw no one. A young woman opened a first floor window and yelled down at him. He removed his hat before addressing her.
“Senorina, where is Don Vizzini?”
“In the hen house!” She ducked back in then stuck her head back out again. “If you come in the house wipe your feet!” She vanished into the window and the teen messenger double timed across the yard to a long narrow wooden building which was in an advanced state of disrepair.
There at the far end stood a very tall, pear shaped, elderly man. Surrounded by squawking chickens he was casually splashing feed across the floor. Again the youth removed his cap before he addressed the elder.
In ancient times The Village of White was legendary in far off lands throughout the Mediterranean. By the time the United States was 100 years old, Villalba was celebrating its first millennium. Now, in a farmhouse that was 150 years older than the U. S. Capital building itself, in the heart of the village, a special message was about to be delivered.
Even bent with age the defacto Capo di Tutti of Sicily, Don Calogero Vizzini, stood six foot four and weighed in at 275 pounds. His oversized spectacles added rather than detracted from the imposition of his person. Vizzini had what's known in theatrical circles as 'absolute presence'.
The Calogero's worn, brown shoes had seen better days, his ballooned, grey trousers rendered his lower frame featureless and over his short sleeved, yellowed-white dress shirt his suspenders were forced to detour around the sides of his rotund abdomen.
This was the man who could be counted on to correct the recurring injustices of the law. The man all knew that no starving peasant ever came to his door and went away empty handed. If you were of his cosca, his clan, you feared no outsider.
“Don Vizzini?” The old man slowly turned and looked down his thick, horn rimmed glasses.
“Si Michael?”
The kid approached and held out the folded yellow scarf.
“Definitely Americani!” The boy added. The old man set the feed basket aside and took the scarf, unfolded it and gazed at the embroidered, crimson 'L'.
It wasn't long before the boy realized that Vizzini wasn’t staring at the piece of cloth but rather through it. Being the first time he had actually met Don Vizzini, he respectfully stood silent. After a long while the old man stepped forward, broke into a broad grin and shook his head.
“Salvatore. Salvatore Lucasia.”
“What does this tell you Don Vizzini?”
“Something important!” Putting his arm around the young man he started out of the coop and towards the house.
“Such as?” Vizzini stopped in the middle of the yard.
“Some things you should not know.”
“But why Don? We fight together. I give my life for you, you know that!”
“I know that mio figlio.” He put his paw of a hand on the young man’s cheek. “When you become old you will know many things.” Vizzini paused at the rear door of the house. “But if you know too many things, you may not live to be old.” The Don tucked the scarf in his pocket and opened the door to the house.
“Don, what do I tell the others?” Michael called after him.
“Tell them to meet at Chiesa Madre tonight, at eleven.” The teen displayed obvious disappointment. “And tell them that soon we have our country back!”
Michael smiled.
He knew the long awaited day of the invasion was at hand.



03:00, Sunday 10 July, 1943
The Mediterranean Sea
3 Miles Southwest of Gela, Sicily
Onboard SS Robert Rowen

