- Contributed by
- People in story:
- SGT. THOMAS S. SULLIVAN
- Location of story:
- US, convoy, N.IRE., Scotland, Africa, Italy
- Background to story:
- 1ST & 3RD RANGER BNs, US
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 November 2003
NOTES FROM DOCUMENTS WRITTEN BY SGT THOMAS S. SULLIVAN (31056581)
BETWEEN JANUARY 1942 THROUGH AUGUST 1943 PRIOR TO HIS DEATH IN COMBAT ON THE HEIGHTS NEAR SALERNO, ITALY ON 16 SEP 1943 IN VICINITY OF CHIUNZI PASS. ASSIGNMENTS INCLUDE INITIALLY THE 34TH US ARMY DIV AND SUBSEQUENTLY THE 1ST AND 3RD US RANGER BNs. TOM SULLIVAN WAS A RESIDENT OF NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND, USA. OBSERVATIONS INCLUDE BASIC TRAINING IN THE STATES, CONVOYING TO THE UK ON THE TROOP SHIP DUCHESS OF ATHALL, TRAINING IN NORTHERN IRELAND AND SCOTLAND WITH THE RANGERS, BILLETING IN DUNDEE, AND FIGHTING IN NORTH AFRICA AND ITALY.
[transcribed by his nephew, Tom Lanagan, 2001]
BASIC DATES and EVENTS NOTED IN DIARY OR MENTIONED IN LETTERS:
Nov 40, elections
2 June 41, graduate cum laude from St Michael’s Vt.
5 Sept 41, inducted into Army
11 Sept 41, Camp Wheeler
2 Feb 42, Ft Dix NJ with 34th DIV
7 Feb 42, day pass to NYC and meet family from RI
14 Feb 42, Last leave home to RI for 1-day
18 Feb 42, Embark Duchess of Athall
19 Feb 42, sail from New York harbor
2 Mar 42, enter harbor at Belfast (Northern Ireland) with 2nd convoy as part of 168th Regiment
8 June 42, Exam for Rangers to form up in Carrickfergus, Ireland
12 June 42, join Rangers in Ireland
1 Jul 42, depart Ireland for Scotland
2 Jul 42, arrive at Commando Training Depot in Achnacarry, Scotland
1 Aug 42, Rushaven House
2 Sep 42, Dundee, Scotland
25 Sep 42, Glasgow, Scotland
13 Oct 42, Grenoch and Royal Scotsman
21 Oct 42, depart Scotland by convoy and sail around Ireland
6 Nov 42, at Gibraltar
8 Nov 42, landings in North Africa at Arzew, Algeria
27 Dec 42, board the Queen Emma (?a transport ship? Commando raiding ship ? )
10 Jan 43, back in Arzew
13 Jan 43, move to La Macta
23 Jan 43, Tripoli falls to Rommel
25 Jan 43, B-Company relieves A-Company and it was back to Arzew with
7 Feb 43, boarded air transports at Taifaroui for 3 1/2 hour flight towards
9 Feb 43, 150 km nite move to Gafsa Oasis
12 Feb 43, Sened Station raid
16 Feb 43, visit by Gen Eisenhower who had a WAAC driver (that impressed my
1 Mar 43, move further into Tunisia with A-Company
13 Mar 43, he notes that Gen Patton verbally beat up a dozen rangers for not
wearing helmets and ties !!!
------------ as an aside, I went through the same sort of verbal lashing
while I was in Vietnam back in '69 and this flag officer gave us hell for
not having spit-shined boots......some things never change ! (my 2-cents)
14 Mar 43, move to Bouchubka
18 Mar 43, capture ElGuettar which had been evacuated
24 Mar 43, retreat from German counterattack
27 Mar 43, Jebel Auk Pass captured
31 Mar 43, he writes about a Cuban in the unit, "Chico" who was a good
soldier and friendly
4 Mar 43, talks about a Catholic priest, Fr. Basil, who was getting ready to
leave the unit
7 Apr 43, move by truck to Medilla
8 Apr 43, Rangers back up the Free French in expectation of Panzer and
15 Apr 43, he chases Arabs off while at a post on a cold nite when he has
his goat jacket on.
May 43, transferred from the 1st to new 3rd Ranger Bn as part of training cadre
10 July 43, landings in Sicily
MEMORABLE BOOKS READ IN THE ARMY SINCE SEPT 1941:
Keys of the Kingdom – A.J. Cronin
Faust – Goethe
Berlin Diary – Skines
You Can’t Do Business with Hitler – D. Miller
Russians Don’t Surrender - Poliabior
Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
The Good Earth – Pearl Buck
BEST MOVIES SEEN SINCE SEPT 1941:
The Maltese Falcon – S. Greenstreet, H. Bogart
How Green was my Valley – W. Pedgross, M. O’Hara
Citizen Kane – O. Wells, D. Conungore
The First of the Few – L.Howard, D. Niven
Swamp Water – Walter Brennan
Fighting 69th – Cagney, O’Brien, Brent
H.M. Pulhouse Esquire – Robert Young, H. Lamore
TRANSCRIPTIONS OF WRITINGS:
1/1/42: Today Tee McDee, Ensign piloted his last plane, Grumman F4F-3. Thomas A. McDonnell crashed….Auf wiedersehen, Tee.
1/2/42: Olsen and I with the “meanest little man” Anthony McAnulla celebrated. Mac leaves for Alabama as a Corporal.
1/3/42: Not so keen today. Wonder where the Ayers are? And Jackman and Kerr ? Not to mention this cursed Battalion.
1/4/42: Still on Air Corps list. Damn the red tape. I’d be a Navigator cadet now if that ruling wasn’t changed.
1/5/42: A and B Co. on combined guard. A honey of a crap game going. No interest to me. It’s much too nice to sleep. Think I’ll get up to the beach to read.
1/6/42: Dotty is sure a cute one – is at the Khaki Club now. That blonde at Wisteria is all right too. I’ll have to spend more time there….their pie-a-la-mode is hunky dory.
1/7/42: Playing chess in the Reading Room – doing well under Olson’s tutelage. Fun to devise methods of attack, ways of defense, feints, etc.
1/8/42: Dad married in Abington to “Aunt” Kit, will spend week-end at Hotel McCelprine. Congrats to both of them.
1/9/42: Johnson, Lavesque, Mac and I at Reveille to see “Swamp Water” which was very well done. Sent telegram to Dad and Kit.
1/10/42: Mac and I saw the “Maltese Falcon” with Humphrey Bogart. It was an excellent mystery thriller. Sidney Greenstreet real good.
1/11/42: Mac left for Ft McClellan for Tent City. The little corporal is on the way up. Craig, Bray, Walker, Stewart left also.
1/12/42: Not many of us left now. Up to HQ today and put my name on list for Classification Office. Sidney Albert is Sgt. now. Johnson doing ok at HQ.
1/13/42: Skippee now a clerk at S4 for Michelson. Still painting coal boxes and filling in grass for the almighty Buchbee.
1/14/42: Saw “Citizen Kane” starring Orson Wells – a strange story pregnant with hidden meaning. Photography brilliant – a new departure.
1/15/42: Good old army detail. Why did I ever catch demerits ? Ole me ! Another week of this and Oclauski and I will both be crazy.
1/16/42: At last I hear from Ben. He’s an air cadet at Maxwell Field. He’s a cinch to make good. On guard today.
1/17/42: Roland Johnson and Larocque on two week furlough – lucky dogs.
1/18/42: Mass at 8, Fr. Martin. I’m on KP again. Freddie is now a cook. No word from Abramson yet.
1/19/42: The new men are here at last. Detail as usual. The Panama boys, Emerson, Oclauski, Tuttle, and Traupman on furlough. Skippee and I at movies.
1/20/42: Detail goes on forever. Ollie and I at Wisteria and to see W.C. Fields. A beautiful day. Tom Ryan writes from Savannah Air Base.
