Thursday, 8 November 2012
FROM THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
Monday, 9 November 1942
The biggest surprise came from Mr. Van Daan when at one o’clock, he announced that the British had landed in Tunis, Algiers, Casablanca, and Oran. “This is the beginning of the end,” everyone was saying, but Churchill the British Prime Minister, who had probably heard the same thing in England, said: “this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps the end of the beginning.”
JAG HUNTER here remembering my Dad 70-years later: November 1942 World War II
Only eighteen days following the start of OPERATION TORCH, whereupon my dad–Navy Doctor, Lieutenant Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, Jr. and his shipmates in USS COLE (DD – 155) survived a suicide amphibious assault into the French Moroccan city of Safi, the movie CASABLANCA splashed on to the silver screen for the first time.
“CASABLANCA, which was rushed out several months before its originally planned 1943 release, premiered in New York City on Thanksgiving Day, 1942. The Hollywood reporter raved: ‘Here is a drama that lifts you right out of your seat.’ The New York Times called it ‘highly entertaining and inspiring…a picture which makes the spine tingle and the heart leap.’
“As near and dear to the heart as CASABLANCA is today, audiences in ’42 had an especially unique perspective. The world was embroiled in desperate conflict as the Nazi regime spread its savage poison across Europe, and the events on the screen mirrored events on the global stage. As Variety noted: ‘By curious quirk of fortune, history-making caught up to this picture set against a background of French Morocco, and its timeliness assures big box-office reception. Only a few days ago, world interest rested in the town of Casablanca, with the landing of Allied forces there and bare mention of the name still excites the imagination.’ “
(Courtesy of MGM and Turner Entertainment)
26 November 1942 Thanksgiving Day Menu aboard
USS AUGUSTA (CA – 31)
(Assigned to OPERATION TORCH with USS COLE and USS BERNADOU)
Cream of Tomato Soup a la Casablanca Fruit Cocktail Saltines Chicken and Turkey en Casserole a la Hewitt Baked Spiced Spam a la Capitaine de Vaisseau Giblet Gravy Cherry Dressing Buttered Asparagus Tips a la Fedala Chantilly Potatoes a la Patton Buttered June Peas de Safi Scalloped Tomatoes Cranberry Sauce Hot Parker Rolls du Lyautey Butter Jam Apple Pie a la Michelier Strawberry Ice Cream Mixed Nuts du Jean Bart Sweet Pickles Ripe Olives Cigars Cigarettes Cafe Noir
THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION to the
UNITED STATES SHIP COLE
for service as set forth in the following
“For outstanding performance as guide for the first wave of landing boats in the attack on Safi, French Morocco, November 8, 1942. Under crossfire from enemy coast defense batteries and machine gun emplacements, the COLE, proceeding through a narrow harbor entrance in total darkness, effectively countered hostile opposition, disembarked a company of U. S. Army assault troops, and supported their attack by accurate fire from her main battery. Her distinctive fulfillment of a difficult and hazardous mission contributed materially to the victorious achievement of the Southern Attack Group.”
For the President
/s/ Frank Knox
Secretary of the Navy
One sailor in USS COLE was shot through the lungs during the assault. My dad stitched up and treated his wounded shipmate who survived to enjoy his 1942 Thanksgiving dinner. The man reported to full shipboard duty a month later.
Captain Palmer’s citation reads:
“The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Commander George Goldston Palmer (NSN: 0-63369), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. COLE (DD-155), during the occupation of the harbor Safi, French Morocco, 8 November 1942. Before daylight on 8 November 1942, Lieutenant Commander Palmer in the COLE led the first wave of assault boats to the assigned over beaches off Safi and then entered the harbor in support of the U.S.S. BERNADOU. With gallantry and intrepidity at grave risk to his own life, the lives of his crew and the embarked assault troops, he navigated his ship successfully through the unknown waters and the narrow entrance in the face of heavy gunfire from three shore batteries and several machine gun emplacements. While thus engaged he laid his ship alongside a dock and landed the assault troops. Lieutenant Commander Palmer thereafter greatly assisted the successful action of the assault troops by the accurate support fire of the COLE’s main battery. The fact that this exceptional feat was accomplished in almost total darkness without loss of life and disabling damage to the COLE are testimonials to the valor, intelligence and seamanship of this gallant officer, and reflect great credit upon the United States Naval Service.”
