"Recollections of the "GI
Hurt" news story on the documents page"
by CSM Bobby E. Wright
I was one of the five motorcycle riders involved in the "Shifta" ambush (AP--GI Hurt, Aflame, Robbed by Etitrea Bandits) that took place on the flats near Gondola. If memory serves, the other riders were Sgt's Wolfenburger, Lutz and Dietz. I could be wrong on some of the names, but we usually ran in the same pack. I was a young 18 year old at the time and full of piss-and-vinegar and spent most of my 27 month tour in Asmara in trouble.
As I remember, we left Massawa late in the day. The commanding officer ( I can't remember his name) had told us not to leave before the convoy. We did however, sneak off early trying to get enough head start so that we could stop at Gondola for "roast beef sandwiches" a favorite of all who traveled the road between Asmara and Massawa.
Crossing the flats I was in the lead until a few miles from the bridge where the ambush took place. It started to rain and I pulled over to put my goggles on and Cramer passed and took the lead. The bridge is past a blind curve and you don't see it until you are about 75 to 100 yards away. I was probably traveling at about 50 to 60 miles per hour when I made the curve and saw Cramer on the ground on the near side of the bridge. I could see the motorcycle burning and ahead on the far side of the bridge, I could see a heard of cattle blocking the road. At this point I don't think that Cramer, him self, was on fire. It looked like he had struck the bridge and crashed.
As I began to slow down to stop the firing began, It seemed like twenty to twenty five rifles were being fired. The bullets were going by my head and I could hear them make a snapping noise as the missed by inches. Cramer raised up on his elbow and waved ( I under stood this to mean go and get out), as I passed him he continued to wave as if to say go! After crossing the bridge I encountered the cattle and began to push them out of the way with my feet and legs. All this time the firing continued an I've never understood how they could miss with so many rounds being fired. After I got through the cattle block and around the next curve, I stopped and retrieved my pistol from under my field jacket with the intentions of going back. I was shaking so bad that I had trouble getting a round in the chamber. Then, I was fired on from a little knoll off to the left side of the road. The bullets were landing 25 or so yards away, while I was getting the motorcycle restarted two natives started running toward me from the right side of the road about 100 yards out. I fired two rounds and took off! (The fact that I ever fired was never put in the report as we were not allowed to fire back at that time).
When I got to Gondola, it took a while to convince the Italians to take me back to the site. When we left we had two shotguns and were traveling in an old convertible touring car. When we reached the ambush site the convoy had arrived and every thing was under control. However the CO was pissed, and he seemed especially pissed at me for some reason. He (the CO) gave me a .45 cal sub-thompson and put me on the bridge as guard in case "shifta" came back along the dry wash. By this time it was dark and I could hear noise in the dry wash. When someone got there with a light we could see a native retrieving (?) his cattle, I was told not to fire and let him go.
For years, I've looked for a copy of the news report and now that I
have it; I would like to thank every one involved with putting it on the
I'm now 66 years old and the experience has never left me. After two wars it is this one incident that still gives me night mares.
CSM Bobby E. Wright, US Army, Retired.