1/21/42: Barracks guard today. Colonel Homes notes us superior. Wow ! Some fun being present as he gets telegram of promotion. I thought it might be a baby !
1/22/42: Our alert tonite. Played chess with Olsen – what a trouncing ! Mac wrote from McClellan. He hasn’t made Cpl. Yet.
1/23/42: Detail – helping Eslebach with paper mache ! We’re building mountains ! Saw “You’ll Never Get Rich” with actress Hayworth in town.
1/24/42: Tuttle is leaving Monday for Panama – no more garrison belts – paying the Marines ! Taussig to leave soon for Kissler field.
1/25/42: Mass at 11 and chicken dinner at 12. Forebach and I meandered about Macon looking at the pretty sights – saw “Submarine Patrol” and visited P. Chuse.
1/26/42: Reported to Lt. Colburns for work on pistol range. Swell letter from Aunt Kit. I’m going all out for furlough –calling Sgt Dendle !!! Arts informed me as range clerk.
1/27/42: Still painting coal boxes – loading and unloading. Dreaming of Air Corps, chaplains assistant, but hoping to get into Classification Office. To be called.
1/28/42: Sure miss the little corporal. It’s getting to be a system dodging the work details via reading room. We’re not ever allowed to study radio even on our own.
1/29/42: Ollie and I at Grand in Macon to see The Corsican Bros. A swell show – visited Khaki Club and Wisteria. Dotty still there.
1/30/42: I finally beat Ollie at chess, but the next game -- ! Really a swell game, chess – like moving troops for battle.
1/31/42: We’re packing for the North ! Tomorrow a.m. I’ll be headed for Jersey !! Artson gets the info ahead of time as usual.
2/1/42: Sunday – our train for Dix with Ollie and Ernst. What speed on this streamline. Wow !
2/2/42: Arrived at Dix 4 pm, assigned to Co. G, 168th Regiment….part of Rainbow in World War – “900 Gold Star Mothers” says Col Euerest – cheerful lad.
2/3/42: Passports made out – what a photo. I look like public enemy no. 43. Shots for tetanus, shots for typhus, shots and then more. It’s colder than ever here.
2/4/42: Shall I send in my change of address to Air Corps ? No confidence in piloting. Damn but I’d like to get into Navigation. Have had all trig and math required, too.
2/5/42: Simulated attack on Pointville. Noticed air raid warning siren in woods. Sgt Jacobsen is ok from National Guard from Iowa – all the rest can’t drill worth a tinkers damn.
2/6/42: Infantry tactics in extended order – wipe out parachutists in wooded area. Olson working on Co. clerk to get us info. HQ supposed to be next to impossible.
2/7/42: Went with family to New York. Roy came along too. On Sunday I went to see Keri in Maspeth. Agnes’ twins still captivate me.
2/8/42: Sunday in Long Island to see Keri and the Breskos. Went to Mass with family at St Agnes’ Chapel. After lunch we saw Ice Follies – grand show – then on to Laguardia.
2/9/42: In same barracks as Artson, Orlawski and Traupmann. John Doss here too. Don’t like this outfit a little bit. Sure was good to see family.
2/10/42: Attack Pointville after march – saw deer and rabbits in woods. Swell USO here – usual joints like Argonne – Camp a sea of mud now.
2/11/42: Spending free time in canteen. Bowling in area tonite with Olie and Herb. This damned fast drill is getting more annoying than Centerville coal.
2/12/42: Have mastered/carts of M-1 rifle. Still hate to think of my rifle score at Wheeler. Have built up a phobia about range. Well, looks like we’re going across.
2/13/42: Art is camp printer as we work our way into HQ Co. Interviewed by Tech Sgt on radio ability. Just a hoping I can get home tomorrow. Herb is going anyway.
2/14/42: Transferred to HQ and leaving at 4 pm for home – first since September. Caught Ashbury train at 7:30. Stopped at Ben’s and got home at 12:30, family is surprised.
2/15/42: Up at 9, bathed, ate and went to 10:00 Mass. Rode around Drive with Dad. Dinner at Sam’s. Fr. Kerig swell as ever. Roy was home, also visited Jack and the Reynolds. Jerry still serving. Left family in Fall River, surprised to see Norma.
2/16/42: We’re getting ready to pull up stakes. It sure was a lucky strike getting home.
2/17/42: Still here but it won’t be long now. I called Audrey from PX – so long Aud, I’ll be seeing you. Went to Major for Confession.
2/18/42: Ash Wednesday. We are leaving after dinner by train for Brooklyn. Embarked in Duchess of Athall at 7 pm – What a hubbub of excitement.
2/19/42: By 9 we are leaving New York harbor in convoy. Navy blimps are overhead. The Statue of Liberty is now out of sight. We are enroute.
2/20/42: Ten destroyers, a cruiser and USS New York are escorting twenty ships. PBYs are circling us. We must be off Maine coast by now, North North-East.
2/21/42: Land – a welcome but desolate sight – barren, bleak and snow covered Nova Scotia. We enter Halifax in single file through the mine field.
2/22/42: Lifeboat drills, alerts and what have you. The food is fair, good, often terrible. Our quarters are jammed. We are sleeping in hammocks.
2/23/42: What a dash for the rails the first day out ! We have daily Mass by Fr. Kane. The voyage is getting on our nerves.
2/24/42: Starting in Easterly direction. Had an interesting discussion with Tar from HMS Barham sunk in Mediterranean in Nov. They lost 1,000 men in four minutes.
2/25/42: It’s a long way to Tipperary. The sea is high, heavy swells but beautiful warm weather. I’m on guard down after deck.
2/26/42: We have made a reading room of our cramped quarters. The air is sickening down here. Ollie, Ben, Traupmann and I circle the decks.
2/27/42: Engineer says we’ll land at Belfast. Officers have beautiful dining salon – and we ? The cockroaches are even on our tables.
2/28/42: The lads get a kick out of the English Cockney who looks for all the world like Barry Fitzgerald – the mess orderly.
3/1/42: Most of us wrote a letter home to be censored on board ship. Corvettes alone are our escort now. Part of convoy went to Ireland. We’ll be in shortly.
3/2/42: We are making a mad dash at full speed – 22 knots – for Belfast. Only Corvettes are with us and a Lockheed Hudson overhead. Parade through waterfront.
3/3/42: After cold nite at Port Rush, we parade through town. Whole population turns out. This is a pleasant coast town on tip of North Ireland.
3/4/42: We are moving to Coleraine, six miles south, a fair sized town. Our jeeps arrive. We are living in an ex-dance hall.
3/5/42: Moved near Dramind in old garage or storehouse in rear of Café Ite – damnably hard to keep clean here.
3/6/42: Our first time in a blackout – had a little Mick with a bump like an egg on his forehead lead us around. Girls in droves singing Chattanooga Choo Choo.
3/7/42: The people are very friendly – girls galore, some pretty, a few beautiful, and then there are the rest.
3/8/42: A bevy of guard duty – ammo ships at docks, regimental, motor pool. All they have to eat are fish and chips (french fries) and flavored ices.
3/9/42: Attended Mass at St. Brendan’s yesterday – great deal of Catholic – Protestant bickering here up until the war. Palladium Theater a beautiful one – American pictures. Bert liked.
3/10/42: A soldier from Chicago is a gangster ! The movies have done a job on the people here. Going to British News usually very good. All stood at closing “God Save the King”
3/11/42: Pretty well fixed here now. Four coal stoves and one in each of the rooms. Still pretty cold here – dark at 7 p.m. Families run bars – good beer. No women allowed.
3/12/42: Colonel and officers at large white residence set back from town on rural edge. Sausage factory, also gas works nearby - what a beautiful stink. Papers here only two and four pages – C’est la guerre.
3/13/42: Privates better with girls than bosses. Artson a killer with his Brooklyn corset salesman line. Chocolate is scarce here. Girls work for nothing at all.