My dad was awarded the Bronze Star with with a Combat “V” for valor. This is the highest combination for valor awarded to medical officers performing as doctors under fire while engaged with an enemy force.
MEN OF U.S. DESTROYER COLE (DD – 155
NORTH ATLANTIC PATROL CONVOY DUTY
1941 – 1942
AFRICA, WE TOOK IT
AND WE LIKED IT
By ROBERT WALLACE, ENSIGN, U.S.N.R.
In Collaboration With PARKER MORELL
(Reprinted from THE SATURDAY EVENING POST January 23, 1943, pgs. 16, 17, 76 & 78
Editors note—This is the second of two articles by Ensign Wallace and Mr. Morrell)
One of our African Invasion force describes the perfection of American planning—tells how out boys learned to outbargain the natives, frustrate cheerful Arabs bent on larceny.
Even after we had landed a good many thousand American troops on the beaches at Safi, French Morocco, the city was not yet ours. That landing, successful as it was, still had to be converted into a full-scale invasion. The surrounding countryside had to be brought under our control, protecting airfields had to be captured and large-scale reinforcements kept from joining the defenders. It was a job calling for tremendous skill and organization, and it was here that all the long months of scheming and planning for this attack began to bear fruit.
The big guns from the battleships offshore had silenced the coast defenses; our infantry, with hand grenades, rifles and mortar fire, had knocked out the machine-gun nests around the harbor, but Safi’s narrow, winding streets were still bitterly dominated by a garrison of French Foreign Legion troops. Confronted by superior numbers and fire power, they retreated slowly, fighting doggedly for every inch of ground.
Our troops had spent months training for just this kind of fighting, and they loved it. That was another thing about the invasion which gave us so much confidence—almost everything that happened seemed to have been anticipated by the high command and preparations made to take care of it.
For instance, just before we first went over the side of the transport, they told us that we were already thoroughly familiar with this landing. The commanding officer mentioned a certain maneuver we’d practiced a lot at our training school back in America. Then we remembered. At the time, we’d thought of it as just a peculiar type of night landing problem. Now that we recognized it for exactly the job we were to do in Africa, it didn’t seem nearly so difficult.
The infantry reacted the same way. Our troops, having been thoroughly trained in the art of street fighting, went about the job with coolness and precision. By noon, they had the Foreign Legionnaires holed up in a stone barracks in the middle of the city. From then on, it was just a question of wearing them down and smashing them up. When enough heavy tanks had been landed from the tank carriers we’d brought with us, the job was quickly finished. Shells from the tanks’ big guns smashed those stone walls as if they’d been paper. Naturally, the Legionnaires surrendered.
But even after this, there were still a lot of Legionnaires and native troops who hadn’t taken refuge in that barracks building and who, consequently hadn’t surrendered. They hid out in houses and buildings all over town and, by continual sniping made things very uncomfortable, particularly on the beaches.
This action of the snipers was not so foolhardy as it seems. At Marrakeech, a city about 100 miles inland, there was another large garrison of Legionnaires. These, it was believed, were still loyal to Vichy and would arrive in time to be able to keep the Americans from entering permanently. Until those forces arrived, the snipers were resolved to do everything possible to keep us from settling down.
I suppose that inland branch of the Foreign Legion was loyal, but it never had much chance to prove it. A strong force left Marrakech the day after we landed at Safi [November 9th, 1942], but didn’t get very far. Dive bombers from our carriers met and strafed them heavily. Then our light tanks and antitank units caught up with them and finished the job.
Perhaps the story might have been a little different if they’d had air support. But here again, the adage of a house divided proved itself. The commandant of the airfield at Marrakech, when told the Americans were in Safi, had looked up into a cloudless sky and announced it unthinkable for his planes to take off in such a blinding storm. For three days he continued to find excuses until, finally, one bomber—either with or without his permission—came over and dripped a few incendiaries.
We got the plane, of course. I sat the action out on the water. A thousand machine guns seemed to be firing at it. Line of tracer bullets converged into its fuselage from every angle. It bounced around on top of them for a moment like a ball bouncing on top of a fountain of water. Then it burst into flames and fell into the sea.
There was little trouble from the natives themselves. The loyal French greeted us with open arms, the Jews were cautious but hopeful, and the Arabs, who made up by far the largest part of the city’s population, accepted everything quite impassively.
