Friday, October 31, 2008
Finally the brass decided to relocate my outfit so they could issue new clothes and furnish new planes. They moved us to Casablanca, a beautiful city which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. If I had to stay in the military I would like for it to be in Casablanca. No, I did not see Bergen and Bogart, nor did I see the movie until six years after the war ended. But I did see thousands of refugees from Europe crowded into the harbor, trying to fly out or to board a boat for South America. At the sidewalk cafes you could hear six to eight different languages being spoken. There were beautiful women refugees who were willing to barter their bodies for a visa for their husbands. The city is spread across a hill, and most of the houses are painted white. The city contained Europeans dressed formally as well as raggedly, and Arabs in all sorts of different clothes. It was a mixture of different cultures, people with money and others with nothing at all. There are many stories to be told about Casablanca, but since our nation is in an historic presidential election, I will pause at this time until next week when I will evaluate the issues confronting our country.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
During the lull at our air base in Tunisia I took a jeep and two fellow soldiers to visit the holy Moslem city of Kairouan, about 20 miles away. As we entered the city we surprised two young Moslem girls outside the walls who had dropped their veils. Frightened, they dropped to the ground and hid their faces. We drove on into the city and in front of the holy mosque we enountered a handicapped guide who spoke English. The mosque was large enough to accomodate several thousands worshipers and was lighted with thousands of oil lamps which burned day and night. Our guide told us the mosque contained the beard of the prophet, Mohammed. (This was later contradicted in Pakistan, showing a split in the religion.) He guided us up the stairs to the sanctuary. The priest was no where in sight but a man and his young son were sitting in spiritual contemplation on the floor. I nodded at this man and he nodded back. Then we returned to the square. Our guide directed us to the rug merchant, whose name was Mohammed Bey. Almost every man was named Mohammed something or other. Next to the rug merchant's office was a large warehouse containing thousands of hand woven rugs, many of them made of camels hair and wool. I was introduced to the TV table before the arrival of TV. A servant set up a folding table and put a metal tray on top. Then I was served a strong coffee which I managed to strain through my teeth. Mohammed Bey then showed us many beautiful rugs, some of them large enough to fill a hotel lobby. Although we were isolated at the base, we did receive mail and were allowed to reply and to send packages. I finally chose a rug that would fit inside the shipping rules. We returned to the base and I shipped my rug home.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Now we were stranded on top of a hill in Tunisia, our planes destroyed and our morale low. We began to hear rumors that Field Marshal Rommel was going to attack us. Rommel, one of the top German generals, was in Libya with a mechanized force, tanks, trucks and troop carriers. It was not long before we saw dust rising in the East, and sure enough it was Rommel. I had a .30 calibre rifle to defend our base with, and I felt it was useless against the mechanized forces. I had two thoughts: (l) I was going to die, and (2) the Germans were winning the war. Rommel came closer and closer, and at the last minute he turned north, went into the harbor at Tunis and took boats to Italy. It was 20 years after the war before I learned what had happened. The British had cracked the German code and were monitoring the situation. Rommel send a code message to the German high command in Berlin as follows: "Have only enough fuel for five days." The high command responded that they were dispatching a tanker from Romania with enough fuel to last for six months. The British notified their Mediterranean base at Malta which dispatched a submarine. The sub had the name of the tanker and its route. They intercepted the tanker and sank it. Rommel then left for Italy.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
President Franklin Roosevelt send my outfit to North Africa to appease Stalin. I soon found out we were expendable. As we entered Oran and turned toward Algiers I saw strange sights, such as camels and men riding jackasses. Then I saw veiled women, in some cases as many as seven, following a man who appeared to be their husband. Finally we rode a 40 and 8 box car (fortymen and eight horses) to Tunisia where we arrived at a primative airbase named Youks les baines. (Place of the bath} This contained an ancient Roman spa in the side of a cliff. We set up a landing strip flanked by 40 P-38 fighter planes. One of the first things I did was to dig a deep trench outside headquarters, which was a cave inside a hill. The Germans had night bombers and they flew over every night looking for us. We turned out all lights and temporarily evaded them. Then one day General Jimmy Doolittle, who had flown over Tokyo and bombed it several months earlier, showed up on our tarmac and taxied up to headquarters. He had a squadron of B-25s based at Maison Blanche airport at Algiers and he flew one of them to our advanced Tunisian base. Aboard with him was the same crew chief who had walked out of China with him. Soon it got dark and the German JU-88s began circling overhead. On top of the hill was a nervous GI with a machine gun. He began firing at the JU-88s. Every third round was the equivalent of a flare and it was like drawing a diagram for the enemy. I heard the bombers change course and I went to Doolittle's plane and told his crew chief I had a bomb shelter. "Oh no thank you, I must remain here as the general may need me at any moment," he replied. I left and dived into my trench and the bombing began almost immediately. The bombs rolled me over in my hole like a squirrel in a cage. Finally the bombing ended and I went out to look. There had been a direct hit on Doolittle's plane and all you could see was a few pieces of the fuselage. The crew chief and most of the plane had been blown apart. All of our fighter planes had been destroyed. Doolittle had survived at headquarters but we had to send him back to Algiers in a jeep. He had beenplanning a mission but there were no fighter planes left to accompany it.
Monday, October 27, 2008
I am among the Texans who introduced the domino game Moon to the boys up north, including those in Pennsylvania. Basically, Moon is played by three men who divide up 28 dominoes, taking seven apiece and leaving seven on the table in a cluster known as the boneyard. Bidding begins, with the perfect hand being a total of seven. For example, you can have a plurality of fives, plus some doubles. If you control the fives and if you have enough doubles then you have a winning hand. Suppose you have enough strength to bid six. Then, if no one contests you, you can draw one domino from the boneyard to complete your hand. If this draw does not help you then you can fight it out for the last trick. As a gambling game, you can play for $5 a game and $l a hickey. A hickey is when you get set and have to pay the winner $l. If you draw a winner from the boneyard then you can Shoot the Moon. Set a goal for the game at 250 points. All you need is a set of dominoes. During wartime soldiers can be easily amused.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Women have invaded the ice house, and many of them are wearing miniskirts. Some of the men are involved in a dispute. The girls are perched on a bar stool, stretching out their legs in a way that exposes their inner thigh, showing a patch of hair. Some men argue that this is deliberately provocative while others assert that this means the girls are merely relaxed. The girls also shoot pool, and drink beer, but they have not invaded the domino game, which is called moon and which is a form of men contesting one another in a mild gambling game. The moon players basically ignore everyone else. The pool players are more diverse and often men and women contest each other in the pool room.