|A - Moroccan Expedition||31 - 35|
|Captain Harwood's Account||35 - 43|
|Some Facts and Figures About the DICKMAN||43 - 47|
|Eye Witness Accounts and Experiences||47 - 63|
|The LEONARD WOOD||63 - 65|
|Commander O'Neill's Official Report||65 - 69|
|Operations Off Fedala||71 - 73|
|Some Facts and Figures About the LEONARD WOOD||73 - 75|
|Eye Witness Accounts and Experiences||75 - 77|
|Floating Hospital||77 - 81|
|B - Algerian Expedition||83 - 91|
|Commander Heimer's Account||91 - 97|
|Official Report of the SAMUEL CHASE||97 - 101|
|Oran Harbor Operation||103 - 105|
|Significance of Oran||105|
|Scuttling of the French Fleet at Toulon||107 - 113|
|Special Recognition and Decorations||113 - 121|
THREE LANDING PLACES
Operations in French Morocco,organized as the Western Task Force, were conducted by United States forces under the unified command of Rear Admiral H. K. Hewitt, until General G. S. Patton's headquarters were established on shore and he was ready to assume command. The plan called for a main landing to be made at Fedala, 14 miles north of Casablanca; and secondary landings at Port Lyautey (Mehdia Harbor), 65 miles north of Casablanca, and at Safi, 125 miles south of Casablanca. The objectives were: to capture Casablanca from the land side; to capture the airfield near Port Lyautey; and to capture the port of Safi by direct assault and then to assist in the reduction of Casablanca. The Moroccan campaign, an entirely American undertaking as regards military and naval forces, involved a total of more than 37,000 officers and men in the land forces and 99 vessels of all categories. The principal objective, the harbor of Casablanca, is a modern seaport on the Atlantic, protected by an adequate breakwater and possessing docks and other facilities useful for military and naval operations. In order to capture Casablanca, it was considered advisable to occupy simultaneously the other three harbors, of which the most important was Fedala.
TWO COLUMNS HEADED BY COAST GUARD AT FEDALA
To make the landings, the Transport Force was divided into three parts. The main force - which was to land on four separate beaches near the small town of Fedala - was divided into four columns. Two of those four columns were headed by Coast Guard manned ships: the LEONARD WOOD, Captain Merlin O'Neill, USCG; and the JOSEPH T. DICKMAN, Captain Charles William Harwood, USCG.
HEAVY NAVAL SUPPORT FOR TROOPS
The attack on Fedala was the principal one of the expedition, having as its object a landing in force at that point, to be followed by a rapid advance on Casablanca and an ultimate junction with forces converging from the north (Mehdia) and from the south (Safi). The United States force engaged was the Center Attack Group (Task Group HOW-9), Captain R. R. M. Emmet, consisting of the following units: Fire support - AUGUSTA, flagship, BROOKLYN, ROWAN, WILKES, SWANSON, LUDLOW; Transports - LEONARD WOOD, flagship, ANCON, ARCTURUS, WILLIAM P. BIDDLE, TASKER H. BLISS, CHARLES CARROLL, JOSEPH T. DICKMAN, JOSEPH HEMES, THOMAS JEFFERSON, OBERON, PROCYON, EDWARD RUTLEDGE, HUGH L. SCOTT, ELIZABETH C. STANTON, THURSTON; A/S screen and minesweepers - WOOLSEY, EDISON, BRISTOL, BOYLE, MURPHY, TILLMAN, MIANTONOMAH, HOGAN, PALMER, STANSBURY, AUK. The oiler WINOOSKI, with two specially constructed fire support craft on board, was attached to the Center Attack Group. The Army contingent (Task Group YOKE) forming part of the Center Attack Group, under the command of Major General Jonathan W. Anderson, totaled: 1,067 officers; 18,716 enlisted men; 77 light tanks.
DESIGNED FOR INVASION USE, THIS COAST GUARD MANNED LST PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN PUTTING MEN AND MATERIAL ASHORE TO INVADE HITLER'S FESTA EUROPE
DARKNESS HAMPERED LANDINGS
At 0012 on November 8, the LEONARD WOOD rounded into the transport area, followed by the other transports, and commenced loading boats. At 0145, special beach-marking boats from the LEONARD WOOD, CHARLES CARROLL, and JOSEPH T. DICKMAN left their rendezvous off the bow of the LEONARD WOOD and proceeded to designated points to mark beaches. The debarkations of the landing force was to prove extremely difficult. Considerable confusion was caused by the darkness, which hampered the boats from the combatant ships and those from the transports in effecting their rendezvous. The boat waves from the LEONARD WOOD were directed towards the beach southwest of Cape Fedala. The waves from the THOMAS JEFFERSON, the CHARLES CARROLL, and the JOSEPH T. DICKMAN were directed to the beaches between Fedala and the Neffifikh River.
MULTITUDE OF PROBLEMS
The mission of the Western Task Force involved a multitude of problems, including geography, high surf, and bad coastal weather. The coast of Morocco is rocky, with long sloping beaches. This meant that transports would have to lie a considerable distance from shore to discharge troops. The small assault boats carrying the fighting men to the enemy shore had to face the hazard of the jagged, rocky beaches. Thus, a great problem was to locate the few beach areas where landing craft could come ashore with reasonable safety. Intelligence reports and photographic reconnaissance helped find strategic areas where landings were feasible.
HEAVY GROUND SWELLS
Africa's heavy ground swells, high surf and great tides were a constant problem of vital importance in planning the amphibious landing. Swells towering 16 to 20 feet were not uncommon along the coast of Morocco. High surf from these swells was found too frequently in fair weather. Low atmospheric pressure moving from the Azores toward Spain would cause a heavy surf off Morocco in the space of a day. Scientists reported that a similar atmospheric condition moving south from Iceland would not be felt for two or three days. The worst surf condition along the Moroccan coast was caused by depression between Bermuda and Newfoundland. It was reported that after a lapse of about thirty-six hours high surf and gale winds could be expected in Morocco.
As winter approached, bad coastal weather increased. In November, weather predictions and meteorological information had to be absolutely accurate. Submarines were ordered to the Moroccan coast two days in advance of the main convoy to act as weather stations. The meteorologists' reports were so accurate and closely timed that the troops of the Western Task Force had been ashore only a few hours when the surf along the coast built up so high that landing on the exposed beaches would have been disastrous had the operation been delayed or the weather miscalculated. Some experts believe that it may have been because of these beach and weather conditions that the landings were met with such light opposition. It is thought that the defenders did not think a landing through the surf was possible, and were expecting attacks on more sheltered areas.
THIS U. S. COAST GUARD MANNED COMBAT TRANSPORT JOSEPH T. DICKMAN CARRIES FIGHTING MEN AND VITAL WAR MATERIALS TO THE ENEMY HELD INVASION SHORES
Military problems facing the advancing armada were the fixed defenses along the Moroccan coast, supplemented by the mobile strength drawn from the French Army, Vichy planes, both Army and Navy, and the fleet strength at Casablanca. The toughest opposition, in case Vichy forces decided to resist, was the French fleet - one battleship, two light cruisers, three flotilla leaders, six destroyers, twelve submarines, and one sloop.
TASK FORCE IN THREE PARTS
The task force organization was in three parts: the Assault Force of transports and landing craft to make the landings at Mehdia, Fedala, and Safi; the Covering Group of warships, which would protect the landing forces against the defending fleet at Casablanca; and the Air Group.
CAPTAIN HARWOOD'S ACCOUNT OF THE PARTICIPATION OF THE U.S.S. JOSEPH T. DICKMAN
IN THE NORTH AFRICAN INVASION, NOVEMBER 8, 1942
Prior to the African invasion, training exercises for the amphibious landings were held in the Chesapeake Bay area by the JOSEPH T. DICKMAN and other vessels. These exercises simulated the planned maneuvers as far as possible, although no information to that effect was made a matter of general knowledge. The entire operation, which was to be designated "Operation Torch" was shrouded in such effective secrecy that its objective was unknown to the Axis powers until the actual landings were made. Most of the vessels were assembled and loaded in the Norfolk area, and the day before sailing a conference of commanding officers was held by Admiral Hewitt and General Patton at which information regarding the proposed operation was disseminated. Detailed plans were distributed to the ships immediately before the departure, but the destination was made known to only a small number until a short time before the arrival.
The general plan for the invasion was to seize control of the French colony of Morocco, securing the cooperation of the inhabitants, if possible, by a United States Task Force. The principal objective was the Port of Casablanca. Its capture was to be effected by securing a beachhead at Fedala, about 15 miles above it, and from this place using troops to envelope the city from the land side. Large supporting forces were to be landed near Port Lyautey to the northward, and near Safi to the southward. About half the forces were assigned to the central unit and the remainder divided between the Port Lyautey and Safi areas. The major obstacles in executing the plan were the scarcity of landing beaches and harbors, and the difficulty of
VICE ADMIRAL R. R. WAESCHE, COMMANDANT OF THE U. S. COAST GUARD, PINS THE LEGION OF MERIT ON CAPTAIN CHARLES W. HARWOOD
maintaining logistic support at such a distance from home bases.
