The following is an excerpt from my soon to be released book about Virginia Brouk, a member of the World War II Women’s Army Corps. The Tiger’s Widow is book 2 in the Stories of the Lost series and continues the story of Flying Tiger Robert Brouk’s life through the life of his widow. This is one of the letters she sent home. Please visit my website for details on ordering this new book starting July 22.
“Somewhere in Italy”
After a most pleasant trip, we have arrived somewhere in Italy. The voyage across was really wonderful. At times one could not realize a war was on, for one had male companionship and entertainment galore; such as dances, movies and romance.
Oh no, I never got seasick. In fact, I never felt better in my life. I can’t kick about the food as yet. Of course, milk is a drink of the past. Therefore, I have to try to settle for wine. The water is so heavily chlorinated that it doesn’t make drinking a pleasure.
Yes, I am able to tell you, that it’s perfectly beautiful here. That’s about all. The views around here even surpass the beauty of Utah; and I thought that was impossible. I am speaking of course about the terrain. This place has been heavily bombed and there are signs of war everywhere. Beautiful homes, cathedrals, etc. are in a mass of destruction. The people are clothed very poorly, and I am certain they haven’t seen a shower for ages. One can see young boys and girls, as well as adults, stand around and beg for food and cigarettes. In fact you can almost buy anything you want with a package of cigarettes.
Their language is positively a nightmare to me. My Swiss isn’t getting me anywhere. You know, how capable I am of handling American money, so you can readily imagine what a mess I can get into here. I try to use the good old sign language but at times I only get a blank stare in return.
We girls have a lovely place to stay at now. We sleep on cots and roll ourselves in blankets. What are those things called sheets? By the way, I must tell you, we have servants to scrub our floors, shoes, latrines, and clean up. Not bad, eh? We don’t have any hot water, but are very thankful to have it cold. Days have elapsed when we have not seen a drop, and anything is welcome now.
We discovered a new easy method in which to iron shirts and skirts without our iron or electricity. Just wash clothes and then press them dry with the palms of the hand in the sun. It only takes hours, but then one looks quite stunning.
Quaint people, quaint customs, destruction and suffering sum up my experiences and eye-witness scenes thus far. Truly a novel in itself already.
Since we haven’t any electricity, we live like little chicks. “early to bed, early to rise.”
P.S. I saw the Rock of Gibraltar, but by jinks, there was no Prudential Life Insurance sign on it. “Ain’t that something!”[i]
“To get away from the war torn areas after work, we usually got a group together, hopped on a military truck and went up the mountainside to a lovely retreat. There we relaxed, had some drinks and danced. My escort in Italy was a Lieutenant. I met him on the boat. In the states, non-coms [non-commissioned personnel] could not date officers, but overseas there were no rules. Bob and I were in Naples. When I went to Cairo, he went to France and I never heard from him again. He was a paratrooper.[ii]
While in Naples we drove to Pompeii and saw Mt. Vesuvius which had erupted just a few months before, and was still emitting smoke and tossing large clumps of lava in every direction. What a breathtaking sight. Lethal yes, but beautiful.[iii]
By now Rome was completely taken over by the Americans. Thus began the second invasion. We WACs were sent to Taranto via Salerno. We arrived in Taranto and Boarded the Polish ship, Batory which was manned by the British. The ship also carried Indian troops heading back to India. We left port and traveled to Alexandria, Egypt.”[iv]
[i] Virginia S. Davis (Scharer), “War scrapbook letter collection.”
[ii] Virginia S. Davis (Scharer), “Memoir 1918 – 2010,” 193.
[iii] Virginia S. Davis (Scharer), “Memoir 1918 – 2010,” 194.
[iv] Virginia S. Davis (Scharer), “Memoir 1918 – 2010,” 195.