3/14/42: Leave at noon with Henrio Ek. For Belfast – compartments of six – tickets taken after arrival. Good time. Large station, bombed coast areas, whole blocks demolished. Shelters poor.
3/15/42: Had good time – meal of steak, potatoes, rice pudding – 2/6 yes. Booths above main floor. Dinner in Carleton – waitress from province – buxom lass, stay at Grand Central.
3/16/42: Back for duty – hike to Port Rush (12 mile). Irish miles a great deal longer. These colleens are poor and scrawny with bad teeth. Mass at 4 p.m., confession and communion.
3/17/42: Our nite out at Grand Central cost us 19/6 – large bed, table, desk, sofa, and fireplace. Best in city. Large dirty metropolis – trams, busses, gas burning lamps.
3/19/42: At Palladium to see Billy the Kid. Irish are rabid for American movies. Everybody is escorting colleens – pretty ones too. Bill and Tars stag for this one.
4/3/42: Long, long line for canteen rations. Got me hold of a few books, too. Pocket books a great invention for a soldier. Artson and Bill out with the chorus.
4/17/42: I am on track detail – at least get to see trains. Off tonite and saw Winie in the chip joint – chips and soda, soda and chips and flavored ice.
4/18/42: Radio code in our little shack on outskirts of Coleraine. I am doing about 13 words. The 288 is a Swedish set and is O.K. We hear States on it.
4/19/42: Patriots Day – I wonder who won the Boston Marathon ?
5/9/42: Kennedy and I celebrate in Enniskellen. I meet Maud. Had to spend nite at railroad station.
5/10/42: Fr. Kane has Mass in large garage which is also our movie theater. We have a swell library now. Rex Hahn tunes in on States and we hear swell program.
5/15/42: Seven hour march on these damned Irish highways – My feet are a mess of blisters, 22 miles today. Danny did damned well.
5/16/42: Red in difficulty, Jerry too. Joe Orlauski, Murmarugh and Dubunin shine. The Russian is sober – no pay. It’s great to see them again. I walk home.
5/21/42: HQ demonstrates signal equipment for Generals Holler, Hartle, and British Staff including Sir John Dill Chief of Staff. Enjoyed show.
5/22/42: I’m on 288 with Eagle operating RXO, 1st BN. Another demonstration for Scotch general. Tonite I’m enthralled by Buchanan’s Thirty-Nine Steps.
5/23/42: Saturday – a miserable day – wind and rain, and the beautiful lush mud of Ireland.
5/30/42: Inspection a.m. Impressive Memorial Day exercises at 11 a.m. Prayer by Chaplain Kane and oration by Col Everest.
6/7/42: Inspection this a.m. Afternoon off – went to see HQ defeat Anti-tanks in baseball game. Artson not too bad. Too bad Hanfert couldn’t play.
6/8/42: Physical exam for Rangers – American commando organization to be formed at Carrickfergus. There will be ten days testing.
LETTER HOME TO YOUNGER BROTHER: June 8, 1942
A most hearty thanks for your letter. Please forgive my not writing sooner. It surprised me to hear you were with Tom Knott as his mother worked at the beach last summer and I knew her quite well.
Glad to hear you are doing so well in school. I imagine algebra must be quite a bother to you. It’s not so bad. I got through it o.k. and even your glamorous sister passed it after several tries.
I hear you are doing right well in baseball. You’re the first south-paw in the family so keep on rifling the ball over the plate. Your Dad is quite a pitcher too. How else could he sell so much insurance !
Just what do you play in the band ? They tell me your school was competing for the Bishop’s Cup. Who won it anyhow ?
Listen Slim, if you keep on hitting .571 you’ll make Ted Williams look as bad as Georgie Oakley. Somebody has been spoofing you. That’s a swell average.
We have a pet goat here now. His horns are beginning to sprout and he’s getting real frisky. Too bad you couldn’t be here with your gun. The hills are full of rabbit and there’s a rat behind every garbage pail.
Have you been swimming yet ? I don’t dare trust myself in the water yet. It’s colder than dry ice.
Don’t forget to write soon.
6/9/42: Close order drill and radio net practice. I am drilling one squad – not bad at all for first time. These 288 sets are honeys.
LETTER HOME TO DAD: June 9, 1942
Rec’d your latest letter and was darned glad to hear from you. It sure sounds good the way things are going with all of you.
As yet neither Roy nor Ken have written. Prof Kelly wrote a swell letter. I can’t get myself to realizing a year has passed. Believe it or not I’m still keeping my eyes open for a job after the war. My latest is a claims adjusting one perhaps for an insurance firm.
Everything is going well with us. Our training is progressing very well. I have not yet contacted any of the Newporters and believe most of them are moving to a different locale. I met an architectural engineer from New York and a contractor from Taunton. The latter leaves for the States this month.
It is damnably hard to realize that all this is true and not something conjured up by a yogi. I expect we’ll find it all too realistic in the near future.
We have movies here nearly every night now which helps to break the monotony a good deal. I enjoyed Primrose Path very much and almost went again this evening. Our library is a good one too. I’m now rapt up in Oscar Levant’s “A Smattering of Ignorance” – perhaps the title is most appropriate for it’s present reader. His observations of Harpo Marx and George Gershwin are as delightful as they are instructive.
Kit tells me you are down on Harry. It is as much my fault for not writing him you know, so don’t forget to see him while he is in town. Harry is a very remarkable young man. It’s a wonder to me he isn’t much farther up in the world.
That just about does it this trip. Best of luck on your Torpedo Station venture (if you do) and love to all. My regards to Aunts Betsy and Annie.
6/10/42: Radio code practice in Quonset Hut shelter. Am doing about 14 words. Don’t know whether to join Rangers or not if it means giving up radio.
6/11/42: Called for interview before board of officers. Evidently accepted for Rangers. Yep, made first step. John Doss here too.
6/12/42: Joined 1st Ranger BN, American commandos for ten day trial. Unit composed of picked volunteers of N.I.I. Wood, Hasting, Doss are here.
6/13/42: Speed march under Lt. Knudsen – damned blisters bothersome. Stationed in Carrickfergus near Belfast. Beautiful waterfront, medieval castle.
6/14/42: Speed – essence of commando training. Visit Belfast – 168th on maneuvers. Dick Porter joined up with Sextus.
6/15/42: Training Sundays and all 6 ½ day week. Camp cleaned up, boxed -- will move.
6/16/42: 132 men sent back after interview. Companies of sixty-plus men to be organized. Lt. Klefman looking for radioman. I have hopes.
6/17/42: Assigned A Company, Capt Steve Meade commanding. Speed marches a.m., calisthenics, tumbling, ju-jitsu and sports p.m. Day ends at 5.
6/18/42: Wood and I in Belfast. Carlson, Pfaun., Moseby, Fisher and Hederstead in billets.
6/19/42: Doss and yours truly wander about waterfront. Belfast at head of bay - in distance a convoy off point by beautiful little town – quaint, silent.
6/20/42: Speed marches as always. Tumbling getting interesting. Fast volleyball game today. John Doss and I see H.M. Pulhouse Esq.
6/21/42: Expect to go to Scotland for training. No weekend passes. Doss and I chat with Lighthouse keepers. John Paul Jones shelled town here.
6/22/42: Moseby and I go to Belfast. Meander about Dougal Sq. and visit Red Cross Club. Kostie is with M.P.s.
6/23/42: Maccabie getting more rugged. Still making the grade. Cross country and up steep cliffs. Beautiful view of bay from here.
6/24/42: Guard duty. To think I gave up HQ for this ! All we have are the 536 radios now. Officers thrilled as if they were new toys.
6/26/42: Major Darby an impressive man – real soldier all the way, graduate of West Point, aide to General Hartle.
6/27/42: Brigadier Leacock of Commandos gives talk on our training to be. Major Darby originator of Rangers addresses us.
