Sicily- Part 2
July 10, 1943
G.Q. was sounded at the routine hour of 2O18 B or 4:18 New York time. The weather is extremely bad; by this I do not mean rain and storms, but high winds and heavy seas. All around can be seen our attacking force: there is a large number of P.C. boats dotting the area covered by tank carriers and troop ships.
We have two English Command invasion boats with us, and they certainly are taking the rough weather poorly. If they dig their bow under any more than they do, I think only Providence could keep them topside!
The Brooklyn is taking it easy- all we can notice is the thud of the sea hitting the hull and the howling of the wind. The Birmingham is also doing nicely. I surely feel sorry for all the men who must be deathly seasick: There are a lot of sailors on the Brooklyn who are heaving all over the place. They are all new ones and it must be expected, though, it will probably affect their efficiency when the action comes. And it is coming soon, as we are now forty miles off the coast of Sicily, and seven hours from H-hour.
When we got to Malta, I was further amazed at the amount of ships in that area. They literally covered the sea like a solid mass. The island of Malta could only be dimly seen through the mist. One other island, Gazzoli Island, I think, was plainly seen off our starboard side.
I am now at my battle station. I have the airplane frequency, which is used in target spotting. When a target is fired on, especially at long range, we send our S.O.C.'s out to 'spot' for us. In this job, the planes tell us to either raise or lower, move, fire right or left, and how much to fire on whatever our target may be. They also find new targets and direct our guns to that section using the graph method. I will not explain this in detail, as it will take up too much time and space.
At 2045, our radar picked up six enemy planes about twenty-two miles away. This must be an enemy patrol out around coastal waters of Sicily. The patrol evidently did not spot us, as they flew out of range in another direction.
2120 According to radar, we are now only twenty-eight miles off the Island. In clear weather and daylight, this means that we probably could see Sicily. As we were silently slipping through the blackness, or might I say, what we wished was blackness, an explosion on the fan tail of the Birmingham suddenly lighted the entire area. Nerves and courage dropped like lead, as we arrived at the only possible deduction- the Italians were aware at our presence. There is complete radio silence, so we do not know what trouble exists on the other cruiser.
The conclusions are that one of her planes caught afire. The blaze was nearly out when a second burst of flame flared up. A moment later we saw the mass slide into the sea and the place became reasonably dark again. We later learned that this accident was the result of a flare going off while being installed in one of the Birmingham's planes, These flares illuminate beyond the imagination of a person who has never seen one touched off.
It is now 2200, and at this time there is supposed to be 250 army troop transports carrying about 12,000 paratroops passing overhead. These planes are taking the men into the interior to carry out a diverting attack. Nothing has been heard, of them yet.
2225 and the transports are now flying over the convoy on their way to Sicily. These men must be enduring unusual thoughts as they await the next few minutes that will send them plunging down through the night, only to land in an area full of armed enemy soldiers. I once wanted to enlist in the paratroops because they gave an additional fifty percent of your base pay. I certainly am glad at this moment that I did not carry out my intention. However, it is possible we on this ship may meet death in this affair, but their chances are almost, if not completely, negative.
Time is now 2300, and from the ship, we can see the flash of intense a.a. fire on the island. They are probably shooting at our army transports. We were previously informed that this would be expected, but under no circumstances were we to open fire on the island's guns. That they were firing on our planes did not necessarily mean that the invasion force had been discovered, nor that the element of surprise was over.
I can faintly see my watch here in the blackness of the P.H. and it reads 2330. We now can hear the Army transports flying once more over the convoy. They are on their way back to African bases. This means 12,000 or so troops have been put into the area and must now be in action around the vicinity of the airport that lies back and to the north west of Licata.
0410 and we can see on the beach that the attack is now in its starting fury. We can see heavy patterns of tracer bullets lighting the beaches. The thud of heavy gunfire is now booming incessantly. The enemy is now shooting up star shells, and the area is being lit up almost like day. The Brooklyn is now surrounded by several star shells and I expect either shore batteries or bombs any minute. Like a streak of lightning, an enemy bomber came at us. We did not even get our guns fired. A huge geyser of water leaped out of the sea on our port side. A split second, later, his second bomb landed off the starboard beam. Now we knew that the presence of our ship was no longer a secret and we got ready to go into action. As the bombs hit, I looked at my watch and it read 0412. Bombers are all over us now and it looks like a hot spot.
A bomber is coming in on a destroyer and us from our starboard bow. The destroyer turned on a dime and left, angled his course, as he did, a bomb exploded at the exact spot his ship had been. We now let loose all our A.A. guns on him as he headed for us. He let the bomb go too early and it missed us. As the plane flashed over our bow, we got him with heavy fire by our 20mm, and he went down in flames. I looked at the time and only two minutes have elapsed since the first attack.
