Sicily

 

Below are the true accounts of the trip to the Mediterranean. The subsequent invasion of the Axis territory itself. All incidents written are true.

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20 June 1600-year 1942

On this day at 1600 on the 20th day of June, 1943, we are about 4 hours from the Straights of Gibraltar. We were issued gas masks and flash proof clothing, goggles and fireproof bedding at quarters this afternoon at 1315, and were told by the officers (very considerate of them as we knew as much ourselves) that action by aircraft was very likely to be extreme. It still is an amazing condition on this ship how the information is kept strictly to the gold-braid and none whatsoever given to the men. This condition is ever prevailing, even though it is the men who stand at the guns, radio and all other equipment that is used to fight this war. And those who do all the work are the ones who are kept ignorant of what is to happen. However, there is probably a reason, and it is more than likely this. If everything comes off smoothly and successfully, then the gold-braid will get the credit and the commendations, but if things go wrong, and we suffer adverse affects, then it can all be blamed on the enlisted man... And the poor enlisted man will lose neck for an incident due to his being unable to cope with certain situations because of the withholding of all the facts and vital information that is kept to the gold-braid alone, and the only thing the men can do is guess. Pray that he can always guess right, for therein is the winning of this war. An amusing thing, this gold-braid and the enlisted man! Both are human beings, with the exception of intelligence, and though this may astound most people, the intelligence does not always lie in the brain of the officer. However, there are more important matters at hand to write of than the insignificant condition of the odious gold-braid.

On the 10th of June, at 1200, we left New York and hit the open seas...I gave all my attention for several hours looking at the bluff that faced the river where we lay at anchor, watching the apartment where lived the one I love with all heart and soul... I last saw her on Tuesday night, June 8th and the next morning we moved away from the pier and anchored in the bay to bring on ammunition and other stores. Even now, ten days later, I am wondering if my wife saw the cruiser as it lay there in the stream, and even now I wonder if she somehow heard me say "I love you" as we hoisted anchor and led the convoy away from that certain city.

As to the trip over, it has been smooth, and so far without losing any of our ships or men. We have had submarine trouble continuously, and only yesterday while at quarters, a destroyer dropped a pattern of 3 depth charges on a contact, but as usual, no results were determined. Hitting a submarine is akin to catching a fish with the bare hands, only the kinds of fish we are bothered with sure can retaliate with a real bite. If one is careless, the "bite" can have pretty damaging results!

The food is, as ever, a source of (a) never ending topic of complaint...To put it very mild, it is the worst we have ever had on this ship... The only decent thing we ever have to eat is an apple or an orange every other day... We can thank god that he is

responsible for the fruit, because if he wasn't, then the cooks on this ship would surely spoil that also. Since I started on this trip, several islands in the Mediterranean have fallen to the Allies. Namely, Patelleria, Lampedu, and Linosa. They have given the impression to the public via newscasts that these islands fell easily, but somehow I have the feeling that the Mediterranean is a good deal hotter place than the magnificent minds of our leaders have tried to make us believe. We will soon find out, as another day will put us in bombing range of the Italian mainland, and I think the Axis still have a roundly number of bombers to make a lot of us wish to be home in New York.

21 June...1943...1230A

7:30 A.M. N.Y.T.

At midnight, 0000b, we entered the Straits of Gibraltar. I was on watch until 2345, and then I stood on the communications deck as we entered. To our starboard I could see a beacon light flashing against the background of mountains that was Spanish Morocco...To the port side of the cruiser, I saw lights, tiny flickering ones, that peeked at us from the Spanish mainland itself. At this point the Straits are about 12 miles wide, and one could easily guess that if it were daylight, and visibility were good, how easy it would be to see both sides quite clearly. It was very moonlight, and I thought to myself how information must be rushing to the Axis from the advantageous points on the beach, even though the country of Spain is supposed to be neutral.

I watched the coastline for an hour or so, and then decided to turn in for a couple hours sleep. General Quarters was to go at 0400, and I was extremely weary from lack of rest sleep as it was.

