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October 29, 2010
Oroville Mercury Register
February 19,1944
Italians Wash Clothes For Soldiers Amid Battle Ruins
Pvt. Levulett Describes Effect of War In Italy; Sees General Wilson
Somewhere on the American front in Italy on Jan. 14, Pvt. Delos “Rip” Levulett, formerly of Oroville, penciled a letter to his mother, Mrs. R. H. Wallace of Klamath River, while he watched an Italian family. The roof of the Italian’ mud block house had just been repaired after it had been caved in by an explosion. The walls were all bullet-marked. The man, his wife and two small daughters all were working. While the children washed the soldiers’ clothes, the father pruned a little vineyard and the mother cut grass for two oxen. “They were more fortunate than most of the farmers,” Levulett wrote. “They hid their little bunch of chickens and their sow. She has a litter of pigs now.”

Most of the Italians along the battle lines find their main income in washing for the soldiers, the soldier said, “And I believe half of them live on what they get around our kitchens…scraps and leftovers.” Levulett was due for guard duty that night so he wouldn’t get to see Joe E. Brown, who had come to entertain the soldiers. He had missed seeing Humphrey Bogart and his show a couple days previously, “The day was nice. But in another letter sent Nov. 29, Levulett told about endless days of wading in mud and of standing in line in the rain on Thanksgiving Day to eat turkey. He told of having seen from a transport at sea Casablanca as a place of beauty and then of having found filth and squalor when he came ashore. “The only Arabs I saw, as we see them in the movies, was when I was riding on a train through a desert area.” Shipped from Casablanca to Iran in small cars that had been used for livestock, he shared the crowded space with 29 other men for six days and nights. The cars were half the size of American boxcars, he said.

In Iran he was assigned to a replacement camp that was under the command of an Oroville man, General Arthur Wilson. Levulett wrote that he had seen Wilson several times. After months in Iran, Levulett and his comrades had been loaded into the little boxcars again and shipped close to Bizerte. Most of the men “went-over” to Sicily, but about one-tenth of the contingent were held in Africa and then sent back to Iran, when the Sicilian campaign was well under way, Levulett was among the latter. In January, he was attached to an armored engineer’s battalion in Italy. The letters were shown in Oroville Friday by Mrs. Wallace who was here on a visit. A brother of Pvt. Levulett, 1st Sgt. Elvin F. (Bud) Levulett is in the 43rd service group, with the army air corps in Italy. The Red Cross has been endeavoring to arrange a meeting between Sgt. Levulett and his brother. Another brother, Master Sgt. Wilmer C. Levulett, who saw action in the Pacific with the air corps during the early part of the war, is now in Dalhart, Tex., where he is a line chief, in full charge of maintaining a squadron of B-17’s.

Stu’s Notes: Don Rystrom * who showed me the crash sites in Richvale invited me to come out and ride in his rice harvester and to look for him in the red one. Well, I drove to where he said and there was the red harvester cutting away so I walked up to it and it stopped and I thought that’s not Don, I explained who I was and right away he said come on in, it was Don’s son-in-law Gary Stone and away we went, what a thrill. I had watched rice harvesters most of my life now I’m riding in one. After about an hour of good conversation about rice and other things Gary said, here comes Don, he was harvesting another field far away. So I said goodbye to Gary and got in with Don for another hour and a half of fun. We talked some more about the plane crashes and that Don saw very sad things. Don was 17 when he saw two of the crashes that the men were beyond help. He said toward the end of the war he and a friend had heard enough about them not joining up, as rice framers were exempt from the draft, food was very important for the good of the country so in January 1945 they joined up. Don went in the Navy and soon was sent to the Philippines, a lot of scary water between here and there. But Don came home to grow more rice and he still is, for the good of our country. The rice is late this year due to late spring rains so when you say late September or October ”I wish it would rain”. Please wait until the rice and walnuts are in. Stories like that of Pvt. Levulett, really interest me, they tell history of long ago times and as an amateur historian they are right up my alley, over almost 9 years of compiling these stories for the mercury I have used many stories of hundreds of places all over the world, sounds like a history book well it is for all to enjoy on Daryl’s web at the click of the mouse, General Wilson was a great general and another hero of Oroville, he wrote quite a lot in our Mercury and retired to an orange orchard in Oroville. Three Brothers in the war at the same time was not uncommon.

* Update April 26, 2011
I now know that one of the fliers who died in this crash was Chester B. Sikking.