Three more bombing raids and it is getting hotter and hotter around here, We are only shaken up as yet. No hits have been scored on any of the ships in our own attack group.
It is now 0445 and a large fleet of planes are reported overhead. I am beginning to sweat blood. Now a message comes that they are our own planes and I silently mutter a 'Thank God. '
Our heavy batteries are now throwing out barrages at our predetermined targets. The spotting planes report it is too dark to observe our fire, but we do not stop our fire for a second. At two minutes later, we shifted to another assigned target, and so the program went on.
The sun is rising now and is lighting up the world like a huge fire, how I could enjoy a view such as this under different circumstances. We have lost communication with our planes and are firing by radar only. Great billows of smoke can be seen rolling into the sky, as our shells explode in the town. A lot of people must be dying in there.
We have finished off all other targets and are ordered to resume shelling the town again. We do this as ordered, and very effectively, as a short time later, all Naval gunfire is ordered to cease. All assigned points have been taken.
Once more, the Brooklyn has done a mighty effective job, and once more, a young radioman thanks his stars that he is still alive. We had some terrible close shaves when those bombers went into action. They would have surely done great damage if they had hit us.
We went to our battle-stations again about noon. Some targets of opportunity were supposed to be destroyed by us, but our S.O.C.'s reported only three enemy army trucks and bombed some.
After this, we were once again secured.
I will not write in detail any longer, as my notes are falling behind, and from this point on, I will summarize.
It is now 1530 on the 12th of July. A lot of hell on earth has been ours since I last wrote on the afternoon of the 10'th. This morning at 0100, is the first sleep I have had since 1630 on the 9th of July. I fell asleep from complete exhaustion and slept until 1100 this morning. So far, this has been a nightmare of work and mental strain. You will possibly realize this to a small extent when I write of it.
Yesterday morning, on the 11th at 0810, we really had a bad raid. The bombers came in low from the land-side and made an attack on everything in sight. I was watching from the command deck toward the town of Licata, when I saw a blast of smoke and flame shoot up near an L.S.T. Then I saw the bomber. It streaked along the beach and dropped its second bomb directly on another L.S.T. The ship fairly leaped out of the water from the bomb's affect. Then it began to burn. Bright flashes reached through the smoke as it began to explode. What happened to the men on it is only too easy to guess. They must have died horribly. And still the war workers at home strike because they think they are treated unfairly. I wish to God that they would be made to take part in something like this for a few days.
While at G.Q. yesterday morning (11th), large formations of enemy bombers struck all along the attack area at the Navy ships. We were missed again by their bombs, but the destroyer Maddox was directly hit and sank. They also hit and sank a transport and bombed and set afire an ammunition ship. What men that were left on the ammunition ship abandoned it and the Philadelphia sank it with her heavy guns. The explosions in the ammunition ship fairly shook the sea as it disintegrated and went to the bottom.
We are now beginning to suffer losses due to the skill of the Axis bombers. Most of the planes are German that are doing the attacking, and they surely are an experienced lot of airmen. It is practically an impossibility to shoot the sons-of-guns down. They are very shrewd. Our own fighters can be over us one minute, and as soon as they leave for a minute or so, then the Germans flash in, bomb the hell out of us, and disappear before the fighters return. The thought in my mind is just how long are they going to miss the old Brooklyn? God, but we have had some close ones.
Last night, at about 2200, we were so near hit that only a miracle must have saved us. I have no radio traffic to handle on my battle station at night, so I was standing out on the port wing of the P.H. watching the bombers raise hell with the troops and ships along the beach. Enemy planes were overhead, and dropping bombs into the sea around us, but I think they were doing this so as to draw the cruisers fire and thus reveal our position. We figured the same and held our fire. During the time, our ship was zigzagging sharply to prove a difficult target for them to aim at. Our radar reported that the planes were drawing away from our ship. For a minute, we were relaxed, and this minute nearly proved fatal. As all was quiet, I faintly heard a motor humming high in the heavens. It was a brilliantly moon-lit sky, but there was no sign of a plane. Suddenly, the hum rose to a howling crescendo of a roaring motor. "Dive bomber" we screamed at everyone that could hear, and then we slammed ourselves flat on our bellies on the steel deck.
I suffered a dozen deaths there in a matter of seconds. The roar grew unbearable and then the whistle of bombs made our very blood stop its flowing as they whistled over our ship and deafened us with their explosions, as they plunged into the sea just about twenty-five feet off the starboard side of the bridge. If they had struck the ship, I would not be writing this now. As I so horribly and distinctly remember counting four explosions, one right after the other, knowing that if they had been on the ship, the bridge would have been blown to bits and the men with it. I felt as I have never felt before, that my time had come; and I remember, as I huddled there on the deck, feeling a terrific rush of air from the bombs, that I bade goodbye to all those I hold dear to my heart. But my time, as then, had not been set.