At 0400 I was awakened by the alarm and went immediately to the radio shack, where I got my helmet, gas mask, pencils, earphones and radio logs, and then proceeded to the pilot house, where I stand my battle station watch. I learned there that we had passed the rock at 0200, but visibility was very poor, and only a blur could be seen where the fort was supposed to be...I guess I will have to wait until we leave here to get a glimpse of it. After chow, I went to the shack for my watch... As I hit the comm deck, the destroyer on our starboard beam let go depth charges on a contact...No results were observed. We will no doubt have our troubles here with submarines, as Mussolini has quite a number of them, and the Mediterranean is not a large sea... Which means that we should be found very easily.

We are due at Oran sometime tonight...I wonder what will our experience before we arrive? The time is now 1830a of the same day, and Oran can be dimly seen in the foreground against a ridge of high mountains. We swung into the opening of the harbor, and we then got our first close-up look at the city... It is not much to look at...About the same as Casablanca, but the territory surrounding the city is vastly different, and very inspiring...It is extremely mountainous...The absence of farms and orchards give it a look of exceptional ruggedness. The harbor itself is tremendous...And nearly deserted.

About 25 ships, freighters, of nondescript appearance - are anchored along the beach, and at this particular spot, no warcraft can be seen.

We swung hard to starboard and went past the city of Oran and proceeded to a place called Mers el Kibir, and here was the location we were instructed to anchor.

We went through the sub nets and entered this little port... Several ships of our own navy were to be seen here. Namely a large number of destroyers and several large tankers and supply ships.

It is now sunset, and the sight is one of the most impressive that I have ever seen... The sun is going down behind a high cliff, and is a huge silver glow that seems about ready to burn up the whole world... On top of this cliff is an old French fort, and it is a very formidable piece of construction. Extending along the rim of all these cliff-like mountains are pill boxes set up by the Army. A good defense against bombers!

Seeing about all that I wanted to see, I went below to my bunk and turned in. At 2330, I was awakened for my watch... Upon getting to the shack, I was immediately greeted by an air-raid alert and had to go to my battle station. It was false, as usual, and the secure was sounded at 0130, which is now the 22nd of June.

23 June 1943 -- 2000b

2 P.M. N.Y.T

I have not written much since the air raid alert -- nothing has happened, except for the arrival of many ships...The Philadelphia, Boise and Birmingham, all cruisers, have showed up and each brought a convoy over as did we. There is now a huge gathering of all types of men-o-war, oilers, cargo ships and transports. This morning I was treated to my first sight of some English strength in the form of 2 of their mightiest battleships, the King George 5, and the Lord Howe...A submarine of the English Navy also came in at the same time, plus a couple of destroyers.

The wagons are excellent looking, and formidable appearing as hell itself, but I think our own battleships of the South Dakota class are many times better. Never the less, I am sure glad to see these limey ships present, as I think we will need all the warships we can get when we head for the invasion of Italy, which is drawing ominously nearer and nearer with each passing hour.

I think we will pull out of here soon for either Bizerte or maybe Tunis...From there we will probably assemble for the attack on Sicily or the Italian mainland.

It makes me nervous the way all these ships are tied up here in this harbor...If the axis could send through a fleet of bombers, we might easily suffer another Pearl Harbor...Such ignorant fools that run the affairs of this war!

On Monday, the day we came through the Straits, I wrote of how I thought the news must be rushing to the Axis from the Spanish as we passed along their coast...To verify my suspicions, one of our destroyers, at 1000 on Friday, intercepted an Italian broadcast that proclaimed the passing through the Straits of 14 destroyers, 1 cruiser, tankers and transports... Such information was so absolutely correct that Hitler could have had a better count of us only if he had been present on the decks of the Brooklyn. However, we did not lose much sleep over it, because there is plenty in the Mediterranean ahead of us to make the axis worry, let alone news of more coming...And quite a lot more came through after we passed on to Oran. In fact, we hear that the other cruisers previously mentioned brought exact duplicates of our own convoy.