D-Day: Operation Husky

The fleet had arrived during the night under cover of darkness. The weather was rough but not unbearable, pretty much as it had been since the start of the operation less than an hour ago. Winds out of the West at 35-40 knots, 10 foot chops and just enough rain to make life miserable up on the weather decks. The twenty degree rolls were easily coped with, although they did make life a little less convenient.
The port side, forward look out on the fleet's lead ship had just reported to the Quarter Deck of the Watch on the Flag Ship. The Sicilian coast had been spotted. The information was relayed to the wheel house and the C.O. ordered all ahead one third and that the sighting be disseminated to the accompanying fleet.
All two thousand five hundred vessels.
So reliant were the Allies on the success of the S.O.E. Mincemeat operation and the intelligence provided by their New York Mafia connections that not only were they about to assault the Axis strong hold in the Med with what was the largest armada ever assembled accompanied by 160,000 troops, 14,000 vehicles, 1800 big guns, and 600 tanks all led by their senior Admiral, Sir Andrew Cunningham, but aboard on separate ships were the Allies two most famous, first string, superstar generals, George S. Patton and Sir Bernard Montgomery. The follow on invasion of the Italian mainland through Anzio was already in the advanced stages of planning.
‘Old Blood and Guts’ George was to lead the U.S. 7th Army in an all out assault along the southern shores while Monty would take the British 8th Army along with the Canadian First onto the eastern shores of the 10,000 year old island country.
The invasion scenario had the Americans, 6th and 12th Army Groups and 45th Infantry Divisions supported by a reinforced battalion of the 82d Airborne, to assault Gela and capture the south-western territories of the island while the Brits and Canadians did the same on the Eastern beaches of Catania. This operation was the first time in the war the Americans and British were to work together on any appreciable scale and it was the first all-out amphib invasion of the war. More importantly, it was the first combat test of the newly formed airborne troops. There was a lot that could go wrong. There was a lot that did.
As the American Army's target city Gela was a deep water port and the available enemy artillery had been largely neutralized, the fleet's Flag Ship orders were to take her nine inch guns within 2,000 yards of the beach, drop anchor and establish a Command & Control center primarily as a fire base control to support the landings.
Although German Intelligence swallowed the British ruse hook line and sinker, code named “Mincemeat”, as to where the invasion would take place, due to traffic control considerations the German High Command were slow to transfer troops to Greece, and so the attacking armies were heading into a significantly bigger fight than anticipated.
At least the weather was with the Allies so although the sporadic winds would be a hazard to the airborne troops, visibility would allow naval gunfire to be brought to bear with more precise accuracy.
Below decks on the 03 level, on board the Liberty Ship S.S. Robert Rowen, the chow line stretched back through the hatch to the engineering spaces however, this morning three Marine sentries had head-of-the-line privileges.
With two trays each they pushed in front of a crusty Boatswain's Mate 1st Class who had no sense of humor about being cut off by a gang of Marines and made no secret of his emotions.
“Fuckin' Jarheads!” He cursed aloud.
“Fuck you, Squid!” Corporal Deuth, the Marine detail leader, returned the compliment to the BM1.
A junior Seaman behind the Boatswain peered over his port side shoulder.
”Hey Boats, how come they always call us, 'squids' anyways?” The junior member of the Marine detail leaned over and enlightened him.
“That’s because a squid is a small, spineless sea creature which lives off Marine waste.”
The cooks behind the line could’ve cared less who they were serving but hoped a fight might break out, or at least a skirmish, anything to break the monotony. When it didn't they just continued to fill the plates with greasy bacon patties, instant scrambled eggs and cold toast shoving the tin trays back across the stainless steel counter. Once on the trays half the food slid off in the next roll of the ship. The sentries picked the patties up off the deck and plopped them back onto the plates.
“Three second rule.” One shrugged.
“What’a ya wanna do about their coffee?” One of the privates asked Corporal Deuth.
“Fuck it! We'll come back for it, or they can get it themselves!” Deuth placed one full tray on top of another.
“They're not allowed out!”
“Then I guess they don't get coffee!” The Corporal led the detail around the galley to the port side and through the forward compartments.
“Who are they anyway?” They talked as they made their way through the narrow passageways.
“Scuttlebutt has it they're here by orders of a special House sub-committee of something or other.”
“Yeah? When'd you get that scuttlebutt?”
“Right after we shoved off from Tunisia. Two guys from up in CNC were jabber jawin' and one of 'em said something about spooks being sent out by a Congressional sub-committee.”
“If they're so fuckin' important why the hell are they billeted in the chain locker?”
“Must be under a non-fraternization order.”
“That's some serious non-frat order!”
“Wake up! They're fuckin' spooks!”
“Thank you Dick fuckin' Tracy!”
“Why do ya think they ain't got no names or ranks on their uniforms?!”
The chain locker of any ship, located in the most forward hold, was never meant to house troops, much less civilians. The overhead is high, the narrow deck is riddled with fixtures and beams, it's usually the narrowest compartment on the ship, and there is no forward bulkhead, only the forward keel. The compartment is half filled with steel anchor chain on both sides, and on a ship the size of the S.S. Robert Rowan each link is the size of a man which means there's nowhere to lie down. Except when the ship's at anchor. Of course the problem is it takes about two to three hours after they drop anchor for your ears to stop ringing, even if they're plugged with those tiny, useless little pieces of rubber foam they give you. Oh yeah, there's one additional treat.
The two giant, gaping holes in the bulkhead to let the chain out are the same ones which also let the sea, the wind and the cold in.
Although they wore no rank two of the men perched on the huge pile of anchor chain, by their demander and bearing, were obviously military men.
One was a lawyer-turned Lieutenant Commander assigned to Naval Intelligence and temporarily attached to Bill Donovan's Office of Strategic Services.
The other, younger one, was an Intelligence officer nobody could figure out anything about. Except that he always spoke to them in flawless Sicilian. As they were all Sicilian, they didn't mind but figured him to be a lieutenant at least. Probably.
Lieutenant Commander Anthony Marsloe and Lieutenant Paul Alfieri had been assigned this mission for several reasons.
Marsloe, being a long standing fixture in New York D. A. Frank Hogan's office, had been in on Operation Underworld almost from its inception last February and therefore rode the wave of transition when it escalated into its present format, known by Naval Intelligence as 'F' Section, which had now become a sub-section of the Office of Strategic Services.
Following Commander Haffenden's orders it was Marsloe who, as former resident 'expert' on Sicilians and the Mafia in the NYC D.A.’s office, organized the offshoot of 'F' Section, an intel office organized specifically to gather intel about southern Sicily, which they named the ‘Linguistics Section’.
Turning in his fountain pen and briefcase for a back pack and .45, he fit right in to the early profile of Wild Bill Donovan and the other New York lawyers who made up the early members of the O.S.S. the forerunners of the CIA.
The young, well-built Lieutenant with him was more of a mystery, even to Marsloe. He appeared to be just one of those dozens of kids who kept knocking on the door of Naval Intel trying to get in on the Big Game and who was finally somehow granted admission. Marsloe was the Honcho but in Special Ops that just means you take the blame if things go South.
Of the two Alfieri, looking as if he were going on a woodland hike in his civilian clothes, had the shit mission. It was simple but shit. Get ashore, beg, borrow or steal whatever resources required, locate the Italian Naval HQ outside Gela, as reported by Luciano and his guys, get into the Admiral's office and steal anything you can carry.
“Oh yeah,” Commander Haffenden added just before Alfieri shipped out, “We might have some questions. So try to come back in one piece.”
They were also there to land four Italians, Sicilians really, tentatively labeled as V.I.P.'s. Their special V.I.P.'s? Gino Giuliani and three others who were lifetime members of the New York Italian American Club on Mott Street.
All were born and reared in Southern Sicily, all except Enrico who was from Brooklyn. The Syndicate members had all volunteered to make the landing and not because they were anxious to once more see their home turf. Two of them could not have cared less if they ever set foot in Sicily again, but someday soon, after the Army, Navy and Marines had fumigated the place of Mussolini's vermin then packed up and gone home, they would act as the forward organizers to re-establish Syndicate operations. Providing the Fascists didn't regroup.
Of course for the time being, as far as the Navy was concerned, they were doing their patriotic duty to aid the landing by acting as forward scouts.
“Why the Feds so interested in Gela any ways?” Gino directed his question at Marsloe.
“According to our sources in New York that's where Mussolini set up headquarters for the navy. We're bankin' on there being some valuable intel if we can get there in time.”
“Naval Headquarters in Gela?! You fuckin' kiddin' me? You ever been to Gela?! They roll up the fucking streets at half past eight!”
“Maybe that’s the reason he chose Gela!” Marsloe remarked to Alfieri in Italian.
“There you go! See, you ain't as dumb as you look!” Gino quipped.
“Hey Enrico!”
“Yeah?”
“Fuck you!”
Enrico sat isolated from the others. Not by choice but because Gino threatened to knife him if he didn't take his smoked sardine breakfast elsewhere. As it was, Gino had two full sea-sick bags sealed up on the deck across from him and was gradually working on a third.
Suddenly the ten dogs on the single hatch to the chain locker cranked open and the three Marines came in with the breakfast trays. About two minutes after Gino's tray was laid in front of him and he got a whiff of those greasy bacon patties, he was working away filling that third bag.
“Thirty minutes to launch, Sir. Launch officer needs you on deck, starboard side ten minutes prior.” Deuth addressed Commander Marsloe.
“Roger that Corporal. Tell him we're in route.”
The Commander was the only one who finished his bacon and eggs, and half of Gino's, and the Sicilians were glad when it was time to move out.
Up on the main deck, in the fresh air Gino started to regain himself but became a little concerned when he spotted some flashes of light in the distance, beyond the hills of the town.
“Hey Commander. You sure it's safe to go in there now? I mean we don't gotta worry about bein' shot at or nuthin'?”
“What's'a matter Gino? You gonna tell me you never been shot at?” Marsloe chided.
“Sure! Loads'a times! Just never by nuthin' shootin’ fuckin’ Buicks!” Gino barked. The Commander laughed.
“Seriously Sir. We got anything to worry about?” Enrico asked. Alfieri jumped in with a pat on the back.
“Look at it this way Enrico. If we pull this off we're heroes!”
“And if we don't?!”
“Then we're dead heroes! Either way, we get a medal.”
“Relax Gino. Most of the fightin's died down by now. Besides the beaches are secure. The battle lines are mostly in land now.” Marsloe assured.
Although it had been relatively quiet through the boarding and launch of the landing craft as they descended the cargo nets serving as rope ladders, no sooner had they cast off and the cox’wain headed in towards shore when things seemed to pick up.
A stray Italian fighter came out of nowhere and headed straight for their assault boat. The Cox'swain immediately steered into an uneven ‘S’ pattern, but there was little time. The fighter banked and let go two three second bursts strafing the Robert Rowen. The on board crew returned fire, but despite a round pinging around the rear bulkhead of the launch craft, no one was hit.
“Where the hell'd that little son-of-bitch come from?” Enrico asked to no one in particular.
“I don't know, but he's got friends!” Commander Marsloe answered as he pointed off the starboard bow. Three more fighters were bearing down on the convoy.
“A tausend boats in the fuckin' water and he's gotta come at us?!” Enrico cursed.
“JESUS FUCKIN' CHRIST!” Gino suddenly yelled at the top of his lungs and hunkered down and tried to sink into the wet deck. The wings of the fighters streaked low overhead but didn't fire. Seconds later several of the others noticed Gino staring out off the port side.
There, 100 meters or so out from their boat was the fuselage of an O.D. green, U.S. Army glider minus its wings. However the wreckage was gliding gently towards shore, like a giant, closed-in canoe being paddled by three of the crew on top of it using their rifles as paddles.
“Where's a fucking camera when you need one?!” The coxswain asked out loud.
“GINO! You okay?!” Enrico yelled.
“Do I fucking look o-fucking-kay!? I wanted to come back someday but not like this! TELL THE DRIVER TO TURN THIS FUCKING FERRY AROUND!” Just as Gino was having second thoughts about his loyalty a pair of German bombers appeared out over Gela.
“COX'SWAIN, FULL AHEAD! MAKE FOR THE NEAREST BEACH!” Marsloe yelled. Still three quarters of a mile off shore things weren't looking too good for the O.S.S. group. The bombers came in at danger close altitude and released their loads at about six hundred yards out. The good news was that they released too late and didn't kill anything except some fish. The bad news was they came around for a second pass.
Having saved half their load until they got the windage and elevation, the bombers were luckier this time.
Two bombs from the second bird missed their targets, but the last two hit directly amidships of the Robert Rowan.
The force of the explosion lit off the ship's magazine which was enough to lift the entire hull out of the water by three feet. A cylindrical smoke plume rose five hundred feet into the air with searing hot wreckage rocketing out in all directions. Like contrails from a rudderless aircraft burning shrapnel showered the surrounding area and was carried by the wind for over half a mile.
As the shock wave rocked their landing craft several chunks of smoldering shrapnel fell onto the O.S.S. group and two of the crew were burned though not badly. When the dust cleared however, a large smoke pot, part of the ancillary cargo in the boat, was burning away. The Cox'swain was the first to notice.
“GET THAT FIRE OUT!” He yelled at the passengers.
Also on board the landing craft was an Ensign Parle, a 27 year old Naval Reserve officer from Omaha. He was the first to act. He rushed to grab one of several fire buckets onboard but most of the sand had been spilt in the rough seas and what remained was caked thick from the rain of sea water. The smoke clearly marked the vessel for miles around and was noted by the enemy aircraft loitering over the fleet.
What he did next would save the boat and all aboard, but several days later claim his life.
Realizing attempts at extinguishing the large pot were pointless, he shoved his way through the panic-stricken passengers and blinding smoke and wrestled the device to the deck and away from the large cargo of ammo. Gasping heavily and vomiting from the thick chemical fumes and with his last bit of breath he lifted the 150 pound, smoldering pot over the gunwale and into the sea.
He collapsed to the deck gagging and vomiting more violently before going unconscious.
A squadron of Allied fighters appeared and chased the errant Italian fighters out of the area.
A beach head had been established so there was no enemy gunfire and as soon as the ramp hit the sand several men carried the casualties off the craft and were met by two corpsmen from the landing party who immediately went to work.
The O.S.S. group gathered themselves and made their way up the beach to a command tent to get their bearings.
“Why'd he make such a big deal? It was just a smoke pot!” Gino commented.
“A smoke pot which was sitting on top of 300 pounds of ammo!” Marsloe informed him. Gino turned white. Again.
They looked back out to sea to watch the smoldering wreck of the Robert Rowen gradually sink beneath the waves.
“There’s a fuckin’ close call to tell your grand kids about!”
One hundred yards up the beach they came on a General Purpose Tent, Large and entered. Inside the tent Marsloe took the lead and approached an NCO.
“We're looking for your Skipper.”
“That's him over there. Holding court by the map boards.” They headed towards the tall Colonel telling a story while surrounded by half a dozen lower ranking officers.
“So Mountbatten grabs the hailer from the BM and yells out to Hewitt, 'How far has General Patton gotten?' And Hewitt clicks his hailer and yells back, 'The General is back on board this ship!' You could hear the laughter all over the decks! I nearly pissed my trousers!”
“Sir, Lieutenant Commander Anthony Marsloe, from F Section. Are you the C.O.?” annoyed by the interruption he looked the group up and down.
“Oh yeah, my Spooks. We got word you were coming in.” He turned back to his audience. “Dismissed.” The officers dispersed and the Colonel led the O.S.S. group into the rear compartment of the tent. The C.O. took a seat behind a small collapsible table and spread out a map. Marsloe stepped front and center as the others bunched in around him.
“The situation as we speak is that we are engaged in a battle on Biazza Ridge, west of Vittoria, here where it crosses the Gela-Vittoria road.” He indicated a point on the map. “It's turning into a regular slug fest with some German tanks and supporting infantry. A little earlier we were able to bring some Naval gunfire to bear thanks to a Navy L.T. who jumped in with the Five-O-Fifth. That was a couple of hours ago but we haven't heard from him or them since.” The spooks followed him as he shifted to the larger hanging map. “Everything from this blue line south is secure.”
“What's the yellow line?” Marsloe asked.
“What we used to call no-mans-land.”
“I still fuckin' do!” Gino chimed in. The C.O. pushed on.
“After an unopposed landing the only serious opposition we hit on the whole fucking island was here at Gela! Seems the Krauts didn't get the word to go see the Acropolis. 1st Division was met with a counter attack by German Armor. We were pushed off the grid and by sun-up we were back on the beaches. At one point Mk VI's broke through but were engaged by the cruiser Savannah and the destroyer Shubrick and are now part of the history books.
Yesterday highways 115 and 117 were filthy with Italian tanks from the Niscemi, and Livorno Infantry who pushed the attack on the city. But again the Shubrick with the Boise opened up on them and cancelled their dance card. We know the 15th Panzer Division is out there, but we're not sure where. We can't push too hard, at least till they show themselves, or we'll get strung out.”
“What's'a all this mean for us, Sir?” Asked Lieutenant Alfieri focused solely on his mission.
“Well, seein' as how I haven't got a god damned clue what your mission is, I don't know. But why ever the hell you're here, just stay outta the way until the smoke clears, wait till you see the ass end of my jeep headin' north, and then assume the A.O. is yours.”
“We're here to assist in the re-organization of the civilian population Colonel.” Marsloe Informed.
“Re-organization of the civilian population?” The C.O. wasn't quite sure how to take that.
“Yes Sir.”
“Well good-fuckin' luck with that little task, gentlemen.”
“Why's that Sir?” Asked Alfieri.
“You ever tried to organize a bunch of Italians? Damn near fuckin' impossible! Like organizin’ a Chinese fire drill!”
“We understand sir. That's why they sent Sicilians!” Gino sneered.
“Well, if our Intel is right, in less than 48 hours, Gela is yours, gentlemen. And Sicilians. Questions, comments snide remarks?”
“Just one.” It was Enrico. “Where can we get something to eat?”