Troops and cargo had been taken aboard at Newport News, Va., and on the morning of 24 October, 1942, the JOSEPH T. DICKMAN led the transports out to sea. After a long period of arduous training and drills, we were to play for keeps and there was a feeling of exhilaration in completing the sortie by passing the point of departure on the exact minute and in knowing the ship and the crew were ready and able to do the task assigned. We had on board about 1,450 officers and men of the 2nd Battalion of the 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division, plus a Navy Sea Frontier Unit and part of the Army Western Task Force Headquarters. The number of troops carried was somewhat less than our full capacity, but the cargo holds were crammed to capacity. In addition to the regular components of combat equipment and supplies, the cargo was topped off with extra ammunition and provisions.
Shortly after leaving the coast of the United States we were joined by additional units and the task force became one of the largest armadas ever assembled by the United States. The task force commander (Admiral Hewitt) was embarked on the Cruiser AUGUSTA, which maintained station immediately ahead of the transport group. The Commander, Transport Group (Captain Emmet) was on the LEONARD WOOD, like the DICKMAN, a Coast Guard manned vessel. Good weather was enjoyed in crossing the Atlantic and opportunity was taken to study the plans and acquaint all hands with their specific duties. Courses were steered to conceal the destination from enemy tracking; and no submarine attacks were received, although they were anticipated. The day before the arrival off the Coast of North Africa, the northern and southern task groups left the formation for their assignments at Port Lyautey and Safi. The central group of transports, with their supporting forces, continued on to seize the beachhead at Fedala. This group was formed, in four columns with the initial assault vessels leading the columns. The JOSEPH T. DICKMAN headed the north or left column, the LEONARD WOOD the south or right column, and the CARROLL and JEFFERSON the two inside columns.
The troops from the DICKMAN were to be landed on a beach identified as the "Wadi Nefiffik." This was a small indentation of the coast into which a small creek emptied. The troops were to seize a small fort (Pont Blondin) on the north side of the Wadi, a bridge crossing it, and other points designated as necessary for defense of the beachhead. This beach was not considered suitable for landing large quantities of cargo, and the adjoining beach
to the southward was designated for this purpose. In view of the expected difficulties of retracting the boats from the beach, the first five waves, or boat groups, carrying the assault troops from the DICKMAN were to hit the beach nearly simultaneously and trust to skill and good fortune to get back. This beach, lying between two fortified headlands, had the potentialities of a disastrous enemy trap, as well as many natural disadvantages; but the results to be gained by its successful use justified its selection.
The transport area about 6 miles off Fedala was reached a few minutes before midnight November 7, and the lowering of boats commenced at once. The first boat over was the "Scout Boat" which successfully found and maintained a designated position off the beach. Its function was to show a light to seaward which would guide the landing boats to its position and enable them to go the rest of the way with a minimum of risk of missing the exact spot selected. The accomplishment of this boat was a great factor in the outstanding success of the initial landing of the DICKMAN's boats.
A short time later one of the many difficulties which had to be overcome in this operation became manifest. The plans called for 20 boats to be furnished by other vessels to the DICKMAN, but these vessels had become detached from the formation during the maneuvers into the area and only one arrived as scheduled. About half of our 35 boats were designed to carry vehicles and personnel, and the remainder personnel only. This required a revision of the complicated boat loading schedule under considerable pressure. Fortunately, the Commanding Officer of Troops (Major Bernard) was not a man easily flustered; and a new schedule was quickly arranged with him which permitted 27 of the ship's boats to make up four and a half of the first five waves and to reach the assembly area ahead of time. The destroyer MURPHY, acting as control vessel for the DICKMAN, escorted these boats to the line of departure and started them into the beach on signal from the flagship. The MURPHY was hit by a shell from the battery on Pont Blondin but was not disabled, and her return fire was instrumental in silencing the battery.
These 27 boats reached their beach just before the fort was alerted and unloaded their troops and equipment. Although their return trip was made under fire, not a boat was lost, and all 27 returned for another load. Two boats which had followed a few minutes later encountered the searchlight beam and fire from (and at) the fort and landed on the northeast side of Pont Blondin Battery. These two boats were stranded on the rocks, but the troops and crew got ashore without mishap.
The unloading was continued vigorously and the troops and combat vehicles and equipment landed in good time. About noon of the first day we moved in closer to the beach, but this advantage was offset by the high surf which had developed on the beaches. Due to the high losses of boats suffered by most of the vessels, it was necessary for the DICKMAN's boats to assist them in unloading. While this was being done we facilitated our own unloading by putting the cargo gasoline, consisting of 5-gallon cans, on life floats and towing them in. The beaches continued to get more difficult until their use was suspended, and many boats were lost. When the fort at Fedala capitulated, the harbor became available, but it was too small to accommodate the large amount of supplies being sent in.
While the unloading was going on, a general action took place which was interesting and of many types. No planes attacked the ships, although they were taken under fire at a hopelessly long range. Planes did strafe the beaches, however, and shot up one of our boats. Two members of the crew, Donald LaRue and R. L. Bucheit, were severely wounded; and the engineman in the boat, Paul Clark, took charge, placed the wounded men aboard a destroyer, and completed the mission of the boat. He was awarded a Navy Cross, for his heroic action. C. C. Curry, a Navy hospital apprentice attached to the DICKMAN, was awarded a Silver Star Medal for his courageous treatment of wounded men along the beach while these plane attacks were going on. Fire from the shore batteries at the ships was in plain view and most interesting to watch, especially as it was not directed at us. The beaches were also bombarded by the shore batteries for a short period. French naval vessels which sortied out of Casablanca to attack us were intercepted by our Naval vessels, and the resulting ship battle was another interesting sight. Another variety of action was the turning off of an approaching convoy of French merchant vessels which were imbued with the theory of the "freedom of the seas" and required gunfire to persuade them to keep clear. To complete the variety of action, a night submarine attack resulted in torpedo hits on the destroyer HAMBLETON, the tanker WINOOSKI, and the transport HEWES. The HEWES sank quickly, but most of the crew were rescued. These vessels were anchored nearby, and assistance was sent to the HAMBLETON from the DICKMAN. The next afternoon, about 1720, another torpedo attack, apparently from a submarine which had worked its way inshore of the transports, hit the transports SCOTT, RUTLEDGE, and BLISS. The RUTLEDGE sank quickly, but the SCOTT and BLISS, sister ships of the DICKMAN, were still afloat when we left the area, although the BLISS was burning fiercely. They both sank within a few hours. All boats available from the DICKMAN sere sent to the assistance of the SCOTT.
Upper left: Damage to JEAN BARI Bow. Lower Left: Damage to JEAN BARI Stern. Right: USS MASSACHUSETS Track Chart
About 60 of the survivors were brought aboard. Many others were taken to the shore; and when the DICKMAN departed on signal with the other vessels, all the boats were left behind to carry on the rescue work.
After clearing the Fedala area we cruised up and down off shore waiting for the port of Casablanca to be opened up. The USS ELECTRA was hit by a torpedo while we were out there and the DICKMAN missed contact with a floating mine by a narrow margin. On the morning of the 15th, we entered the harbor, which was cluttered up with sunken vessels, and completed unloading supplies, consisting of ship's provisions, ammunition, and gasoline - about 10% of our total tonnage carried for the operation. We departed from Casablanca on the 17th of November and on the return cruise to Norfolk the principal activity was preparing the vessel for further activities by stripping more of the woodwork from the quarters and increasing the troop capacity.
SOME FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT THE DICKMAN
THE DICKMAN COMMISSIONED IN 1941
Early in 1941, the Army Transport Service had taken over the USS PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT as an army transport, renaming her the USAT JOSEPH T. DICKMAN.1 The ship - a steel twin screw vessel of 13,869 gross tons, with a full load displacement of 21,325 tons, measuring 535 feet 2 1/8 inches in overall length - was given the new name in honor of the late Lieutenant General, Joseph T. Dickman, who had commanded American troops in France and later in Germany at the close of the last war, and had also participated in earlier wars. On June 10, 1941, the DICKMAN was placed in commission in the Navy Yard, New York, and the then Lieutenant Commander Harwood assumed command of the vessel.
TRAINING EXERCISES IN 1941
Then followed months of training in methods of amphibious warfare. The first of many landing exercises were carried out by the DICKMAN, in company with other naval transports (she having joined up with Transport division Three of the U. S. Atlantic Fleet), on June 28, 1941, off New River Inlet, Onslow Bay, North Carolina. There from July 1 until July 5, 1941, and again later that month, the DICKMAN together with other ships in Transport Division Seven, of which she was then a part, carried on landing exercises. While these exercises, in the light of later operations, were crude and full of errors, they laid the groundwork for the Transport Doctrine which proved of great value in amphibious assaults under wartime conditions. For the first twelve days in August, 1941, extensive ship maneuvers in addition to landing exercises were carried out in the region of Onslow Bay.
HARDSHIPS ENCOUNTERED IN EARLY EXERCISES
During those early exercises, under the direction of COMCARIBFOR, not only jeeps and trucks were put ashore but also tanks. This was no mean feat considering the boats and equipment then in use, plus the lack of experience of all hands in that type of modern warfare. The troops suffered from sunburn, the early landing craft were continuously breaking down, fresh water was portioned out in quart quantities three times a day, surf conditions were hazardous, and communications were bad. More experience was acquired in the course of the next twelve months, when the DICKMAN, having undergone conversion changes, made many long trips, including one to Bombay, India, giving many men their first extended voyage at sea.
