Quad City Times

Davenport, IA

08 Nov 1944




Frank Miles runs Into Iowa Men When He Looks Over Italy's Shell-torn Poretta

By Frank Miles
IDPA War Correspondent

With the Fifth Army in Italy -- IDPA -- American bulldozer tanks were putting torn banks in shape for the laying of a Bailey bridge over a swollen stream running thru the shell-battered town of Poretta, Italy.

Completion of the job meant further pressing of Yankee pursuit of Nazi forces known to then be on mountain heights eight kilometers, five miles, away.

The Germans could have fired on the Americans below but were inactive when I was there for any one or more of several reasons. They might have been short on artillery, their ammunition might have been exhausted, they might have feared that to cut loose would expose their position to our heavy gunners and they might have been waiting for darkness.

Army engineers on the Poretta task were doing their job swiftly and efficiently.

To enable pedestrians to cross the water they had placed rafts opposite each other on the edges of the two by eight planks between them. Soldiers, of course, walked back and forth and a few male natives made use of the arrangement but it looked too risky to all of the women there except an aged one with a hideously bent back who carried a staff in gnarled hands.


A handsome, curly-haired GI offered to carry any one of several attractive girls over in his arms. They were tempted but shyness kept them from accepting his offer. His buddies, panned him about their disinclination.

I looked in the doorway of a partly razed building.

"Better not go in there, Frank, it may be mined," called Col. Stanley J. Grogan, chief public relations officer of the Fifth army, with whom I was on the jaunt.

Just then a soldier with materials to start a blaze in a fireplace in the room beyond appeared.

"I think its all right, I see an American," I replied.

"Yes, it's okay here, the place has been searched," the GI said.

"Thanks, where are you from in the states?" I asked

"Fort Dodge, Iowa", he answered.

We shook hands.

He was Pvt (f.c.) Victor Hanson, an infantryman, whom I learned had been thru a lot of fighting.

"I am going to heat some cans of rations for myself and some of the fellows," he said. "You are welcome to eat with us."

Colonel Grogan handed me a sandwich at that time from a supply we had brought along, so I declined Hanson's invitations.


A Chicagoan, who had come up, disappeared suddenly and when I emerged was outside with another Iowan he wanted me to meet.

Staff Sergt. Louis E Metzger, Clinton, is a platoon leader. Like Private Hanson, he had been in the army about three years, overseas a year and knew what it was to meet Nazis in combat.

Hanson has a brother, Pvt. Garth Hanson, in England.

Near Poretta, the Germans had installed an extensive system of defenses. On each side of several curves in the road were steel and concrete dugouts from which marksmen could cover approaches from either direction. On a level stretch, which extended from the trail on one curve, they had built foxholes and firing stations with underground passageways between them. On points overlooking valleys they installed high caliber guns and to protect them from attack from the ravines had dug a winding, four-feet deep trench in the slopes for a long distance. Barbed wire was all over the area. Scrawled on the three cards nailed to sticks in the ground we saw were the words, "Achtung -- Minen" -- "Attention - Mines" which the Nazis had put over hidden explosives intended for Americans to warn themselves and had forgotten to take down when the left.

Their departure was forced by the terrific Yank artillery bombardments supported by fast moving and shooting armored vehicles and slashing, deadly aiming Doughboys.

Source: Quad City Times, November 8, 1944

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