The Wolves of Calabria by Paddy Kelly

EXTRACT FOR
The Wolves of Calabria 
(Paddy Kelly)


CHAPTER ONE

Villalba, Foothills of the Monti Erei
27 Miles North of Gela, Sicily
06:35, 27 June, 1943



Now, mercilessly pulsating the sun had long ago burned away the morning mist and the scenic but rugged hills of Villa Alba now stood indomitable against the blue-grey sky of the green western Mediterranean. Despite the early hour thirty-seven degree heat rained down on the rustic settlements between Gela and Licata.
Salvatore Lucania, alias Charlie ‘Lucky’ Luciano, had been born less than fifteen miles from here in Lercara Fridi, where his relatives still worked for the most influential Mafioso in Sicily, Don Calò Vizzini.
Above the settlements, tucked away, high in the foothills, the folds and crevices were peppered with sentries.
In their traditional white collarless shirts, black waistcoats and brandishing sawn off shot guns, the Mafiosi guards, perched high up on cliffs and ledges were there to watch, record and report all Nazi troop and equipment movements. Working in pairs one slept while the other stood watch. They had been there since the invasion two years ago and would be there as long as the most hated conqueror in their country's history remained.
Tucked away in one fold of a rock outcropping a man, barely a teen, sat in the shade tossing pebbles into a small circle drawn in the dirt a couple of meters away when a distant noise caught his attention. He sat up and listened more intently.
“Ehi! Veglia!” The young lookout nudged his sleeping mate with his foot. “Ehi! Veglia!”
“CHE?” Rubbing the sleep from his eyes he looked up from his blanket roll just as the hum of a small aircraft engine came into earshot. Both scrambled and took cover in a large crevice of rock as they turned their eyes and ears to the sky.
“Dove è?”
“Chiudere!” Seconds later a U.S. Army, O.D. green, Piper Cub appeared lazily gliding over the peaks. The two sentries raced into the open area and waved wildly. The scout plane dove to 100 feet and buzzed their position. On the pull up he dipped his wings signaling he had seen them. The plane flew out another half mile or so, looped around and headed back in towards the peak, flying considerably lower this time. The pilot opened his window, banked left and dropped a weighted piece of cloth through the opening then faded into the distance back south and out over the sea.
In an unintended competition the two dashed to where the cloth had landed, retrieved it, removed the stone and unfurled it.
It was a bright yellow scarf emblazoned with an embroidered, red upper case “L”. The older sentry handed it to his partner with a broad smile and, in a barely restrained whisper ordered, “Andare! They come!”
With shotgun in hand and stuffing the scarf into his shirt, the younger Sicilian half hustled half stumbled down the mountain, vaulted into the saddle of his horse and in a cloud of dust vanished down the winding mountain pass.
Twenty minutes later, still at a gallop, the young rider arrived at a small chicken farm on the northern outskirts of the small village of Villalba. Abandoning his horse and out of breath he ran around back of the main house but saw no one. A young woman opened a first floor window and yelled down at him. He removed his hat before addressing her.
“Senorina, where is Don Vizzini?”
“In the hen house!” She ducked back in then stuck her head back out again. “If you come in the house wipe your feet!” She vanished into the window and the teen messenger double timed across the yard to a long narrow wooden building which was in an advanced state of disrepair.
There at the far end stood a very tall, pear shaped, elderly man. Surrounded by squawking chickens he was casually splashing feed across the floor. Again the youth removed his cap before he addressed the elder.
In ancient times The Village of White was legendary in far off lands throughout the Mediterranean. By the time the United States was 100 years old, Villalba was celebrating its first millennium. Now, in a farmhouse that was 150 years older than the U. S. Capital building itself, in the heart of the village, a special message was about to be delivered.
Even bent with age the defacto Capo di Tutti of Sicily, Don Calogero Vizzini, stood six foot four and weighed in at 275 pounds. His oversized spectacles added rather than detracted from the imposition of his person. Vizzini had what's known in theatrical circles as 'absolute presence'.
The Calogero's worn, brown shoes had seen better days, his ballooned, grey trousers rendered his lower frame featureless and over his short sleeved, yellowed-white dress shirt his suspenders were forced to detour around the sides of his rotund abdomen.
This was the man who could be counted on to correct the recurring injustices of the law. The man all knew that no starving peasant ever came to his door and went away empty handed. If you were of his cosca, his clan, you feared no outsider.
“Don Vizzini?” The old man slowly turned and looked down his thick, horn rimmed glasses.
“Si Michael?”
The kid approached and held out the folded yellow scarf.
“Definitely Americani!” The boy added. The old man set the feed basket aside and took the scarf, unfolded it and gazed at the embroidered, crimson 'L'.
It wasn't long before the boy realized that Vizzini wasn’t staring at the piece of cloth but rather through it. Being the first time he had actually met Don Vizzini, he respectfully stood silent. After a long while the old man stepped forward, broke into a broad grin and shook his head.
“Salvatore. Salvatore Lucasia.”
“What does this tell you Don Vizzini?”
“Something important!” Putting his arm around the young man he started out of the coop and towards the house.
“Such as?” Vizzini stopped in the middle of the yard.
“Some things you should not know.”
“But why Don? We fight together. I give my life for you, you know that!”
“I know that mio figlio.” He put his paw of a hand on the young man’s cheek. “When you become old you will know many things.” Vizzini paused at the rear door of the house. “But if you know too many things, you may not live to be old.” The Don tucked the scarf in his pocket and opened the door to the house.
“Don, what do I tell the others?” Michael called after him.
“Tell them to meet at Chiesa Madre tonight, at eleven.” The teen displayed obvious disappointment. “And tell them that soon we have our country back!”
Michael smiled.
He knew the long awaited day of the invasion was at hand.



