Mt. Pleasant News

Mt. Pleasant, IA

06 Feb 1945




Mess-Recreational Hall Built Of 105 Millimeter Shells


With the Fifth Army in Italy (IDPA)

A combination mess-recreation hall built of 105 millimeter shell cases near a war shattered town with Sgt. Ward Harris of Shell Rock, supervising the carpentry, was enjoyed by 91st division combat engineers in the Apennine mountains.

Sgt. Bob Fleisher of New York, a staff writer of The Stars and Stripes, wrote of the structure: "One of the most unique buildings ever created by GI Joe's fertile imagination...The idea belonged to the company commander, but it took a whole platoon about 18 days to finish the job. Shell cases had to be gathered from all possible courses. They put the bite on every artillery outfit using 105 shells until more than 10,000 cases were stacked up and ready for use, then they trucked in enough sand to fill the cases and enough mud to cement them together.

Filled With Sand

"First they filled the cases with sand, then they stacked them one on top of the other -- a layer of shell cases and then a layer of mud. The roof and ceiling beams were made from scrap lumber and canvas. The finished product is a strongly built structure with an inside measurement of 30 by 60 feet.

"Their particular section of the Apennines is admittedly not an ideal spot for a winter lodge. Rare is the night that Jerry doesn't try to put his pitching arm in their general direction. The roof is beginning to show signs of shrapnel holes, but nothing less than a direct hit could dent those walls."

"So the boys of the engineers eat their meals there to the tune of a phonograph hooked up to their movie loudspeaker, and at night, when the generator works, the mess hall becomes a movie house -- in any event it is a good place to go when the snow begins to fall."

Combat engineers here have one of the most dangerous and hardest jobs in the fifth army because of the tough terrain, weather conditions and frequent shelling and bombing of highways.

They must keep roads open regardless because of food, water, ammunition and other supplies must go through to the troops on the front lines and the ways must be clear for ambulances to get and deliver wounded men to the hospitals, most of which are in tents but are conducted marvelously well.

Far Forward

I jeeped far forward the day this was written. Snow, whipped by a high wind, was falling and drifting on the winding road. Visibility was obscured by fog. Cold was intense and penetrating. Traffic, heavy because of constant combat needs, was extremely hazardous to drivers and other occupants of vehicles and to person on foot on the route. Hundreds of engineers and MP's were doing the tasks which the situation required.

Blue noses and chins, red cheeks and watering eyes, with chilled fingers and feet failed to dampen spirits. It was evident on the kidding and razzing of one another by those soldiers, who were afraid of neither jerry's projectiles nor wracking labor.

"Nice day, put on your chains," said an ice-coated MP to my jeep jockey, when he saw we had forgotten that to aid safe driving.

"What aren't you hugging a fire somewhere?" grinned a snow-covered engineer where we halted to carry out the MP's orders. Then he and another engineer helped on our job.

"I'm from Texas," drawled the taller one.

"Yeah, and growlin' about the no'thers here," jibbed the other Montanan.

A couple of nights earlier jerries seized the end of a line yanks were dragging along a road and tug o' war like those used to be staged at Iowa county fairs ensued.

The yanks won!

Source: Mount Pleasant News, February 6, 1945

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