PREPARATIONS IN THE SUMMER OF 1942
From late in June to early in August, 1942, maneuvers and landing exercises were carried out in the upper Chesapeake Bay at Solomons Island, Maryland, in company with other ships of the Atlantic Amphibious Force. These were extensive in nature and simulated the storming of protected beaches. Vehicles, bulldozers, and heavy equipment were all landed under true battle conditions and without the realization that these maneuvers and landings were in preparation for the initial North African invasion. In August, during a short period of availability and dry docking in the Norfolk Navy Yard, an examination of the ship's characteristics data showed that an additional six 20mm guns had been added, giving a total of fourteen. The ship at that time was equipped to carry sixteen LCVs, fourteen LCP(R)'s, two LCS(S)'s, one LCP(L), and two LCM(3)'s. All of these boats were aboard except two LCS(S)'s, which had not yet been issued. The ship was loaded with food, clothing, and all supplies needed for many months to come.
WELL STOCKED WITH FOOD AND AMMUNITION
The History of the DICKMAN, prepared by that vessel, gives the following facts and figures, "She carried clothing stores for 47.3 days, general stores for 257.2 days, dry provisions for 93.2 days, refrigerated meats for 64.5 days, butter for 116.2 days, fresh vegetables for 32.7 days, and fruits for 64.9 days, all stores being figured on a combat-loaded complement of 2,000. Her total capacity amounted to 254,429 cubic feet, of which 46,650 cubic feet was utilized for ship's stores and provisions. After each period of overhaul the DICKMAN took on more and more the features which distinguished her as an amphibious assault transport. This period of availability terminated on 10 September, 1942."
TROOPS EMBARK IN OCTOBER, 1942
"Following this period of availability, anti-aircraft practice and fueling-at-sea exercises were carried out in the Chesapeake Bay, in addition to landing exercises during early October.... On October 17, 1942, the vessel moved to and moored at the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad docks at Newport News, Virginia. Here army supplies were loaded and an advance detail of seven officers and 183 enlisted men reported aboard on 18 October, 1942. Total embarkation was completed on 24 October, 1942, and the DICKMAN proceeded to sea from Norfolk to play her part in the initial amphibious invasion of North Africa. Her trip across the ATLANTIC was uneventful."
TROOPS AND SUPPLIES ARRIVE FOR OPERATION "TORCH"
"As a part of Task Force 34, the 'Old Joe' had crossed 3,000 miles of ocean, with 1,370 men and 73 officers of the 2nd Bn., 30th Infantry, 3rd Division, plus 43 naval officers and 80 enlisted personnel of the U. S. Navy Sea Frontier Unit and Western Task Force Headquarters. Her holds bulged with vehicles, gasoline, ammunition, and general army equipment and gear. No record is available of her cargo on this first assault but it is safe to say it was considerable. At 2355, on 7 November, 1942, the following entry was made in the Log, 'all engines stopped, all hands standby to lower boats.' Operation Torch was underway." An official report stated that on November 7, at 2320, the USS JOSEPH T. DICKMAN, underway since October 24 from Newport News, Virginia, as a member of Western Task Force 34, reached the transport area at Fedala, French Morocco. At 2355, all engines stopped and all hands stood by to lower boats. She commenced lowering boats at 0009 on November 8 and disembarking troops at 0048. All waves departed for the rendezvous area at 0330. All boats departed for the beach at 0355. By 0630, boats began to return to the ship to be reloaded for their next run to the beach. At this time Fort Fedala opened fire. American cruisers returned the fire, ceasing at 0705, when Fort Fedala was silenced. However, at 0815, enemy shore batteries shelled the beaches and, at 0830, our cruisers engaged two enemy destroyers in a running battle. The cruisers ceased firing at 1145.
EYE WITNESS ACCOUNTS AND EXPERIENCES
CAUGHT IN SEARCHLIGHT
Lieutenant Bernard E. Scalan, USCG, in charge of landing waves from the DICKMAN, led the operations at the north end of the beach. "It was the darkest night I've ever seen," said the Lieutenant, some time later, in reviewing the operation. "We knew of some shore batteries and a fortress atop which was a huge searchlight, but we had instructions to withhold all fire unless that searchlight was turned on, in which case we should extinguish it. Well, the light did come on and immediately Navy and Coast Guard support boats started hammering away, extinguishing it almost immediately. Then the shore batteries opened up on us and lead and shrapnel came down like rain."
BEACH PARTY STRAFED
"We stayed offshore in our boat directing several waves of landing parties into the best spots along the beach and doing our best to protect them from the fire," Lieutenant Scalan continued. "As day light came, we pushed in to shore and, as we beached, some enemy planes came over, their machine guns wide open. Most of the party made cover, but my Chief Boatswain's Mate, Lloyd M. Morris, was still by the boat as the planes came overhead. Waist deep in water he was strafed as he tried to make shore, and undoubtedly would have drowned had not William W. Martini, Seaman l/c, and another man disregarded the planes and bullets and plunged into the surf, dragging Morris ashore. Then, with the planes still strafing, they carried him up the bullet-ridden beach to a shelter where a doctor had set up a first aid station, Morris was later removed to an eastern port hospital and recovered."
LT. COMDR. BERNARD E. SCALAN, USCG, STANDS AT ATTENTION AS CAPTAIN FRANK A. LEAMY READS HIS COMMENDATION ABOARD THE COAST GUARD-MANNED INVASION TRANSPORT ON WHICH THEY SERVED DURING THE INITIAL INVASION OF FRANCE
DANGEROUS HIDING PLACE
After completing the first landing operations, Lieutenant Scalan in compliance with previous orders, returned to his ship where he and his men had dinner. Later they started for shore to locate a landing party, search for Ensign Harry A. Storts, USCGR, who was missing, and establish a new landing place. They reached shore without incident, but had advanced only about a hundred yards when several enemy planes swooped down at them, machine guns ablaze. "We of the shore party all made for cover, naturally," said the Lieutenant. "I spotted a bulldozer - a small tractor used for towing purposes - leaped behind it for protection, but found two soldiers already there. It was a tight squeeze but I managed to burrow in between them. After the strafing we learned that the bulldozer was connected with a wagon-load of ammunition. Imagine our embarrassment if the ammunition had been hit and exploded. Our secure shelter wouldn't have been so cozy."
TWO MEN ASSIST WOUNDED COMRADES
"After quite some time and considerable hiking, we located the beach party and were then told that the two men who had been detailed to attend to the boat while we were ashore had been wounded. On returning to our ship I learned the details. Richard L. Bucheit, Boatswain's Mate 2/c, and Donald LaRue, Seaman 2/c, had been strafed by enemy planes. Seeing this, two of our shore party under cover rushed to the boat where they found LaRue, wounded and curled up on a bed he'd improvised for himself, and Bucheit, hit in the shoulders and legs. The men who had gone to the rescue of their comrades were Leonard A Goldstein and Paul L. Clark. As firemen their basic duties didn't call for the handling of small boats, but they'd been prepared for such an emergency through the instructions we'd given all hands on our way over. So these two took the wounded men to the nearest ship and it was their promptness in doing this that saved Bucheit's life. He was operated on immediately. LaRue, unfortunately, had been much more seriously wounded and died soon after." Lieutenant Scalan searched for Ensign Storts, who was long overdue, but could not find a trace of him and finally had to return, giving up the Ensign for lost.
ISOLATED IN ENEMY TERRITORY
Three days later, Ensign Storts turned up and related that he and his men had become isolated in hostile territory and were taken prisoner. His story follows. "I was in command of a tank lighter. We left the ship according to schedule but on the way in we developed engine trouble. We had just about got that fixed in good order when an enemy plane that looked like a Messerschmitt came down and strafed us. We lost one man and the boat filled with water. We were able to make an emergency landing and get the rest of the men ashore, but we were forced to land several miles up the beach from the main landing operation. This meant that we were isolated in hostile territory."
ONE Of A NEW TYPE (NAVY'S LCI) OPERATING UNDER THE NAVY AMPHIBIOUS FORCE
NAVY AND COAST GUARD PERSONNEL MAN THE BARGES
ATTACKED BY PLANES AND BY SNIPERS INLAND
"Shortly after we landed, eight planes came over after us and we lost several men. Everybody, including Coast Guardsmen and soldiers, dug themselves into shallow pits and fox holes. This was about noon, and every half hour during the rest of the day planes came over and strafed us. In the meantime, we were forced to keep up an intermittent duel with snipers who were trying to pick us off from concealed positions inland. We thought it would never get dark, but it finally did. By this time we had lost another man and had three wounded and we decided to send for help."
AMERICANS TAKE FRENCH PRISONERS
"Five men salvaged a rubber raft and started for a destroyer anchored off shore. Four others and myself started to walk to the town of Fedala. We took enough rations for one meal and three canteens of water. We walked all Sunday night and all day Monday, and after dark Monday we arrived at an Army Command Post. The officer in command detached a force to relieve our men on the beach. I went with them to show them the way. Early Tuesday morning as we came around a bend in the road, we surprised a group of French soldiers eating breakfast. We quickly made them prisoners and took them along with us. However, our trip was in vain. When we reached the beach we found that the men we had left there were gone. They themselves had been captured by the French. This information was given to us at this point by one of our French prisoners." There seemed to be nothing to do but to return to the Army Command Post, so they started back on the route they had already been over twice. Before leaving, they "booby-trapped" the equipment they had originally left on the beach.