03:00, Sunday 10 July, 1943
The Mediterranean Sea
3 Miles Southwest of Gela, Sicily
Onboard SS Robert Rowen

D-Day: Operation Husky

The fleet had arrived during the night under cover of darkness. The weather was rough but not unbearable, pretty much as it had been since the start of the operation less than an hour ago. Winds out of the West at 35-40 knots, 10 foot chops and just enough rain to make life miserable up on the weather decks. The twenty degree rolls were easily coped with, although they did make life a little less convenient.
The port side, forward look out on the fleet's lead ship had just reported to the Quarter Deck of the Watch on the Flag Ship. The Sicilian coast had been spotted. The information was relayed to the wheel house and the C.O. ordered all ahead one third and that the sighting be disseminated to the accompanying fleet.
All two thousand five hundred vessels.
So reliant were the Allies on the success of the S.O.E. Mincemeat operation and the intelligence provided by their New York Mafia connections that not only were they about to assault the Axis strong hold in the Med with what was the largest armada ever assembled accompanied by 160,000 troops, 14,000 vehicles, 1800 big guns, and 600 tanks all led by their senior Admiral, Sir Andrew Cunningham, but aboard on separate ships were the Allies two most famous, first string, superstar generals, George S. Patton and Sir Bernard Montgomery. The follow on invasion of the Italian mainland through Anzio was already in the advanced stages of planning.
‘Old Blood and Guts’ George was to lead the U.S. 7th Army in an all out assault along the southern shores while Monty would take the British 8th Army along with the Canadian First onto the eastern shores of the 10,000 year old island country.
The invasion scenario had the Americans, 6th and 12th Army Groups and 45th Infantry Divisions supported by a reinforced battalion of the 82d Airborne, to assault Gela and capture the south-western territories of the island while the Brits and Canadians did the same on the Eastern beaches of Catania. This operation was the first time in the war the Americans and British were to work together on any appreciable scale and it was the first all-out amphib invasion of the war. More importantly, it was the first combat test of the newly formed airborne troops. There was a lot that could go wrong. There was a lot that did.
As the American Army's target city Gela was a deep water port and the available enemy artillery had been largely neutralized, the fleet's Flag Ship orders were to take her nine inch guns within 2,000 yards of the beach, drop anchor and establish a Command & Control center primarily as a fire base control to support the landings.
Although German Intelligence swallowed the British ruse hook line and sinker, code named “Mincemeat”, as to where the invasion would take place, due to traffic control considerations the German High Command were slow to transfer troops to Greece, and so the attacking armies were heading into a significantly bigger fight than anticipated.
At least the weather was with the Allies so although the sporadic winds would be a hazard to the airborne troops, visibility would allow naval gunfire to be brought to bear with more precise accuracy.
Below decks on the 03 level, on board the Liberty Ship S.S. Robert Rowen, the chow line stretched back through the hatch to the engineering spaces however, this morning three Marine sentries had head-of-the-line privileges.
With two trays each they pushed in front of a crusty Boatswain's Mate 1st Class who had no sense of humor about being cut off by a gang of Marines and made no secret of his emotions.
“Fuckin' Jarheads!” He cursed aloud.
“Fuck you, Squid!” Corporal Deuth, the Marine detail leader, returned the compliment to the BM1.
A junior Seaman behind the Boatswain peered over his port side shoulder.
”Hey Boats, how come they always call us, 'squids' anyways?” The junior member of the Marine detail leaned over and enlightened him.
“That’s because a squid is a small, spineless sea creature which lives off Marine waste.”
The cooks behind the line could’ve cared less who they were serving but hoped a fight might break out, or at least a skirmish, anything to break the monotony. When it didn't they just continued to fill the plates with greasy bacon patties, instant scrambled eggs and cold toast shoving the tin trays back across the stainless steel counter. Once on the trays half the food slid off in the next roll of the ship. The sentries picked the patties up off the deck and plopped them back onto the plates.
“Three second rule.” One shrugged.
“What’a ya wanna do about their coffee?” One of the privates asked Corporal Deuth.
“Fuck it! We'll come back for it, or they can get it themselves!” Deuth placed one full tray on top of another.
“They're not allowed out!”
“Then I guess they don't get coffee!” The Corporal led the detail around the galley to the port side and through the forward compartments.
“Who are they anyway?” They talked as they made their way through the narrow passageways.
“Scuttlebutt has it they're here by orders of a special House sub-committee of something or other.”
“Yeah? When'd you get that scuttlebutt?”
“Right after we shoved off from Tunisia. Two guys from up in CNC were jabber jawin' and one of 'em said something about spooks being sent out by a Congressional sub-committee.”
“If they're so fuckin' important why the hell are they billeted in the chain locker?”
“Must be under a non-fraternization order.”
“That's some serious non-frat order!”
“Wake up! They're fuckin' spooks!”
“Thank you Dick fuckin' Tracy!”
“Why do ya think they ain't got no names or ranks on their uniforms?!”
The chain locker of any ship, located in the most forward hold, was never meant to house troops, much less civilians. The overhead is high, the narrow deck is riddled with fixtures and beams, it's usually the narrowest compartment on the ship, and there is no forward bulkhead, only the forward keel. The compartment is half filled with steel anchor chain on both sides, and on a ship the size of the S.S. Robert Rowan each link is the size of a man which means there's nowhere to lie down. Except when the ship's at anchor. Of course the problem is it takes about two to three hours after they drop anchor for your ears to stop ringing, even if they're plugged with those tiny, useless little pieces of rubber foam they give you. Oh yeah, there's one additional treat.
The two giant, gaping holes in the bulkhead to let the chain out are the same ones which also let the sea, the wind and the cold in.
Although they wore no rank two of the men perched on the huge pile of anchor chain, by their demander and bearing, were obviously military men.
One was a lawyer-turned Lieutenant Commander assigned to Naval Intelligence and temporarily attached to Bill Donovan's Office of Strategic Services.
The other, younger one, was an Intelligence officer nobody could figure out anything about. Except that he always spoke to them in flawless Sicilian. As they were all Sicilian, they didn't mind but figured him to be a lieutenant at least. Probably.
Lieutenant Commander Anthony Marsloe and Lieutenant Paul Alfieri had been assigned this mission for several reasons.
Marsloe, being a long standing fixture in New York D. A. Frank Hogan's office, had been in on Operation Underworld almost from its inception last February and therefore rode the wave of transition when it escalated into its present format, known by Naval Intelligence as 'F' Section, which had now become a sub-section of the Office of Strategic Services.
Following Commander Haffenden's orders it was Marsloe who, as former resident 'expert' on Sicilians and the Mafia in the NYC D.A.’s office, organized the offshoot of 'F' Section, an intel office organized specifically to gather intel about southern Sicily, which they named the ‘Linguistics Section’.
Turning in his fountain pen and briefcase for a back pack and .45, he fit right in to the early profile of Wild Bill Donovan and the other New York lawyers who made up the early members of the O.S.S. the forerunners of the CIA.
The young, well-built Lieutenant with him was more of a mystery, even to Marsloe. He appeared to be just one of those dozens of kids who kept knocking on the door of Naval Intel trying to get in on the Big Game and who was finally somehow granted admission. Marsloe was the Honcho but in Special Ops that just means you take the blame if things go South.
Of the two Alfieri, looking as if he were going on a woodland hike in his civilian clothes, had the shit mission. It was simple but shit. Get ashore, beg, borrow or steal whatever resources required, locate the Italian Naval HQ outside Gela, as reported by Luciano and his guys, get into the Admiral's office and steal anything you can carry.
“Oh yeah,” Commander Haffenden added just before Alfieri shipped out, “We might have some questions. So try to come back in one piece.”
They were also there to land four Italians, Sicilians really, tentatively labeled as V.I.P.'s. Their special V.I.P.'s? Gino Giuliani and three others who were lifetime members of the New York Italian American Club on Mott Street.
All were born and reared in Southern Sicily, all except Enrico who was from Brooklyn. The Syndicate members had all volunteered to make the landing and not because they were anxious to once more see their home turf. Two of them could not have cared less if they ever set foot in Sicily again, but someday soon, after the Army, Navy and Marines had fumigated the place of Mussolini's vermin then packed up and gone home, they would act as the forward organizers to re-establish Syndicate operations. Providing the Fascists didn't regroup.
Of course for the time being, as far as the Navy was concerned, they were doing their patriotic duty to aid the landing by acting as forward scouts.
“Why the Feds so interested in Gela any ways?” Gino directed his question at Marsloe.
“According to our sources in New York that's where Mussolini set up headquarters for the navy. We're bankin' on there being some valuable intel if we can get there in time.”
“Naval Headquarters in Gela?! You fuckin' kiddin' me? You ever been to Gela?! They roll up the fucking streets at half past eight!”
“Maybe that’s the reason he chose Gela!” Marsloe remarked to Alfieri in Italian.
“There you go! See, you ain't as dumb as you look!” Gino quipped.