There may have been a good reason for this Arab attitude. We landed on November eighth, and two days later a new Moslem month began during which it was illegal for true believers to start a war or to engage in fighting. On the other hand, they had only recently finished observing a month during which it was forbidden to eat food throughout the daylight hours. Consequently, when we arrived they were still in a rather weakened condition and, [pg. 17] even if inclined to fight, couldn’t have offered much resistance.
Ashore, we told everyone that we had no interest in internal politics. We intended to leave the native government strictly alone. Our only purpose, President Roosevelt had made clear in his broadcast, was to get at the Germans. When we had finished this job, we were going to get out. The Arabs mulled this over for a while. Coming in from the transports, we could see hundreds of them sitting motionless on the cliffs, presumably making up their minds. At first, they looked like a row of tree stumps.
There was something awfully grim and ominous about that scene. While those Arabs sat debating on the cliffs, buzzards soared and wheeled overhead. Now and then, one would suddenly swoop down, and you knew it had spotted another nest of knocked-out French machine gunners. It wasn’t pleasant to imagine what happened after that. Finally, the Arabs decided we didn’t plan to conquer them; that we meant what we said about wanting only to drive the Germans and Vichy French out of Africa. From then on, hostilities were over, so far as they were concerned.
One by one they, they started coming down to the beaches and, before long, most of them were helping load our boats.
This brought up another delicate point. The Army was anxious to avoid offending the natives. Every soldier carried a booklet of African do’s and don’ts.
On shipboard, an Army intelligence man who had traveled extensively in North Africa had spent hours lecturing the troops.
“Never speak to or look at a native woman on the streets,” he told them. “If you don’t do anything else, for God’s sake, observe this rule. Your life and the life of every American in Morocco depends upon it.”
Other vital, though amusing, advice was:
“Never approach an Arab mosque. Respect the other fellow’s religion and he’ll respect yours.
“If Arabs offer you coffee, drink it. If an Arab engages you in conversation for any length of time and offers you three glasses of coffee, get out! That third glass is his polite way of telling you the interview is ended.
“Ninety-five per cent of the natives are Moslems. Bread is holy to Moslems. Never cut it with a knife. Always eat it with your right hand. Never drop it on the ground.”
But the pay-off was this little gem:
“If invited out to dinner with a native family, always leave something on your plate. This goes to the women and children who eat after you are finished.”
Nothing had been said, however, about what to do when the Arabs started to steal our supplies and equipment. And that was what they were doing. Apparently, when they decided to accept us, they also decided to accept all our belongings they could lay their hands on.
I saw one Arab eating powdered coffee from an Army breakfast ration that he’d broken into. He seemed to like it.
The children were worse than the grownups. Of course, since they all looked alike, it was futile to try to pursue them. [page 76]
All our landing-boat men were equipped with foul-weather gear—yellow oilskin coats and pants large enough to be worn over a regular uniform.
These were lying in the bottom of our boats during the day, and the Arabs started to steal them. One Arab from whom a full set was taken by soldiers wailed loudly. He thought those oilskins were American pajamas and he was planning to cut a fine figure before his wives that evening.
The unloading of food and equipment continued throughout most of the first week. Because only a few big boats could be docked in Safi harbor at one time, the rest had to be emptied by landing boats and whatever craft we could commandeer.
The Navy had brought along a lot of highly trained machinist’s mates for this purpose. As soon as Safi surrendered, these fellows were put aboard the various boats in the harbor, with orders to get them started. The job sounds easier than it was. Some of those old tubs must have been launched shortly after the Ark. None was in good condition. Yet, somehow, those machinist’s mates got the engines going. Being French-made, all nuts and bolts were cut to the metric scale and none of our equipment would fit them. Where the men got tools to do the job, I don’t know. But within a day they had nearly everything working and, though breakdowns were frequent, they always manage to patch things up.
For five days and nights we hardly got out of our boats. The endurance of the enlisted men was amazing. At night, when too tired to go any longer, we’d tie up alongside a transport and lie down in the bottom of the cockpit for forty winks. We never tried to sleep in our landing boats on the beach. There was always danger of an air raid. Out on the water, if one came, we had a chance to disperse. Lined up on the beach—particularly if the tide was out and we were some distance up on the sand—we’d have been setups for a strafing party.