ARE IN TURN TAKEN PRISONER
"The country was flat, but occasionally we had to detour around ravines or heavy brush," Ensign Storts continued. "We were getting along well when suddenly native soldiers appeared all around us as if by magic and opened fire, their sand-colored clothing had camouflaged them and they seemed to emerge from the ground. There were between 150 and 200 of them led by French officers. In the first burst of fire they killed several of our men and eight of the French soldiers that we had originally captured. Every other member of our party was wounded." They were then taken to the first aid station at Bouznika, en route noticing several other ambushes similar to the one into which they had fallen. The French treated their wounds and sent then on in a truck, which was attacked and put out of commission by an American plane.
CONFUSING EVENTS BEFORE RELEASE
"By this time we were very tired and somewhat confused," the Ensign said. "In one day, we had captured a force of Frenchmen, been captured ourselves by other French who had fired on their own men in doing so. Then one of our own planes had fired on us. At any rate, we walked back to Boulhaut and spent Tuesday night there. The French treated us as well as they could, but there was only enough food for those seriously wounded and only two glasses of water per man. The next morning, Wednesday, we heard that Casablanca had fallen. We got hold of a French priest who could speak English and demanded that we be released," In a short time the Americans were allowed to leave, although only Ensign Storts and another
Left &Center: Landing Operations at SAFI. Upper-right: Batterie Railleuse, Wreck of the Control Station. Lower-right: Batterie Railleuse, Direct Hit on Storehouse.
man were able to walk. They were driven "to Fedala, where the transport JOSEPH T. DICKMAN was lying offshore about one and a half miles, and got aboard at noon, exactly four days after they had left in the landing boat.
JOIN AN ARMY GROUP
In the confusion of the battle, the lighter of James Berardi, Seaman l/c, USCGR, and three other lighters took a wrong turn and landed in the heavy surf 15 miles north of their objective, the little town of Fedala. After landing troops and equipment, Berardi's lighter, leaking badly, was unable to get off the beach. When, after repeated efforts to break out of the sand, the boat finally churned its propellers off, Berardi, another Coast Guardsmen Guston E. Eckman, and some sailors decided to throw in their lot with the Army troops, for the other boats had already left the beach. Shortly after landing, about 8:30 a.m., the little party was strafed by 13 French planes, which killed one soldier and wounded two others. "I took two bullets from the leg of one of the soldiers," Berardi said, in reviewing the landing, some time later. "Then we attempted to fire the guns of the half-tracks which the Army had, but they were jammed. Lieutenant Victor (in command of the Army group) asked for volunteers to carry the wounded to a hospital. We commandeered a French wagon which was going by and two of our party started off with the wounded to find a hospital. In the meantime we began camouflaging the half-tracks."
TAKE UP A POSITION IN A PIG PEN
The little party, consisting of about 35 men, began to search in the early afternoon for a place to camp during the night. After a brush with French infantry and armored cars, which lasted several hours, the Americans took up a position in a pig pen, which, with walls a foot thick and seven feet high, seemed to offer the best protection available at the time, "That pen sure looked good," said Berardi. "We crowded right in with the pigs and didn't mind the company at all." The party, continually peppered by the small calibre machine guns of the French armored cars, held their pig pen against assault for two days, until their ammunition ran low. With only six rounds of ammunition left for their lone "tommy gun", the men finally decided to surrender, for they reasoned, accurately as it turned out later, that the French would soon start using mortars and grenades. If one grenade had been thrown into the pig pen, all the Americans would probably have been killed. Berardi and two others volunteered to walk out to the French and surrender.
FRENCH "VERY NICE" TO AMERICAN PRISONERS
"That's the only time I was really frightened," Berardi related. "'Shorty,' our sharpshooter, covered us with the tommy gun as we walked out with our hands in the air. We knew that if the French fired on us, Shorty would get some of them. He had picked off three officers just before we walked out." It was a lucky thing that the Americans gave up when they did, for thirty minutes later the mortars which the French had sent for finally arrived. The prisoners, taken to Rabat, 65 miles away, were interviewed by French officers. "They were very nice to us," said Berardi. "We answered all their questions with 'maybe' and 'could be' and after a while they gave up. One of them said, 'I knew you Americans wouldn't talk, but we had to ask the questions.'"
FRENCH GUARDS ASK AMERICANS TO HOLD THEIR RIFLES
While the Americans were at Rabat, they were kept in an old French fort where they ate and slept in one large room which was cold and damp. The party was shuttled back and forth from then on between French headquarters and various small towns in French Morocco. They made one trip in charcoal-burning buses which had to stop at frequent intervals while the Frenchmen got out to gather wood for fuel. "When the French guards would go to gather wood," Berardi said, "they would ask us to hold their rifles." At one place the Americans were kept in a dark room. It was so dark that they couldn't tell what they were eating. "We thought it was beef until someone lit a match and we found it was raw horsemeat. We couldn't blame the French for the food, however. It was all they had to eat, themselves. Then too, they didn't make us work. As a matter of fact, any time we helped them, we got extra wine."
RELEASED SIX DAYS AFTER LANDING
Berardi struck up a friendship with a French officer, who, it turned out, was born in New Jersey. This officer said that the French did not want to fight the Americans and that if the French were given weapons and food they would fight on the Allied side. Six days after they had landed, Berardi and the others were released and taken by an American truck convoy to Casablanca. Their ship had already left for the United States so the Coast Guardsmen and sailors rejoined it at a U. S. port.
TROOPS WADE ASHORE
Abraham L. Jessen, Coast Guard Surfman, in charge of a landing boat, left his transport, the JOSEPH T. DICKMAN, with three other Coast Guardsmen and a number of Army troops. "We headed toward shore in the dark," Jessen related, "setting our course by a marker boat. As it began to get light, we saw we were practically on the reef due to the marker boat having been temporarily off station. It was too late to avoid going on the rocks. By this time the enemy had seen us and shells were falling all around. We got through the worst part of the rocks without anyone getting hurt and when the boat finally hit the reef the soldiers waded ashore. We saved our machine gun by dismounting it and followed the troops. Once ashore we climbed up over some rocks and came to a railroad track. We followed the track for about six miles and finally got to the beach."
ARRIVE IN HEAVIEST SHELLFIRE
"This part of the beach was getting the heaviest shellfire of the whole operation. Inland batteries were shelling the landing parties and enemy planes were strafing them. Our boats were a mile and a half away across the exposed sands. The four of us began an obstacle race to get to them. When we heard a shell whistling toward us we fell flat on our faces. Then we would get up and run a few yards. When the planes came over with all machine guns wide open, we would dive into the nearest shell hole. Then we would climb out and run some more. We finally made it and got aboard a tank lighter which took us back to the ship."
SCENES ABOARD THE JOSEPH T. DICKMAN
As senior deck petty officer, Harry E. Meekins, Chief Boatswain's Mate, USCG, sweated out the invasion of Fedala from the deck of the DICKMAN, six or eight miles off the coast. His task was as tough as landing a boat on the shore under fire, for he had the responsibility of seeing that all the barges got into the water safely with their loads of fighting men. On the night of November 7, and in the small hours of November 8, Meekins started his boats over the side, without a light showing in the blacked-out convoy. While landing nets were lowered from the big transport, the small boats circled, and then they came alongside in fours and fives to receive the soldiers in full combat equipment as they clambered down the nets. The troop-laden barges then rendezvoused and made for the shore. Each coxswain had instructions in detail concerning courses and speeds. Meekins would have liked to be out there with his men but he had to stay on the big ship to superintend the debarkations and after them the unloading. The difficult task of unloading would begin as soon as a foothold had been established on the beach.
TRIP AFTER TRIP IS MADE BY BARGES
The minutes dragged by slowly after the first group had started for the shore. The Chief and the others left on the DICKMAN peered into the darkness. Suddenly somebody yelled, "There she goes!" and a brilliant light flashed on the beach and surrounding waters. The United States destroyers and landing boats, caught in the dazzling beams, immediately opened fire and after a few shots knocked the searchlight into darkness. Trip after trip was made in the small barges, under fire and through treacherous surf. Endless strafing from the air and firing from behind the hills gave the landings forces plenty to think about besides the rocks and surf. When morning came, all but one of the machine gun nests were destroyed and the Americans got that one in the early afternoon. The firing, however, continued from the interior. While the fighting was in progress, the Coast Guard teams started the work of transporting food, ammunition, and supplies to the beach, and of bringing back the wounded for medical care aboard the big ships. For the next fifty hours without a break, Coast Guardsman made steady relays of round trips from ship to shore and back. They only stopped when their boats were shot away from under them. Then they took the places left vacant in other boats by men who had been wounded or killed. Many boats were lost in the high, turbulent surf. But as the soldiers gained territory and pressed inland, the supplies were kept moving in for the maintenance of successful operations. "It's lucky that most of us were surfmen from Coast Guard stations along the beaches at home where we learned how to handle boats in all kinds of weather," Meekins commented.