Today, the first of our men went over on liberty... Tomorrow I rate, and at the present time I am doubtful as to whether I shall go... Oran offers nothing for sight-seeing, and if I do go, it will be only to get a few souvenirs to take home to my wife. As to going home, I hear it may be September or later before we have that pleasure... If we stay topside in the battles which are to come, I make my guess that we will hit New York around the first part of August... I wish I could look into the future and see what will have happened by the time August rolls around.

The time, as you may have noticed, is now B-time, or minus 2 time. In other words, when it is midnight in New York City, it is 6 o clock the next morning over here in Oran.

Before I knock off for tonight, I want to add that this is the place the English gave the French fleet a shellacking in 1940... We can see from where we are now anchored, a badly battered French cruiser, or it may be a battleship, I cannot tell from where the Brooklyn is anchored... And nearer is a place where the masthead of a battleship protrudes above the water. The rest of the ship, as you can guess, rests on the bottom. I have seen quite a few of the things that a few years ago were headline news in the papers back home... There is no doubt in my mind now as I write, that there will be bigger headlines than any we have seen, appearing soon in papers all over the world... And this time I think I will be present... I only hope I can someday read back home, what is to take place in these Mediterranean waters in the very future.

 

24 June 1943--1930b

330 P.M. N.Y.T.

Very little happened today... I was supposed to rate liberty, but some small thing must have arisen that prevented the higher-ups from granting us permission to go shore... The officers were all granted liberty, though, but such is the make-up of the navy... When any privileges or credits are given out, it is the gold-braid that get it, but when hard work, long and frequent watches are handed out, then we are graciously given it all to do... From such conditions such as happened, makes the morale of the crew of the Brooklyn a very low item in our shops organization. Many already are making their plans on going over the "hill" if and when we get back to the States.

Starting this morning, the ships and destroyers, one by one, hauled up their anchors and proceeded out to sea...Now as I write, only this cruiser and the Birmingham are left...The two English battleships are still here, a couple tankers, and about six destroyers. I hear we go from here tomorrow and make our next port at Algiers, in Algeria...But rumor is rumor, and not too much can be expected of such gossip.

 

25 June-1943-1900b

3:00 P.M. N.Y.T.

We still are at anchor here in the port of Mers el Kibir. My expectations of being out of this desolate spot were not fulfilled.

Nothing of importance occurred today... The wash-room hours for the crew have changed again... They were rigid enough, but now it is practically an impossibility for the majority of the men to even wash their hands... The rooms are open for one half hour each time, four times a day... This is a total of two hours wherein 1200 or more men are supposed to shower and shave once a day! Naturally such rigid hours have no effect on the gold-braid... They have hot and cold running water in their rooms and showers for twenty-four hours per day... Their showers are as large as those for the crew, plus the washing facilities in each of their state-rooms, and there are only two hundred or so officers aboard this ship... Can anyone blame the enlisted man for thinking the navy is only for the convenience of the gold-braid?

I think I will write a little of this ship's organization, being as news today is scarce... To begin, for the first time in the Brooklyn's career, the men are privileged to wear dungarees while at sea. This has been a custom shared by nearly all men-o-war, even including the new battleships, which are supposedly so regulation!

The coming of an admiral on this ship was a lucky break for the crew in that one respect. As to how we changed to dungarees... It came about one morning when the admiral looked out of his cabin and saw the deck hands swabbing down the ship in a rain storm. The men, to the admiral's exasperation, were wearing clean whites...The captain and the executive officer were immediately summoned to his cabin and the law was laid down to them that the Brooklyn had best fall in line with the rest of the Navy. He stated that whites and blues were too expensive a uniform of the day for men to do their work in...How we blessed the admiral for those words!

I have seen men take paint and go over the side of the ship in good whites and blues...An hour later their clothes would be covered with paint and naturally ruined. This immediately necessitated the buying of new clothes right away, as the executive officer will not tolerate clothes covered with paint. Since we have been wearing dungarees, he is continually grabbing men whenever he can for little things that are childish in their importance... We are not allowed to roll up our sleeves... Still regulation issue of shirts come that way, and several men have been put on report because of this... When these clothes were issued to them by the United States navy as regulation clothing, we cannot quite see why the "fish" should call then non-regulation... But he is doing it!