“Hey Enrico!”
“Yeah?”
“Fuck you!”
Enrico sat isolated from the others. Not by choice but because Gino threatened to knife him if he didn't take his smoked sardine breakfast elsewhere. As it was, Gino had two full sea-sick bags sealed up on the deck across from him and was gradually working on a third.
Suddenly the ten dogs on the single hatch to the chain locker cranked open and the three Marines came in with the breakfast trays. About two minutes after Gino's tray was laid in front of him and he got a whiff of those greasy bacon patties, he was working away filling that third bag.
“Thirty minutes to launch, Sir. Launch officer needs you on deck, starboard side ten minutes prior.” Deuth addressed Commander Marsloe.
“Roger that Corporal. Tell him we're in route.”
The Commander was the only one who finished his bacon and eggs, and half of Gino's, and the Sicilians were glad when it was time to move out.
Up on the main deck, in the fresh air Gino started to regain himself but became a little concerned when he spotted some flashes of light in the distance, beyond the hills of the town.
“Hey Commander. You sure it's safe to go in there now? I mean we don't gotta worry about bein' shot at or nuthin'?”
“What's'a matter Gino? You gonna tell me you never been shot at?” Marsloe chided.
“Sure! Loads'a times! Just never by nuthin' shootin’ fuckin’ Buicks!” Gino barked. The Commander laughed.
“Seriously Sir. We got anything to worry about?” Enrico asked. Alfieri jumped in with a pat on the back.
“Look at it this way Enrico. If we pull this off we're heroes!”
“And if we don't?!”
“Then we're dead heroes! Either way, we get a medal.”
“Relax Gino. Most of the fightin's died down by now. Besides the beaches are secure. The battle lines are mostly in land now.” Marsloe assured.
Although it had been relatively quiet through the boarding and launch of the landing craft as they descended the cargo nets serving as rope ladders, no sooner had they cast off and the cox’wain headed in towards shore when things seemed to pick up.
A stray Italian fighter came out of nowhere and headed straight for their assault boat. The Cox'swain immediately steered into an uneven ‘S’ pattern, but there was little time. The fighter banked and let go two three second bursts strafing the Robert Rowen. The on board crew returned fire, but despite a round pinging around the rear bulkhead of the launch craft, no one was hit.
“Where the hell'd that little son-of-bitch come from?” Enrico asked to no one in particular.
“I don't know, but he's got friends!” Commander Marsloe answered as he pointed off the starboard bow. Three more fighters were bearing down on the convoy.
“A tausend boats in the fuckin' water and he's gotta come at us?!” Enrico cursed.
“JESUS FUCKIN' CHRIST!” Gino suddenly yelled at the top of his lungs and hunkered down and tried to sink into the wet deck. The wings of the fighters streaked low overhead but didn't fire. Seconds later several of the others noticed Gino staring out off the port side.
There, 100 meters or so out from their boat was the fuselage of an O.D. green, U.S. Army glider minus its wings. However the wreckage was gliding gently towards shore, like a giant, closed-in canoe being paddled by three of the crew on top of it using their rifles as paddles.
“Where's a fucking camera when you need one?!” The coxswain asked out loud.
“GINO! You okay?!” Enrico yelled.
“Do I fucking look o-fucking-kay!? I wanted to come back someday but not like this! TELL THE DRIVER TO TURN THIS FUCKING FERRY AROUND!” Just as Gino was having second thoughts about his loyalty a pair of German bombers appeared out over Gela.
“COX'SWAIN, FULL AHEAD! MAKE FOR THE NEAREST BEACH!” Marsloe yelled. Still three quarters of a mile off shore things weren't looking too good for the O.S.S. group. The bombers came in at danger close altitude and released their loads at about six hundred yards out. The good news was that they released too late and didn't kill anything except some fish. The bad news was they came around for a second pass.
Having saved half their load until they got the windage and elevation, the bombers were luckier this time.
Two bombs from the second bird missed their targets, but the last two hit directly amidships of the Robert Rowan.
The force of the explosion lit off the ship's magazine which was enough to lift the entire hull out of the water by three feet. A cylindrical smoke plume rose five hundred feet into the air with searing hot wreckage rocketing out in all directions. Like contrails from a rudderless aircraft burning shrapnel showered the surrounding area and was carried by the wind for over half a mile.
As the shock wave rocked their landing craft several chunks of smoldering shrapnel fell onto the O.S.S. group and two of the crew were burned though not badly. When the dust cleared however, a large smoke pot, part of the ancillary cargo in the boat, was burning away. The Cox'swain was the first to notice.
“GET THAT FIRE OUT!” He yelled at the passengers.
Also on board the landing craft was an Ensign Parle, a 27 year old Naval Reserve officer from Omaha. He was the first to act. He rushed to grab one of several fire buckets onboard but most of the sand had been spilt in the rough seas and what remained was caked thick from the rain of sea water. The smoke clearly marked the vessel for miles around and was noted by the enemy aircraft loitering over the fleet.
What he did next would save the boat and all aboard, but several days later claim his life.
Realizing attempts at extinguishing the large pot were pointless, he shoved his way through the panic-stricken passengers and blinding smoke and wrestled the device to the deck and away from the large cargo of ammo. Gasping heavily and vomiting from the thick chemical fumes and with his last bit of breath he lifted the 150 pound, smoldering pot over the gunwale and into the sea.
He collapsed to the deck gagging and vomiting more violently before going unconscious.
A squadron of Allied fighters appeared and chased the errant Italian fighters out of the area.
A beach head had been established so there was no enemy gunfire and as soon as the ramp hit the sand several men carried the casualties off the craft and were met by two corpsmen from the landing party who immediately went to work.
The O.S.S. group gathered themselves and made their way up the beach to a command tent to get their bearings.
“Why'd he make such a big deal? It was just a smoke pot!” Gino commented.
“A smoke pot which was sitting on top of 300 pounds of ammo!” Marsloe informed him. Gino turned white. Again.
They looked back out to sea to watch the smoldering wreck of the Robert Rowen gradually sink beneath the waves.
“There’s a fuckin’ close call to tell your grand kids about!”
One hundred yards up the beach they came on a General Purpose Tent, Large and entered. Inside the tent Marsloe took the lead and approached an NCO.
“We're looking for your Skipper.”
“That's him over there. Holding court by the map boards.” They headed towards the tall Colonel telling a story while surrounded by half a dozen lower ranking officers.
“So Mountbatten grabs the hailer from the BM and yells out to Hewitt, 'How far has General Patton gotten?' And Hewitt clicks his hailer and yells back, 'The General is back on board this ship!' You could hear the laughter all over the decks! I nearly pissed my trousers!”
“Sir, Lieutenant Commander Anthony Marsloe, from F Section. Are you the C.O.?” annoyed by the interruption he looked the group up and down.
“Oh yeah, my Spooks. We got word you were coming in.” He turned back to his audience. “Dismissed.” The officers dispersed and the Colonel led the O.S.S. group into the rear compartment of the tent. The C.O. took a seat behind a small collapsible table and spread out a map. Marsloe stepped front and center as the others bunched in around him.
“The situation as we speak is that we are engaged in a battle on Biazza Ridge, west of Vittoria, here where it crosses the Gela-Vittoria road.” He indicated a point on the map. “It's turning into a regular slug fest with some German tanks and supporting infantry. A little earlier we were able to bring some Naval gunfire to bear thanks to a Navy L.T. who jumped in with the Five-O-Fifth. That was a couple of hours ago but we haven't heard from him or them since.” The spooks followed him as he shifted to the larger hanging map. “Everything from this blue line south is secure.”
“What's the yellow line?” Marsloe asked.
“What we used to call no-mans-land.”
“I still fuckin' do!” Gino chimed in. The C.O. pushed on.
“After an unopposed landing the only serious opposition we hit on the whole fucking island was here at Gela! Seems the Krauts didn't get the word to go see the Acropolis. 1st Division was met with a counter attack by German Armor. We were pushed off the grid and by sun-up we were back on the beaches. At one point Mk VI's broke through but were engaged by the cruiser Savannah and the destroyer Shubrick and are now part of the history books.
Yesterday highways 115 and 117 were filthy with Italian tanks from the Niscemi, and Livorno Infantry who pushed the attack on the city. But again the Shubrick with the Boise opened up on them and cancelled their dance card. We know the 15th Panzer Division is out there, but we're not sure where. We can't push too hard, at least till they show themselves, or we'll get strung out.”
“What's'a all this mean for us, Sir?” Asked Lieutenant Alfieri focused solely on his mission.
“Well, seein' as how I haven't got a god damned clue what your mission is, I don't know. But why ever the hell you're here, just stay outta the way until the smoke clears, wait till you see the ass end of my jeep headin' north, and then assume the A.O. is yours.”
“We're here to assist in the re-organization of the civilian population Colonel.” Marsloe Informed.
“Re-organization of the civilian population?” The C.O. wasn't quite sure how to take that.
“Yes Sir.”
“Well good-fuckin' luck with that little task, gentlemen.”
“Why's that Sir?” Asked Alfieri.
“You ever tried to organize a bunch of Italians? Damn near fuckin' impossible! Like organizin’ a Chinese fire drill!”
“We understand sir. That's why they sent Sicilians!” Gino sneered.
“Well, if our Intel is right, in less than 48 hours, Gela is yours, gentlemen. And Sicilians. Questions, comments snide remarks?”
“Just one.” It was Enrico. “Where can we get something to eat?”

