Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Veterans provide great stories
We've been fortunate to have many friends that were in the Armed Forces during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. A lot of these guys have passed on but some of the stories they have told us will remain with us.
As a charter captain specializing in striped bass fishing in the waters of the Great Bay system, we cherished our times out fishing with several veterans that we offered a free trip to. One of them, Jack Colliton of Greenland, told us about his service in Italy, as part of the famous 1st Mountain Division. Colliton and a great high school-friend (wish we could recall his first name but will call him his last name - Hoyt) quit Portsmouth High School in their senior year and with permission from their parents, joined the U.S. Army, but not without the guarantee they would be assigned to the Mountain Division, as they were both skilled and very enthusiastic snow skiers.
The Army obligated these two volunteers, as Jack and Hoyt stayed together in both basic and all the advanced training that the Mountain Division called for. Because one of our Army's goals was to invade Germany by going over and through the Alps in Italy, both of them were assigned to that effort, but when landing together there they were separated and went into combat in different parts of the county.
Jack was hit by enemy mortar fire and had some serious wounds, so was sent back down the peninsular of Italy to a hospital, where after a month of surgery and rehab, he was considered fit for duty. By then, Jack had a few stripes on his arm and had some authority. So when they lined him up to go back to his unit on an open "cattle car" type of a truck where the troops were so crowded that they had to stand instead of sit, he announced that he was going to get back to his unit by hitching rides from the large amount of Army traffic headed to the front.
"That's where the fun started! The Italian people loved us G.I.s. They would welcome you into their homes with open arms and as well as they could relay the fact that they hated the Germans." Jack told us that as soon as they stopped shooting at the U.S. soldiers they turned their guns on the Germans.
So taking his merry old time in getting back to his unit and enjoying the great generosity and welcome of the Italians, he was about two weeks into his journey when a jeep he flagged down stopped to pick him up and do you believe it was his friend Hoyt at the wheel.
"We were still about a hundred or so miles away from my unit, so we took plenty of time to get there." "How much time Jack?" "Oh, about two weeks," he laughed. "We had a lot of great stays and lots of partying with the Italians and more than one romance along the way."
My friend Jack passed away suddenly this last year. We are so grateful that we had the chance to spend some time fishing and listening to him. And Jack, whose striper fishing annually would probably result in a couple of successes, wore out our rods. With my fist mate Brad Conner also handling a rod, Jack landed more stripers that day and larger fish than he'd done in his whole striper-fishing career.
We had anther World War II veteran on a paid fishing trip, never knowing until he finished the day that he had been at war. He wanted to get out fishing and his phone call indicated that whoever he was going with cancelled out and it was only him to go.
Normally we didn't do trips for one person and the financial reality was that it wouldn't pay but something in his phone call made us quickly agree to take him. Brad and I met him at the Portsmouth Pierce Island landing and his dress and great New Hampshire accent quickly identified him as a real country boy but his age was definitely World War II vintage. We had such a good time with him. And we wore him out after making him land 28 feisty striped bass, some that he'd hooked and some that Brad had hooked. There wasn't one fish that we landed that day that made the 28-inch legal size limit.
In conversation we'd learned that he'd been a pilot during World War II but getting many war stories came hard. But he did tell us that he was still flying and had his own plane and landing strip. We took that with a grain of salt, knowing his age and imagining his circumstances.
We had a legal fish that we'd caught the previous day. The day following his fishing trip we called and talked to his wife and told her that we'd be bringing up some nice striper fillets. When we got to his home he was in the process of building a huge barn to house his granddaughter's horse and also in the field was a landing strip and as pretty a single engine airplane as you could ever see! You gotta love those World War II veterans.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.