On the Philadelphia we can see the men sitting in the sun, stripped to the waist, getting all the benefit they can from a good tan... On every other ship around is the same thing... Still, on here we cannot even as much be topside unless we are properly uniformed, and we are not allowed to sit around in the sunshine without our hats! It is a pretty dammed rotten way to, live, along with no water to keep clean, food fit only for a dog, and the discipline of the ship so ignorantly strict that the men can talk only of hatred, discontent and the future means of either "going over the hill" or getting a transfer at the first opportunity.

This is surely a tragic condition when the ship in itself is one of our mightiest type of cruiser.

A year and a half ago, each day of the week found me vowing to myself that as soon as this mess is over, Hell itself could not keep me in the Navy... Now, each passing second of the minute finds me a million times more determined to get out of this dogs life, for such it is, nothing but the life of a dog, where-in a man is treated so contemptuously that if his will power is not of the strongest, he is going to either degrade himself by sinking into habits of such profane proportions that he will be unfit to go out into civilian life or else he will grow mentally and physically like iron, boundedly determined that navy life will never make him change his habits that were good nor will add any more vices to his repertoire than with which he brought into the Navy. I hope, in Gods name, that I can be counted with the latter when I leave this service, God willing that I live through this war.

29 June - 1943-1600b

10:00 P.M. N.Y.T

It has been several days since I have written anything in this account of this none too pleasant excursion. We still are at anchor in this port of Mers-el-Kibir...With the exception of a couple air-raid alerts, nothing has happened that could be called important.

Yesterday, which was Monday, I rated my first liberty here in Oran, but I found it so difficult to even get shaved because of the water situation, that I did not consider it worth my time to go over.

Today at quarters, we were told that there would be no more liberty for us here, and from that, and a few other sources of information, I figure we will move out of here in a very short time. Possibly within two or three days. Taking everything into consideration, I think our big action will take place on or about the fourth of July...There is no doubt in my mind but what the guns of the Brooklyn will have been pretty warm by the time another week is finished. I may be wrong, but the invasion seems to be drawing nearer and nearer with each passing hour. I think we will hit at one of two places... Either we strike at Sicily, or we will try and land the Army around the lower part of Italy, at Naples, or perhaps we will invade the island of Sardinia. These are only guesses, by one who likes to make guesses in this war! As stated before, no true sources of information is ever given us so we can only make up our own thoughts of coming events. We sometimes do pretty good, too!

 

2 July - 1943 -1330b

7;30 A.M. N.Y.T.

Since last Tuesday, we have gone out on a rehearsal run, fired our main batteries at shore targets, and once more are back here in this disgusting port of Mers-el-Kibir the entire ships personnel is restricted to the ship: in itself, this presages the imminent departure for the invasion areas, although I do not look for it to take place until next week. We take on fuel tomorrow, so after that we are liable to go at any moment

 

4 July 1943- l700b

11:00 A.M. N.Y.T.

At this hour, this national holiday that I once used for spending many happy moments with the family at our reunions is almost over... We are still at Mers-el-Kibir, and still waiting for the orders that will set the gears to working which, in turn, may send us on our way for the invasion. Another change has taken place in the harbor here... Yesterday afternoon, July 3rd. The HMS Lord Howe and the King George 5th hauled in their anchors and preceded by their own destroyers, put out of the harbor for sea. This very afternoon, I again got a view of some more of the limeys naval might when the Lord Nelson and the Rodney came in and anchored... With them came the British carrier, Indomitable, and four English destroyers. Also a destroyer manned by a Polish crew and flying the Polish flag. The Nelson and the Rodney are what are known as battle cruisers,..They carry much less armor than a battleship, but are armed with the same big guns. The lessening of armor adds to their speed, and thus the derivation of battle-cruiser.They have an appearance unlike any other capital ship that I have ever seen. The bridge and after control are away aft of amidships and there is no battery of heavy guns in the after part of the ship at all.

Forward of the bridge they carry 3 turrets, each mounting 3-15 inch guns. This is an excellent arrangement if they always have the enemy in front of them, but what are they going to do if the enemy is at the rear? I will still prefer battle ships of our own design. However, one cannot deny that these British battle cruisers carry a very menacing appearance.