EXTRACT FOR
The Wolves of Calabria 
(Paddy Kelly)


CHAPTER ONE

Villalba, Foothills of the Monti Erei
27 Miles North of Gela, Sicily
06:35, 27 June, 1943



Now, mercilessly pulsating the sun had long ago burned away the morning mist and the scenic but rugged hills of Villa Alba now stood indomitable against the blue-grey sky of the green western Mediterranean. Despite the early hour thirty-seven degree heat rained down on the rustic settlements between Gela and Licata.
Salvatore Lucania, alias Charlie ‘Lucky’ Luciano, had been born less than fifteen miles from here in Lercara Fridi, where his relatives still worked for the most influential Mafioso in Sicily, Don Calò Vizzini.
Above the settlements, tucked away, high in the foothills, the folds and crevices were peppered with sentries.
In their traditional white collarless shirts, black waistcoats and brandishing sawn off shot guns, the Mafiosi guards, perched high up on cliffs and ledges were there to watch, record and report all Nazi troop and equipment movements. Working in pairs one slept while the other stood watch. They had been there since the invasion two years ago and would be there as long as the most hated conqueror in their country's history remained.
Tucked away in one fold of a rock outcropping a man, barely a teen, sat in the shade tossing pebbles into a small circle drawn in the dirt a couple of meters away when a distant noise caught his attention. He sat up and listened more intently.
“Ehi! Veglia!” The young lookout nudged his sleeping mate with his foot. “Ehi! Veglia!”
“CHE?” Rubbing the sleep from his eyes he looked up from his blanket roll just as the hum of a small aircraft engine came into earshot. Both scrambled and took cover in a large crevice of rock as they turned their eyes and ears to the sky.
“Dove è?”
“Chiudere!” Seconds later a U.S. Army, O.D. green, Piper Cub appeared lazily gliding over the peaks. The two sentries raced into the open area and waved wildly. The scout plane dove to 100 feet and buzzed their position. On the pull up he dipped his wings signaling he had seen them. The plane flew out another half mile or so, looped around and headed back in towards the peak, flying considerably lower this time. The pilot opened his window, banked left and dropped a weighted piece of cloth through the opening then faded into the distance back south and out over the sea.
In an unintended competition the two dashed to where the cloth had landed, retrieved it, removed the stone and unfurled it.
It was a bright yellow scarf emblazoned with an embroidered, red upper case “L”. The older sentry handed it to his partner with a broad smile and, in a barely restrained whisper ordered, “Andare! They come!”
With shotgun in hand and stuffing the scarf into his shirt, the younger Sicilian half hustled half stumbled down the mountain, vaulted into the saddle of his horse and in a cloud of dust vanished down the winding mountain pass.
Twenty minutes later, still at a gallop, the young rider arrived at a small chicken farm on the northern outskirts of the small village of Villalba. Abandoning his horse and out of breath he ran around back of the main house but saw no one. A young woman opened a first floor window and yelled down at him. He removed his hat before addressing her.
“Senorina, where is Don Vizzini?”
“In the hen house!” She ducked back in then stuck her head back out again. “If you come in the house wipe your feet!” She vanished into the window and the teen messenger double timed across the yard to a long narrow wooden building which was in an advanced state of disrepair.
There at the far end stood a very tall, pear shaped, elderly man. Surrounded by squawking chickens he was casually splashing feed across the floor. Again the youth removed his cap before he addressed the elder.
In ancient times The Village of White was legendary in far off lands throughout the Mediterranean. By the time the United States was 100 years old, Villalba was celebrating its first millennium. Now, in a farmhouse that was 150 years older than the U. S. Capital building itself, in the heart of the village, a special message was about to be delivered.
Even bent with age the defacto Capo di Tutti of Sicily, Don Calogero Vizzini, stood six foot four and weighed in at 275 pounds. His oversized spectacles added rather than detracted from the imposition of his person. Vizzini had what's known in theatrical circles as 'absolute presence'.
The Calogero's worn, brown shoes had seen better days, his ballooned, grey trousers rendered his lower frame featureless and over his short sleeved, yellowed-white dress shirt his suspenders were forced to detour around the sides of his rotund abdomen.
This was the man who could be counted on to correct the recurring injustices of the law. The man all knew that no starving peasant ever came to his door and went away empty handed. If you were of his cosca, his clan, you feared no outsider.
“Don Vizzini?” The old man slowly turned and looked down his thick, horn rimmed glasses.
“Si Michael?”
The kid approached and held out the folded yellow scarf.
“Definitely Americani!” The boy added. The old man set the feed basket aside and took the scarf, unfolded it and gazed at the embroidered, crimson 'L'.
It wasn't long before the boy realized that Vizzini wasn’t staring at the piece of cloth but rather through it. Being the first time he had actually met Don Vizzini, he respectfully stood silent. After a long while the old man stepped forward, broke into a broad grin and shook his head.
“Salvatore. Salvatore Lucasia.”
“What does this tell you Don Vizzini?”
“Something important!” Putting his arm around the young man he started out of the coop and towards the house.
“Such as?” Vizzini stopped in the middle of the yard.
“Some things you should not know.”
“But why Don? We fight together. I give my life for you, you know that!”
“I know that mio figlio.” He put his paw of a hand on the young man’s cheek. “When you become old you will know many things.” Vizzini paused at the rear door of the house. “But if you know too many things, you may not live to be old.” The Don tucked the scarf in his pocket and opened the door to the house.
“Don, what do I tell the others?” Michael called after him.
“Tell them to meet at Chiesa Madre tonight, at eleven.” The teen displayed obvious disappointment. “And tell them that soon we have our country back!”
Michael smiled.
He knew the long awaited day of the invasion was at hand.



