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75th/600th ASA Company
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John Perkins' Det B, 600th ASA Company after it's move to San Vito Italy Air Force FLR-9 site in 1965

Lecce Detachment Stories - Rat

RAT -- By Mel Erman

Lecce Det Motel OwnersThe little Inn we had retained in town, run by a genuinely nice you remember his name?... loved Americans, remembered the war, unlike most of where we ever went during field problems, etc, up north. On one of my first return site visits, the unit had started to settle in. Sgt Rhuark was in charge. There seemed to be a good rapport between our men and the hotel folks. As we were enjoying one of the great dinner meals, a large rat crossed the dining room in view of all. There then started a pandemonium, somewhat fueled by the good wine, and soon the terrified beast was hiding behind that large bar with hundreds of bottles behind on shelves. Our brave Lecce lads chased it out with brooms found nearby, and the rat ran out the door. Back we went to our dinner, the rat just escaping death. As we resumed our feast, we noticed two Italian teens had found the now slowly moving rat, and proceeded to pour some drops of gasoline from the pumps outside. We watched astonished through the large window as they then dropped a match on the poor animal's gas-soaked hair. He began to run/walk from his tormentors, while inside we all jumped up as a team and ran outside to save the poor creature from such a horrible death.

Where before we had wielded a broom to badger and kill the interloper, we now tried mightily to beat the flames off of it and save it for whatever life it might have left for it, hopefully, not in our dining room. The Italian teens thought us "matto", but it was an epiphany for me. It stated, in a crazy kind of way, just what Americans were about, here in a strange and foreign land, ready to give of a lot of years of their life, their life if asked, and yet; careful of life if only a lowly rat. There was honor in removing an enemy from the field But, not torturing it, making it a figure of ignominy and derision.

Mel Erman