CIGARETTES SOLVE LANDING PROBLEM
American cigarettes and ingenuity solved many problems of getting supplies ashore after the Coast Guardsmen had successfully ferried the troops from the transports to the shore. Ensign Stephen L. R. McNichols, USCGR, noticed that the crew of his transport, exhausted by hours of driving their landing barges through enemy gunfire and around hidden reefs, were making a slow job of it.
Left: Battle of Casablanca. Upper-right: Wreck of the FRONDEUR. Lower-right: Beachead off Casablanca.
In sharp contrast, the Ensign noticed that the scores of Arabs who appeared from all directions to beg for cigarettes, were the most active people on the beach. So he organized a labor battalion, after a few minutes of dickering, with a fixed wage of one cigarette per hour. The smoke-starved Arabs were glad to get the cigarettes and the weary crew got a well-earned rest.
MEETING IN A FOXHOLE
Ensign McNichols missed death by forty feet as he directed a repair party attempting to float a stranded boat, and found himself dramatically reunited with a friend he had not seen for many months. McNichols and his men were in the boat, close to shore, when enemy bombers swooped down. Making a dash for the beach, they dived into foxholes as the bombers scored a direct hit on the boat, blowing it to bits. The Ensign scarcely had time to flatten himself out in his shelter when a heavy weight struck him and turning he looked into the familiar, grimy face of his fellow officer, Lt. Bernard E. Scalan. When they had last seen each other at a training base months earlier, their sole topic of conversation had been Stalingrad's resistance. Now as enemy bombs hurtled by, Lt. Scalan exclaimed, "McNichols! How is Stalingrad holding out?" In relating the incident, McNichols said that his remark was, "Have you got anything to eat?" Scalan produced some malted milk tablets and as they munched they reminisced a few minutes. They then left to rejoin their respective units and did not meet again until both were back in the United States.
NAVAL ACTION IN CASABLANCA AREA
Shortly after our troops had been landed, early in the morning of November 8, shore batteries opened fire on the naval forces supporting the landings at Fedala. The AUGUSTA, the BROOKLYN, and accompanying destroyers engaged these shore batteries at intervals that morning, and early in the afternoon the shore batteries on Point Fedala were captured. Several naval actions took place on November 6, between Fedala and Casablanca. Soon after daylight, eight submarines left Casablanca, three others were sunk at their moorings. Two French destroyer-leaders and five destroyers , sortied, early in the afternoon, and stood toward Fedala. They were forced to retire. Shortly afterward, the French light cruiser PRIMAGUET sortied and joined the French destroyers outside the harbor. This group, which stood toward Fedala, was promptly engaged by the AUGUSTA and BROOKLYN and vessels of the covering forces. With the exception of one destroyer which managed to get back to the harbor, all the French ships were either sink or beached. In the meanwhile, the covering force - consisting of the MASSACHUSETTS, WICHITA, TUSCALOOSA, and four destroyers - engaged the shore batteries at El Hank, the French battleship JEAN BART, which was moored in the harbor, and the French forces that had sortied from Casablanca. Late in the forenoon on November 10, two enemy vessels outside of the harbor of Casablanca opened fire on our troops ashore. Thereupon, the AUGUSTA and four destroyers stood toward Casablanca and engaged the two enemy ships. In this action, the JEAN BART fired upon the AUGUSTA, which immediately retired with her accompanying destroyers. The JEAN BART was sunk at her moorings sometime between November 8 and November 10, but was able to continue to fire.
DAMAGED VESSEL CONTINUES FIGHT
The JEAN BART was hit several times by 16" shells from the MASSACHUSETTS, that severely damaged the big French warship in her forward area. Dive bombers scored a direct hit on the starboard side aft, causing considerable damage in that area. Although injured, she was able to continue action because she was moored in shallow water, Commander Gifford explained. "The JEAN BART was flooded to her moorings," said he, "but due to shallow water in which she was moored she was still able to continue action with her forward main batteries. Because she was moored with her bow pointing out to sea, she was unable to use her after main batteries." After the surrender of the city, Commander Gifford was a member of the force that inspected all vessels in the harbor. This inspection was upon direct orders from Admiral Hewitt, with a view toward surveying all ships and their cargoes as to their adaptability for Allied use.
LANDINGS AT SAFI AND PORT LYAUTEY SUPPORTED BY NAVAL ACTION
Two destroyers, the BERNADOU and the COLE, were principally responsible for the attack on Safi. They were supported by gunfire from a covering group, consisting of the battleship NEW YORK, the cruiser PHILADELPHIA, and the destroyer MERVINE. The BERNADOU, carrying Army troops, and the MERVINE, with naval personnel, made a daring entry into the harbor of Safi early in the morning of November 8, and there landed their troops without serious difficulty. Landing operations at Port Lyautey proceeded with comparatively little difficulty. However, stiff resistance was later encountered south of the mouth of the Oued Sebou River, and shore batteries were not silenced until November 9. Naval gunfire and naval aircraft support were furnished by many ships, including the TEXAS, the SAVANNAH, and a number of destroyers.
LASSITUDE OF FRENCH
The rank and file of the French Navy fought doggedly, courageously, and skillfully against heavy odds. While their motive for so doing was not obvious, experts believed it was probably to be found in the high sense of professional honor that has always characterized the French naval service. French losses were unofficially placed at about 500 killed and 800 wounded. One high ranking officer summed up the morale of the French naval forces as follows: "Honesty demands that the lassitude, notwithstanding their bravery, of the French, and the providential good luck attending the United States forces, be recognized as heavy contributing factors. No other enemy would have failed to lay mines and prepare beaches at least in the vicinity of strategic points. No other enemy equipped with air craft and submarines, would have failed to detect the approaching force by or before dark the day before their appearance offshore, or failing that, could have been alerted six hours before daylight by the presence of enemy ships 16 miles from his principal base, and failed to use his 11 submarines before daylight and his air force by or before daylight."
PRAISE FOR FIRE AND ENGINE ROOM CREWS
Lieutenant David Parker, USCG, discussing action in the North African landings, where he served on the DICKMAN, praised the boys below decks aboard the transports and fighting ships. "The boys in the fire and engine rooms have as tough assignments as anyone, but they don't get any of the glory. Down there they keep things moving, feel the concussions of nearby depth charges and bombs bursts. Then they get the vibrations of the ship's guns as they go off. But they just stick to their posts, kidding one another and making funny cracks about the bomb bursts they feel but can't see."
Morale aboard the Coast Guard ships, he said, was extremely high. "The boys below decks are always in good spirits," he stated, "wise cracking and singing at the height of battle, but always filling their jobs. Then when they're relieved, they'll dash topside and volunteer for extra duty at the guns or aboard landing boats. The young fellows all over the ships are the ones who do the real fighting. It's remarkable how they race to get into action. They can't wait to man those landing boats." After the landing duties were completed, Coast Guardsmen followed the American troops inland and even while the shooting was going on visited curio shops, buying souvenirs to take home.
SOME INCIDENTS UNDER GUNFIRE
Lieutenant Parker recalled some incidents that occurred under gunfire. "There was a fireman named Philip Labriola, who helped man one of the landing boats. Sometime later, while on the beach, Labriola saw an enemy plane flying low in his direction. He dug a hole in the sand with his helmet; carried the machine gun from the boat and then, while he fired at the plane with his right hand, nonchalantly ate a sandwich which he held in his left. James Youngblood, another Coast Guard fireman, was ashore when some strafing started. Nearby were large 'haystacks' which were being used to camouflage enemy guns. Not knowing their purpose, Youngblood dove into a 'haystack' when the plane's guns swept the beach. When the strafing had ended, he emerged from his haven, and from various parts of it came several Arabs. He didn't know they'd been in there with him until he saw them come out. After the action, while at general quarters, Edward Manly, a 19-year old Coast Guardsman, was told by an officer, 'Well, Manly, you'll have some swell stories to tell the kids back home.' Manly shrugged and answered, 'Aw, they won't believe me.' They don't care whether people believed them or not - or even hear about it," Lieutenant Parker said. "Those kids just go in there and perform all kinds of heroic acts with no thoughts of glory or recognition. They want to win this war."
THE LEONARD WOOD
Commander Merlin O'Neill, commanding officer of the LEONARD WOOD, in his official report of operations to Commander Transports, Amphibious Force U. S. Atlantic Fleet, dated 11 December, 1942, had high praise for his
officers and men, although not mentioning any by name. "In connection with the operations in which this vessel was engaged, between November 8 and November 15, 1942," said he, "the officers and enlisted men performed all their duties in a most commendable manner. During the action against the enemy, their enthusiasm, courage, and morale were of the highest order."
COMMANDER O'NEILL'S OFFICIAL REPORT
Prior to departure there were embarked aboard this vessel the following Army personnel, supplies and equipment:
- Major General J. W. Anderson, U.S.A., and Staff.
- Regimental Landing Group 7, Third Infantry Division and supporting units.
- Approximately 3000 tons of vehicles, supplies and equipment.
Personnel on board at time of sailing:
ARMY NAVY COAST GUARD TOTAL Officers 92 28* 41 161 Enlisted Men 1693 122 541 2356 Total 1785 150 582 2517
*Total includes 1 MC officer.
The LEONARD WOOD unmoored from Pier 2, Army Base, Norfolk, Va., at 0609, October 24, 1942. Stood out of the harbor and through the mine field channel and swept channel at various speeds. Upon clearing swept channel took station in convoy. Convoy then stood to Eastward on the mission assigned.