03:00, Sunday 10 July, 1943
The Mediterranean Sea
3 Miles Southwest of Gela, Sicily
Onboard SS Robert Rowen

D-Day: Operation Husky

The fleet had arrived during the night under cover of darkness. The weather was rough but not unbearable, pretty much as it had been since the start of the operation less than an hour ago. Winds out of the West at 35-40 knots, 10 foot chops and just enough rain to make life miserable up on the weather decks. The twenty degree rolls were easily coped with, although they did make life a little less convenient.
The port side, forward look out on the fleet's lead ship had just reported to the Quarter Deck of the Watch on the Flag Ship. The Sicilian coast had been spotted. The information was relayed to the wheel house and the C.O. ordered all ahead one third and that the sighting be disseminated to the accompanying fleet.
All two thousand five hundred vessels.
So reliant were the Allies on the success of the S.O.E. Mincemeat operation and the intelligence provided by their New York Mafia connections that not only were they about to assault the Axis strong hold in the Med with what was the largest armada ever assembled accompanied by 160,000 troops, 14,000 vehicles, 1800 big guns, and 600 tanks all led by their senior Admiral, Sir Andrew Cunningham, but aboard on separate ships were the Allies two most famous, first string, superstar generals, George S. Patton and Sir Bernard Montgomery. The follow on invasion of the Italian mainland through Anzio was already in the advanced stages of planning.
‘Old Blood and Guts’ George was to lead the U.S. 7th Army in an all out assault along the southern shores while Monty would take the British 8th Army along with the Canadian First onto the eastern shores of the 10,000 year old island country.
The invasion scenario had the Americans, 6th and 12th Army Groups and 45th Infantry Divisions supported by a reinforced battalion of the 82d Airborne, to assault Gela and capture the south-western territories of the island while the Brits and Canadians did the same on the Eastern beaches of Catania. This operation was the first time in the war the Americans and British were to work together on any appreciable scale and it was the first all-out amphib invasion of the war. More importantly, it was the first combat test of the newly formed airborne troops. There was a lot that could go wrong. There was a lot that did.
As the American Army's target city Gela was a deep water port and the available enemy artillery had been largely neutralized, the fleet's Flag Ship orders were to take her nine inch guns within 2,000 yards of the beach, drop anchor and establish a Command & Control center primarily as a fire base control to support the landings.
Although German Intelligence swallowed the British ruse hook line and sinker, code named “Mincemeat”, as to where the invasion would take place, due to traffic control considerations the German High Command were slow to transfer troops to Greece, and so the attacking armies were heading into a significantly bigger fight than anticipated.
At least the weather was with the Allies so although the sporadic winds would be a hazard to the airborne troops, visibility would allow naval gunfire to be brought to bear with more precise accuracy.
Below decks on the 03 level, on board the Liberty Ship S.S. Robert Rowen, the chow line stretched back through the hatch to the engineering spaces however, this morning three Marine sentries had head-of-the-line privileges.
With two trays each they pushed in front of a crusty Boatswain's Mate 1st Class who had no sense of humor about being cut off by a gang of Marines and made no secret of his emotions.
“Fuckin' Jarheads!” He cursed aloud.
“Fuck you, Squid!” Corporal Deuth, the Marine detail leader, returned the compliment to the BM1.
A junior Seaman behind the Boatswain peered over his port side shoulder.
”Hey Boats, how come they always call us, 'squids' anyways?” The junior member of the Marine detail leaned over and enlightened him.
“That’s because a squid is a small, spineless sea creature which lives off Marine waste.”
The cooks behind the line could’ve cared less who they were serving but hoped a fight might break out, or at least a skirmish, anything to break the monotony. When it didn't they just continued to fill the plates with greasy bacon patties, instant scrambled eggs and cold toast shoving the tin trays back across the stainless steel counter. Once on the trays half the food slid off in the next roll of the ship. The sentries picked the patties up off the deck and plopped them back onto the plates.
“Three second rule.” One shrugged.
“What’a ya wanna do about their coffee?” One of the privates asked Corporal Deuth.
“Fuck it! We'll come back for it, or they can get it themselves!” Deuth placed one full tray on top of another.
“They're not allowed out!”
“Then I guess they don't get coffee!” The Corporal led the detail around the galley to the port side and through the forward compartments.
“Who are they anyway?” They talked as they made their way through the narrow passageways.
“Scuttlebutt has it they're here by orders of a special House sub-committee of something or other.”
“Yeah? When'd you get that scuttlebutt?”
“Right after we shoved off from Tunisia. Two guys from up in CNC were jabber jawin' and one of 'em said something about spooks being sent out by a Congressional sub-committee.”
“If they're so fuckin' important why the hell are they billeted in the chain locker?”
“Must be under a non-fraternization order.”
“That's some serious non-frat order!”
“Wake up! They're fuckin' spooks!”
“Thank you Dick fuckin' Tracy!”
“Why do ya think they ain't got no names or ranks on their uniforms?!”
The chain locker of any ship, located in the most forward hold, was never meant to house troops, much less civilians. The overhead is high, the narrow deck is riddled with fixtures and beams, it's usually the narrowest compartment on the ship, and there is no forward bulkhead, only the forward keel. The compartment is half filled with steel anchor chain on both sides, and on a ship the size of the S.S. Robert Rowan each link is the size of a man which means there's nowhere to lie down. Except when the ship's at anchor. Of course the problem is it takes about two to three hours after they drop anchor for your ears to stop ringing, even if they're plugged with those tiny, useless little pieces of rubber foam they give you. Oh yeah, there's one additional treat.
The two giant, gaping holes in the bulkhead to let the chain out are the same ones which also let the sea, the wind and the cold in.
Although they wore no rank two of the men perched on the huge pile of anchor chain, by their demander and bearing, were obviously military men.
One was a lawyer-turned Lieutenant Commander assigned to Naval Intelligence and temporarily attached to Bill Donovan's Office of Strategic Services.
The other, younger one, was an Intelligence officer nobody could figure out anything about. Except that he always spoke to them in flawless Sicilian. As they were all Sicilian, they didn't mind but figured him to be a lieutenant at least. Probably.
Lieutenant Commander Anthony Marsloe and Lieutenant Paul Alfieri had been assigned this mission for several reasons.
Marsloe, being a long standing fixture in New York D. A. Frank Hogan's office, had been in on Operation Underworld almost from its inception last February and therefore rode the wave of transition when it escalated into its present format, known by Naval Intelligence as 'F' Section, which had now become a sub-section of the Office of Strategic Services.
Following Commander Haffenden's orders it was Marsloe who, as former resident 'expert' on Sicilians and the Mafia in the NYC D.A.’s office, organized the offshoot of 'F' Section, an intel office organized specifically to gather intel about southern Sicily, which they named the ‘Linguistics Section’.
Turning in his fountain pen and briefcase for a back pack and .45, he fit right in to the early profile of Wild Bill Donovan and the other New York lawyers who made up the early members of the O.S.S. the forerunners of the CIA.
The young, well-built Lieutenant with him was more of a mystery, even to Marsloe. He appeared to be just one of those dozens of kids who kept knocking on the door of Naval Intel trying to get in on the Big Game and who was finally somehow granted admission. Marsloe was the Honcho but in Special Ops that just means you take the blame if things go South.
Of the two Alfieri, looking as if he were going on a woodland hike in his civilian clothes, had the shit mission. It was simple but shit. Get ashore, beg, borrow or steal whatever resources required, locate the Italian Naval HQ outside Gela, as reported by Luciano and his guys, get into the Admiral's office and steal anything you can carry.
“Oh yeah,” Commander Haffenden added just before Alfieri shipped out, “We might have some questions. So try to come back in one piece.”
They were also there to land four Italians, Sicilians really, tentatively labeled as V.I.P.'s. Their special V.I.P.'s? Gino Giuliani and three others who were lifetime members of the New York Italian American Club on Mott Street.
All were born and reared in Southern Sicily, all except Enrico who was from Brooklyn. The Syndicate members had all volunteered to make the landing and not because they were anxious to once more see their home turf. Two of them could not have cared less if they ever set foot in Sicily again, but someday soon, after the Army, Navy and Marines had fumigated the place of Mussolini's vermin then packed up and gone home, they would act as the forward organizers to re-establish Syndicate operations. Providing the Fascists didn't regroup.
Of course for the time being, as far as the Navy was concerned, they were doing their patriotic duty to aid the landing by acting as forward scouts.
“Why the Feds so interested in Gela any ways?” Gino directed his question at Marsloe.
“According to our sources in New York that's where Mussolini set up headquarters for the navy. We're bankin' on there being some valuable intel if we can get there in time.”
“Naval Headquarters in Gela?! You fuckin' kiddin' me? You ever been to Gela?! They roll up the fucking streets at half past eight!”
“Maybe that’s the reason he chose Gela!” Marsloe remarked to Alfieri in Italian.
“There you go! See, you ain't as dumb as you look!” Gino quipped.
“Hey Enrico!”
