Author: Frank Maio
Returning to Italy after nearly a month in Turkey was great. The only work to be done at this
The Italian Marxist-Leninist terrorist group Brigate Rosse or Red Brigades officially disbanded in the 1980s
point was picking up the pieces. At the end of the day, it was off to the old “watering holes” and good food. One had to be careful, of course. The Red Brigade was very much in evidence at that time and there was a very active Communist Party.
The Italian Communist Party in the mountain region used to meet in a Bar and Restaurant called Moretti’s in Udine, an ancient town in northeastern Italy. I recall being on town patrol one night and getting a call that a drunk airman had wandered into the bar was causing mayhem where one such meeting was taking place and. Jack, an Apache Indian, had been in the Air Force for a few years when he got to our base but he had NO stripes, so when payday came he would get into a few crap games win a good bit of money and hit the town. By
Moretti’s Beer House & Restaurant Udine Italy
the time we got to Moretti’s in our Jeep, the restaurant’s front window had been broken out and locals were lying all over the place, Jack coming out the door with the Hammer and sickle in his hands.
Northern Italy was as close as you would get in that area to Communism, and Boris was our enemy at that time; Hungary a few hundred miles to the Northwest and Yugoslavia about 65 miles to the Northwest and the locals, so it was interesting at times.
You never could tell what might happen in Udine. For example, a movie company showed up in Udine. It seemed that Rock Hudson, Jennifer Jones, Vittorio De Sica, Kurt Kaszner came to make “A Farewell to Arms”, Hemingway’s epic. A friend of mine, Roger Dabbert and I went up to the set one day to see what was going on. While walking around the movie trailers out came Rock Hudson and we introduced ourselves. He was surprised that there were Americans locally. We explained how we got there and he invited us into his trailer for a box lunch. During the conversation he asked if we had a BX and of course we did, he was dying for some good old American Peanut Butter. We delivered same and got front row seating during most of the filming when we could be there.
New orders arrived and we were off for the 633rd AC&W at Wheelus Field, Libya. Back in 1954 the United States and Libya had signed an agreement that the U.S. could use Wheelus and its gunnery range. During the Cold War, there were thousands of Americans there and the U.S. Ambassador to Libya once called Wheelus “a Little America…on the sparkling shores of the Mediterranean,” although temperatures at the base frequently reached 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (43 to 50 degrees Celsius).
Our plane landed and we were quickly ushered into the base theater. Once again, I found myself in a clime totally unsuited for man nor beast. Although dressed in khakis the heat inside the un-air conditioned theater was unbearable. After a few short welcoming remarks from a few officers, a Sergeant takes the stage and in a booming voice begins telling us how horrible conditions were and the rules regarding them. Rules such as, never go to town (Tripoli) alone, never go the “Old Section”, ever. If you do go to town always travel in large numbers and if by chance you get drunk and break a local law, do not expect the State Department to assist you in getting out. In most cases you would be accorded the same punishment that was for all. If you steal, the hand that stole would be cut off, peeking into windows would have your eye or eyes poked out. Sitting in this HOT theater hearing all of this “it really is not a bad place, but…”, kind of made you wonder why anyone in this world would build the largest military supply base
Luxury Barracks-at last a perk.
there. To finish off the education portion of the ‘Welcome to’…, a Sargent got up and said, “now gentlemen, here is a friendly reminder, if for some reason you decide to go AWOL, we can watch you for days if you go South, West and East from the Control Tower and if you go North, well we can watch you till your arms get tired of swimming”. With that we were escorted to our barracks. They were my first encounter with two man rooms and a very nice ones at that. Those with dependents might find a nice apartment in town, but they had to have a live in servant, this afforded security, as the locals did not bother their own.