6/28/42: Went to Confession at St. Michaels. Priest rather old, very interesting and amiable fellow.
6/29/42: New equipment in supply. I finally get senge-pants (???). Cleaning cosmoline from rifles – a messy job. Guard duty today. Mass at St Michaels.
6/30/42: Confined to camp. Issued entire new outfit from O.D.’s to rifle. All equipped with M-1s, Tommy guns, B.A.R.s.
7/1/42: Leave for Scotland via Lorries and Steamers. We train all nite and pass through Glasgow and are in Highlands. Mountains all around us.
7/2/42: Met by Highlanders band in kilts, bagpipes and all. March to Achnacarry, commando depot in Loch Ackaig. We live in tents.
7/3/42: Sgt Major McCaughan assigned as instructor to A Co. – an Irishman with 16 years in the Army. Five mile speed march – a pip is dropped out. Two hours with packs.
7/4/42: Independence Day in British camp – they work pants off us. Sgt Major had American Marines here a week ago. Edstrom passes out after Japanese stranglehold.
7/5/42: We sleep on ground in shelter bags. During day, blankets folded, clean towel at top, with b.bag in back, equipment on top – a neat but trying arrangement in cramped quarters.
7/6/42: Carlsen, Pfaurn, Stoops, Anders, Edstrom in our tent. Tents are teepee style. We are jammed with six. British had twenty-three around center pole !
7/7/42: Food wholesome but scarce, no seasoning. Tea, fish, porridge, prunes with cornstarch sauce seems to be chief diet. Mess officer has temerity to ask if we like it.
7/8/42: Reveille at 6:45, breakfast at 8:30, training 9 to 1, dinner at 2, supper at 7. Physical training instructors very good. Commandos rugged, real fellows. Unarmed combat.
7/9/42: Speed march over mountains. Saw large herd of deer in valley. Assault courses galore. Mountain climbing. Toggle-rope bridges across streams.
7/10/42: Use Tommy guns in “My Pal” assault course. Sgt Major a marvelous shot with any weapon. Shoot 55 anti-tank rifle – Hell-of-a-kick . Accurate – pass excellent.
7/11/42: Fastest speed march yet –thought I was out on my feet but made it. Rope bridges, two ropes over river. I got almost across when palomp and an icy splash !
7/12/42: Scaled down – absailing – castle sheer drop of forty feet. Most of us burn or blister hands and thighs. Capt first as always.
7/13/42: Church services by Chaplain Markham of 34th Division from Ireland. Movies at nite. I enjoy Philadelphia Story much more this time.
7/14/42: We’d starve without NAAFI canteen – tea, candy. Mail arriving o.k. Sgt Parish moves into pup tent. Ky waves from top of cliff.
7/15/42: All day hike over three mountain ranges – cold, rainy on peak where we bivouac for dinner. Up and down hills, mountains, streams – return 8:15 at nite.
7/16/42: PT with logs and lay in the ground muddy. No word at all of old outfit.
7/17/42: Swim rivers with packs – feels like Naragansett Bay in January. All I miss are the ice floes. Detachment arrives from the States. Sgt Crabtree here !
7/18/42: Spirit and devil may care attitude of Americans amazes British and Scotch. Commandos go wild over Garand rifle, we over Bren and Anti-tank rifles.
7/19/42: Lt. Whitfield of the No. 1 Commandos is best liked of all officers – very tall, lithe – can out-walk any man I ever saw.
7/20/42: Services by British Catholic Chaplain. Jackey Carlson still worrying about wife and baby. He ? must be month old by now.
7/21/42: Don’t know about Army, but British Commandos are real fighting men – London Police training , also Free French.
7/22/42: Hathaway, Wallsmith et moi are fifth columnists disguised as sheepherders we meet Mr Camerun and ten sheep inside Spearbridge. Problem a success.
7/23/42: Old Mr Camerun’s sheepdog was a marvel to behold – the way he handled those sheep. We got captured only because of GI shoes.
7/24/42: Fell out on speed march to Spearbridge – ran a county mile – but couldn’t catch up. Whitfield views with disgust. Tsk. Tsk.
7/25/42: Run opposed landing under heavy fire, live ammunition of course. A.P. reporter impressed as Bren gunner splashes 303’s about him.
7/26/42: 1st Sgt F. Co. shot in royal posterior – of all places. Rope bridge and death slide (40 feet down rope across river via toggle-rope) under fire for General.
7/27/42: Boy did we razz American detachment – day in and day out. After one speed march they looked like stragglers in a marathon. Ordered to cut out the banter.
7/28/42: Right wheel ! Lovely Lance Corporal chases us from parade ground – What an ignoble drill is the British one. Target practice today. Fears or jeers ?
7/29/42: Speed march about 12 miles around Loch Lochy – bivouac for dinner- scouted by enemy – cross canal by rope – all nite march and dawn attack across river on castle.
7/30/42: After 3 hour layover in cold and wet we force march thru underbrush to Achenacarry and attach castle at 6 a.m. The river was swift and cold as Vermont winter.
7/31/42: Layover – slept all day yesterday. Had few beers in canteen – still only one half-way pretty in there – Marie – then to bed.
8/1/42: Getting ready to move out. Free French marched out days ago. Out-train for N. Anine Locheislart and via Lorrie to Rushven House.
8/2/42: Arrive Rushven – most desolate spot on point of land off Hebrides for amphibious training and weapons training. Ten to fourteen days.
8/3/42: Got boats and leather jerkins today. Sure need boats here. What a pip of an obstacle course here – up cliffs 12feet, jump, log climbing, rope ladders, etc.
8/4/42: In “R” boats (Higgins Corp. of New Orleans). Young naval officers here – some Australians, a Canadian P.O. (Shorty) and three WRNS – beautiful spot, wild, rugged.
8/5/42: Desolate – five mile walk over mountain to civilization and by boat elsewhere. Firth can’t be navigated at low tied. Practice landings tomorrow.
8/6/42: We crammed into our ride of R boat. Land dry on rocky beach – then wet landing (waist for me, knees for Cfaun) – then another. That’s all for today.
8/20/42: Arrive in Oban about noon. All ready for grand spree. Nice little town. Starks and I together – room in small hotel. Celebrate all over town.
8/21/42: We decide to stay another day, watch steamer pull out at 1:30. Bought some novels and maps, stationary. Sent cable home yesterday. Change to Temperance hotel ! Having swell time.
9/2/42: Rangers arrive in Alachout in Dundee – populous mighty curious of strange troops – sleep in courthouse tonite. We are to live in civilian billets !
9/3/42: Our house is with Misses McClaren, 39 N. Court St. – younger sister about fifty – haughty, domineering – other about sixty, rather deaf, likeable. Well furnished modern apartments.
9/4/42: A Co. meets in Baxter Park, our new assembly point. Whole city cheers us and gapes from windows as we march down flagstone streets. Large, busy town.
9/5/42: We ride to Mayfield parade ground each a.m. on tram – rifles, packs and all. Rangers are hanging from rear platform and everywhere. March past large beautifully hidden airfield.
9/6/42: Plenty of good restaurants, theaters, and even a beauty of an ice rink. People bubbling over with friendship and enthusiasm over us. We get canteen cards for food and sweets.
9/7/42: Roy and I sleep in big wooden bed with spring mattress, have own bureau, fireplace and commode. Miss McClaren cleans up room everyday, washes clothing, straightens up all.
9/8/42: Have had two dates with cute good looking brunette – Sarah Rice, about 19 – she does welding – all of them despise the English.
9/10/42: Speed march on hard road again past airport. Spitfires zoom out of nowhere and disappear as well into cultivated fields. Every inch of earth is furrowed. Wheat all over.
9/11/42: Saw Rangers in Newsreels – A Co. under fire in assault landing. Enjoyed How Green was my Valley very much. Green’s Playhouse Café is popular eating place.