When we arrived, everyone saw the end of rationing in sight. The Americans were bringing their own food; officers had announced that we had no intention of living off the country, and our conquest of Africa automatically precluded further export of agricultural products to France and Germany. One week after we took over North Africa—although most natives didn’t know it at the time—American Lend-Lease had purchased more than $5,000,000 [five million] worth of supplies and equipment for these French colonies.
Vichy had bled the country dry. For more than two years the Fascists had commandeered everything in sight. Morocco, normally a fertile agricultural country, was like a land upon which a blight had fallen. The Germans had been taking 80 per cent of all the vegetables, meat, wine, ore, leather, fruit, and eggs. Gasoline was an almost forgotten commodity and the few trucks we did see ran on charcoal gas. There hadn’t been any cloth shipped into Morocco in more than two years. Nearly everyone was ragged and dirty. Even the so-called white-collar class wore shirts which were considerably darker than tattletale gray. That the people were hungry goes without saying, for the only staple they’d had to exist on since the fall of France was fish, which the natives caught in the ocean and bootlegged.
The tobacco situation was even worse. Cigarettes were rationed at thirty packages a year, and it is doubtful how much real tobacco even these contained. The Arabs, of course, are inveterate smokers, and nearly went crazy with joy when they found that America had not got around to rationing cigarettes. They’d work all day for a package of our smokes, and the only English phrase they picked up was “Packie schmook?”
To offer them a cigarette from a package was fatal. Instead of taking one, they’d snatch the lot and run off without tossing so much as a hurried thank you over their shoulder. Even children from five on up were old habitués and I was amused to see husky Americans, who had killed Morroccans in the morning without turning a hair, register shock and amazement when they saw the soldiers’ orphans happily smoking in the afternoon.
One touching example of native faith in America was displayed by a Safi innkeeper. The only liquor in the city was a weak domestic red wine that had been strictly rationed. Only the biggest café in Safe sold it. In two days this place completely exhausted its month’s supply. Then the proprietor began to work on the next month’s stock, saying that if he couldn’t sell it, at least there was nothing in the regulations to prevent his giving it away. He actually did give it away—to the officers, at least. But, we discovered, he’d made so much profit on what he’d already sold us that he was far ahead of the game anyhow.
The sniping continued for three days. During this time a number of our men were wounded or killed. Those snipers were good, make no mistake about that. We all went pretty carefully when they were about, and our troops had their hands full trying to eliminate them.
Casualties would have been a lot heavier without sulpha drugs which all our men carry. Of course, the complete story of the wonders of sulphanilamide can’t be told until the war is over. But the things we all saw there in Safi convinced us that in this war a lot fewer wounded men will die than in any other war.
Every American soldier carries a package of sulphanilamide powder to pour into his would when he is hit. If he can’t do it, a buddy will take care of the matter for him. Besides this, certain picked men in each platoon are also given little tubes of morphine which they can inject into the most seriously wounded.
I saw one man hit by a sniper’s bullet. It struck his cartridge belt, which exploded, tearing a tremendous hole in his stomach. No sooner had the man gone down than two other soldiers were at his side, with their own packages of sulpha powder torn open and ready to be poured into him. After doing this, they rushed him down to the beach, where there were special first-aid stations. Here [Doctor and Navy Lieutenant Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, Jr., Medical Corps, ship’s medical officer assigned to USS COLE (DD – 155)] took two handfuls of sulpha powder and threw it into the wound, made some hasty emergency repairs and rushed the wounded man into a landing boat out to our transport, where here was an operating room.
Coming back to America a few days later, not even the doctors who had operated gave that man much of a chance to live. In fact, they even ordered the ship’s carpenter to make a coffin for him. But the soldier and the sulpha drugs fooled everyone. By the time we had sighted land, he was well enough to be demanding his coffin to keep for a souvenir.
During all the days of sniping, the Arabs would disappear like a flash just before each new wave broke out. When it died down again, they’d come straggling back. They always knew when some action was going to take place. When there were few Arabs around, or when those present looked worried, you knew a sniper was setting his sights somewhere. In the end, we figured out their system. They had wives and children strung out all around the beach to act as sniper spotters. Thereafter, when the Arabs started to fade away, so did we.
