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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chapter 4: Operation Torch

Bills ship anchored about 4 miles off Fedala French Morroco. "H" hour was set for 0445. The troops were to load into Higgins boats by net in the dark. Imagine that. Climbing down the net in the dark wearing a full pack? I wonder how many men lost their grip and fell to their deaths?
Bill spent some time at Casablanca. Here he and another guy dug a fox hole big enough for three. They covered it over with a pup tent. Because he slept in the middle when one or the other would turn over they rolled taking the blanket with him. My personal opinion is that this is the only time he dug a fox hole for three. The Sgt heard him complain so put him on guard duty. With no blanket he probably could not sleep anyway! He also got culture shock here. The sun came up and he saw coming out of a grass hut, chickens, burros, dogs, children and adults. Talk about cultural shock. Not the biggest yet. One time he ate a cream pastry from a bakery in Casablanca and came down with the crud. While at the slit trench latrine he saw an Arab woman digging in the slit trench with a hoe. He chased her away because at this stage of this development he wanted some privacy when he went to the bathroom. He covered the result with dirt as regulations state. When he left the woman returned to continue digging. He was unable to figure out what she was looking for. Another memorable incident occurred with one of the guys in his pup tent tried to kill a fly on the ceiling by shooting at it. The age old method of irrigating with a cow made an impression on him too. Plowing with a team of camel and cow also seemed strange.

While other outfits were securing North Africa the 3rd Inf. marked time waiting and training. It was eight months before the 3rd. saw combat. Bill and the others made good time enjoying their life in Morocco. There was so much to learn.

The division was reviewed by President Roosevelt. Roosevelt was there for a conference. Also in the picture is old Blood and Guts General Patton. Bill's outfit was the 39th FA and Roosevelt ate in their mess that day of the review.

Bill's unit had moved to Rabat and one week end he and another soldier got a week end pass. They went to a restaurant and ordered chicken. When it came they found that the entrails had not been remove when it was cooked.

Training included a forced mile march with full pack in 6 minutes. Leave these things to the infantry. They also learned how to recognize and what not to do with booby traps.

Nearing the end of the 8 month period of inaction they then began amphibious training. They didnt' know it of course but Sicily was coming up. From then on rest periods were few and far between.

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The waiting time finally came to an end after 8 months. The commanders decided to put the troops to work by invading Sicily.
Good old Joe (Roosevelt's words) Stalin was pressuring Churchill and Roosevelt to take the pressure off him by invading Europe. Not the soft underbelly as Churchill called southern Europe. He wanted Europe not Africa. But Africa was the best the Allies could do at the moment so Africa it was. It had some advantages but not what it would have been if they had invaded Europe where they did June 6, 1944. Me personally I am against war. Every man killed was a tragedy. A life snuffed out never getting a chance to live. All because some politician didn't want peace as much as he wanted glory. Naturally there are always enough generals who want glory too. Well, if you say we had to defeat Hitler. But Hitler couldnt even cross 20 miles of Channel so how could he have crossed 3,000 miles of Atlantic? But back to the subject of invading Sicily. At the top of the page I showed a picture of Bill and his friend Terry. Terry was killed by running over a mine. Several were killed in this manner.

The 39th FA sailed from Bizerte for Sicily. It was smooth sailing for a while then a storm came up. LST's are like a cork so it wasn't any fun.
For you who are interested Bill landed on Yellow beach after a little shelling by the Germans. They also had their first casualty. Jim Presley was killed by a mine. Also shortly about this time Sgt. Lewis and Boyd Fagan were killed by land mines. Presley s shown here.