“What the hell stares us right in the face but the Germans, machine guns and all,” Palumbo said. “Ammunition is running back and forth, and riflemen, they are all there. I said, ‘Fire! Fire!’ But my guns ain’t firing. All of a sudden, we take a hit, and I see fire and shrapnel that hits me in the face and the hand and ripped my jacket open and put a mark right across my back. I was lucky though.”
Palumbo thought he would never get out of the tank, but somehow he did.
“The Germans kept firing at us with their machine guns and everything,” he said. “(But) I hid in a foxhole with two other guys. One of them starts to run, and he steps on a land mine. It blew his ankle right off. He is yelling, and I’m yelling at him to get the hell down. He’s yelling that he’s going home, and he’s running around on his stump. I thought I was a dead man.”
Unarmed, Palumbo and a pair of other soldiers backtracked their way across the Garigliano and to some relative safety. But he went right back across the river a few hours later and made it into Cassino, where he would spend the next 42 days.
“We were in Cassino, blowing up everything,” he said. “Germans were putting grenades on their rifles and shooting them at us. That’s what it was, back and forth.”
That was only the beginning Palumbo’s combat experience, which saw him serving alongside Audie Murphy and eventually taking Hitler’s mountaintop retreat.
“He had a big table there,” Palumbo said. “And I sat behind it and threw my feet up there and said, ‘All right, Hitler. Here we are!’ That was the last place we took.”