However, I may as well state that I have no grand illusions about living very long if this continues. But if I go, I go with the picture of the most wonderful woman in the world nestling against my heart. I hope to God that she never experiences the terror and hardships that this picture has endured as it lay in my breast pocket throughout all this period of the war.
1700 Brooklyn time on the 12th of July
The latest reports of the invasion are good in some places, bad in others. The opposition is very strong inland and until we can put more men and equipment ashore, it will continue to be bad. This blasted bombing is causing much trouble in this respect, but it will be eradicated in time.
A rather tragic accident occurred last night. At 2300, soon after our none to timid experience, we opened fire on a plane as it skimmed the water only about 100 feet of the starboard beam. Later, we heard that this was a friendly transport that had strayed off its course. We did not hit it, but we gave it the scare of its life. Soon after, a heavy barrage of fire went up from the L.S.T. area. As I watched, I saw what I thought was a starshell appear over the ships: it grew brighter and brighter; lighting up every ship for miles around. Then, like a mountainous torch, it blazed into the sea, where it burned and steamed until it went out.
This morning, we learned that it was one of our own army transports loaded with paratroops. Nothing more need be said of our feelings, as what manner of death came to them in that flaming pyre reaches beyond the realm of our conception. And still the rear workers think theirs is the heaviest burden. God have mercy on their filthy souls, that is, if mercy will ever be shown to anyone who takes part in such murderous acts that go with this War.
I will write only of one more tragic incident and then discontinue this for the day. Swan, an ARM l/c, who flew in one of our spotting planes on the morning of the 10th, saw a German bomber attack an LST, as it tried to reach the beach that morning. The plane dropped 4 bombs, three missing, but the fourth scoring a direct hit on the loaded ship. He said the ship turned fiery red from the bomb blast, turned over and went to the bottom. And as it lay there on the bottom, it still glowed like a red hot iron immersed in a pail of water.
Perhaps such incidents as this, and the fate that was for the men on this ship, providing it could be seen, would have an affect on the hearts of those who still abide in luxury and comfort, even though they be coal miners and war workers. Men die horribly in this war; men who have as much right to live as those who lay down on the job back home. To my mind they have much more right to life than those, who by their actions, are causing many more tragedies such as this to be rewarded in the Book of Justice that will one day be opened and the guilty criminalistic slackers will come face to face with their deeds: and may just punishment be their reward.
0730- July 13
For the first time since along this coast, we spent a night without air raids. During the night, however, I could see heavy flashes of bomb explosions along the beach of Licata. Our safety may have been due to our morning out at sea for about 30 miles. If this was the reason, then I hope we do the same every night. We were ordered yesterday to come up here where we are now to bombard enemy emplacements in and around Agrigento. This is where the Axis intends to make its strongest stand, and I guess the Army is having a lot of trouble over in that area. We bombard at 0800, which is only a half hour away from now.
Dawn had just arrived this morning when at exactly 0550, three bombs plunged into the sea aft of the fantail. We did not even know they were up there. They caught us flatfooted but for the fact that they were Italian, we might well be at the bottom this minute. We did not get a shot at them.
0604 brought three more bombers at very high altitude and three more bombs crashed into the sea off our port quarter. They were Italian bombers again. I wonder how many times they are going to miss us?
0605 and more bombers heading toward our ship.
0610- We were still under attack. We are running away now at 25 knots, and radioing for help. The Army was supposed to have furnished us with fighter protection for this morning, but as always, they are never present when needed. It looks as though we are in for it as we and the Bristol and the Woolsy are the only ones around this area right now.
0620- Reports of large groups of bombers headed for us at around 12 miles. As they reached ten miles, they turned and went inland. I breathed a lot easier when I heard this.
0630- Our fighters are now in sight and there are no enemy aircraft present at this moment.
Thus was the day opened. We are about to bombard the city now, so I must man my radio for target spotting.
1045- And we have just finished the tower and other positions. We sure did a bang up job and could have done much more, but minefields prevented us from closing in- so the targets laying further back escaped our bombarding. We did not shell the town too badly, however, the targets in it must have been destroyed, as the Army radioed us to cease firing.
There is still more for us to do here, but we just learned that the higher ups refused to give us air coverage. I rather think that we will get out of here as it may be dangerous in a very short time. Those bombers are enough to turn a man's blood to water when they drop them [bombs] toward you from so far up that you can't see them.