9/12/42: Coca Cola at Café Val D’or – swell restaurant.
9/25/42: Moss Park, Glasgow with 18th Inf of 1st Div – a mud hole on a golf course.
10/13/42: Went to Mass (served) and communion. Fr. Basil of Commandos said Mass in tent. Something big is coming off and Rangers will be in middle.
10/14/42: Rangers board train to Gourock and arrive on the Royal Scotsman. A and B Cos with some Marines and QM are attached this ship.
10/15/42: Gigantic convoy forming. Three plane carriers, Queen Elizabeth, destroyers and troop ships as far as the eye can see.
10/16/42: Practice landing from LCAs on concrete pier. Getting real proficient. Harbor crammed with colliers, transports, etc. – Dutch, English, American.
10/17/42: Sailing north to practice combined operations landings. 18th Infantry to land nearby.
A Co has toughest assignment – C, D, E, F to take out gun emplacements after mortars.
10/18/42: Landing above Aban in Firth by nite. A Co. takes out simulated gun positions. B Co forms defensive perimeter for us.
10/19/42: Quite a bit of confusion in the darkness. Cold, wet nite on guard over bridge. 18th Infantry baffled upon meeting US Marines. Return to boat in LCTs.
10/20/42: Back on Grenoch. Fresh water taken on. Stocked full with rations. 531 Engineers and a QM outfit on board. Meet Feinstein from Cranston. A smoothie.
10/21/42: A.M. – heading out of Grenoch for the open sea. Whither bound ?
Course around Ireland today. Rumors flying thick as barrag-tallow.
11/6/42: At Gibraltar.
11/7/42: Gigantic convoy – five lanes of transports and two of warships on flanks as far as eye can see. A magnificent sight. 11:30 on deck in full battle dress ready to land.
11/8/42: At 1:30 A.M., A Co. lands in LCAs on dock inside harbor at Arzew taking fort in one hour. One Arab killed at entrance. C,D, E and F take F. du Nord with mortar fire preceding. Am guarding oil refinery.
11/9/42: Three snipers killed above us. Sniping all A.M. yesterday. B Co. loses one man. C and E called out to St. Cloud to reinforce 2nd Inf. Bn. We are in front now – night patrols.
11/10/42: No news of C Co. – reported surrounded by French. Lt Klefman and Bud Nystrom killed – two swell fellows. C Co. loses 3 men – did beautiful job capture 75’s, back home.
11/11/42: Search Arab quarters for arms. Quite a store taken – plenty of antiques. 8-hour battle with medics and MPs for snipers. No casualties.
11/12/42: Moved to school-house where 2nd Corps HQ are established. A Co. guarding HQ bridges and roads. Great to-do with truck drivers.
11/13/42: Still on C Rations – got 17 cases from trucks today. We stop them for speeding while a couple of us pilfer crates from the rear. Commandos at work.
12/25/42: Midnite Mass by Fr. Basil. Xmas Carols and sermon at noon. Real Xmas dinner – a lot quieter than the lads are having in Tunisia.
12/27/42: Rangers board Queen Emma. Hammocks again – small lockers. Beautiful streamlined yacht. Built Rotterdam ’39. In most of Commando raids. Can do 30 knots easily.
12/29/42: Aud’s 20 years young today. Wonder what this date had in store for her. News good from Russia – not so good in Tunisia. Watch French seaplanes cavorting about.
12/31/42: New Year’s dinner this evening – chicken and all the fixins. This is a beautiful boat – spotless as a new born babe – I sure like those power driver winches.
1/1/43: On board Queen Emma. Wet landing at Ranger Beach – single file up rugged hills, cold, wet. A.M. climb hilltop – long march to attack Arab town.
1/2/43: Chicken yesterday (twice, wow ! ) Ashore for platoon tactics under Lt Evans. Joe Phillips gets group photo. Afternoon off. Reading E.A. Poe.
1/3/43: Platoon tactics on hills above Arzew. Tough time of it at nite on boat penetration. Wet landing – I fell face first. Continued march to new mountain.
1/4/43: It was good to get into dry clothes. Morning off – not even a damned inspection ! Rumors of our job – sketchy – It’s a Med. Island. Crew not told.
LETTER HOME TO YOUNGER BROTHER: January 4, 1943
Thanks a lot for your letters, Joe. You’ll have to forgive me for not writing sooner. Next time I’ll be right on time.
Are you in High School now ? Probably it’s Junior high at Sacred Heart. I suppose you’re still in the band. What do you play ?
I have to keep figuring to remember how old you are. I think it’s 14. Time is sure going by.
So Fr. McLaughlin has gone now. Fr. Murphy too. Guess I won’t know anybody back there now.
How’s the basketball coming ? Did you see any of the big college football games ? Dad saw the Holy Cross game in Boston. I guess.
They tell me the Rangers are even in the Funny books now.
Don’t give up on the algebra and French. They’re not so bad.
Ever see Joe Milner any more ?
We’re doing fine here. Joe, a thrill coming in believe you me. That was child’s play to what’s coming though.
We had turkey for Xmas but it sure would taste better back home so me and the boys are going to fix it up to be back home for next Xmas. We’ll have to catch hold of Adolf and give him a little convincing. Have you seen any news reels of us ?
That’s all for now.
1/5/43: Nite problem. Swells too great. Two LCAs pile on beach. Rangers push in off from waist deep water. Problem called off. Back up cork ladders !
1/6/43: Speed march today – not bad, though. Col rips into a truck driver. Boy can that man dress a body down.
1/7/43: Col. Gives us talk on situation in Tunisia – grim. Looks like the job is off –
No more AWOL – Remember Oban !
1/8/43: Disembarked from Queen Emma back to the grid. Our beautiful spring bed is gone. We Commandos came from Engineers.
1/9/43: Speed march per usual. Sand flying faster than rumors today. Haled in this afternoon. Useless to eat dinner of sand.
1/10/43: Roy and I on Old Outfit day (courtesy of Darby) went to Arzew – first in chow line today. In evening went to Eden to see French travel film.
1/11/43: Scouting under Lt Dicks – Cpl Vetcher, Aachen and I scouted terrain above camp making hasty military map of important features.
1/12/43: Road march under Lt. Evans – easy going today. A Co. saw strange variety of rodent – long tail (bushy). One hell-of-a sand storm this p.m.
1/13/43: A Co. on move again to La Mocta. Vetcher, Ugh., Freeman, Earl and Campbell on 30 mg outpost. In pup tents. Mosquitoes like JU 87s.
1/14/43: Coast guard outpost set up at La Macta – on 30 mg. Firing M1s at targets on beach. Reading “You Can’t Do Business with Hitler”. On from 3 till 8:30 a.m. – Uneventful.
1/15/43: The food is swell. This is much better than the old grind. We are keeping fit on the hills. On duty 7 till 11 p.m. – quiet, no Darby.
1/16/43: Roy and I dug out place for our tent and built sides of sandbags – a cozy little hut. Our mg is now supplemented with pill box and camo net.
1/17/43: Alert last nite. Flapjacks again a.m. Canteen supplies today. Finished Miller’s best seller – splendidly done – a devastating indictment of Nazi. Earl fell in our tent p.m.
1/18/43: Just off gun post. Only wheetena for a.m. Writing to Dad, Winnie, Anne and Jack. A major effort. Twelve Forts went over at 9. Wonder how many will come back. Sure is snug in here.
1/19/43: Try out Aud’s pen today. It’s a beauty – Parker vacumatic. Alert last nite for parachutists near St Leu – no game. Hunting rabbits and gulls by sand cliffs today. Wrote to Taylor, Helene, Aud, and Roy.
1/20/43: Lt Dicks surprised us but we sure got W.O. ! Flushed 2 rabbits today but unable to get a shot. Admiring raggedy Arab gal P.M. My ! My ! What a comedown. Tonite set trip wires for the good Lt.