The Indomitable carried quite a few "Spitfires" on her flight deck, and a couple "Swordfish" torpedo planes could also be seen. The "Spitfires" are surely as fine looking a plane as their reputation has proclaimed them to be. I hope we have a sky full of them when the fire-works begin.

There is still no news of our departing! I surely thought that at home on this day the folks would be reading and listening about the invasion, but evidently the time of attack has not yet arrived.

The Axis were as sure as their faith in Satan that the morning of the 4th of July would be the day of our attempted invasion. I would be willing to freely state that they sweat blood during the wee hours of this morning. They would have more than sweat blood if we had struck and probably we would have shed some ourselves, as this killing business is not always on one side only.

 

6 July - 1843 0 1800b

2:00 P.M. N.Y.T.

 

We are on our way! At 1345 on July 5th. The entire harbor cleared itself of ships. The Rodney, Nelson, Indomitable, and all their escorts started leaving in the morning and following in their wake went the Birmingham, Philadelphia, and then went the Brooklyn.

The task force, as we could see it at dusk, amounted to three cruisers, 20 transports and auxiliary ships, and quite a number of PC boats.

The British ships are not with us, as they have a different task to perform than do we. We now have the facts of what is to be our objective, and it is one of the two that I predicted,..It is to be a massed assault on the island of Sicily.

I will write of it briefly; the Brooklyn and an escort of one destroyer is to attack at a place named Licata which is a city of about 30000 population. At this point we must put ashore a great number of troops who are to capture the city. Our predetermined targets are as follows: first we are to bombard a castle that stands on the top of a hill. This castle is a radio station and possibly a radar outfit. In this area is also a probable battery of defense guns, which if true, will also be our target. We then have a target that is in the heart of the city itself. This means we will have to shell the place. On a strip of land running out into the water is a battery of what may turn out to be railway guns. It is not a true fact that these guns are here at this point, but plans are being considered that it is the truth...If this is true and they open fire on us, then we will be forced to turn our guns on this target. I only hope they do not turn out to be the kind of railway gun that we have guarding our own coastline in the United States. If they are, our days on the Brooklyn may be nearing an end

There are also a few more targets we anticipate resistance from. These are targets of opportunity, and must be dealt with when they present themselves.

There may be mas, or torpedo boats, submarines and possibly destroyer opposition in this area. We must also have defense against air attacks which is our greatest concern. If anyone ever saw a bombing attack, then you can really understand our intense concern about this type of opposition.

We are to invade the western-most position of the island. The center attack group will be made by the Birmingham, and the extreme southern or possibly the eastern end of the invasion will be handled by an all British assault. The rest is left up to us, and it is entirely enough! The United States forces are furnishing the cruiser strength for this affair; naturally the greatest part of the destroyer strength will also be supplies by us.. The British are supplying the battleships, four of which I have written, and two carriers... We have not a battleship or carrier in the entire plan. This in itself is most perplexing, knowing by having seen, our battleship force and carrier fleet is huge, and why they are not to be involved in the Sicily attack implies that another invasion may be taking place at some other vital point against the Axis. But such is not known to this task force, unless they are keeping it from us.

I know for a near positive fact that we can gather a fleet of perhaps 30 or more carriers of our own in the Atlantic including our newest ones, which I have seen when in the ports back home. The Ranger, Card, Essex, Belleau Wood, Lexington, Yorktown,

Cowpens, Princeton, and several others are a few of the most modern type, and all of these were seen by my own eyes, loaded with planes and ready to go when we saw them in the states in just the past two months. I also know we have the New York, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Iowa, and possibly the South Dakota are in the Atlantic. It is a braintwister to try and figure out where these ships must be and what may be their plan in this coming attack on the Axis.

The British are placing three battleships and one carrier at each end of the invasion coast. This is to take care of the Italian fleet if it comes out to give battle. One group is placed to intercept them if they come down from the great Italian base of Taranto, which is on the eastern coast of Italy, or the coast facing towards the Ionian sea. Another group is at our end of the attack, and will intercept the fleet that is based at Spezia and Genoa should they attempt to attack us.

