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Melvin C. Shaffer World War II Photographs: Italy / Southern France

Images of Italy / Southern France (see more)

Shaffer's Personal Account

Melvin C. Shaffer Collection

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Shaffer's Personal Accounts

During the fall of 1943, the war zone shifted from North Africa to Sicily and then to Italy itself. With the invasion at Salerno in September, 1943, the entire Allied war effort was directed to the drive up the Italian peninsula. After a brief sortie to Italy for the invasion at Salerno, I returned to Algiers to complete various assignments before transferring to Italy in late 1943. I remained in Italy, continuing to document the various campaigns for the Army pretty much as the battle lines advanced, until the invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944. The nine months following the southern France invasion (and the D-day invasion of Normandy) were months of intensive activity on all fronts. And, even though I was based in Naples, for the next year I had photographic assignments in both France and Germany as well as Italy itself.

These were increasingly difficult assignments as the war effort was at maximum intensity along every front. In general, the military force in Italy was split into two elements: those remaining in Italy and pursuing the Germans north; and those who invaded Southern France and then became the main military force in the final push across France into southern Europe, a push more or less ending at Munich and the Dachau concentration camp, where I found myself on Victory Day.

The military operated a huge blood bank in Naples, which had its own aircraft (a C-47) for delivering blood to northern Italy, France and Germany. The plane normally carried 10,000 pints of blood each trip, which had been collected from the troops servicing the base at Naples. This aircraft served as a convenient transport for me as I went back and forth to northern Italy and France. Two of these flights ended in crashes, leaving myself and a few others to deal with the blood supplies that remained intact. In all I made 29 flights from Naples to various points in Northern Italy, France, and Germany. In fact, travel during this time was constant and opportunities to take photographs of the local population became more and more difficult. Again, I have made every effort to describe these photographs of Italy and Southern France accurately, using my own memory and records.