1/21/43: Oran bombed 8:30 last nite. Went swimming yesterday – felt like someone strapped a cake of ice around me. Rommel only 60 mile from Tripoli. Our group from 7 – 11.
1/22/43: Raining slightly. Believe Rangers are to train part of 135th Infantry. Mercury arrived with election news – Perratti new alderman, McCauley reelected. 46 our planes over A.M. Some day.
1/23/43: Vetcher and I have another verbal battle. Poor lad is so oppressed ! Chico in great spirits last nite. Today Tripoli fell. What now Rommel ? Alert (?) tonite.
LETTER HOME TO YOUNGER BROTHER: Jan. 23, 1943
Hello there old timer. How’s the world treating you ? Dad tells me you’re doing fine with the books. Keep it up, lad. You’ll never regret it.
I’m fine as I know you are. The war has slowed up as far as I am concerned but I don’t think it’ll be long before things start popping. Benny Reynolds is over here somewhere in a Flying Fortress. He wrote recently from Florida. Bob Lyons is in New Orleans with his wife.
What did you think about Mr. Perrotti being elected alderman ? Maybe he’ll be mixing up sodas for the Mayor now.
It’s not too bad over here now and we’re having it a lot nicer than some of the fellows farther up. Boy, I’ll bet it’ll be hotter than seven Bostons this summer. Just think, no snow for me again this year. I went swimming Thursday in the Mediterranean. It was rather cold but sure refreshing.
What do you play in the band ? And do you play hockey or basketball now ? We had a football out after supper – kicked it around a bit and scared the little Arab kids half to death. That’s all for now.
Love, your brother.
1/24/43: Not a damned thing today. Am still loading the L-out with mail. Jensen fell 25 feet and broke both wrists. Poor lad can’t even feed himself.
1/25/43: B Co. relieving us today, so its back to Arzew and Col Darby. H Co. 135th Infantry training with us. Our bed has again vanished but I found another.
1/26/43: Easy hike by Lt. Dicks. Afternoon off. Softball and volleyball teams organized. Mail today. Arzew at nite.
1/27/43: Marched with packs on for a nite problem. Handle BAR better – feed us better or else.
Nite problem 4 pm – speed march till 6 and attach St Leu – flares, damned vineyards, mud.
1/28/43: Everybody bothered with sore feet. A great time chasing a “movable” star last nite. A.M. off ! Weapons cleaning. M-1 got a thorough overhaul today. Two packets of papers today.
1/29/43: KP all day – a snap here. Still not enough chow. What a time giving out bread – ½ slice per man – I was despised as Hitler.
1/30/43: Rangers to train 5th Invasion Army primarily in nite work. Rangers really in on big show to come. “Landing if successful, supplies follow, if not, problem simple.”
1/31/43: 100 men and 6 officers arrive fresh from States as replacements – boy are they going to be surprised ! Likely lot - most from Southwest.
2/1/43: New lads, “G Co. all present and accounted for, sir ! “ Lt Lyle takes ‘em out for an Achnacarry ‘special’ and boy can he go !
2/2/43: On range from dawn till dusk – do targets A.M. – fire 168 (2nd highest), Freeman and Vetcher tie for 1st. Late supper of hash and cocoa – ugh.
2/3/43: Interior guard – chasing prisoners on the double – drill, lectures, meals. I wonder who is being punished.
2/4/43: Cross country hike. P.M. hike into Arzew and board new LCJs – like patrol cutters, hold 199men – 6 20mm guns, 17 knots – indoor seats. Nice jobs.
2/5/43: Nite problem – two hour speed march, supper in field. Attack town after nite control march thru vineyards and orchards – damn those vines, mud, rocks.
2/6/43: Co. raising hell in beautiful resort town of Montaganeur – me included. Had fried eggs and wine. Had photos taken – alert, back home at 3:00 !
2/7/43: Sunday a.m. boarded transports at Taifaroui Airport bound for Laboine near Tebessa. Beautiful 3 ½ hour ride. Arrive at 2:30. Algiers looked beautiful.
2/8/43: On guard all day – got lost on walking post. Here lads get wonderful grub. After sliding down hill all nite, we dig in a tent.
2/9/43: All day off. Finished reading “Russians Don’t Surrender” by Poliabior. Move by nite 150 kms to Gafsa, oasis on edge of Sahara. Camp in olive grove. On bitter cold guard.
2/10/43: Dug in tent, floor lined with palm leaves. Canteen supplies today. 26th brings us food via jeep. Col out scouting enemy who is 12 miles away.
2/11/43: Beautiful day. A Co. to go on raid. Rest today. Mass at 4 broken by anti-air. Roused from sleep at 9. Leave by truck to outpost and march into hills till daylight.
2/12/43: Friday – arrived at dawn five miles from objective, hiding out all day in cold and rain under shelter half – move up at 5 within 2-3 miles. Moon up. 11 P.M. on the way.
2/13/43: At 1 A.M. the moon went down – 100 yards from us on the plain Italians opened up with 41s and 88s. Shells bursting we attack hill. Vetcher grenades dugout. Slaughter. It’s ours.
2/14/43: We destroyed guns with loss of one man. Killed 100-150, captured 12. Heacock hit bad. Marched full speed to outpost. Missed trucks at nite, back to Gafsa. All grumpy.
2/15/43: Now in Corps again after last nite’s move. Relieve C Co. as guard. Kamble, Roy, Agh and I on 30 cal-water cooled mg covering road.
2/16/43: Eisenhower here today – big powwow. Staff in cars on hill. Rumor of end of campaign near. General has a WAAC chauffer. Game at Chaplain’s tent.
2/19/43: Today 168th Regiment got trapped by Jerry with a batch of missing. HQ didn’t fare very well. I wonder how Bill Taussig and Olsen made out.
2/21/43: Sunday is always moving day.
2/26/43: Our post first in Corps chow line. Cooks beg us not to get seconds on pancakes. So we change hats and jackets and back we go for seconds. Boy they’re good !
2/27/43: Picture Ky halting a Sherman tank with a pistol. Owner threatens law suit for missing tarpaulin. Tsk. Tsk. Had our pictures taken by railroad hand. Went with Gray to home of railroad worker. He is Italian, born at Rome – his wife German. Five kids. Swell radio. News in English from Ankara.
2/28/43: Sunday. Kunkle and I assist at Mass in Le Koeif. Mass by Fr. Chatouguain. A beautiful, petite chapel erected by phosphate mine owners for workers.
3/1/43: Move into Tunisia a mile or so. A Co. posts roads for ten miles to lead Bde in. Col Darby leads in capture of German recon car.
3/2/43: Rest camp and reorganizing. Cleaning equipment. Roy and I dig in a tent. Entrance in rear. Front covered by gas capes, 8 blankets. A cozy home.
3/3/43: Soon to have B rations. Boy, these canned rations are meritorious. Took shower Corps HQ today. 8th Army shelling Mareth Line.
3/4/43: We put a cracker tin at head of tent as reflector for candle. Catching up on our letters. Quantity of mail long since due.
LETTER HOME TO YOUNGER BROTHER: March 4, 1943
Glad to get your recent letter. As for me, I’m right in the pink – never felt any better. I’ve been on two of those trips you wanted to know about. Perhaps you read our latest accomplishment in the papers.
I hope you did well in your tests. Mom tells me you have been doing very well. So keep on the ball, Joe. You know how much Dad and Mom are doing for you. You certainly have done swell this year. Just hit that algebra for a homerun. Shut your eyes and swing for those right field stands at Fenway Park. Heck, it’s not so tough you know.
Try to see “Commandos Strike at Dawn” if you want to see the type of work we do.
Ben Reynolds is a pilot of a Flying Fortress in India now. I don’t know where Roy Thompson is.
All’s well here, quiet at present. Don’t forget to write because it is sure good to hear from you. Be seeing you after we do a job on old Adolf.
