I had the honor of meeting Larry at the 2008 Reunion in Lebanon PA. What a great guy; warm and friendly! He's still going strong at age 93! God bless you Larry!
The following photo is one of the images featured in the intro of my documentary. I always loved the photo because it expressed so much. Says it all doesn't it?
The only thing I ever knew about it; it was a 36th Engineer. That is until this week. I received some correspondence from Larry Babine, whom I met for the first time at the 2007 Seahorses Reunion.
Well it turns out THAT photo is Larry, and I found out the whole story behind it. So once again after many moons, I can put a face and name to an image.
His letter also brought up memories of my dad, for he was injured by a mortar shell on his motorcycle during the breakout from Anzio.
Here is the doc Larry sent me via email...
Having just received pictures of 36th Engineers via e-mail, has brought back memories of a rugged period from May 21 to June 6, 1944.
On May 21 I was part of a platoon size battle patrol on Anzio. With no reason why, we were sent out in broad daylight [a no no] to go as far as possible into enemy lines. We went about one mile without any contact until suddenly we discovered we were let into a trap. All Hell broke loose and the man with me [I’ve lost his name, I only remember he was Polish] was instantly cut down by a machine pistol. What happened next is a blur. I ended up in the roadside ditch and the German vanished.
For the next half hour [I’m only guessing] I was under fire from an 88 gun that kept hitting the road bank. When I nearly reached the point of panic, the firing suddenly stopped and I was wrapped in a white mist. My first thought was that I had been painlessly killed and that I was wrapped in the arms of God. Gradually I realized I was still alive and in one piece. Then followed a strange series of events when I got
distinct orders to move NOW. As soon as got settled in a shell hole I would once again get the order to move. In this way the Germans were never able to pin point me with their mortar.
It was while I was resting [getting my breath] in one of those shell holes that I saw our Lt. Fallon hurrying back along the road to our lines and his head was covered with blood. I never saw him again until our Regimental reunion 60 years later. After a long time – no idea how long – I finally made it back to our lines and I can remember being speechless, probably deaf too.
On the night of May 22 – 23 I was once more on the battle patrol and was out front at the start of the massive artillery bombardment that shook the entire Anzio Beachhead. New infantry was coming ashore for the breakout but I saw none of it.
The day after the breakout we loaded on trucks and headed in the direction of Valletri where we entered into a fierce three day battle to close the road from the south to the retreating Germans. During this three day battle I saw three men killed within a few feet of me [one was torn to pieces but was taken away screaming] Later I was standing against the wall of a stone farmhouse with two GI’s when a German mortar shell landed in the courtyard and shrapnel hit the two men who were three feet from me.
My memory is pretty sketchy about the details but I remember chewing dusty grape leaves for water. I remember two German machine gunners trying to surrender after running out of ammo and being shot in the back [own officers]. It was a time of sheer chaos no one was sure where the enemy was and for a time we were in the crossfire of more than two machine guns. The enclosed photo shows how I felt after three days without sleep or food.
I must have bounced back after a close encounter with PTSD and a trip to the medics, a morphine shot and a night’s sleep. The next day after loading up for the run to Rome we were caught in a traffic jam. That’s when I learned not everyone was anxious to catch up to the enemy. Our Major with some help went forward to check on the traffic jam only to find that a British AA outfit had parked on the road whilst they made 5 o’clock tea. With a little help from us the equipment was pushed off the road. They could not understand why we were in such a hurry. It’s been a good laugh for many years.
This photo of Larry was taken in April 1945, near Ulm, Germany
And a recent photo of my friend, taken on his 93rd birthday in October of 2007.