This Fascist resistance inconvenienced the loyal French as well as ourselves. One day, on the beach, I noticed a man who seemed to be tearing his hair out by the handful. He was a Frenchman who owned a big white house up on a cliff. It had been taken over by snipers. A destroyer in the harbor [USS COLE (DD – 155)] was trying to drive them out. It hit a corner of the house with a 3-inch (page 78) shell and the little Frenchman jumped up and down, howling with rage. The snipers refused to surrender, so the [USS COLE] let fly with another shell, which tool off the roof. At this, the Frenchman moaned and started to tear his hat to pieces. When the snipers still refused to give up, a light tank rolled over to finish off the house at close range. I left before Frenchman died of apoplexy.
Another time, about fourteen snipers were rounded up in a building and just as our infantry was about to blow them up with mortar shells, they waved a white flag. When they were brought down to the detention pen, it was discovered that two of the snipers were Vichy-French civilians. Instead of shooting them, the Army commander pardoned them and gave them the status of prisoners of war. This made our men very mad, but when the word of the action got to the right quarters, the sniping decreased noticeably.
As a matter of fact, we were pretty surprised to find even two Vichy-Frenchmen among the snipers. The death rate for Fascists was running high those days. People who, prior to our arrival, had been known Axis sympathizers, or who had swanked around as Vichy officials, seem to have been taken care of pretty quickly by the loyal French. I don’t know how true it is, but I heard later that during our landing operations—as soon as it could be seen that the Americans were entering the harbor in force enough to decide the issue—the French themselves beat or killed all the Fascists they could find. None of the prisoners showed any hatred for us. All said they had fought because they were loyal to their officers, and the officers had told them to fight. No one regarded the affair as an international incident at all. It did seem to me—and a lot of other fellows as well—that during the height of the fighting many machine guns and coast-defense cannon could have been aimed to do much more damage than they did.
One prisoner—a communications man who had been in charge of a field telephone and at a coast-defense battery—said his instrument never seemed to work. Of course, he smiled, the fact that he didn’t bother to plug it in most of the time may have had something to do with this.
Our Foreign Legion captives didn’t look anything like the Hollywood version. There were no comedy characters, no handsome officers, and definitely no dancing girls. They were Belgians, Frenchmen, Spaniards and Italians. There had been a lot of German noncoms too. But when they discovered the Americans had landed, the stole an auto truck and fled inland. I asked one prisoner about those Germans’ deserting, and he shrugged his shoulders expressively. “Monsieur,” he answered, “what would you?” It was no more than we expected. They were pigs anyway!” He spat as he ground out the word cochons.
The Legionnaires’ uniforms were patched and ragged. The Germans hadn’t allowed Vichy to send them any decent military equipment since the fall of France. It was pretty obvious the Germans were planning to go into Africa themselves before long, and didn’t want much opposition. A great many of these men, particularly the natives, had no shoes. Those who did have shoes had worn and patched ones. A Legionnaire told me that the soles of his boots were so thin he could step on a piece of chewing gum and tell its flavor. The native troops were puttees and walked in bare feet so dirty that, at first glance, it looked as if they were wearing shoes.
A lot of our men were quite impressed, at first, by having fought and beaten the Legion. They’d seen so many movies they thought it was invincible, I guess. In the flesh, though, these soldiers weren’t so formidable. They were much smaller than I thought they were going to be. I guess you’d call them short and wiry. They were very tanned; their skin was like leather. Mostly, they were quite young—from twenty-three to thirty, I’d say. Some of the noncoms were veterans of about forty-five. But not many.
They wore khaki uniforms, but it was a much different color khaki from ours. There seemed to be more green and brown in it. I saw only two with kepis—those flat-topped hats with a towel down the back of the neck. The others had steel helmet with a ridge down the middle. These had a shield with the initials RF—République Français—on it. If they’d been new issue, those shields would have read EF—for Vichy’s Êtat Français.
The men carried long thin bayonets on World-War-I-vintage rifles. The noncoms had their ratings indicated by slanting stripes, like our Navy hash marks. The officers’ ranks were indicated by horizontal stripes and elaborate gold-braided hats.
The Legionnaires’ teeth were brown and discolored. Toothbrushes seem to be nonexistent all over Africa. Even if there were any, there still wouldn’t be any tooth powder or paste. In fact, the only cleansing agent we ever saw was a dirty, black greaseless soap that left its user dirtier than ever. Our soldiers soon found that the way to a Frenchman’s heart was to give him a bar of soap for his wife. Even strong laundry soap was gratefully accepted.
