In Loving Memory of Joseph Anthony Yannacci

Joseph Anthony Yannacci

Joseph Anthony Yannacci (deceased) served on the S.S. William Dean Howells. His son will be happy to hear from any shipmates of his Dad and can be emailed at jyann1@aol.com

Joseph Anthony Yannacci in 1944


             Letter of Commendation

April 14, 1944

From:   Chief of Naval Personnel

To:     YANNACCI, Joseph Anthony, Radioman Third Class, V-6, United
States Naval Reserve.

Via:    Commanding Officer, Armed Guard Center, Receiving Station,
South Brooklyn, New   York.

Subj.   Commendation

1.           The Chief of Naval Personnel takes pleasure in commending
you for outstanding service as a member of the Armed Guard Unit aboard
the SS WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS during action against enemy aircraft at
Salerno, Italy, September 11-17, 1943.

2.           A report of the experience reveals that the enemy made
approximately thirty-eight bombing attacks on the ships in the
anchorage, and that your vessel was dive-bombed on numerous occasions.
 Sixteen times the deadly missiles straddled the ship, scattering
shrapnel and debris over the decks.  Forced to remain at battle
stations almost continuously throughout the six day period, the Navy
Gun Crew performed brilliantly as their prompt and accurate shellfire
repeatedly diverted the hostile aircraft from their course and scored
direct hits which aided in the destruction of several planes.

3.           Your courageous and highly effective action on the above
occasion was in keeping with the best traditions of the United States
Naval Service.

4.           A copy of this letter has been made a part of your
official record in the bureau.

Randall Jacobs

Chief of Naval Personnel

                    Invasion of Italy

Friday, Sept. 3, 1943

        Left the port of Oran Africa at 12:30 noon.  At 3:00 we joined
another convoy making a total of about 50 ships in the whole convoy. 
We are carrying 300 troops and 12 officers and the cargo is tanks,
half tracks, trucks, jeeps, bombs, gas, oil, food and a few
miscellaneous.  We got a pep talk from the gunnery officer, which,
innocent as it sounded, it is evident that we are not on a picnic. 
First day out and all is well.

Saturday, Sept. 4, 1943

Second day out and already trouble.  The engines are proving their
uselessness by going on the bum.  The rudder is also getting out of
control. However we will deliver the goods if we have to get out and
push. 11:00 and the engines are fixed and we have only dropped behind
about 5 miles.

11:30.  We have started a zig zag course.  I thought there were subs
in this area, but it is only to delay us as we are ahead of schedule.
Smooth sailing

Sunday, Sept. 5, 1943

Third day out and a pretty dull one.  Broke the monotony by having an
argument with the amphibious crew, who are proving to be the laziest
bunch of jerks I ever hope to meet.

Received a message by blinker from the Senior Officer of the Naval
Escort that we will pull into Bizerte.  We are about 4 days ahead of
"D" day which is our day to land.

Monday, Sept. 6, 1943

Fourth day out.  Pulled into Bizerte at 8:30.  Expect to stay a couple
of days.  At 2030, the three hospital ships weighed anchor and went
out about 3 miles and dropped anchor.  That isn't a very good omen. 
Forgot to mention three British aircraft carriers and two cruisers
came in this afternoon at 2:00.  They all opened their guns at a
German reconnaissance plane which isn't out joy riding.  I don't think
they got it.  A dull day until . . . . . . . . .

2100.  Them lousy            s.  They don't even give us a chance to
finish the smoke screen.  Here they come.  There are seven of them. 
Oh Christ, I'm scared.  They sure ain't here to find out what the
weather is like.  The Russian is in his gun and I'm right beside him. 
The shore batteries opened up.  The "Hugh Williamson" (a liberty ship)
off to our starboard beam, was the first to open up her guns after the
shore batteries. And then we cut loose, along with everybody else. 
Gosh, the sky sure looked pretty.  It was like the carnival back home
at Smith's playground the night of the 4th only 50 times better.  When
I saw the first bomb hit the oil dump I sure wished I was at the
carnival.  The jerks lost 3 planes, but Bizerte sure took an awful
beating.  I don't know why they keep bombing the place. It's down to
the ground now.  But it is a good "stopping off" port between Oran and
all the other African ports and Sicily.  The raid lasted 45 minutes. A
good ending to a dull day.  I wish I was back in Boston.

Tuesday, Sept. 7, 1943

Very quiet all day.  Just watched the soldiers play cards.  We
expected another raid tonight but they disappointed us for which I am
not sorry.

Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1943

Still in Bizerte.  I haven't much of an itch to stay here.  We got
some good news tonight.  Italy has agreed to "Unconditional
Surrender."  I guess all the resistance we get now will be from the

Thursday, Sept. 9, 1943

Left Bizerte at 12:30 today.  It won't be long now before we hit
Italy.  Learned this afternoon that General Alexander took Naples this

Friday, Sept. 10, 1943

Had a submarine attack at 8:00 this morning.  The escort drove them
off with depth charges.  Smooth sailing until 2030 this evening when
the subs came back again.  They didn't hang around long though.

2045.  Another air raid.  They are pretty high and their bombs don't
even come close.  But neither does any of our barrage.

Saturday, Sept. 11, 1943

At 4:30 this morning the general alarm for an air attack went off.
Enemy planes bombed the beach for about an hour.  We sailed by without
any trouble.

8:10.  We anchored in port.  I don't know what the name of the place

9:30.  Holy Christ, the end of the world has come.  The alarm goes off
and in 10 seconds we are all at our stations.  The Jerries have scored
a direct hit on the cruiser Savannah, just forward of the
superstructure.  The raid was over at 10:10.

11:30 and they are here again.  Oh, I wish they would give us a little
rest in between raids.  This one lasts 15 minutes, but we don't leave
our battle stations.  What the hell is the use.  They'll be back

20 minutes later and they are here again.  Christ, don't these guys
even stop to eat?!!?  My ears are ringing from the Russian's gun. 
They go and come!  Go and come.  So far we have had 5 raids.  Nice
welcome.  We get a little rest and something to eat and go back to our
stations to keep a lookout for planes.

1745.  Another attack.  Our P38's meet them and drive them off.

2210.  They come back to take stock of the situation and leave.  The
watch is secured and we get some sleep.

Sunday, Sept. 12, 1943

3:00.  The alarm goes off and I almost break my neck getting out of
the sack.  The destroyers lay a smoke screen around everybody except
us. *!!?x!  I just about dropped my load when the Jerries dropped
flares all around us and 4 of them right over us.  We were lit up like
a church.  I can't remember ever being so scared in all my life. 
Bombs fell all around us and my heart dropped down into one of my
shoes.  We finally got a smoke screen around us and I thanked God with
all my heart.

Another alarm at 9:10 and a couple of bombs dropped, but no hits. We
stayed up on our stations and kept a lookout in the sun.  My face and
eyes are on fire.

1200.  I went down for chow and I was right in the middle of veal,
potatoes and beans when the alarm went off.  The guns were already
cutting loose when I got in the gun tub.  One plane got it right in
the nose and it was the first plane I saw come down.  It came down
like a bat out of hell about a mile from us and blew up as soon as it
hit.  I got an awful sickening feeling inside me.

12:30.  All clear and once more I settle down to eat, but what the
hell, I no more than get a mouthful and these sons of         are back
again. We get three more raids and I get disgusted and finally I make
a sandwich out of a the veal which is cold as hell and bring it up on
the bridge and eat.

Shaves and showers are all forgotten.  We get a couple of false alarms
during the afternoon and cuss like hell.  It isn't enough we get real
ones, but we have to put up with the false alarms too.

7:10.  Here they come.  Right out of the sun and we don't see them
until they are right on us.  Everybody cuts loose.  This one doesn't
last long, but at this rate neither will we.

8:00.  The regular watch takes over and the rest secure.

Monday, Sept. 13, 1943

4:10.  Right about on schedule.  But we have a good smoke screen and a
pretty heavy fog.

7:30.  Right on time again.  No hits but one of the poor never went
back.  He never even reached the ground.

At 11:00 a half dozen dive bombers came tearing out of the sun and let
their bombs go.  Two of them landed off the bow and the third landed
about a 100 yards off our port beam.  Too close for comfort.  When one
of those bombs lands in the water it makes "Old Faithful" look like a

11:38.  Another false alarm.  Christ, will I be glad when we get out
of here.

1:45.  The alert went off again, but it was only our own planes
overhead.  The Sicily invasion was a picnic compared to this.  In 52
hours we have had 18 air raids.  Boston was never like this.