Good weather prevailed during the voyage. Various drills were held frequently to acquaint ships personnel and embarked troops with their stations and duties. These drills included - abandon ship, fire, collision, general quarters and rehearsals for disembarkation (during daylight and at night). Machine guns installed in the landing boats were tested and the boat crews instructed and exercised in the operation and firing of these guns. Frequent conferences were held between ship officers and Army officers in command of various troop units in order to insure close cooperation and a complete understanding in connection with the landing operation. Embarked troops were utilized to augment sky and surface lookouts, gun crews, guards and special watchmen. All officers regularly assigned to this vessel were required to make an exhaustive study of the various operation plans and to instruct the
UNITED STATES ATLANTIC FLEET
TRANSPORTS, AMPHIBIOUS FORCE
December 19, 1942
FIRST ENDORSEMENT TO:
CO. LEONARD WOOD Ltr.
AP25/Ser. 2141 of 12/11/42
From: The Commander Transports, Amphibious Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet.
To: The Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet
Via: The Commander Amphibious Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet
The Commander-in-Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet
Subject: U.S.S. LEONARD WOOD (AP25) - Report of Operations, October 24, 1942 to November 30, 1942.
- The report of the Boat Group Commander (Enclosure (A) of basic letter)2 merits the careful attention of superior authority. It gives a clear picture of Beach Red-2 (LEONARD WOOD) during and after the Assault. Most of Lieutenant Keidel's recommendations are sound and should receive the careful consideration of Commander Amphibious Force and of Commander Transports in planning and preparing for future Combat Operations.
- The report of the Beach Master (Enclosure (B) of basic letter) also merits the careful attention of superior authority. It gives a clear picture of conditions on the Beaches on D-day. Most of Lieutenant Hagglove's recommendations are sound and should receive the careful consideration of Commander Amphibious Force and of Commander Transports in planning and preparing for future Combat Operations.
- The performance of duty of the LEONARD WOOD, Coast Guard manned during the TORCH Operation was highly satisfactory to Commander Transports.
- The transmission of this letter via registered mail within the continental limits of the UNITED STATES is authorized.
R. R. M. EMMET
(Copy furnished by ComAmphForLant to CominCh)
enlisted personnel concerned in the details of the landing operations.
There were no casualties or accidents involving ship or personnel during the voyage. No enemy craft were sighted.
The LEONARD WOOD arrived on assigned Debarkation Point off Fedala, French Morocco, at 0005, November 8, 1942. Having received orders to execute Plan Two, relative to lowering of boats, backed down to take way off vessel and lay to. 0009 began lowering boats. 0100 first boat waterborne. 0021 Beach Marking boat departed to locate and mark the landing beach Red 2. 0140 all boats water-borne. Some delay was encountered in lowering the tank lighters due to fowling of block on the boom. Disembarkation of Army personnel and equipment, in accordance with the boat employment plan, was begun when all boats on starboard side had been lowered. The first three waves of assault boats departed at 0350 for the landing on designated beach. H-hour was delayed from 0400 to 0445 by Commander Task Group Thirty Four Point Nine. The fourth wave departed at 0400 and the fifth wave at 0540. Some time was lost in loading the first wave because of failure of six boats (LCP(L)'s to arrive from the USS PROCYON. Boats of succeeding waves were loaded and dispatched to the beach singly or in groups of two or three in order to expedite the disembarkation.
As boats of the first wave approached the shore, they were illuminated by a searchlight from the direction of Cherugi. Support boats immediately opened fire on the light. Shortly thereafter firing was observed between land batteries at Cherugi and Fedala and control vessels (destroyers) near the lines of departure.
Twenty-one boats from this vessel were lost in making the initial landing due to striking rocks at the shore line and to the surf conditions. Eight additional boats were lost during the day in landing through the surf. Casualties to personnel as a result of this as well as the firing were very light. Continued to transfer troops and equipment between ship and shore as boats became available. Due to the loss of so many boats this method of unloading was extremely slow. A few boats from other transports were used from time to time.
Shortly after daylight a small force of French cruisers and destroyers stood out of Casablanca toward Fedala. They were immediately engaged by the AUGUSTA and the BROOKLYN and either destroyed or forced them to return to Casablanca. Enemy planes, believed to be French, bombed and strafed the landing beaches at intervals throughout the day. These attacks were light and did not seriously interfere with the disembarkation of troops and equipment from the transports anchored off Fedala. No attacks were made on the transports. Heavy gunfiring could be heard occasionally through the day from the direction of Casablanca.
Sporadic firing ashore near Fedala and from the direction of Casablanca continued until the morning of November 11, 1942, when an agreement was reached with the French Forces and American land and naval forces entered the city and harbor of Casablanca.
At 1951, November 11, 1942, while this vessel lay at anchor off Fedala, two explosions were heard about one mile distant, bearing about 30° true. A report was received that the USS HAMBLETON and the USS WINOOSKI had been torpedoed. Although severely damaged these vessels did not sink and later made port (Casablanca). At 1954, another explosion was heard about one thousand yards distant, bearing about 340° true. Called all hands to general quarters. Received a signal from the USS JOSEPH HEWES that she had been torpedoed and was sinking. Sent all available boats to rescue survivors. At 2045, JOSEPH HEWES sank.
On November 12, 1942, between 1730 and 1737, the EDWARD RUTLEDGE, HUGH L. SCOTT, and TASKER H. BLISS were torpedoed in succession while anchored off Fedala. Sounded general quarters and made immediate preparations to get underway. Sent all available boats to rescue survivors, Got underway at 1758 and stood out to sea with the remaining transports and vessels from the anchorage off Fedala.
At 0813, November 13, 1943, shaped course for Casablanca and stood into the lee of the breakwater at that port where anchored at 1720. The THOMAS JEFFERSON, CHARLES CARROLL, ELIZABETH C. STANTON, and THURSTON preceded this vessel into the harbor. The remaining vessels of this Force kept at sea until berthing space could be made available.
At 2127 got underway. Stood inside harbor and moored to the Transversal Jetty at 2245. Immediately began unloading remaining supplies and equipment.
Finished unloading at 0330, November 15, 1942. Shifted berth to Delure Jetty where moored at 0720. Then the transports that entered the harbor with the LEONARD WOOD departed and the remaining partially loaded transports stood into the harbor and began unloading.
Unmoored at 0710, November 17, 1942, and stood out through submarine net gate anchored in lee of Delure Jetty to await departure of other transports. Got underway at 0848 and took station in accordance with sortie plan. Stood toward entrance to mine field at various speeds to enable vessels of the convoy to take stations assigned. After passing through opening in mine field stood to westward as directed by the Task Group Commander.
Prior to departure from Casablanca, this vessel received on board 187 additional persons for transportation to Base Hypo. Of these, 26 were Army casualties, 19 were Navy casualties and the remainder, 142, were survivors and passengers from other vessels.
During the westward passage, the crew was employed in cleaning and maintenance work and exercised at various drills. On November 19, 1942, STARKEY, Paul R., Yeoman, first class, USN, survivor from the JOSEPH HEWES died as result of second degree burns sustained when that vessel was torpedoed on November 11, 1942. Body was buried at sea, with appropriate ceremonies, at 1715 in Lat. 32° - 30'N; Long. 21° - 17'W.
Arrived Norfolk, Va., at 1720, November 30, 1942, where moored at Berth 25, Army Base.
OPERATIONS OFF FEDALA
The Executive Officer - the ship's general manager, so to speak, who made direct contact with the officers and men of the crew, who issued the daily plan, who established the manner in which the ship would be run and fed and entertained - Commander Joseph D. Conway, USCG, sent Commander O'Neill the following report, dated 12 December, 1942, of operations off Fedala and Casablanca.
The conduct of the crew was, with one exception, entirely satisfactory and commendable. The conduct of Lieutenant Albert Kiedel, United States Coast Guard Reserve, is worthy of special commendation for his repeated and successful efforts in maintaining transportation facilities between the ship and shore and for his work as Boat Group Commander. In the one case of unsatisfactory conduct proper disciplinary action has been initiated.
The Condition Four Battle Bill for this ship was predicated upon a seventy-two hour period of operation; however, the loss of a large percentage of our ship's boats delayed operations and greatly increased the time for maintaining Condition Four. The crew in Condition Four from 2230, 7 November until 0500, 14 November, excepting the time of our hurried departure from Fedala and our arrival at Casablanca. Although the crew of this vessel had been augmented by additional medical personnel and various other ratings before our departure from Base Hypo, it was found that the physical endurance of this larger crew was severely taxed by the long periods of activity in Condition Four. This operation showed that the bill for Battle Condition Four must be planned to allow limited clerical, cleaning, policing and maintenance work to be carried on in addition to the handling of boats and personnel if the Condition Four is to be maintained more than seventy-two hours.
Considerable difficulty was experienced on 8 and 9 November in communicating with our shore party. The reasons for the difficulty were never fully obtained but appear to be a combination of the defective type SCR-511 Transmitter Receiver Unit and the beach party's preoccupation with other more urgent matter (strafing, etc.).
During the passage from Base Hypo to Fedala, Army field telephone sets were installed to provide communication between troop compartments and other key points throughout the ship. This communication system supplemented the ship's I.C. system and proved to be quite effective in controlling the movement of troops to their debarkation stations.