2045- We did no more shooting today and we are now heading back to Licata with the Birmingham and our two D.D.'s. About 1 1/2 hours ago, we received a message that the Boise was being heavily attacked and bombed by enemy planes. The area around Licata is a very hot vicinity. It is the worst place of all and now we are heading directly at the blasted area again. I have forgotten to write that the moon is up in all its glory now. Its silvery bright and our ships make beautiful silhouettes against its brilliance.
It is this moonlight that may bring about our disaster. I shudder to think of the next few nights that will bring the moon to its full [phase]. Tonight it is just a half, and I can write by its light.
Before I quit writing for today, I may as well state that already we can see bomb explosions over the coastline. I hope that I will be able to write tomorrow of what may well take place tonight.
The next few hours will tell.
One incident I must not forget to write about is this; on the morning of the invasion, two of our destroyers, the Poe and the Swanson, started out to destroy some enemy torpedo boats. In the darkness something went wrong and they collided, seriously damaging both ships, and as I hear killing quite a few of there men. This was a very unfortunate accident, because we could have used their services greatly.
0513- 14 July 43- Something has happened! We just struck a mine or were torpedoed. The ship raised out of the ocean & shook like a toy in the wind. We do not know how bad the damage [is], but we are not going down yet.
0524- and we hit another mine! There are also unidentified planes over us.
We must have hit a minefield. The ship is now barely moving and is in a very dangerous predicament. If the bombers sight us, we are a gone goose. Or if too many mines hit us, we may blow up inside!
0545- We are in the middle of a minefield. We are stranded and must await further developments.
0900- Since 0545, we have been still in this field. We cannot move because mines can be seen floating all around us. The Birmingham and the two D.D.'s are no where in sight. Where they have gone, I don't know. I sure wish we had company around here!
0930- Some P.C.'s have arrived and the mines are being swept. We are slowly moving again and getting out of here. We have notified the Birmingham to take our bombarding assignment for the time being. As yet, no info on the damage [done to the ship] has been given out, but I think it is serious.
1100- We are clear of the field now, and gathering speed. Our main pumps are flooded, and one tank [that] hold[s] 30,000 gallons of fresh water is gone, but the happy thing is that we are out of that damned mess.
What a target we were for the Axis during those 5 hours. They could have hit us from 30,000 feet and we could have done nothing about it. Or they could have fired torpedoes from way out and could have easily sent us to the bottom. We surely were in the most dangerous predicament of the invasion. To have tried to evade bombs or torpedoes while in the field would have caused us to strike more mines and consequently may have been blown out of the water [anyway].
I have never been so shaken up in my life as I was when we hit those mines! The ship shook and jumped so that one's teeth clicked together like castanets. I wonder how long the Brooklyn is going to lead this charmed life of hers, or was this morning a warning that the Law of Averages is finally going to catch up with us?
I heard last night that the Hopi hit a mine and was sunk? I also heard that she was only badly damaged and made port under her own power? I think that the latter rumor is authentic. The Hopi is the tug that one of our men was sent to the last time we had a yard period in Philadelphia. I wonder if he would have rather stayed on the Brooklyn! I nearly got transferred to the little ship myself at the time! Good thing I didn't. From the way those mines tossed us out of the sea, I hesitate to think as to how it affected the little tug, Hopi.
We are hitting a fair speed now and twisting the cruiser around in flank movements. This is to find out if she will hold up from the mine blasts. If she won't, then we want to find out now and not when our lives depend on our ability to maneuver. If it ever happened that our maneuverability was nil, and we had to dodge bombs, then 1200 men might die.
1230- Everything evidently is running near normal as can be expected. We are running on patrol along the coast off Licata. I suppose Licata, Agrigento, and Gela are pretty well known places to folks back home by now- that is if the papers are doing their jobs.
Today as I write this, I have been in my bunk exactly 3 1/2 hours since 1530 on July 9th- or to figure it out- I had 3 1/2 hours in bed out of a total of 117 1/2 hours, or nearly five days. And the prospects of getting any rest reasonably soon is quite remote.
I have not had my clothes off since the afternoon before the invasion, and the only sleep I had was to lie on the deck, which is steel, for an hour or so each night. I have never imagined I could get so weary and live!
According to the news cast I heard today, there are still thousands of miners out on strike because of the injustice they figure was being imposed on them. If they could have been here in this hell for the past five days, there is little doubt in my mind but what the production of coal would rise enormously when and if they could return to the mines! The war workers at home may be enduring terrible hardships and agonizing pervasions, but at least when night comes they do not fear being blasted to death by bombs.
When we were dive bombed 3 nights ago, on the 11th at 2200 hours to be exact, I must have hit the deck a little too vigorously, because the next morning I found my right knee extremely sore. Upon investigation, I found that I had cut it on something that was on the deck where I fell. I never noticed it paining me at the time, as I was deeply concerned about the bombs at that particular moment.