“Yeah?”
“Fuck you!”
Enrico sat isolated from the others. Not by choice but because Gino threatened to knife him if he didn't take his smoked sardine breakfast elsewhere. As it was, Gino had two full sea-sick bags sealed up on the deck across from him and was gradually working on a third.
Suddenly the ten dogs on the single hatch to the chain locker cranked open and the three Marines came in with the breakfast trays. About two minutes after Gino's tray was laid in front of him and he got a whiff of those greasy bacon patties, he was working away filling that third bag.
“Thirty minutes to launch, Sir. Launch officer needs you on deck, starboard side ten minutes prior.” Deuth addressed Commander Marsloe.
“Roger that Corporal. Tell him we're in route.”
The Commander was the only one who finished his bacon and eggs, and half of Gino's, and the Sicilians were glad when it was time to move out.
Up on the main deck, in the fresh air Gino started to regain himself but became a little concerned when he spotted some flashes of light in the distance, beyond the hills of the town.
“Hey Commander. You sure it's safe to go in there now? I mean we don't gotta worry about bein' shot at or nuthin'?”
“What's'a matter Gino? You gonna tell me you never been shot at?” Marsloe chided.
“Sure! Loads'a times! Just never by nuthin' shootin’ fuckin’ Buicks!” Gino barked. The Commander laughed.
“Seriously Sir. We got anything to worry about?” Enrico asked. Alfieri jumped in with a pat on the back.
“Look at it this way Enrico. If we pull this off we're heroes!”
“And if we don't?!”
“Then we're dead heroes! Either way, we get a medal.”
“Relax Gino. Most of the fightin's died down by now. Besides the beaches are secure. The battle lines are mostly in land now.” Marsloe assured.
Although it had been relatively quiet through the boarding and launch of the landing craft as they descended the cargo nets serving as rope ladders, no sooner had they cast off and the cox’wain headed in towards shore when things seemed to pick up.
A stray Italian fighter came out of nowhere and headed straight for their assault boat. The Cox'swain immediately steered into an uneven ‘S’ pattern, but there was little time. The fighter banked and let go two three second bursts strafing the Robert Rowen. The on board crew returned fire, but despite a round pinging around the rear bulkhead of the launch craft, no one was hit.
“Where the hell'd that little son-of-bitch come from?” Enrico asked to no one in particular.
“I don't know, but he's got friends!” Commander Marsloe answered as he pointed off the starboard bow. Three more fighters were bearing down on the convoy.
“A tausend boats in the fuckin' water and he's gotta come at us?!” Enrico cursed.
“JESUS FUCKIN' CHRIST!” Gino suddenly yelled at the top of his lungs and hunkered down and tried to sink into the wet deck. The wings of the fighters streaked low overhead but didn't fire. Seconds later several of the others noticed Gino staring out off the port side.
There, 100 meters or so out from their boat was the fuselage of an O.D. green, U.S. Army glider minus its wings. However the wreckage was gliding gently towards shore, like a giant, closed-in canoe being paddled by three of the crew on top of it using their rifles as paddles.
“Where's a fucking camera when you need one?!” The coxswain asked out loud.
“GINO! You okay?!” Enrico yelled.
“Do I fucking look o-fucking-kay!? I wanted to come back someday but not like this! TELL THE DRIVER TO TURN THIS FUCKING FERRY AROUND!” Just as Gino was having second thoughts about his loyalty a pair of German bombers appeared out over Gela.
“COX'SWAIN, FULL AHEAD! MAKE FOR THE NEAREST BEACH!” Marsloe yelled. Still three quarters of a mile off shore things weren't looking too good for the O.S.S. group. The bombers came in at danger close altitude and released their loads at about six hundred yards out. The good news was that they released too late and didn't kill anything except some fish. The bad news was they came around for a second pass.
Having saved half their load until they got the windage and elevation, the bombers were luckier this time.
Two bombs from the second bird missed their targets, but the last two hit directly amidships of the Robert Rowan.
The force of the explosion lit off the ship's magazine which was enough to lift the entire hull out of the water by three feet. A cylindrical smoke plume rose five hundred feet into the air with searing hot wreckage rocketing out in all directions. Like contrails from a rudderless aircraft burning shrapnel showered the surrounding area and was carried by the wind for over half a mile.
As the shock wave rocked their landing craft several chunks of smoldering shrapnel fell onto the O.S.S. group and two of the crew were burned though not badly. When the dust cleared however, a large smoke pot, part of the ancillary cargo in the boat, was burning away. The Cox'swain was the first to notice.
“GET THAT FIRE OUT!” He yelled at the passengers.
Also on board the landing craft was an Ensign Parle, a 27 year old Naval Reserve officer from Omaha. He was the first to act. He rushed to grab one of several fire buckets onboard but most of the sand had been spilt in the rough seas and what remained was caked thick from the rain of sea water. The smoke clearly marked the vessel for miles around and was noted by the enemy aircraft loitering over the fleet.
What he did next would save the boat and all aboard, but several days later claim his life.
Realizing attempts at extinguishing the large pot were pointless, he shoved his way through the panic-stricken passengers and blinding smoke and wrestled the device to the deck and away from the large cargo of ammo. Gasping heavily and vomiting from the thick chemical fumes and with his last bit of breath he lifted the 150 pound, smoldering pot over the gunwale and into the sea.
He collapsed to the deck gagging and vomiting more violently before going unconscious.
A squadron of Allied fighters appeared and chased the errant Italian fighters out of the area.
A beach head had been established so there was no enemy gunfire and as soon as the ramp hit the sand several men carried the casualties off the craft and were met by two corpsmen from the landing party who immediately went to work.
The O.S.S. group gathered themselves and made their way up the beach to a command tent to get their bearings.
“Why'd he make such a big deal? It was just a smoke pot!” Gino commented.
“A smoke pot which was sitting on top of 300 pounds of ammo!” Marsloe informed him. Gino turned white. Again.
They looked back out to sea to watch the smoldering wreck of the Robert Rowen gradually sink beneath the waves.
“There’s a fuckin’ close call to tell your grand kids about!”
One hundred yards up the beach they came on a General Purpose Tent, Large and entered. Inside the tent Marsloe took the lead and approached an NCO.
“We're looking for your Skipper.”
“That's him over there. Holding court by the map boards.” They headed towards the tall Colonel telling a story while surrounded by half a dozen lower ranking officers.
“So Mountbatten grabs the hailer from the BM and yells out to Hewitt, 'How far has General Patton gotten?' And Hewitt clicks his hailer and yells back, 'The General is back on board this ship!' You could hear the laughter all over the decks! I nearly pissed my trousers!”
“Sir, Lieutenant Commander Anthony Marsloe, from F Section. Are you the C.O.?” annoyed by the interruption he looked the group up and down.
“Oh yeah, my Spooks. We got word you were coming in.” He turned back to his audience. “Dismissed.” The officers dispersed and the Colonel led the O.S.S. group into the rear compartment of the tent. The C.O. took a seat behind a small collapsible table and spread out a map. Marsloe stepped front and center as the others bunched in around him.
“The situation as we speak is that we are engaged in a battle on Biazza Ridge, west of Vittoria, here where it crosses the Gela-Vittoria road.” He indicated a point on the map. “It's turning into a regular slug fest with some German tanks and supporting infantry. A little earlier we were able to bring some Naval gunfire to bear thanks to a Navy L.T. who jumped in with the Five-O-Fifth. That was a couple of hours ago but we haven't heard from him or them since.” The spooks followed him as he shifted to the larger hanging map. “Everything from this blue line south is secure.”
“What's the yellow line?” Marsloe asked.
“What we used to call no-mans-land.”
“I still fuckin' do!” Gino chimed in. The C.O. pushed on.
“After an unopposed landing the only serious opposition we hit on the whole fucking island was here at Gela! Seems the Krauts didn't get the word to go see the Acropolis. 1st Division was met with a counter attack by German Armor. We were pushed off the grid and by sun-up we were back on the beaches. At one point Mk VI's broke through but were engaged by the cruiser Savannah and the destroyer Shubrick and are now part of the history books.
Yesterday highways 115 and 117 were filthy with Italian tanks from the Niscemi, and Livorno Infantry who pushed the attack on the city. But again the Shubrick with the Boise opened up on them and cancelled their dance card. We know the 15th Panzer Division is out there, but we're not sure where. We can't push too hard, at least till they show themselves, or we'll get strung out.”
“What's'a all this mean for us, Sir?” Asked Lieutenant Alfieri focused solely on his mission.
“Well, seein' as how I haven't got a god damned clue what your mission is, I don't know. But why ever the hell you're here, just stay outta the way until the smoke clears, wait till you see the ass end of my jeep headin' north, and then assume the A.O. is yours.”
“We're here to assist in the re-organization of the civilian population Colonel.” Marsloe Informed.
“Re-organization of the civilian population?” The C.O. wasn't quite sure how to take that.
“Yes Sir.”
“Well good-fuckin' luck with that little task, gentlemen.”
“Why's that Sir?” Asked Alfieri.
“You ever tried to organize a bunch of Italians? Damn near fuckin' impossible! Like organizin’ a Chinese fire drill!”
“We understand sir. That's why they sent Sicilians!” Gino sneered.
“Well, if our Intel is right, in less than 48 hours, Gela is yours, gentlemen. And Sicilians. Questions, comments snide remarks?”
“Just one.” It was Enrico. “Where can we get something to eat?”

SSL Certificates