If the British miss the fleet that comes down from Spezia or Genoa, then it will also be the Brooklyn's task to intercept and give battle. The prospect is not too pleasant on this account, as I do not like naval engagements, having been in two already!

They are intending to put ashore about 150,000 men in this invasion. God pity those boys on the transports when we attack, because what awaits them is not pleasant to think of. They are new troops, and I suppose action impending is a subject of keen expectation. It is always that way in the books, and plays too, but being blasted by big guns, riddled by thousands of machine gun bullets, bombed by planes, strafed by planes and assaulted by other types of modern warfare is a terrifying thing to face.A man is so helpless against such opposition as this, and so much depends on the fire support of the attacking warships to break up this kind of resistance. If we fail in our given job to blast and destroy the assigned tasks, then utter destruction and annihilation awaits the army and navy amphibious forces when they reach the beach.

The civilian is so little read and enlightened as to the procedure of an invasion. When we went into the Solomons, the papers screamed with the headlines. The Marines have landed! A very small article may have been printed of a few naval losses, but they appeared to be minor to what the Marines did. To write a little of this, any force of marines or Army or Navy amphibious forces are entirely committed to the protection of the navy in any invasion we will ever have on an enemy coastline... It is the navy that storms to the very teeth of enemy resistance with an attack that destroys the gun emplacements, enemy warships and enemy air attacks that await them at any invasion point. When these barriers are overcome, then the Navy puts ashore the ground forces who then carry the attack inland.

After they are inland, the Navy's job is then only begun. We watch and patrol against attacks from the sea. We convoy and land all kinds of supplies and reinforcements to continue the battle. If it were not for our supplying our land forces, they would not last long enough to even be considered. So in any invasion, never let all the glory be applied to any one force. Too many too many boys have died in this war in all branches to have the praise and glory go to any particular branch of the services. Lets not forget one so as to give a lot of misplaced praise to another perhaps not so deserving.

As I write, we are now slightly past the city of Algiers. Out of this port have come the Boise and the Savannah with around 20 transports of Army troops. We are slowly gathering a tremendous force of naval craft.

According to the information given us today, there will be about 2500 ships in this invasion. This is more than a man can imagine in one attack. We had around 800 ships in the African incident, so you can see what opposition they anticipate in the taking of this Italian island. We are also to have the support of about 4000 airplanes, which include fighters and bombers.

Yes, it is all shaping up as a tremendous effort and I suppose the results in casualties will be equally the same. The entire assault in Army and Navy personnel will amount to nearly a half million men. This is including the British also, and as they figure 35 percent casualties to be suffered on the Allied side, we stand to lose around 150,000 men in wounded or killed and missing.

How many mothers, fathers, wives and sweethearts that will shed tears when this is over is appalling...But worse yet is the fate that awaits the ones that must face the hell of modern war in a very few days. What an end for a man to come to. Death or worse on the soil or in the coastal waters of a foreign country, perhaps 4000 miles away from home and the ones he loves. We will have such little time to pray, so pray a lot to God Almighty for our preservation, you folks at home, because although we are not afraid to die, we do not want to die. We have too many plans of the future that we want to make come true, and if we die in the fray over here, then those plans will never materialize. But if die we must on this side of the Atlantic then may our going do something that will better the future. Especially may our deaths bring a realization to the strikers and slackers who are laying down on the jobs back home, that they are not the ones that are sacrificing the most! When the bombs begin to fall, the shrapnel and hell of heavy gun fire blasts our bodies, when our minds are strained to the point of insanity during deafening and prolonged action, when men silently pray for just one more chance to see his mother and father, or silently cries for his wife, as he senses death approaching with a roar of blood curdling explosions, when this happens, as it will happen about Friday or Saturday morning at 0245 in the morning, then may those who are sitting in luxurious surroundings, drinking at thousands of bars, dancing in a half million nite clubs, or eating in expensive restaurants, or laying down on the production of war material back home, may they suffer an awakening that will make them realize they are the fortunate ones in this conflict.