At present, our fuel is pretty low, and I hear we are to return to Oran to take on supplies and refuel the ship. If true, we may be there about a week, then I suppose we will return for more work in this area. I sincerely hope it is true of our going out for a few days, because the crew is sorely in need of rest. But, after all, the boys on the beach are not exactly on a picnic, so I guess we deserve no better than they deserve.
Tonight we will find the moon about 3/4 full. My wife and I once adored such nights as these, but now these moonlit nights are harbingers of possible death and destruction. Until the war is over, and I can once more enjoy moonlight with her, I would much prefer the nights to remain as dark as possible.
1200 B- July 15 (1943)
At 1530 yesterday we left Licata area and headed toward Africa. In the vicinity of Gela, we were joined by the Savannah and the Boise. The Boise is one under our flag command. The Savannah is under the flag of the Philadelphia.
Last night was a beautiful thing to see out here on the sea. The moon was almost full and lighted up everything like day. I had the 0000 to 0400 watch and so did not turn in before going on duty, I sat topside and began to realize once more that I was still alive and had good prospects of seeing home again. This morning , for the first time in six days, I undressed and turned in my bunk for 4 1/2 hours sleep. I never knew a thing until I was awakened for chow and my next watch.
We hit the African coast along Bizerte this morning, and are now traveling toward Algiers. We will probably get some minor repair work done here and then return to Sicily.
When we ran into the mine early yesterday morning, we were on our way to bombard enemy artillery at Agrigento. When the mine explosions temporarily disabled us, we radioed the Birmingham to carry out our assignment. This morning we heard that the artillery units had opened fire so fiercely that the Birmingham had to call for help. One of the English battleships that was in the area had to come to her assistance with her 15 inch shells.
Maybe it was a good thing we were not able to return there for that assignment, or else we might have run into more trouble than what we had already been blessed with.
We are due in Algiers at 0700 this morning.
0700- July 16- As dawn came, we entered the harbor of the city of Algiers. From the command deck, I can get a good look at the place. It is larger than any other African cities I have seen, however, it is nothing to become enthused over. I doubt very much if we get any liberty while here. It will probably turn out that the Gold-braid will go ashore while the enlisted men stay aboard. It doesn't make much difference to me, because I wait only for liberty in New York.
1520- I was in my rack when two explosions rocked the ship. A second later they sounded Air Defense. I beat it topside and just off our starboard side a ship was belching flame and smoke. The bombers must have caught us asleep again. A hospital ship is right near the burning ship. They had better get her out of there. A second ship is burning, but not near as badly. The second ship is half underwater and evidently is the work of previous destruction.
The Boise and Savannah near us have enough ammunition on their decks to blow up the harbor. They are trying to get the two cruisers out before such an accident occurs. Our ship has not yet taken on any ammunition. They first wanted to determine the damage suffered from the mines. However, we are ready to get underway if it looks as though we are endangered. If our damage warrants it, our return to the States may not be too far distant.
The ship that was burning so badly is covering the area with smoke. One hospital ship has already gotten out, and the other is about ready to go. This place may not be as safe as I thought it might be. After all, Algiers is only about one hour from Sardinia and Sicily, and considering this, I guess we can expect many such raids. A lot of men must have died on the ship that is burning right in front of my eyes.
1800- Nearly three hours have passed and the burning ship is being towed out to sea. It is a total loss! Two more ships are badly damaged from the explosions and flames from this ship. New info has come in about the incident. It is now doubtful that the bombers did the damage. It may have been the works of someone smoking or other causes. Anyway, at the present time, we figure that a possible 25 to 30 men must have died from the flames and the resulting explosion. I can see the ship now on its journey to sea. It is still burning furiously and smoke is pouring up into the sky in ever thickening volume. It is a complete loss. Carelessness is costing us a terrific toll in lives and material.
1845- One of the other ships that was afire, but was brought under control, is now a mass of flame and ruin. That makes two ships that are lost to our cause on this single afternoon, plus one more ship that is in trouble from fire; and what will happen to it will have to be written later.
1100 July 17- Another day and so far nothing has occurred to mar the serenity of the harbor since the tragedy, or should I say tragedies, of yesterday afternoon. At midnight last night, I was relieved from my watch and immediately went out on the com deck for some fresh air and a look at the burning ship. The entire area was lighted up like a lamp from the fires that were raging on the vessel. There was also a full moon and despite the disaster and the imminent dangers of this vicinity, I beheld and was deep in reminiscing of home and wondering if they were all safe. I would give almost anything to be able to ring the door bell of the little apartment that my wife and I have, eat a decent meal, find out all the news from home, and spend a week just resting and forgetting this past nightmare.
