When writing Rose of Anzio, I had read many first-hand accounts of the experience of American nurses and soldiers who were part of Operation Shingle during WWII. Their descriptions of what had happened on Anzio Beach were so vivid, I wished we can visualize what they had witnessed. I suggested the idea to graphic artist Jeff Brown. He eagerly took up the challenge and created this stunning picture of WW2 Anzio Beach at night. His illustration was inspired by a scene in Chapter 4 in Rose of Anzio Book 3-Desire, which is scheduled for release on Amazon on August 3. Below is an excerpt from that chapter. In that scene, Tessa was returning from the field hospital to her tent.
Rose of Anzio – Desire
Chapter 4 Excerpt
Leaving everything behind for the time being, Tessa hustled from the hospital to her tent with her head down. At this hour, there were very few people outside. The German air raid might come at any moment and no one wanted to be exposed. Several corpsmen who had arrived at Anzio before her had warned her. The enemy, they liked to attack at night.
No sooner had she finished that thought, the first sounds of attack began. The evening twilight had vanished. She had her small flashlight with her, but there was no need for it. The gunfire in the air had set the sky ablaze, illuminating the ground many times brighter than even the streetlights at night in London or Chicago.
It must have rained hard earlier in the day. She walked as fast as she could on the wet, muddy ground without slipping to a fall. Her breath quickened as she hastened her speed. The massive odor of diesel fuel in the air penetrated her lungs. She felt lightheaded. She covered her mouth and nose and hoped she wouldn’t faint before she reached her tent.
She found her tent and hurried toward it. Once inside, she collapsed face down onto her cot and lay there until her heartbeat slowed back down to normal. Inside the tent, it was dark, but she could not turn on any lights. The army command had imposed a strict blackout policy on all units.
Gracie had already returned. Beneath the thunderous booms of explosions outside were the muffled whimpers of her cries only a few feet away. Tessa looked over and stared at the outline of her body lying on her cot, hiding and sniffling under her blanket.
The wheeling sounds of German Stuka engines hovered all over above her. Whistles of bombs dropping down from the sky whirled all around. The whistles grew louder as they fell nearer to the ground until the bombs landed with a thud. Tessa squeezed the corner of her blanket. She wanted everything to be over, but the noise would not let up. It only intensified as each minute went by.
And then, she understood. The night raid was not an anomaly. Here, at Anzio, this was how things would be. Anthony must have known it. This was why he dug the foxholes. This was why he looked so distracted and worried when he came to see her.
What should she do?
Maybe it was better to look the enemy in the eye. To see what was really happening.
She got up from her cot, opened the flap of her tent, and peeked out.
Outside, German planes were firing flares that were lighting up the sky and the entire stretch of the beach. The flares were profuse and constant. They did not allow for even a moment of natural darkness. She could see the entire beach, from the stretch of sand with the abandoned buildings lining behind it, to the dark waves flowing in while water erupted from exploding bombs dropped into the sea.
Although the beach was now as bright as daylight, the lights given from the flares were not like sunlight. They had an eerie, greenish quality to them. Under the greenish glow, the beach looked like a place that should exist only in a nightmare. The flashes of green light were followed by the drumming roars of anti-aircraft machine guns. When the machine guns fired their shells into the sky, they left behind traces of fire that looked like torn, falling threads and ribbons.
Horrified, yet mesmerized, Tessa stepped just outside of her tent to watch. The battle in the air was the most grotesque display of fireworks she had ever seen. This was what hell must look like.
Just when she thought that the noise around her couldn’t be any louder, a Stuka dropped a series of shells onto the Allies’ ammunition dump three miles north. Boom! A massive explosion followed. She covered her ears with both hands to block out the sound. The explosion burst into a colossal ball of fire. Its red and orange flames reached high up into the sky like the long claws of Satan’s hand, followed by a giant mushroom cloud of smoke and dust.
Screaming car horns and wailing ambulance sirens now joined the cacophony of explosions and bombs. A breeze of night wind blew past her, carrying with it the thick, burning smell of smoke.
Boom! Another gigantic explosion. This time coming from the sea. She turned to the direction of the harbor. Three German Stukas were circling above a ship sailing away out into the ocean. One of the Stukas sent a succession of flares into the air, illuminating the sky above the ship. The bright light of the flares revealed the large marking of a red cross painted on the side of the ship. Tessa gasped.
A Stuka soared up into the night sky, then turned around, dove down, and dropped several bombs onto the ship. The bombs exploded and fire broke out at the front and the back of the deck.
The fire was soon extinguished, but another Stuka flew over the ship and released more bombs. The vessel caught fire again. A surge of smoke rose from its hull. Tessa raised her hand to her lips and watched. Then, all the lights went out and the ship went dark.
Terror gripped her heart. The Germans, they would attack a medical ship!
How many people were on board? Two hundred? Three hundred? More? She could only hope that they could escape and be rescued. She didn’t want to watch anymore.
She went back inside the tent. On her cot, she sat down and hugged her legs close to her body, resting her chin on her knees. The cold, damp air around her offered no comfort. The booming sounds of exploding bombs continued.
The foxhole. Anthony had told her to sleep in the foxhole. She reached her hand behind her and slid it under the tent to touch the foxhole’s edge. The soft, wet mud of the ground felt slimy under her fingers. She slid her hand further and felt a puddle of cold water.
Why was there a puddle of water? She lifted up the tent a few inches to take a look. The foxhole was flooded. Completely flooded. The heavy rain earlier had filled it like a bath tub.
She let the canvas fall back onto the ground. If she went to sleep, could she wake up to find that this was all just a nightmare? She lay down on her side, curled her body up and pulled the blanket over herself.
She closed her eyes and thought of home. What would her parents think if they knew what was happening in this place? They would be so upset. She came to find Anthony, but what if she was wounded? If medical ships could not escape, then how would she get back to them?
Her parents. She wanted to go back to her parents. They were waiting for her, waiting for the day they would reunite as a family. She couldn’t be separated from them with no way of going home.
What if she were killed? What if she never saw them again?
No. Can’t think like this, she told herself. If she hadn’t come, Anthony would be here without anybody. They would all be in safe places, and he would be living this nightmare all by himself.
He was out there somewhere. Where was he? What was he doing now?
What if the shells falling from the sky hit him? The thought made her want to scream, but her throat was tight and no sound came out. Her body felt stiff and she was unable to move.
What if she never saw him again?
~ End of Excerpt ~