3/5/43: Fine inspection. Equipment and even shoes shining (hog fat). “Take this man’s name too, Sgt Major”. I let Roy heat water in my helmet. Alas !
3/6/43: Rained two nites in a row. Our tent held up except at front. Finished “Long Remember”. Starting new book. Mail and barracks bags arrive.
3/7/43: Sunday A.M. Mass by Fr Basil. Church cut out of red rocked soil. “The distinction between killing and murder.” Talk on operations by Col Darby. General Patton new Corps chief.
3/8/43: Another day of rest – unbelievable for Rangers. Mercuries arrive and I start thinking of a home that is farther away every hour. What after the war ?
3/9/43: Our guard six hours today – rain all night. Bararcks bags arrive with reading and writing material – glad to read Cecil Brown, Dotty, L. Herman and all the boys.
3/10/43: Conditioning hike up rugged hills – burns your guts like rotten whiskey. Last of magazines from home arrived. Melancholy day. Absorbed in Hunger Fighters.
3/11/43: Slow, hard climb up hill. Tunisia is plenty rough country. Showers this P.M. Whoopee. We have Rumor Center about fireplace – here the war is fought and won !
3/12/43: I miss guard by a throw of the dice. Hagan pitching and boy how that lad knows those cubes. Torrential downpours over now.
3/13/43: Almost move out. New drivers really like outfit. General Patton arrests dozen Rangers for not wearing helmets and ties ! Our rest period is about up.
3/14/43: Move by day to Bou Chebka and bivouac in good spot. What’s up now we don’t know. An offensive is in the wind.
3/15/43: Busy reading Packet Book of the War by Quincy House. Expecting to move in a day or so.
3/16/43: We move by nite to rocky hill near Gafsa. A new Tank Destroyer near us with 3 in. Naval gun (2800 v; 12 mile range). A cold nite even with our combat suits.
3/17/43: St Patrick’s Day. With a sprained ankle I hobble around as Rangers are reserve for No. 1 attacking Gafsa. No resistance after artillery barrage and A-20 eggs.
3/18/43: Move at 2 P.M. and hike into hills near El Guettar – rain. We lie hidden in rocks. Col Darby and Rangers take El Guettar (evacuated). Evening drops a few 88s.
3/19/43: Shelling by day. ME’s after our 155’s. We are in a sunken palm grove, beautiful, safe.
All nite patrol near the pass. Eyetris blow up road. Freeman hurt by shrapnel. MG’s in pass.
3/20/43: All nite we march over goat tracks far into, behind enemy lines. Our Arab leads us. Capt directs recon on mount. At dawn we attack. Artillery swell. At 10:30 Victory.
3/21/43: We rest all day in dead sleep. Lost not a man. Vetcher got hit. Took 140 prisoners. Denie bombed by Stukas – killed 7 English. What a barrage we threw at Jerry !
3/22/43: Our guard 2:30 A.M. Jerry counter attacks with tanks and artillery. Our 155s and 105s smack them. All day ME’s and JU 87’s bomb and hit not a gun. At 4 we re-enforce 16th. Jerry’s encore.
3/23/43: Patrol A.M. into No-Man’s-Land - - a deathly pall as we search burned half-tracks, a T.D. We acquire 4-pups. March to aid 18th. Dinner in gorge of spiral rocks. Springs.
3/24/43: Jerry attacks. We descend A.M. from 4,000 ft mountain and take up positions 1 mile from enemy. MGs at dawn. Mortars on us. Those 88’s, our artillery excellent, as also our own mortars.
3/25/43: We retreated last nite – rear guard for 18th and enter huge Wadi – a valley in rocks and sand. Huge spires. Breakfast truck arrives with hot chow. Patrol all day.
3/26/43: Jerry shelled 9th Infantry jeeps. They drove with lights ! We are relieved by 9th Div – march 8miles to El Geutar, dinner than to Gafsa.
3/27/43: Lost a day in my diary. Actually it was the 21st we attacked Jebel Auk. We returned to Gafsa today after a brilliant victory.
3/28/43: Sunday. Fr. Basil in Algiers. A beautiful olive grove here. Poppies, daisies, and beans abound here. Huge palm trees for shade.
3/29/43: Showers today. We spend two hours in a warm springs pool. It is grand to swim and dive again. The best treat since Dundee.
3/30/43: Mail a bit more regular. V mail mostly. I hear Julie and Anne. Hogan and I dig in a tent. Freeman leaves to have eyes operated on.
3/31/43: Chico leaves too – the little Cuban is O.K. We move out P.M. to guard outpost on Sidi Bar Zid road in French fort.
4/1/43: Have cooks with us - easy guard. We have four 37’s. Enemy still in Faid Pass. Montgomery has Gahes and El Houmina. A-20 shot down by FW-170.
4/2/43: Quiet as a mouse. Spitfires over at dawn – Jerry too. Gafsa bombed every nite. Flares and tracers all over sky. Like July 4th. Move back tonite to Gafsa.
4/3/43: ‘Home’ again. We dig deep holes for tents as Jerry is still out tonite but 90 mm Ack-Ack are sure making his ME’s uneasy.
4/4/43: It’s swell to rest again. The sun bakes us to the marrow. Fr. Basil leaving us – a good priest. What now for Rangers ?
4/5/43: Wash our clothes in gas the English left behind. ‘Lighten’ our bags for more trucking space. We are to get campaign bars – to wear Ranger patches.
4/6/43: Cleaning up my M-1 today. Dick Greene and Foucks back – latter by plane – our canine mascot ! Rangers are liveliest members of outfit. Like Darud.
4/7/43: Move out P.M. by truck to Medilla. We dig in on slope of sand behind French as break through may come. Expect hell on quietest day yet. T.D.’s along.
4/8/43: We back up French near Medilla as Panzers and Infantry threaten here. 8th Army opens up at 4:30 A.M. with 500 gun barrage – a gun every 8 yards and squash 15th Panzer.
4/9/43: Batts today – another swell scrum in Gafsa. Sergio ‘Lud Corps Gone to Gabes’ – ‘1st Army Welcomes 8th Army’. Rommel in headlong flight.
4/10/43: Our detail today – sausage and eggs. Breakfast good. I am sure tiring of C rations. Heard Lord Haw Haw tonite. Amusing to say least. Cultured.
4/11/43: A sweetheart of a day. Fr Basil’s last Sunday Mass today. Back to S.S. Brigade service at noon. Cleaned clothes with gas and sewed on Ranger patches.
4/12/43: Kunk and I went to Mass at 7 – Fr. Basil’s last. I went to Communion. 8th Army should be in Sousse today.
4/13/43: Repaired bayonet and lubricated M-1. Expect a move shortly. Sizes taken for Khakis and issued Polaroid glasses. Another swim in pool today.
4/14/43: Lying in a sun drenched bean patch getting a tan – so red the rose. On guard at nite. Formal guard mount – 2 on, 6 off. Jerry awaiting Montgomery.
4/15/43: A bit chilly A.M. I put on my goat-suit and am on post # 4 chasing Arabs. Apricots and wheatena for breakfast – beans, carrots and peas for dinner. I am reading short stories.
LETTER HOME TO YOUNGER BROTHER: May 3, 1943
I have been receiving all your mail O.K. and am very glad to hear how well you are doing in high school – and outside too. Everything is fine here and I’ve nothing to complain about especially when I know there are so many far worse off than I am. I wish the people back home would wake up to that fact, Joe. Then we’d have no costly and stupid coal strikes. If those miners could have been with me since Nov., I guarantee they would work their arms and legs off.
I wish you could be here with me and see this strange land. You may not believe it but I have seen homes and buildings here which are the most modern, streamlined jobs in the world. The French girls are very pretty but difficult to talk with – the Arabs are a picturesque lot but not very inviting to meet. The women do the housework, the boys tend sheep, goats and cattle and the fathers sleep like lazy fellows in the noonday sun.