The loss of a large percentage of our ship's boats necessitated the improvising of other means of getting materials ashore. Two of the means developed were the transportation of packaged ammunition, gasoline and water in life rafts and the commandeering of Moroccan fishing vessels for hauling cargo.
GERES, Henry V., (203-691), S2c, USCG, was not aboard ship when we sailed from Casablanca. He was apparently in good health when last seen on the beach at Casablanca late on 16 November. His whereabouts are unknown. He is listed as missing, pending receipt of further information.
A COAST GUARD ORCHESTRA PROVIDES THE RHYTHM AS A PAINT-UP DETAIL SLAPS A BEAUTY TREATMENT ON THE HULL OF A COAST GUARD-MANNED TROOP TRANSPORT
The surveys for damaged or lost equipment and the requisitions for replacing that equipment have been prepared and submitted.
On the completion of certain repairs previously reported the LEONARD WOOD will be ready to resume active operation.
For tables listing the number of persons embarked in the LEONARD WOOD during the operations see Appendix J.
SOME FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT THE LEONARD WOOD
In 1941, the USS LEONARD WOOD (APA-12) was taken over by the Navy from the Army Transport Service, being placed in commission at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 10 June, 1941, with Commander H. G. Bradbury, U. S. Coast Guard, commanding. Since that time to date, the WOOD has been manned by Coast Guard personnel.
From June to November, 1941, the ship was engaged in various training exercises off the coast of North Carolina. In November, 1941, the ship embarked British troops at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and transported them by way of Cape Town, South Africa, to Bombay, India. Returning to the United States in March, 1942, the LEONARD WOOD was converted into an amphibious attack transport at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, the alterations being completed about 26 April, 1942.
On 26 April, 1942, Commander E. Zoole, USCG, relieved Commander Bradbury as Commanding Officer of the WOOD.
From April until about 26 October, 1942, with Captain R.R.M. Emmet, USN, Commander, Transports Amphibious Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet, aboard the WOOD, along with other amphibious ships, engaged in training exercises and amphibious warfare exercises in Chesapeake Bay in conjunction with Army troops.
On 1 October, 1942, Captain Merlin O'Neill, USCG, relieved Commander Zoole as Commanding Officer of the WOOD.
On 23 October, 1942, 92 officers and 1800 enlisted men from the 3rd Division, U. S. Army, were embarked and supplies loaded at Norfolk, Virginia. On 24 October, 1942, the ship sailed in convoy and arrived off Fedala, French Morocco, Northwest Africa, on 7 November, 1942. Troops and supplies were unloaded in the face of enemy fire, and Army, Navy, and Coast Guard casualties were evacuated. On 11 November, 1942, in the transport area off Fedala the USS JOSEPH HEMES was sunk by enemy action and the LEONARD WOOD aided in rescue work and in picking up survivors. On 12 November, 1942, the ship departed Fedala and arrived at Casablanca on 13 November, 1942, where unloading operations were completed.
On 17 November, 1942, the ship departed from Casablanca and arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, on 30 November, 1942.
during the period from 1 November, 1942, to 17 November, 1942, the LEONARD WOOD was Flagship for Commander, Task Group 34.4 and 34.9 of Task Force 34. From 17 November, until 30 November, 1942, the WOOD was Flagship for Commander, Task Group 34.9.
EYE WITNESS ACCOUNTS AND EXPERIENCES
COAST GUARD ASSISTS IN GIVING SIGNAL
Six Coast Guardsmen, of an advanced unit from the LEONARD WOOD, were reported to have assisted in paving the way for the mass landing of American troops at Fedala. They manned the boat used by a party of Army officers, who had been detailed from the transport, to reconnoiter the beaches and mark them for the landings that were to follow. One of their jobs was to find out if the Vichy French had discovered the presence of the troopships that lay offshore. The little group spent an hour on the Moroccan beach, a few hundred yards from heavy guns that guarded the coastline. As the men crept silently about to reconnoiter the place, they kept as close as possible to the French garrisons to learn their approximate strength. At the end of the hour, a signal was made with a signaling light to the troopships that all was well. In another hour, the ships returned the signal with the information that the landings were about to begin.
MANY BARGES LOST BUT FIGHTING SPOTTY
"We were scared when the enemy opened fire on us, but it's a cinch we couldn't turn around and go back," is the way Fred Bullock, Seaman 2nd class, attached to the LEONARD WOOD, expressed himself in relating his feelings about the landing. Before being able to take up his position as a landing barge machine-gunner, Bullock had to swim ashore because his boat was sunk. The majority of the barges lost were capsized due to heavy surf. "We suffered casualties, of course," he observed, "but all that happened to me was that I got wet. Although some transport units were sunk, we managed to land all of the soldiers. I'm glad of just one thing - that I learned how to swim." When his landing barge was smashed on a reef, Douglas M. Pierpont, Jr., Seaman 1st class, from the LEONARD WOOD, joined the soldiers he had brought ashore and fought alongside of them all the way to Casablanca, a distance of 17 miles. "My only close shave," he said, "came when a piece of shrapnel hit my helmet a glancing blow. The opposition was spotty. They'd fire at us until we got near them, and then the French would surrender. It was obvious they didn't want to fight us."
AMERICANS WELCOMED IN CASABLANCA
Commenting on the natives of Casablanca, Pierpont said, "All over the town were signs on the sides of buildings that said, 'U.S.A. Forever' with French and American flags. The civilians in that section were a funny lot. We were fighting out side of Casablanca and they would wander around, getting in the way, just to see what was going on. You'd think they were part of the gallery at
a golf match. However, casualties among the civilian population were very light."
EXPERIENCES IN A BARGE" EN ROUTE FROM THE LEONARD WOOD
Ensign Robert D. Buckalew, USCGR, in command of the fifth wave to leave the LEONARD WOOD, carried an Army jeep and anti-tank gun, as well as soldiers. As the troop-filled boat drove to shore, the conning tower of a submarine loomed up 300 yards off the port bow. The boat's machine guns were trained on the enemy craft but Ensign Buckalew scarcely had time to challenge it before it submerged silently and disappeared. Soon afterwards the steering wheel, which had become loose and which the coxswain was holding in place by pressing his body against it, came off entirely. The boat was stopped and an emergency tiller was rigged. Then the trip was resumed. A landing was made, and the jeep and the anti-tank gun were driven ashore. The troops followed. Later, the support boat in which Ensign Buckalew returned to his ship was sighted by the crew of an enemy gun on the tip of Cape Fedala. By zigzagging rapidly whenever the flash of the gun was seen, he was able to dodge 18 shells and finally reached his transport, ready for further operations.
THEY LEARNED THE HARD WAY
Amphibious landings became as split second as the Notre Dame shift. The LEONARD WOOD boys became experts the hard way. They knew how to hit the beach on the nose - not too early, when they would run into an attack from their own ships and planes; nor too Late, when the enemy had had a chance to poke his head aboveground. They learned that cold precision the Coast Guard demanded in all assault transports during operations, when too little and too late could mean countless casualties.
LAST LETTERS WRITTEN TO HOME FOLKS
One day, the crew suddenly appeared in battle haircuts, shorn to a maximum of one inch, in case of head injuries and hurried surgery. When the troops saw that, they wrote their last letters home. The ships tightened up. The landing-craft coxswains listened quietly as their boat group commander told them where and when. The bombardment, bursting the eardrums, started before daylight. The LC's, circling offshore, caught the signal and suddenly darted for the beach. "It's all flames, and dive bombers, and red explosions," as one coxswain put it.
Next to Captain O'Neill, the six doctors, dentist, and enlisted medical corpsmen were the transport's favorite people. Aboard, beginning with the African invasion, and through many others, the hospital unit remained intact, and probably performed more major operations than any other ship in combat service. Lt. Richard Campbell, USNR, his eyes bright behind steel-rimmed glasses on a tanned, pleasant face, chuckled as he later told of his experiences. "Nobody knows how many operations
COAST GUARDSMEN IN THE LANDING CRAFT CAREFULLY PREPARE THE WOUNDED, LASHED TO THEIR STRETCHERS, FOR HOISTING ABOARD THE COAST GUARD MANNED TRANSPORT
we've done - somewhere up in the hundreds. Numbers don't matter, anyhow, It's how many boys you can save." The medical unit, operating almost continuously got along on black coffee and a quick wink whenever a table was vacant.
When the WOOD hit the invasion front, the doctors scrubbed and ready, were at their topside station. After the troops had left for the beach, the transport became a floating hospital. The day before, the doctors had taken twenty-five to thirty pints of whole blood from crew donors. In response to calls for volunteers, so many boys eagerly had come forward, that as one doctor commented, "It makes you proud to be an American to see those young fellows wanting to do their all even at the moment of going in to face death." Whole blood was needed in instances of great loss, as in amputation. Plasma, the great lifesaver, was used in the treatment of wound shock. Besides their battle haircuts, the whole crew was in clean clothes, and shaven against the chance that shrapnel might make them patients also.