The prisoners’ big stock in trade was their uniform buttons. Every American tried to get some for his girl back home. The words stamped on them—Légion Êtrangère—were irresistible. When I left Africa, the current rate of exchange was two packages of American cigarettes for one Legion button.
Because I could speak French, I was made an interpreter for the prisoners working on the docks during the last day or two. I talked to a goon many of these men, trying to discover why, if they hated the Germans so much as they said they did, they had not tried to join General De Gaulle and the Fighting French. They told me that some of their comrades had deserted to the De Gaullists in Libya, but that most of them preferred to remain in Morocco, where up to the time we came, it had been safe. I saw only one captured officer, a captain. All he said was that his glad it was over and was sorry there had ever been any fighting.
I talked to a civilian who had been a lieutenant in General Corap’s army at Sedan, in 1940. He was a French Jew who had managed to escape to North Africa during the armistice negotiations. He was wildly excited about the coming of the Americans and was all steamed up about the prospect of being able to fight the Germans again. He was leaving to join General Giraud’s new African army that same afternoon.
This seemed to be the general attitude of all the Jews in Morocco. A number of them had settled here after the fall of France, and life under Vichy domination had not been too easy for them. When we first arrived, they were worried that we’d treat them the same way the Fascists had. Everywhere we went we were asked, “What are you going to do about the Jews?” Finally, one American private with a long hooked nose was asked this question once too often.
“I’ll tell yuh, bid,” he said. “It ain’t the Jews we hate, it’s everybody with green hair. Whenever we find a guy with green hair, we got orders to shoot him immediately.”
When the shooting was over and the troops started to roam around the city, there were constant squabbles between the Arabs and Americans over money changing. In less than a week, the franc rose from eighty-five to the dollar to less than thirty. When an American officer was called to settle a financial argument, he always gave the Arab the best of the deal. Once our men caught on to this fact, they stopped calling on their officers for assistance.
The Arabs were great bargainers whenever they ran into an old horse trader from the Midwest, they took to him like a long-lost brother. The Arabs wanted cloth, chocolate and cigarettes. The Americans wanted gold-embroidered slippers and belts for their girls, pottery for their folks, and silver rings and cigarette boxes for themselves. Everywhere you went in the bazaars, you’d see Arabs and Americans sitting on the ground and haggling by the hour. They used sign language and high-school French, and seemed to do all right.
The French, including those who were political and racial refugees from Vichy, having been saved from a fate worse than death, still were not averse to making dishonest dollar or two. In their ships, price tickets were pasted on all articles for sale. After the first day of landing operations, prices jumped about 500 per cent. We quickly learned to pull off half a dozen or price tags and pay only the amount called for on the bottom one. The French expected to dicker with us even on this, but there were so many souvenir-hunting doughboys that there wasn’t enough stock in any of the stores to go around. Some of the more progressive merchants, having disposed of everything on their shelves, presently took to selling old French newspapers brought up from their cellars.
One Frenchman was even smarter, and skinned the pants off almost the entire expeditionary force. The only bank in town was closed until the occupation had been completed. We didn’t know this, however, so it gave the Frenchman his chance. He set up a kitchen table and chair in the doorway of the bank and proceeded to change American greenbacks into francs from dawn until dusk. His rate of exchange seemed to be any old figure that came into his head. Greenbacks were falling out of his pockets; I actually saw some stuffed into his shoes. For a couple of days even the officers were taken in by this fellow. Then somebody caught on to what was happening and that Frenchman went out of business very suddenly. It was the one phase of the expedition where Army Intelligence seemed to have slipped up.
The Test of War
The Arabs, in their own way, had a similar racket. They changed money by weight. It took us quite a while to realize that two handfuls of heavy copper coins still didn’t equal one American dime.
But in spite of all our difficulties with the money-changers, we didn’t make out too badly. We landing-boat men were the only Navy representatives who could go ashore. On the ships, there were still hundreds of officers and sailors anxious for souvenirs from Safi. Coming back from a bout in the bazaars, we’d figure out how badly the French and Arabs has gypped us, and then we’d pass on our losses—with a slight added profit—to the men on the boat. They, in their turn, probably gypped someone else. In the Navy, everything seems to even up sooner or later.
Since I’ve been back in America, the one question people have asked more than any other concerns the quality and quantity of the troops’ equipment. It’s a pleasure to answer that, and I’d like to repeat here what I’ve told them.
