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April 10th 2013
Published: April 10th 2013
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After deciding knee replacement was not critically necessary, decided to head over to Salerno and Paestum. The coast from Salerno to Paestum was the site of the Allied landing in September 1943. The joint British-American assault was designed to keep the Germans fighting rather than replenishing, to keep the German troops tied up so they could not be sentenced to help in Russia, and to give the Allies a route though what Churchill called the soft underbelly of Europe. As Gen. Mark Clark later remarked, "That was some gut". Although some of these objectives were achieved, Italy with its mountainous terrain proved to be a tough slog.

The Americans landed mostly near Paestum, including the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division, thousands of whose men Clark pushed into a suicidal attack at the Rapido River later with the loss of thousands of lives. At Paestum, Clark put on an early show of his ability to be perhaps the best-known WEFT (wrong every f'ing time) of World War II. Claiming that it would allow the attacking force to achieve surprise, he decide to forego the usual pre-invasion naval bombardment, despite experience in the Pacific showing its necessity. The landing troops were met with loudspeakers welcoming them to Italy and inviting them to surrender immediately. Then a counterattack was successfully prosecuted down the Sele River where Clark had failed to provide adequate initial troops (the attack was later repulsed).

But the Sele River outlet and Paestum are now better known for the large Greek temple complex and subsequent Roman settlement that has been preserved there. The original Greek settlement was founded about 600 BCE, but the spectacular temples to be seen there now were built between about 100-300 years later, making them 300-400 years newer than the complex we saw in Agrigento (Sicily). In addition, the site includes extensive Roman settlement structures, including a large colosseum. Ever flexible in matters of religion, the Roams preserved the temples and rites that existed, and added their own.

To get back, we had to return along the same Amalfi coast road we had driven going out. Folks, this is knuckled driving, both bare-knuckled and white-knuckled. Not a drive for the faint of Hearst, but with beautiful views of the coastline, dotted every few kilometers by Saracen watchtowers.

Tomorrow: Ravello

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