Italian Theater Made insignia on the uniforms of Lt. Alfred Cary, and a great deal of material related to his WWII service.
Alfred H. Cary participated in the ROTC program at the University of Delaware in April of 1943. Shortly after he was ordered to Fort Benning, GA. to take a physical training course then holding the rank of corporal in the 2nd Co., 3rd STR (Student Training Regiment). He was appointed and commissioned by the President on 15 November, 1944, thus entering the service of the United States Army, as a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry. Unlike many of the officers of the 473rd Infantry who had been in service as AAA officers taking training to be infantry officers, Carey joined the 473rd directly from training at Fort Benning.
Cary had been aboard ship in late December, enjoying Christmas dinner aboard a transport which the censor removed in shipping. Several printed Church services printed in Italy are dated beginning on 14 January, 1945. He received orders on 12 February, 1945 through the 8th Replacement Depot to join this unit. Once reporting to his company in the 3rd Battalion, 473rd Regt., Cary received a field printed booklet entitled, “This Platoon WILL!” by Major J.W. Bellah; a unit publication intended for the instruction and expectations of its junior officers.
The 473rd Infantry Regiment, unlike most units serving in WWII, had an interesting beginning, and almost overnight morphed into a front line combat unit in the last hard days of the Italian Campaign. The men of the 473rd, began their time as anti-aircraft automatic Weapons personnel known as “Flakfeet.” A good number of these veterans had served in Tunisia, Salerno, Cassino, and Anzio. General Mark Clark, commanding the 15th U.S. Army Group in Italy, needed to move his 10th Mountain Division to a more strategic position, and thus created a new infantry regiment incorporating these “Ack Ack” men to fill the void as infantry in the front lines against Italian and German troops.
During this period, the 473rd (attached to the 92nd Infantry Division; Colored Troops), under the command of Colonel William P. Yarborough, the former airborne commander of the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and he would lead the 473rd Infantry to the close of the Italian Campaign.
After a very brief period the regiment’s officers were pulled from their infantry training and ordered to the front, moving into the Serchio Valley on February 24, 1945. Lt. Cary’s 3rd Battalion was located on the east of the Serchio River against the German and Italian infantry and they were dug in, placed in well fortified positions on Quirico Ridge between the towns of Fiattone and Vergemoli. The 473rd made many reconnaissance patrols against the enemy, drawing heavy fire from artillery and automatic weapons.
On 14 March, 1945, General Orders No. 9, HQ 473rd inf’y awarded Lt. Cary his Combat Infantryman’s Badge for “exemplary conduct in action against the enemy.” The next day he received orders for temporary duty with the 317th C Engr. Bn, for mine warfare training for seven days, and presumably he returned to action at the close of the training.
Fighting by the 3rd Battalion continued into April and by the 21st of that month, soldiers of the 3rd Bn, 473rd were fighting and dying by the yards. Finally a few days later, the battalion forged ahead, driving the Germans beyond the Gothic line, as the bitter fighting was winding down.
In the dash for Genoa, the 3rd battalion had nearly 3000 enemy troops surrender at Uscio and Ferrada just northeast of Genoa. After the final stronghold was surrendered by the Germans, the 3rd Battalion was placed in command of the the POW stockade near Savona, Italy.
During the last month the 473rd lost more than 500 casualties, but drew a much higher cost from the enemy. No other regiment in the whole of 5th Army had taken such heavy losses, few if any other units could boast of more harrowing exploits than the 473rd Infantry.
Shortly after the regiment was redeployed to Rome, and Lt. Cary was dealing with escorting prisoners in his final days in Italy.
In short, Colonel Yarborough said it best in a letter to the regiment;
“To have served with the 473rd Infantry has been an unforgetable experience.
During its short period of existence it has added a clean-cut, proud chapter to the military history of the United States Army.
Our Regiment which started its fighting career at first slowly and cautiously in the Serchio Valley, finally, became more and more sure of itself, and culminated its efforts with a series of shock attacks which cleared the whole Ligurian Coast of the enemy.
Our outfit learned the infantry game the hard way. How well it learned is a matter of history. The blasted wreckage of concrete pillboxes, anti-tank ditches and scientifically constructed trenches around Massa, Carrara and Chiavari are proof that nothing man-made could stand in the path of an inspired outfit fighting for a just cause.
We will not forget who remain in Italy. Their graves are part of America.
Our job in Europe is finished. We have accomplished our mission.
The Regiment is deactivated on the official records only. To those of us who have faced death and hardship together so often, it will always live as a symbol of comradeship and devotion to duty in the great American tradition.”
This Grouping consists of two uniforms; a 1941 service dress coat, and an “Ike” jacket, both having embroidered 5th Army patches on the right sleeves. Italian made rockers (tabs) for the 473rd Infantry regiment are present on both uniforms with bullion and cotton used respectively. Both uniforms have the Replacement & School Training Command patch on each left sleeve, this being Cary’s last command stateside prior to leaving the army. Both have the same ribbon bar set-up with EAME with two campaign stars, WWII Victory, and American Campaign ribbons. CIBs are on both, with an Italian made CIB, and 2 overseas bars on the Ike, while all other insignia on both is stateside made.
There is a model 1943 field jacket with “AHC” on label, and one pair of khaki trousers, two officer shirts as seen in the photos, and only one id’d tie (the other is my prop). This completes all of the uniform material.
After the war, while guarding and escorting POWs, Lt. Cary was given prisoner of war art by Italians, which he sent home to his wife, along with a pencil sketch of her, two quick sketches of him, and a decorated crate with a letter from home describing these items having arrived. He generated a good deal of souvenir paper items, from his early training days to the very end of his military career ending in 1946.
A large loose leaf binder holds a multitude of orders, receipts, train tickets and RR maps (state side), Service Club programs, church services, cards, V-mail, Christmas cards, telegrams, Camp newspapers, News clippings, post cards from home and abroad, passes for rest area camps in Italy, travel brochures from Florence, St Malo, and more, a colorful document issued by British Ordnance Bomb Disposal unit with a pin-up girl on cover, other booklets, brochures of various kinds.
There are printed orders from General Mark Clark’s 15th Army Group HQ, photos of German and Italian prisoners (approx a dozen), Florence Opera programs, A Soldier’s Guide to Rome, a small color portrait of the Pope from the Vatican, snap shot of the poet John Keats grave stone in Rome, snap shots of famous sites (the colosseum, Leaning Tower of Piza, more), personnel records, other small booklets, final clearance and orders for separations, more.
There is a photocopied history of the 473rd written recently, and some other personnel records for Lt. Cary. Other than reading about the combat in letters that could not be sent anyway, there is everything here to have an excellent look into the wartime experience of Alfred H. Cary, Jr.
Condition on the collection overall is fine to excellent. The uniforms are excellent with some very minor moth holes on the Ike, but easily repaired, The 473rd rockers are scarce and desirable.
USPS Priority Mail $50.00