Armistice of Cassibile
Seventy-seven years ago, it was announced that an armistice had been signed at Cassibile, Sicily between the Allies and the Kingdom of Italy. However, the war in Italy was far from over. German forces reacted to the announcement by seizing control and installing a puppet government.
On the 9th September, the day after the announcement, the Allies launched Operation Avalanche, landing near Salerno. Wade Meintzer was an officer in the 82nd Airborne and saw action following the landings.
In 2017 his son, Kyle and niece, Shauna were interviewed as part of our US75 oral history project. Kyle said that his father talked little of his wartime service, however after his death he did some research and was able to uncover some of the story. He states that ‘right after Salerno, dad apparently jumped into Sicily with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment because the colonel wanted to have a guy on the ground. The gliders were supposed to land in Sicily like on the second or third day but there was a mass confusion and a lot of our ships were shooting at the planes that were flying in the paratroopers. They cancelled that mission, but my dad went in with them to be on the ground, I don’t know how much combat he saw there but he did see combat in Monte Sant’Angelo Di Cava shortly after the invasion of Italy and he was awarded a Silver Star for ‘Gallantry in Action’.
Wade remained in Italy until October/November 1943 before being shipped to Northern Ireland. It was here he was to meet his future wife.
Shauna tells the story of how her Aunt Dorothy Kyle met Wade when he arrived in December 1943, ‘my grandfather was Welfare Officer and one of the things he did to make the Americans feel welcome was he ran dances… in early December 1943, my grandfather ran a dance in Ballymena for the American officers and my dad always told the story that when these dances were run my grandfather allowed them to walk my Aunt Dorothy to the dance as long as they walked her home again… as my aunt was very pretty, the Americans used to bribe my uncle and my father with stockings and Hershey’s bars to be allowed to walk her home on their own. It was at this dance that she met a dashing young officer called Wade Meitzer and it must have been quite a whirlwind romance… the Americans were billeted in Portglenone Forest Park and would have been training 24/7 but by the time he shipped out to England in January 1944 they were already engaged!’.
Wade was able to get some leave and returned to Ballymena where they were married in April 1944, less than six months after meeting. Wade was then sent back to England and then onto Normandy in June 1944 landing near Sainte-Mére-Église where he was unfortunately wounded and invalided to England. His new bride was naturally worried sick and couldn’t visit him as travel permits were difficult to obtain.
However as Shauna states Dorothy ‘was a feisty kind of individual and decided to go straight to the top, so she wrote a letter to General Eisenhower… to his eternal credit Eisenhower replied within six days and she was brought to Southampton to be reunited’ and then later he was transferred to a hospital in Northern Ireland to be near the family in Ballymena.
Like Wade, many Allied soldiers stationed in Northern Ireland during the Second World War fell in love and married a local girl. For example, approx. 1,800 local women became known as GI Brides as they married American men and moved to the US.
Do you have a relative who served in Italy? Or perhaps have a relative who met and fell in love with a soldier? If you would like to share your story, please get in touch with our Oral History Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07588 634847.