3:00.  I was in my sack when I heard the roar of a plane and gunfire.
I hit the deck like a ton of bricks and then ran up on the bridge just
in time to see a bomb land off our starboard quarter.  These guys
ain't fooling. They strafed this time.  About 45 minutes after I saw a
thin stream of smoke about 25000 ft. and then a whistle.  A 500
pounder came down and landed about 50 ft. from the cruiser
Philadelphia.  It was too high for our guns so we held our fire.  But
the three inch cut loose.  Then all the guns on the Philly cut loose. 
One of the plane started to smoke and began to hightail away.  Then it
went into a dive.  That was another plane that never reached "terra

At 4:30 another alarm but it was false and we secured at 4:35.  We had
hoped to get unloaded as quick as possible and haul our tail out of
here, but a destroyer came alongside with the good news that there
were five ships coming in with priority and they were taking the
stevedores off our ship to unload those five.  Boy, did everybody

5:45.  They are after the cruisers again.  They dropped bombs near
them but no damage was done.  Two more alarms between 6:30 and 7:30.

At 9:00 another alarm went off and 6 Folk Waulfs came over to do some
heavy bombing.  We had a real good smoke screen, but after the screen
lifted an hour later, they were still around.  Some of the destroyers
and cruisers opened fire and I thought I saw a flare coming down.  But
when it blew up and lit half of Italy up I knew somebody must have
scored a direct hit in the bomb rack.

At 9:30 we got orders not to fire at any planes as some of our
fortresses were going to drop paratroopers in the vicinity.  So
although we had a couple of alarms that night we didn't fire.

11:58.  Anti-personnel bombs are dropping all along the beach.  I'm
sure glad they aren't anywhere us.

Tuesday, Sept. 14, 1943

Our first raid today was at 9:00 a.m.  No hits on either side.  But
awful close.  Two more raids between 9:00 and 12:00

2:50.  Holy Christ, they've cut their motors and are coming at us out
of the sun.  We can't see them.  All ships open up right into the sun.
 One bomb meant for us drops off our port beam.  One meant for the
John Payne drops off her starboard quarter.  But the one meant for the
Bushrod Washington falls right on the Bushrod W.  It went right down
#4 hold. Honest to God, you could see the refrigerator fly through the
air.  The port side is blown right off from the bridge up to #5 hold
and is she burning.  I went to school with the three radiomen.  I hope
they are o.k., except if they have the same battle stations that the
radiomen on this ship, I sure as hell don't ever hope to see them
again.  I still can't believe this is real.  Nobody on that ship had a
chance.  Our own 3 inch gun blew a plane in half.  I'll bet that
heinie never knew what hit him.  That sort of evens the score for the
Bushrod, as one of the gunners on the 3 inch had a friend on her too.
Jesus, this is worse than a nightmare.

Three more alarms this afternoon.  The first two were false, but so
help me, there was nothing false about the third.  This was at 5:45. 
A convoy of LST's were going between the ships up to the beach when 20
Foche Wulf 109's dive bombed.  Jesus, those limeys can shoot.  Their
20 mm men brought down two of them.  They let loose their bombs and
climbed high.  Christ, those jerks must be blind.  As close as all
those ships and LST's were they didn't even get a near hit.  Here they
come again and this time they're strafing.  All those LST's have
troops on them.  Oh, God almighty, this is wholesale slaughter.  Two
more planes come down.  The Russian pulverized a plane.  He's the
gunner I'm with.  I'll bet that plane looks like a sieve.  He isn't
coming down, but I'll bet my last dollar, that he don't reach his
base.  I hope they were as blind with their strafing as they were with
their bombs.

7:30.  The Bushrod Washington is still burning.  It's burning all over
now which doesn't do us much good as it will light up every thing for
a couple of miles around.  Her crew, what was left of them, abandoned
her early this afternoon.  Every once in a while some ammunition goes

10:20.  Another raid with no hits on either side.  It might just as
well be daylight the way the Bushrod's is burning.

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 1943

3:30.  Holy Christ.  They must have hit us as I'm thrown right out of
my sack.  I grab Edith (my life jacket) and hit for the bridge non
stop.  It is only the Bushrod.  Her powder magazine has exploded and
the concussion shook all the ships in the harbor.

7:30.  Wheat cakes, sausages, and a cup of coffee.  Christ, I don't
even get a chance to taste them and I'm starving.  10 Stukas cut loose
and a stick drops right on the "James Marshall."  One bomb went right
through the bridge but it was a dud.  One dropped right dead center in
a barge tied alongside the Marshall.  She went up in a puff of smoke. 
A destroyer pulled it away from the Marshall and sank it with depth
charges.  The crew has abandoned the Marshall.  There was little
damage done to it, but the dud might go off any time.

Everybody's face on our ship is either black from dirt or red from the
sun.  We keep our eyes on the sun all day.  My lips are awful sore and
I don't even enjoy a cigarette anymore.