I have seen more happen in this past week than I ever have in all my life. How much better would it have been if it were for the good of the world instead of bringing death to so many men, and destruction of so much material.
We are now taking on ammunition on one side of the ship and refueling on the other side from a tanker. I hope to God no accident happens to them as happened yesterday. The facts of yesterday are as follows: An oil tanker exploded and broke in half. The oil and fire spread to a cargo ship and set her on fire. The cargo ship is the one that was towed out to sea. The estimated loss of life is probably more than 200. Now as I write, the cargo ship is laying a few miles from us is still burning and smoking terribly. I wonder if it will ever burn itself out?
According to the press news, the invasion evidently is progressing very much in our favor. I also see where Roosevelt and Churchill have told the Italian people that they would benefit much by throwing out the filthy regime there and get out of this war. They ought to do this , or else that nation is going to take the rest of the time on earth to rebuild by the time we finish with them.
However, the Italians are certainly taking a terrible punishment, and thus far, they have taken it without yelping for mercy. This in itself is quite a surprise. But what else can anyone expect from a people who are now fighting for their homes? If our ship is still fit for battle zone action, there is practically no chance that the Brooklyn will see the States before September. This means that summer will have passed by and I will not have had any of this pleasant season of the year with my wife and the folks at home.
When I think that I may not be with my wife, then how my feelings hit the lowest depths of depression. I so thoroughly hate this miserable existence that I win a major victory over myself when I refrain from thinking about it.
0930 B, July 18- Sunday morning.
And so cometh another Sabbath day. I am always in deep thought of home on Sunday. Only twice since being in the Navy have I been otherwise. Once, when we invaded Africa on Sunday, Nov. 8th, 1942, and the other just a week ago, when we were quite busy off Licata.
An amazing incident over here is the weather we have been having. Not one drop of rain has fallen, to my knowledge, since June 10th when we left New York. Every day has been bright and sunny. What days of beauty and pleasure could these days have been if I were only home to enjoy them!
Yesterday, the Boise, Savannah and their destroyers, the Butler, Woolsy, Shubrick, and the Herndon put out of here and went to sea. I am still wondering, as are all the men, just how much damage we suffered from the mines. It is undoubtedly worse than we were first led to believe, or else we would have gone to sea with the other cruisers. As it is now, 63 out of our 69 tanks are leaking and another started yesterday. If our water line is as bad as all this, then I shudder to think what will happen if we go out to the battle area and cut loose with our heavy batteries! Or if we hit some more mines or a few more misses from bombs! We might go to the bottom of this otherwise peaceful body of water.
Out quite some distance at sea, I can see the cargo ship still smoking and burning as much as ever. She must have had a tremendous amount of cargo in her holds. Too bad!
Today I rate liberty here in Algiers. If I can procure water for a shave and a shower, I will go over and see what the place is like. Of all the cities in the northern part of Africa, Algiers is supposed to be the best. However, as written in the previous pages, I still await liberty in New York.
0700 B, July 19- I had my first liberty in the city of Algiers yesterday from 0400 to 2100. It would really be sufficient for me to let the first port sentence speak for itself alone, without any additional comments that I might connect. However, I will jot down a little of the place. As in all other cities, this one also contains an odor of uncleanness. The stores have nothing to offer and the people less. I did buy some extraordinary tomatoes and ate them on the spot. Some plums also disappeared before the astonished eyes of the natives. I passed out several plums to the hungry looking little children that hung around me.
For the sum of 10 francs, I bought 6 of these huge tomatoes. This sum of francs equals 20 cents of our money. Such tomatoes could not be found anywhere in the U.S., and if possible to find them, you would pay at least a dollar for the amount I got here for 20 cents.
The Red Cross has a unit here, and I went there and ate cheese, jelly and meat sandwich plus 3 cups of coffee and a dish of ice cream.
They had French girls doing the work behind the counter, and 2 of them were little beauties. They had raven black hair and the bluest eyes I have ever seen. The only thing wrong is that they are not built nice like our girls back home. I can go on record right now as saying that God really smiles on the United States.
If only the shirkers could see how much they have in comparison with the people of other countries, then, I know that never a minute would be lost in the efforts back home to win and end this war.
There is practically a complete absence of automobiles in Algiers. The vehicles are all Army and only rarely does one see any of the French populace driving. There are a lot of theaters, but I never saw one open.
As in any port where liquor can be obtained, there was a great number of drunken service men. What little a man must think of himself to get in such a disparaging condition. I wanted to get something to take back home to my wife, but not a thing could be found. I will rate again next Thursday, and perhaps I can be successful then.
There is no attraction whatsoever in these foreign cities for this Navy civilian. The entire populace can speak only French, and to try to convey meaning to them in English is an impossibility. To understand them is a little more difficult. They do, however, pick up a little English, and it tickles one to hear them attempt to use it.
