Danny Wilson: Christmas at the Vatican 1944

Danny began his December 10 letter, “Special—Italy. Dear Folks, Yesterday, December 9, I got to fly on my first combat mission over enemy territory. It was the longest flight I’ve ever taken in a P-38.”

 

Dec10letter (2)
Looks like he censored his own letter. Leora noted on the back, “Rec’d Dec. 19.”

On the “gravel agitator” side, the stone hut now had a porch and a brick floor.

37th (1)

There were bond drives overseas, as well as in the States. Danny had bought a bond, which he mailed home along with $100.

warbond

December 30, Danny wrote home telling them he’d gotten a pass to Rome for four days over Christmas. They’d ridden in an open-air Jeep, seeing flattened towns along the Appian Way. “I remembered the name from studying history, but didn’t know it was here in Italy,” he said. Three pilots stayed in a hotel “that was plenty OK,” with good chow and a dance every night. Rome was cleaner than other towns, and the people were clean and well-dressed, considering, he added. The stores were full of things but also expensive. The Red Cross had a bus tour, including a guide, so Danny had looked over “the famous sights of Roma,” including St. Paul’s church, the Coliseum, and the Catacombs.

Christmas Eve, Danny had been to “what they call Midnight Mass” at St. Peter’s Church in Vatican City. The place was huge and beautiful, he said. “Pope Pius XII was going to be there, so we figured we would go to see the Pope, if nothing else. We got in there and came quickly to the conclusion that quite a number of other people had the same idea. So, we found ourselves in a predicament that we began wishing we weren’t in. Yea, it was fascinating to see what people do and try to get by with in a crowd. I was looking for a bunch of damn Monks to bunt through and start a second layer. ha. . . . Oh yes, I got to see the Pope.”

Foggia (2)

Three pilots stayed in a hotel “that was plenty OK,” with good chow and a dance every night. Rome was cleaner than other towns, and the people were clean and well-dressed, considering, he said. The stores were full of things, but also expensive. He’d taken a Red Cross bus tour and looked over “the famous sights of Roma,” including St. Paul’s church, the Coliseum, and the Catacombs.

The Wilsons were not church-goers, but on Christmas Eve, Danny attended “what they call Midnight Mass” at St. Peter’s Church in Vatican City. The place was huge and beautiful, he said. “Pope Pius XII was going to be there, so we figured we would go to see the Pope, if nothing else. We got in there and came quickly to the conclusion that quite a number of other people had the same idea. So, we found ourselves in a predicament that we began wishing we weren’t in. Yea, it was ‘fascinating’ to see what people do and try to get by with in a crowd. I was looking for a bunch of damn Monks to bunt through and start a second layer. ha. . . . Oh yes, I got to see the Pope.”

Rome6 (3)

Rome5 (2)

Later there had been a Christmas party for orphan kids at the hotel. They got presents and Danny said they had a swell time. They were more fortunate than kids and people living among the ruins of their bombed towns.

Catacombe di S. Callisto Salesiant di S. Biov Bosco Roma VIA APPIA ANTICA 110 TELEF. 70.494 Autobus n. 220 dal COLOSSEO A. Blasetti Roma

“I expect this letter will be received by you a few days after your birthday, Dad. I want to let you know I’m thinking of you and Mom always,” he writes. He figures out that the place his parents bought isn’t far from where he and Junior had chased a fox one day. Hoping Junior made it home for a few days, he adds, “Say, maybe Dad and Junior are thinking of such ventures.”

The 14th Fighter Group had 150 combat pilots, fifty of them in Danny’s squadron. His squadron had flown fifty-two missions during December, forty-nine of them bomber escort. Two pilots in Dan’s squadron had been seriously injured that month. One returning from a mission crashed twenty-three miles from the base. Italians rescued him and turned him—with a serious head injury–over to the British. A hut mate of Dan’s was hospitalized with third-degree burns after a crash landing at another field due to engine failure.

 

 

8 comments

    • I’m especially taken by Danny Wilson’s writing, how bold it was. Of course by now I can tell which brother wrote which letter even when it’s typed. I remember Mom, Grandma, and Aunt Darlene trying to read some of the old letters. They broke out in tears upon seeing the handwriting. Now I understand.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.