Two more alarms.  10:00 and 11:10.  Shot one plane down at 10:00. The
second raid they hit a navy tanker, but the flames were under control
in 15 minutes.

We are so anxious to get out of here that the merchant crew has
started to unload the ship themselves, and those guys don't do a lick
of extra work unless they get overtime for it.  Well, they aren't
getting anything for the work they are doing now.  I guess it has
dawned on them that money isn't everything, especially if they aren't
around to spend it.

6:30.  Here we go again.  There is about fifteen to twenty of them.
Another convoy of LST's are going into the beach and on top of that
there are two limey battle wagons, the closest ships to us, shelling
the coast.  No hits again.  I wish those battle wagons would get the
hell away from us. Two more German pilots among the deceased.  I'd
sure like to know where in the hell our air force is when all these
raids are going on.

7:00.  Four P-38's flying directly overhead and one is on fire.  The
pilot doesn't seem to know it but he sure as hell isn't going to know
it if he doesn't bail out.  He gets out about 2 miles and bails out. 
I guess he didn't want to let the plane crash around any of the ships.
The plane exploded when it hit the water.  A destroyer picked the
pilot up.  The unloading is going pretty slow.  Every time there is a
raid, the men have to stop and come up out of the holds.  However, we
may be unloaded in a couple of days.

Thursday, Sept. 16, 1943

As usual, the           s start right at breakfast time.  They beat it
pretty quick as the two battle wagons opened up on them and didn't
give them time to drop their eggs.  We had a long rest today before
the next one which came at 3:30.  20 dive bombers came at us out of
the sun.  Three of them kept right on coming.  Matter of fact, they
never went up again.  Well, while everybody is concentrating on those
dive bombers another plane dropped two high level bombs right over one
of the battle wagons.  Well, at least there is one guy in Hitler's
Luftwaffe that isn't so blind.  One landed away from the wagon but the
other one landed about a foot from the midships, which might just as
well have landed on it for all the damage it did.  Those limeys sure
got what it takes.  I couldn't even make a rough estimate on how many
were hurt or killed, but from all appearance it don't look so good. 
There aren't any flames but the smoke is awful thick.  Her guns are
still going as if nothing ever happened.  It's just like the first day
we were here when the "Savannah" got it.  She is headed for the open
sea now.

We had two more raids this afternoon.  Two planes left smoking.
Without any interference, we ought to be unloaded by tomorrow
afternoon. But, "without any interference" is just something to think

Friday, Sept. 17, 1943

8:00.  They're late today.  But it wouldn't grieve me one bit if they
didn't come at all.  As usual, they come right out of the sun, and we
get a close shave up at the bow.  Boy, the fellows up on the 3 inch
have had some rare thrills this week.  I'll bet they wouldn't want to
repeat any of them. Well, they didn't hit anything and neither did any
of the ships hit them.

11:00.  Jesus, did I hear that guy right??  A limey destroyer pulls up
alongside and nobody believes him the first time so he repeats it. 
"You will weigh anchor at 2:00 whether you are fully discharged or
not."  Christ, the guys are so happy they're kissing each other.  Even
I grab the Russian and give him a big peck on the cheek.  But of
course we have to get our "farewell" from the Luftwaffe yet.

1:35.  Oh mother!  Somebody must have told them we were leaving. Bombs
are falling like hailstones and I don't mean perhaps.  There are about
20 limey victory ships just coming in and I don't know if it's their
"welcome" or our "farewell," but I'm inclined to believe it's our
farewell. I loaded the Russian's gun 5 times on this raid which is the
most of all the raids.  They came and went the same as usual, except
that they came right back again.  This time two more pilots went to
the "happy hunting grounds."

2:00.  Listen to that anchor come up.  Boy, that's music to our ears.
We go just outside the anchorage and anchor again.  We sail at 4:00. 
We keep our look-out watches just the same, but we don't mind it now
that we know we are leaving here.  We still have some cargo in the #
1 & 3 holds.

4:00.  Up comes the anchor again and this time it stays up and we sail
out of this God forsaken place with 9 other ships.  If I never see
this place again I won't be sorry.

And so comes the end to seven miserable days here in Italy, 5 miles
from Salerno, in which I got sunburned on my face, lips, and arms,
lost from 10 to 15 pounds, got grey hair and with each raid, lost a
year of my life.

In closing this diary on the invasion of Italy, I can truthfully say
that I have not exaggerated any of the raids and, if anything at all,
I have in all probability under-exaggerated.  I may have left some
things out, but none that would change this diary as it is now.

I hope I never run into another experience like this last week.

The End

Joseph A. Yannacci, RM 3/C

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