The fact that we are not allowed cameras is the main reason we do not enjoy ourselves in these places. The Army boys are allowed to take pictures, but the Navy doesn't place that much trust in nor allow such a privilege to its personnel.
I was in the vicinity of where the ships were afire, and the damage suffered by the buildings when the one exploded was quite surprising. Incidentally, I may as well add that the cargo ship is still burning quite ambitiously. I wonder if it will ever burn itself out? They should put a torpedo into it and sink it.
Seen from the ship, Algiers presents a very imposing appearance. This, however, is sadly dispelled when one procures a close up look at the buildings. The huge stone building that appeared so attractive from a distance, turned out to be windowless and seemingly non-inhabited. As in all other places there is that peculiar odor that at first nearly causes nausea. The most tragic part of it is the large amount of half-naked, half-starved looking small children that stare at you from all sides. To attempt to eat fruit in their presence is almost an impossibility for me. If I were ever to be the man that provoked a war, it would be fought with food that would be used to wipe away the look of hunger that I have seen in the eyes of the little French, Arab and other children in these down-trodden and suffering cities. What a lesson could be taught to the hate provoking, miserable human beings at home that place our own country in peril of conditions such as these by their damnable, lousy attempts of selfishness in their war efforts.
This war may be a means of the people in the U.S. making more money than ever before in their life, but when viewed in the zones of war, and in former areas of conflict, a vastly different aspect of it is obtained. The men and women at home may not realize it, but people are being killed every hour of the day in this war! and none are dying a pleasant death either!
When one seriously considers the terrible amount of men from our own country who will, and already have, die(d) on the oceans and on foreign soil, who will never again welcome and be welcomed by their loved ones at home, it is enough to make one shudder at the price some must pay to fight this war!
I see where I have strayed off on another subject. I cannot help this. The news that we receive of happenings at home is enough to make us who are here in the war zone turn red with rage. I never allow myself to curse, but it requires all my will power to keep from cursing the very souls of certain individuals and [their] performances that take place in our own country. What I restrain myself from doing, there are others who amply supply the epithets.
The government says that the loss of steel production due to the coal miner's strike would have built 60 destroyers! Now, when we men in the Navy have seen our ships hit by enemy bombers, turn red, roasting to death a great many other Navy men, do you wonder why we bear such black hatred for those whose actions on the home front have caused the loss of vitally needed war material & who were, in a way, responsible for the horrible deaths of so many American boys in the services? I only ask that someday, I be granted the supreme privilege of being the service man who wields the bayonet that prods some of those enemies at home to a greater pace! A few inches of steel slipping into their carcasses would not bother my conscience very much.
1200 B, 20 July
This morning, at 1107, we hoisted anchor and left the harbor of Algiers. A few minutes later, the word was given over the load speakers that we were on our way to the operating area around Licata. I sincerely hope it is quieter than the last time we were there. Temporarily, my fond hopes of going back to the States must be postponed. I guess they will take a ship into battle whether it holds together or not! No one can tell me that those mines did not do quite a bit of damage to the ships hull.
1630- We have now been underway for several hours. All has so far been very quiet. This afternoon, I tried to get some sleep, and during the process, had several dreams of home and of my wife. It may seem silly that a grown man could become so homesick, but I surely did! I lay there on my bunk, sweating from the heat, half sick from the effects of foul air, and thought of home. I could see myself being greeted by Doris. I visualized what she looked like, and I was so successful that I nearly shed tears because of my loneliness. No one but God knows how lonely I have been for her while on the long voyages at sea! Sometimes I doubt that my will power will stand the strain of enduring this existence of misery. I want to be at home with the one I love.
Today makes seven weeks since I saw her. It seems like a lifetime.
1000, July 21
Now as I write, we are off Bizerte and are going to lie in and anchor. Here is one city I really would like to see, as the war hit this place pretty hard.
1500- We are anchored about 500 yards from the Birmingham. Our admiral and captain are now over on the Philadelphia where a conference is being held. I suppose they are planning another source of action and where it is to take place. There are quite a number of heavily loaded LST's around this harbor. There are either going to Sicily or we are going to hit perhaps Sardinia. I hope we hit again soon, and finish it up so we can go home. Bizerte, as it looks from the ship, appears to be quite deserted. They say there are no longer any civilians in the city. Bizerte, you will remember, was the place the Americans captured at the time Africa fell to the Allies.
The conference is supposed to end this afternoon, so I guess we will know very soon what we are to do. Personally, I hope we are sent home.
1555- Up came the anchor and once again the Brooklyn heads toward the battle area. We saw, as we headed toward Sicily, convoy after convoy of LST's, or Landing Tank Ships, on their way toward the island. Convoys also were to be seen returning empty. Those LST's can carry about 80[?] medium tanks, complete with Army personnel to man them. I saw also that they had trucks loaded topside.