These people are wacky over American candy and cigarettes. The kids are forever yelling “chocolate, bonbons, cigarettes, chewing gum” – that and “O.K.” are all they know. The older ones learn English very fast. Some speak Arabic, French, Spanish and English. I finally found the French meaning for our “O.K.” – it is “ca va bien”.
I’ve seen many Moorish ruins dating back before Columbus’ time and there are lots of French forts here with slits in the walls just big enough for a rifle to fit through.
The French churches are very beautiful in the smallest towns. All Arab villages have their white Mosques with round domes. They are practically bare inside except for a small altar step and small prayer column.
At the moment I’m in a fine Red Cross building in a nice town. We get free meals here and a place to read and write. We had a real bed to sleep in last nite. Quite a difference from a pup tent. I saw newsreels of the war last nite and two American pictures – one in which George O’Brien was the hero and “Breakfast for Two” was the other. You would have got quite a kick hearing George O’Brien speaking French.
The people here have had a much harder time until now than the English, Germans, or Americans. The Axis took all their crops, cows, pigs, wine – everything. Now they are free again and their men are fighting for a new France. I saw how food rationing was in the British Isles and actually lived under the point system in Dundee, Scotland so you see I know how it is.
I hope and pray Benny is all right and Roy and Jack Rogers. I haven’t heard from them in a long while. That’s all, Joe.
5/6/43: Acting Co. clerk now. Just the work I like…all but those speed marches !! 180 odd new men arrive for training.
5/7/43: Drill, march and weapons training. Am learning ropes of sick report, morning report, duty roster. Swell ARC stage show P.M.
5/8/43: First taste of giving drill commands since last May. Kunkle’s section backbone of A2 and really on the ball.
-------------------------------- 8 MAY 1943 IS LAST ENTRY IN DIARY -------------------------------------
LETTER HOME TO YOUNGER BROTHER: May 20, 1943
Thanks a lot for your May 4 letter. Just a few lines to let you know everything is well and quiet. It might interest you to know that we are rated the very tops over here- what would correspond in Germany to Hitler’s Elite Guard. I read the story of Gen Clarks secret mission. It was really swell. I’m going to read the other one too. We’ve had some great experiences over here, Joe, and have a marvelous record as someday you will read.
I even swam in a swimming pool built by the Romans and have seen ruins of towers built in 800 by the Moors who later conquered Spain. There are more tunnels over here than Rockefeller has dimes. We get paid in francs worth 2-cents a piece. I saw my first American coins the other day – first since February 1942.
I was awfully sorry to hear about Aunt Annie – that was quite a surprise. Yes, Mom wrote Dad was better.
I saw Abbot and Costello recently – first new (?) picture I’ve seen since leaving Glasgow, Scotland. Did you see the First of the Few ? – the story of the Spitfire. I’ve seen most of the planes over here both enemy and our own and believe you me if you read Stuka Horrors over Greece in the Readers Digest you’ll get a real picture of what it’s like.
That’s all for a while,
LETTER HOME TO YOUNGER BROTHER: June 10, 1943
I was about to write you at school but realize you will be home long before this letter reaches you. You must have had a swell year judging from all reports. This past year certainly has been a wow for me. It will be a year tomorrow that I joined the Rangers. I was at Carrickfergus, Ireland there and crossed the Irish sea by the well known ferry from Larne to Straurer in Scotland. The best time we had was in Dundee where we lived in civilian homes. We were at sea in a little Scotch riverboat for almost a month before landing at Arzew, Algeria. We had a snap there catching them asleep. Our first raid was at Sened in Tunisia, Feb 12 where the Rangers wiped out gun positions and massacred the outpost. That was quite an experience seeing the flash of big guns going off in your face and expecting every moment to go flying through space. On Mar 17 we got going again capturing El Guettar and knocking out Jebel Auk pass with a dawn attack on the 21st. We spent one night on top of a rocky mountain peak and were mighty happy to get off it. There’s a lot more but that’s enough to let you know we weren’t having a picnic all these months.
I’ve been to quite a few cities, including Oran, Gafsa, Setif, Oujda, and Fleurceau. The best one was the summer resort at Montaganeur where English is taught in the schools. There are six story streamlined hotels there, big stores, and all kinds of native shops and fruit stalls. Perhaps you’ve seen the Roman pool in Gafsa in the papers. We swam there many times. The water stays at 70 degrees all the time. You’d laugh to hear one girl I met trying to learn English – sounds like a kid in kindergarten or a five year old learning the First reader.
I hope to see Roy soon but it’s pretty hard as I haven’t even his address yet. Ben is somewhere in India bombing Japs I guess. The old gang is spread over the map.
The two cities I’ve most wanted to visit are still a dream. I’ve seen them both too – Algiers and Tangier. One is all lit up at nite like a big sprawling carnival at the waters edge. It’s a free city like Danzig used to be. As you can see I’ve been transferred from the old outfit. If we are successful in this one, I’ll be a happy man.
How I envy you all now. It is beautiful here but the beaches, dunes, cliffs and walks back home are ever more so. I picked up a Dec, 1942 magazine yesterday and thought it was a long way in the future. Time stood still back in September 1941. I wonder how it will seem to be home again. It sure will be hard to settle down after all this bouncing about. It’s a lot of fun in a way but boy it can get boring.
Best of luck,
LAST LETTER HOME TO HIS YOUNGER BROTHER WAS SENT FROM SICILY:
August 27, 1943
Am very glad to know you did so well at Sacred Heart. I still have pictures of you in band uniform. They are swell. The fellows were surprised I had a brother so tall.
Although I am making more money now I haven’t been paid since May 1. What a life for a soldier. On this campaign I was clerk, corporal, supply sgt., rear guard and ice cream eater (when I can get it).
The girls here, especially in the city, are very good looking and remind me of home as do the magnificent buildings I saw in one city. Some parts of it did not look so swell. Most cities are old and dirty - often like Arab villages. Some are very modern.
The mountains here are very tall, rugged and very numerous – and I have been on top of many at over a thousand meters (4,000 feet). One I could see was taller than any in our part of the States.
The Germans are very good soldiers and hard fighters and fight to the end. The Italians are not so hot. We had a snap getting in on July 10 – others weren’t so lucky.
It’s a prickly feeling you get on an invasion. We could see the big searchlights on shore and the sea was so rough I got very seasick – first time – we came in small assault boats. I was very tense and kept gripping my rifle. As we were about to land I was raring to go – about that time a wave dashed over and cooled me off – We jumped into the water and ran ashore. Firing started and from then on it was c’est la guerre.
Joe, you should see an American cruiser shell salvoes of four guns as she sailed along the coast. I saw six big guns she knocked out – french guns. And Fockwolfs and ME’s on the docks – like the movies. Two of my buddies captured some Germans who were terribly mad – they thought we were Italians because how could we be behind enemy lines ?
It might interest you to know my old regiment really mopped ‘em up last May in Tunisia. Many of my old buddies are prisoners now because Rommel nearly licked us last Feb. Col Darby, they say, gave the Rangers steeley barks and said “if the tanks come after you, God help the tanks.”
Did Marie get the Ranger patches I sent home ? I hope you saw our insignia. We have a campaign ribbon for Africa and several regiments thought much of us and we are allowed to wear the pins of a French and British outfit (when and if we get them).
I have ridden on ocean liners, ferry boats, river boats, assault craft, a raider, transport plane, rubber boats, donkey, truck, jeeps, people, and everything but a P38 and submarine.
This life is very hard and we walked so far and fast many outfits are unbelieving. War is not easy you know and Jerry put up a hard fight.
You should hear these British. They’re swell fighters. If it has been very bloody and you ask how was it – they’ll say – “It was a bit sticky for a while. “
Well Joe, keep on the ball, and God willing, another summer will see us all together again.
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