Everyone—our own men as well as the Europeans—was amazed at the way our supplies and equipment stood up. I’ve heard a lot of stories about the poor materials American soldiers have had to use in other wars, but this time, I can assure you, it’s different.
Our motors ran at top speed for days on end with never a breakdown. We dropped tons of material into the water and sand at one time or another, and when they were recovered and put to use, everything from ammunitions to packaged field rations was still in prime condition. I heard many soldiers comment amazedly on the fact that the bullets in their machine-gun belts had been so carefully inspected and sorted that they never had to stop to clear a bad cartridge out of the gun. We lived and thrived for days on field rations and, though it is true that they weren’t always as desirable as hot food, no one ever complained about either the taste or their ability to satisfy our hunger.
Having superior equipment to us in action gives a fellow an awfully grateful feeling toward the folks back home. Soldiers like grousing better than anything else except eating, and when you hear not one but hundreds of men praise the quality of their weapons and their grub, the winning of this war doesn’t seem uncertain at all.
“U.S.S. COLE (155)
“SPECIAL ARTICLE FROM AFRICAN FRONT DESCRIBING AMERICAN ASSAULT LAST SUNDAY. EDITORS NOTE: WRITTEN BY WALTER LOGAN WITH U.S. TASK FORCES IN SAFI, FRENCH MOROCCO. NOVEMBER 9TH (DELAYED).
“A squadron of destroyers on a suicide mission paved the way for capture of this strategic port 140 miles down the coast from the French port of Casablanca. They raced into the harbor in the predawn yesterday [Sunday, 8 November 1942] and took over the docks before the French knew what hit them. Then they held off counterattacks until wave of our assault troops established beachheads; “I watched action from the signal bridge of a transport anchored a few miles offshore with my heavily armed bodyguard Lieut John H Wheldon of the army public relations. Our men crowded the starboard rail waiting for gunfire or the vertical searchlight signals indicating the docks were captured. The suicide ships [USS BERNADOU (DD – 153) and USS COLE (DD – 155)] began moving at four am and through the dark and calm sea. The first destroyer [ USS BERNADOU] began moving at fullspeed and went through Minefields without detection. It rounded the Safi breakwater before the shore batteries detected it.
“Searchlights flashed and tracer bullets began arching toward the destroyers. They fired back with all guns blazing as it headed directly for the beach. Huddled below decks were 150 assault troops. The Captain maneuvered the first destroyer [USS BERNADOU] full astern as they closed to shore where it struck some rocks. Assault troops began climbing down the nets. Other destroyers followed close behind the lead ship. French fire was heavy but American troops drove forward silencing nearby batteries on the cliffs overlooking the tiny harbor. I could see flashes lighting up the sky and red tracer floating toward us. Another destroyer meanwhile [USS COLE] wheeled into the docks and the men climbed ashore and began pushing inland.”
USS COLE (DD -155) was named for Edward Ball Cole was born 23 September 1879 in Boston, Mass. One of the country’s leading experts on machineguns, he received a direct commission in the Marine Corps in World War I.
Major Cole received the Navy Cross and Army Distinguished Service Cross for heroism during the Battle of Belleau Wood (10 June 1918) in which he was mortally wounded. He died 18 June 1918 and is buried at Mouroux Cemetery, France. His decorations included the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross; as well as the French Légion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre. Cole’s Navy Cross citation reads: “In the Bois de Belleau, France, in June 10, 1918, his unusual heroism in leading his company under heavy fire enabled it to fight with exceptional effectiveness. He personally worked fearlessly until he was mortally wounded”. His Distinguished Service Cross citation reads: “In the Bois de Belleau, on June 10th 1918, displayed extraordinary heroism in organizing positions, rallying his men and disposing of his guns, continuing to expose himself fearlessly until he fell. He suffered the loss of his right hand and received wounds in upper arm and both thighs.”
Sunday, 8 November 2009
AFRICA, WE TOOK IT
AND WE LIKED IT
By ROBERT WALLACE, ENSIGN, U.S.N.R.
In Collaboration With PARKER MORELL
(Reprinted from THE SATURDAY EVENING POST January 23, 1943, pgs. 16, 17, 76 & 78
Editors note—This is the second of two articles by Ensign Wallace and Mr. Morrell)