I would so much like, as would an innumerable number of others, to be back home with my loved ones when this starts. But my chosen job was to fight for them on the high seas against an enemy who would destroy those I love if he were not destroyed, so whatever befalls me will have to be faced by me alone, and if I suffer death or injury when we attack, I only hope that their tears and sorrow will not be endured for a lost cause.

 

7 July 1943 -- 10:30b

4:30 A.M. N.Y.T.

It is almost noon here in this vicinity of the Mediterranean sea. You at home are still asleep with possibly two hours more of peaceful rest before your day starts. Since this day began I have had a five hour watch that ended at 0430 this morning, slept 2 hours and have been on the run up until this hour, and I go on watch again from noon until 6 this evening. At that time I will have chow and an hour or so later will go to general quarters for the evening periods of sundown until total darkness. We will secure from G.Q. About 2300 and then I will have until 0330 to sleep, or about 3 hours before my next watch. There is very little rest out here for us.

We are on the alert constantly now, as the Italian island of Sardinia is only about 200 miles from our present position. This is only a matter of an hour or less bombing time, and with this large convoy, a bombing attack would not be appreciated!

The entire attack force is to rendezvous at Malta on the day before dog day. Dog day is the Navy phrase used to designate the day on which the invasion is to be made. H-hour, or "how-hour" is the specified hour we land. The day is unknown as yet but will probably be as I stated before, about Friday or Saturday. The hour we know, which is 0245 in the morning. When this hour arrives, you in the States will have the local time of 1045 P.M. It is possible the invasion will hit the newscast before you turn in for the night. If it does, send a few words of prayer for the boys over here.

The orders of the leader of this invasion are that the island must be taken at all cost, and regardless of losses. It is a must job and there is to be no strategic retreat, regardless of how strong the opposition.

If that is the way they want it done, then I guess we will have to do it that way.

 

8 July 1943-1430b

8:30 A.M. N.Y.T.

When one considers the proximity of our convoy to the Axis bases since last evening, there is not a doubt that we should reasonably enough expect heavy attacks. This morning at 0600, we were off the coast of Bizerte. At this time only a little more than 100 miles separated us from Sicily. As dawn came, for the first time we saw the mighty concentration of invasion craft that is massed along the African- Mediterranean coast. It is of such enormous proportions that I can hardly find words to describe what met my gaze.

Now I speak only of the shipping that lays at anchor awaiting the hour of departure for Sicily. In addition to this, I saw from the pilot house an innumerable number of ships and warcraft in our own convoy and the other convoys preceding our own outfit. The transports, subchasers, destroyers, tank carriers, attack transports and several cruisers were in a lane of many ships deep, and extended completely out of sight in the foreground. Motor torpedo boats were extremely plentiful and were in long files on our seaward side. They were also in the same formation between us and the mainland.

I could see very little of Bizerte itself, as visibility was not too much to our advantage. Six months ago this was a hell of killing and destruction, but this morning not a sinister aspect entered the picture. Only the grim, terrifying mass of power of

our own Navy craft was to meet the eye. To this in all reverence, I say thank God.

At approximately 0800 we steamed off Cape Bon. Here on this barren peninsula that juts out into the Mediterranean is the place where the Axis were driven and cornered by our forces on land and were penned in from escaping by the naval power of the Allies who lay off the coast and poured barrages in on their prison. It must have been terrible warfare in these very waters only a very short time ago.

As the morning passed towards noon, our ships continued on towards Malta. No lessening of concentrated invasion shipping could be seen. You can use your imagination as to what comfort was imparted to our minds and bodies by the sight of such an amount of collected power.

At 1100 large formations of bombers and fighters winged over our convoy from their bases in Africa and headed towards the island of Sicily. Our press news that we copy in the radio shack tells of the terrible destruction that is being wreaked on the island by our air-force. One item in particular was most gratifying, as it imparted the information that last night our bombers struck at Licata. This, as I have written, is the point the Brooklyn will strike and put ashore our portion of the army and Navy amphibious forces.

