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"Move Your Feet"

On August 12, 1943, as the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division pressed German troops across northern Sicily, the enemy blew up part of the coast road near Cape Calava, dropping a 150 foot stretch into the sea, leaving a yawning gap to block the American advance.

The division engineers promptly began building a bridge to span the gap, an operation reported on by ace war correspondent Ernie Pyle.

Pyle observed the engineers at their task, and later wrote about weary men battling fatigue as they worked well into the night, under great pressure to complete the task as soon as possible, wrestling equipment into place, while risking imminent death from either accident or the harassing fire of the enemy,.

At one point Pyle watched as an engineer was dragging an air hose in the dark.  As he man passed some soldiers sleeping by the side of the road, the hose became entangle in one man's feet.

Tugging at the hose, the engineer looked down at the soldier and said "If you're not working get the hell out of the way."

Whereupon, Lucian K. Truscott, the division commander, "got up and moved further back without saying a word."

BookNote:  Wilson A. Heefner’s recent Dogface Soldier: The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr. (American Military Experience (University of Missouri)) , gives an excellent account of the career of this largely forgotten soldier.

 

Scorecard: The Italian Wars (1494-1559)

In 1494 King Charles VIII of France (r. 1483-1498) decided to assert the rights of the House of Anjou to the throne of Naples, which just than was being ruled by a cadet branch of the House of Aragon, cousins to King Ferdinand II Aragon (r. 1479-1516), the husband of Queen Isabel of Castile & Leon (r. 1474-1504).  There followed a series of wars collectively known as the Habsburg-Valois Wars or the Italian Wars, which did not come to an end until 1559.  For the most part, these wars saw France fighting Spain, each supported by an ever-changing array of allies, in the true spirit of that treacherous age which gave us Machiavelli and the Borgia.

  • First Italian War or the Caroline War (1494-1495): Although the French quickly overran most central Italy and of Naples, Charles only stayed in the kingdom for a few weeks, before retiring northwards.  Meanwhile, Ferdinand II of Aragon came to his cousins’ rescue (we won’t get into the several changes of the Neapolitan throne during this war at this time), leaving Charles with few Fruits of Victory
  • Second Italian War or Louis XII's Italian War (1499–1504): Allied with the Swiss and Venetians, Louis XII of France (r. 1498-1515), overran Milan, and then cut a wonderfully devious deal with Ferdinand II to rob the latter’s kinsman Federigo of Naples (r. 1496-1501) of his kingdom, which was promptly done.  Naturally, the two royal thieves soon fell out over the loot, leading to a war in which the Spanish ousted the French from Naples by the end of 1503, in a brilliant campaign conducted by Gonzalvo de Cordoba, El Gran Capitan.”
  • Third Italian War or the War of the League of Cambrai or the War of the Catholic League (1508–1516): This began with an alliance among Spain, France, Pope Julius II (r. 1503-1513), and some other powers against Venice.  The alliance was somewhat successful, but by 1510 the Pope realized that the French were a bigger threat than the Venetians, and promptly allied himself with Venice, and later Spain as well, against France.  In 1513, after major French victories and the death of Pope Julius, Venice switched to the French.  This tipped the scales in favor of France, and in 1515, King Francis I of France (r. 1515-1547) secured a very favorable peace, leaving him and his allies in control of northern Italy.
  • Fourth Italian War (1521–1525):  In 1516 Charles I became King of Spain, inherited from his mother, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabel, and three years later, because he had a Hapsburg father, became Holy Roman Emperor and Duke of Burgundy (today Belgium and the Netherlands), as well.  Feeling himself surrounded, Francis I decided to go to war, but despite a Turkish alliance, lost big time, and even ended up a prisoner-of-war in 1525, concluding a peace highly favorable to Charles and pledging never to take up arms against the Emperor-King again.
  • Fifth Italian War or the War of the League of Cognac (1526–1530): Hardly was Francis a free man again when, despite his royal word to keep the peace, he allied himself with Pope Clement VII (r. 1523-1534) and numerous Italian states in a new war against the Emperor, who won after a hard struggle, during which there was the terrible Sack of Rome.   
  • Sixth Italian War (1536–1538): The death of the Duke of Milan led to a short war between Francis and Charles which was essentially a draw, as both men had problems elsewhere.
  • Seventh Italian War (1542–1546): Allying himself once again with the Turks, Francis again attempted an invasion of Italy, so Charles allied himself with Henry VIII of England (r. 1509-1547), and the two led an invasion of France from the Netherlands.  After some inconclusive fighting in both theatres and along the Pyrenees, a peace was concluded that left little changed.   
  • Eighth Italian War (1551–1559):  Francis was succeeded by Henry II (r. 1547-1559), who decided to try for control of Italy once again.  He didn’t do very well on any front (though a brief English attempt to enter the war on Charles’ side did lead to the French capturing Calais after several centuries of English rule).  Meanwhile, in 1556, tired of war, Charles abdicated his thrones, leaving Spain to his son Philip II (r. 1556-1598) and the Hapsburg lands to his brother, who shortly became Emperor Ferdinand II (r. 1558-1564), and retired to a monastery.  The war dragged on a couple of years more, but by then even the remarkably slow learning Valois family could see that Italy belonged to Spain.

Arguably, these wars were really only manifestations of a struggle that began in the mid-13th century between the House of Hohenstaufen and its heirs, ultimately the Crown of Spain, and the House of Anjou and its heirs, the Crown of France, which did not end until 1815. 


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