2330- Just before going on watch, I stood on the com deck and saw the island of Pantilleria about 4000 yards off our port side. It was much larger than I thought it would be.
1200, July 22
We arrived at Licata shortly before noon. Just as we arrived, we received orders to return to Algiers. The reason is unknown at present. Assumptions are that there is nothing for us to do, or the condition of the ship does not warrant heavy action. Our mission was to proceed to Palermo and bombard gun installations along the coast. Personally, I am glad to return as my better nature does not relish dueling it out with shore batteries, having had such pleasantries before. But as it is, Algiers here we come.
1700- We again passed by the island of Pantilleria. Not much of a place to look at!
2300- As we steamed passed Bizerte, the skies over the place were being pierced with powerful rays from searchlights. I cannot say as to whether it was because of an air raid or some kind of a drill. It did, however, cut an interesting picture. I have seen many more search lights over New York City, but over here a search light stabbing up into the night implies a vastly different suggestion than when one observes them over a city back home.
This afternoon, we received a message telling our Admiral that he was being recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross. The reason why was that the Brooklyn's work in silencing shore batteries was practically history. Well, I am glad the Admiral worked as hard as he supposedly did. However, I think a tiny bit of glory should go to the 1000 or so men who sweat blood feeding the main batteries, watching the communications and perching down in the engine rooms! And also the aviators and ARM's who went out in those pitiful planes of ours to spot our gun fire onto the targets.
Yes, I think medals are due quite a few, not just our Admiral!
2100 B, 23 July
We arrived at Algiers and anchored at exactly 1800 B. At the present time, we are taking on a full supply of fuel. Quite a surprise came to me today when I was told I was one of the men on the ship recommended for a commendation for my radio work during the bombarding of Licata. Such things as this should never be countenanced[??]. There are many, many men on this ship whose work is as important and necessary as any other work!
1600, 24 July
Monotony reigns! Only rumor of going home makes the day interesting. We are supposed to go to Oran from here, pick up a convoy and hit for the States.
1615, July 26
At this exact moment, the anchor was hoisted and we started out of Algiers. I was more than glad to leave the place behind! I hope I never have to look at Africa again as long as I live! In fact, I hope the only soil I ever set foot on is the good earth of home.
The Brooklyn, Birmingham, and the tanker Chicopee, plus our escort of destroyers are to go to the States. We are to pick up the Chicopee and the Swanson at Oran, and then proceed at 18 knots to our destination, which has not yet been announced. But all of us hope it will be the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
0822, July 27
At the exact time noted above, our anchor was dropped here in Mers El Kibir. The Brooklyn and the Birmingham are the only cruisers present. There are a great many cargo ships and transports here, and about 15 destroyers. The Chicopee is anchored just aft of us and refueling from her are a couple of the destroyers who are to escort us back.
I hope we do not wait very long for our orders to clear this harbor. I really desire to see the African coast disappear behind us as we head into the west. News being scarce once again, I will mention our chow at this point. To put it plainly, it is terrible. We have had no fresh fruit served on this ship for three weeks, and canned fruit is served only once a week or less. I spend most of my time thinking about what I am going to eat when I get home. The civilians at home may be going without so that the armed forces can have it, but I have never seen any evidence of the food ever coming aboard this ship.
1658, July 28 1943
We have hoisted our anchor and our destination is the best of all other places in the world, the United States. Now the only thing left to worry about is where we are going when we get there? Already rumors we go to Norfolk! May God in all his goodness forbid such a thing! If it cannot be to New York or Philadelphia, then I would rather stay here. That is how much I think of Norfolk!
Our outfit for the return journey is as follows. The Brooklyn in command, the Birmingham, as you know, another cruiser, the tanker Chicopee, and our escorts, the destroyers Swanson, Faut, Wilkes, Denison and Oredronaux [ETG note- I can barely read these names].
We arrived here at Oran on the 21st day of June.. Figuring out the days, it amounts to 37 days since we arrived here, or 48 days since leaving the States. Figuring 16 days for our return trip, we will have remained away from our home for about 60 days, or nearly 9 weeks.
1300 B, July 29
This morning from 0900 to 1100, I obtained my first good view of Gibraltar. It is a mass of solid rock projecting out of the ocean. It is supposedly studded with big defense guns, but no sign of the guns was visible. I could see several tunnels from where the ship passed by the rock. What they were used for I do not know.
It is the picture of the reproduction on the Prudential insurance policies all right.
We are now about to leave the Straits and hit the open Atlantic. I can say nothing more than that I am pleasantly enthused about heading for home.