At 1230, and you folks are still in bed at home, we passed by several islands that lie out in the sea. One in particular caught my interest by its towering magnificence of solid, barren rock formation. No sign of life could be observed, but I thought I detected a faint column of smoke rising from the center of the place, if we could only tarry and explore these new spots, then all this could be of huge interest but instead we only see from afar, or we pass then in the black of night and only a shadow against the sky tells us of their presence.

Starting at 1300, I saw two squadrons of P-38 fighters fly over the ship, heading towards our bases in Africa... In all probability returning from their raid on Italy. Following them came 33 two motored bombers. As I observed them, I mentally wondered what death and destruction must have remained behind in their wake.

This, however, was a beginning. I next saw a squadron of 18 of our B-19s or as you know them, "Flying forts". They cut an impressive picture as they seemed to suspend themselves up there in the sky. But they soon were over our convoy and headed towards the coast. In a matter of less than a half hour, two more squadrons of "Forts" flew over us... All coming from the direction of Sicily. All told, 71 "Forts" passed over us -- one squadron was missing a plane, thus the odd number 71.

One must realize the nearness of this island to our bases at Bizerte, Tunis, Sfax and other points we now have in Africa. Once our planes get off the ground and gain their cruising speed, it only a matter of possibly less than a half hour until they are over Italian territory. In 1 1/2 hours, they can be back, possibly loading their ships again with more bombs for another raid.

It is this close proximity that is amazing us, as we have not yet had a bombing raid or an attack by submarines. As our planes can fly there in 30 minutes, so should they be able to reach us, providing of course, that they would not be shot down before getting within striking range of the convoy.

Still when one sees the number that are massed, waiting only for the signal to dash in on them, it is most puzzling when they do nothing to strike where it could hurt us, and thus benefit themselves. Either their air power here in this area is completely destroyed, or a mighty unpleasant surprise is in store for us about Saturday morning. We reach Malta sometime tomorrow, which is Friday, and there we assemble the different attack forces and make the 70 mile run on Sicily. The proceeding to Malta is a feint to lead the Axis to believe that we are preparing to make an invasion of Greece, Crete, or in some other vicinity. If this ruse works in any degree of satisfaction, it should cause them to pull out some of their air power or start moving reinforcements in that direction. If this succeeds, then our invasion of the island may be less bloody, and that is really what counts most--the saving of lives on the side of our own forces.

According to information, the Italians are about 250,000 strong in Sicily. These, of course, can be quickly added to and reinforced as only a 3 mile strait of water separates Sicily from Italy proper.

We are (not) attacking in the vicinity of this strait, but once we make beach heads where we are striking, then we can pour more troops into the island from Africa than can the Italians from their own armies in Italy. Once we make this beach-head, and the troop carrying ships are unloaded, they will dash back to our African bases for more material and men, and thus provide a ferry that will not cease until the island is completely over-powered, which I sincerely hope will not take long.

 

9 July 1943--l700b

11 A.M. N.Y.T.

As I write, at this moment we are near our rendezvous at Malta. It is a matter of only 10 hours before we attack Sicily. The time is surely drawing nigh.

We are farther out into the sea than at any time of the trip, and the ship is being tossed around quite a bit. This is the heaviest weather we have yet encountered. It is a known fact that we strike tomorrow morning, which is Saturday the 10th, or as you may hear it, the 9th back home. It will be exactly one month to the day since we left New York, as you will remember reading of our departure date in the beginning of this story.

Dinner today was a sorrowful affair, considering that a lot of us may never eat very many meals again. The crew figured they would throw us a good chow, but of the many nauseating meals I have seen on this ship, today's was the limit. Its contents was as follows: Salmon fixed up so odiously that it practically caused stomach convulsions... Potatoes creamed in a manner that made one want to ask the wrath of God to smite the heads of the ones responsible for such indecency...Green beans so horribly mutilated with big chunks of some kind of fat that look was a mighty good reason for seasickness... A slice of bread completed the bill of fare. I shall now desist about the food, and write my last on this before going topside for the duration of the invasion.

I am going to try and jot down what happens as we go.

 

Copyright 1997- Edward Gardner

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Sicily- Part 2 picks up where this left off.