Dressing stations were set up all over the ship, accommodating 250 casualties. The medical unit rotated at these posts, one doctor and eight corpsmen going in with each beach party. In a foxhole, they set themselves up as a rough-and-ready hospital unit. "That," Doctor Campbell is reported to have said, "was where it's really the quick or the dead. On a beachhead, you can only give elementary aid - tourniquets, first treatments of burns, fast dressing to hold a man's insides together. If they're hit bad, you slug them with a half grain of morphine. The LC's bring them back to the ship as fast as we can turn them over. It's not uncommon for a man to go down the landing net into an LC, hit the beach, and be back aboard, wounded in half an hour.
"I've never gotten over being surprised at their sheer courage," said the doctor. "I've seen a boy propped up against a bulkhead, his leg blown off below the knee, take a cigarette and a glass of grapefruit juice while waiting his turn inside. They never complained. They just sat there, propped up, waiting."
MACHINE-GUNNED WHILE LANDING EQUIPMENT
While his unit was delivering half-ton trucks and soldiers to the shores of Fedala, George Paajanen, Machinist's Mate 1st class, from the LEONARD WOOD, was badly wounded on the second trip. The men had landed the first truck and boat-load of service men without incident and gone back to the transport, where they loaded up with another truck and the soldiers to man it. That time, a German plane began a strafing attack against them. "We were about a mile from the beach," related Pajaanen, "and by this time the sea had become really heavy. When we landed, the soldier driving the truck said he couldn't get it off the boat because the water was too deep. Waves were breaking over the boat. It seemed the best thing to do was to leave the truck and get ashore." Paajanen then took it upon himself to get the truck ashore. However, it was a hopeless task, so the boat crew gave it up and left the landing barge to get to shore themselves. Just as Paajanen was getting out of the water, a coxswain shouted, "Hit the ground, here comes a plane!" Paajanen turned to look and fell flat on the ground at the same time.
The plane let go with a burst of machine-gun fire. "I realized that I'd been hit," said Paajanen, "but I felt no pain at first. I couldn't walk and my hand was bleeding. The coxswain put a tourniquet on me. Then he went to the First Aid Station and came back with three other Coast Guardsmen and a stretcher. They carried me to the station where a doctor gave me some brandy and morphine shots and put sulfanilamide on my wounds. I was then put on a stretcher again and taken back to the ship's operating room where Dr. Fox went to work on me." Aboard the transport, Pajaanen was given two pints of plasma. It was found that he had a bone broken right above the ankle and one in the thumb. Two bullets had gone through his thighs but missed any bones. Incidentally, the plane that shot him was brought down two minutes later by the Americans.
PRECAUTIONARY SAFETY MEASURES SUCCESSFUL
Some of the measures taken to Insure secrecy and their success were revealed some time later by Lieutenant Commander, Harry C. Gifford, USCG, Assistant Engineering Officer of the LEONARD WOOD. "The troops were issued the heaviest of clothing just before leaving the dock at Norfolk," he said. "That was just a blind. It was done because the ship was being loaded by stevedores - civilians whose integrity we had no reason to doubt, but whose non-military status made this precautionary measure advisable." The success of the measures taken was attested to by the fact that Casablanca was in no way blacked-out when the Task Force approached on the night previous to the landings. "They even had a lighthouse lighted," the Commander said.
LIGHTS ON OUR VESSELS INDICATE ARRIVAL
According to Commander Gifford, the necessity for making emergency turns and the use of the emergency turn lights installed on the vessels probably gave the French the first indication that the Task Force was there. Vessels steaming in a convoy in the early days of the war, when short-range radio communication was not developed, used vari-colored lights as signals for the turn desired. "On the night of our arrival," related Commander Gifford, "immediately upon seeing those lights, the enemy blacked out the entire city within a period of five minutes. The moment that blackout began we knew that we had been discovered. It was about 10 P.M." Lieutenant Robert Emerson, a group boat commander, from the LEONARD WOOD, had already taken his barges in, when a German submarine started to play havoc with the invading fleet. Torpedo tracks broke all around the WOOD, sinking the vessel ahead. Enemy planes put on a strafing attack, scarring the paint on the WOOD, and nothing else. "It was the first landing for all of us," the Lieutenant said, "and nothing quite worked out as it does in maneuvers. Landing craft gunboats circled around, protecting us, and we dashed in under destroyers' protecting fire. It was pretty hectic as we laid down our ramps, and soldiers swarmed in under fire. One of the crews couldn't get off in time. They had to get set behind rocks when they heard an enemy platoon approaching. It turned out to be made up of huge black Senegalese with scarred faces and fezzes - Vichy troops. The boys were so surprised at fighting them - just like in an African picture - all they could think of was to yell, 'Stick 'em up!' You should have heard them brag about their fancy prisoners!"
B - ALGERIAN EXPEDITION
PLAN OF ATTACK
At Algiers, the plan of attack was typical of that carried out by the United States forces wherever they landed. Barges from the convoys went not to a port itself but to beaches a few miles away. There they landed Rangers for the initial assault. Then followed the infantry, artillery, and tanks. The American troops marched quickly inland. Allied airmen, fighters and bombers, landed on captured airdromes. Soon the invaders held all the approaches to Algiers - rail, highway, and air. French troops put up little more than token resistance as gunfire neared the town. Sixteen hours after the Americans had landed, Algiers surrendered.
ALGIERS - CAPITAL OF FIGHTING FRENCH
As the unofficial capital of France, seat of government of the "Fighting French," the political importance of Algiers was considerable and its occupation was certain to affect the international situation in Europe as well as the strategic situation in the Mediterranean. Located on the southwestern edge of a deep bay extending from Pointe Rescade on the west, to Cape Matifou on the east, Algiers, with the exception of its picturesque old Arab quarters, is a modern city of about 200,000 inhabitants and a well-equipped harbor. The area had been garrisoned and fortified so that its capture in the face of resistance seemed likely to be a major operation.
FOUR AMERICAN SHIPS IN JOINT CAMPAIGN
In this joint campaign, the British furnished the naval force, with the exception of four United States transports constituting Transport Division Eleven. This Division consisted of: the USS SAMUEL CHASE, flagship commanded by Commander Roger C. Heimer, USCG; the USS THOMAS STONE, commanded by Captain Olten B. Bennehoof, USN; the LEEDSTOWN, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Duncan Cook, USN; and the USS ALMAACK, commanded by Captain Chester L. Nichols, USN. These four ships carried the United States contingent of troops in the Eastern Assault Force of which Major General Charles R. Ryder, USA, was in command. Transport Division Eleven left Clyde on October 14, in company with a fast convoy which included 37 vessels. Of the 72,000 officers and men put ashore in Algeria, 23,000 were furnished by the British Army and 49,000 by the United States Army.
TWO AMERICAN TRANSPORTS TORPEDOED
Two of the transports were hit. Late in the afternoon of November 7, the THOMAS STONE was torpedoed. Her troops were put into landing boats about 160 miles from Algiers, and after a hazardous trip, during which several of the landing craft were lost, succeeded in reaching the Algerian coast, but by that time hostilities had ceased. The transport LEEDSTOWN was attacked by German aircraft on the evening of November 8, and again on the following afternoon, and was sunk by torpedoes. Loss of personnel was light. As it happened, a similarity in the names of two beaches took a small Coast
Guard patrol to an unspecified beach position and led to the rescue of the majority of the crew members and some of the soldiers from the torpedoed troop transport LEEDSTOWN. Hunter Wood, Chief Boatswain's Mate, USCG, on the CHASE, later described his dual role on this tour of combat duty which included a job of lifesaving.
WOOD DESCRIPTION OF ARRIVAL
"Our transport was bringing men and supplies and we had charge of the landing operations. We arrived at ten o'clock in the evening on November 7, right in the midst of an enemy attack. The soldiers from our transport, the SAMUEL CHASE, and others in the convoy were to land on what appeared in the charts as a certain beach. A little farther to the west there was another beach. The Axis bombers were making it hot for the transports. We hid in fox holes on the beach. All the ships got away except the LEEDSTOWN. Some planes dropped flares and the place lit up like daylight. It gave us a dreadfully helpless feeling, for we wanted to do something about it and couldn't. We just had to wait until the light died down, in the meantime making a perfect target for the enemy. A torpedo plane went directly for our ship. I was on shore at the time and had just come from my fox hole after a bombing and strafing attack. The plane fired two torpedoes directly at the ship, then swerved off in one of the most beautiful places of maneuvering I've ever seen. The torpedoes just missed the bow, one passing on the starboard side, missing by 20 yards, the other missing the port bow by 3 feet. The men stood watching the torpedo coming for them and all thought the ship was a goner. But she came through unscathed. The next morning we made firewood out of the tail of a German bomber that had been shot down, and built a fire to cook our coffee. Our ship shot down three of the attacking planes. Meanwhile, the invasion forces were being landed.
LANDING A BIG OPERATION
"A Landing of that kind is a big operation, with landing boats shuttling back and forth to the transports. That shore was treacherous, with lots of rocks, and my division under Ensign McLin was keeping the lanes open for the incoming rush of troops and supplies. Some of the boats were disabled and we had to haul them ashore for repairs. The water was cold and the wind was colder. We were wading out up to our necks. After the landing was completed, my men and I left to go to a nearby beach as ordered, to meet my senior officer and the remainder of the division. We arrived at the beach just in time to see the LEEDSTOWN hit by a torpedo. But we didn't see the rest of our division.
"The men of the torpedoed vessel abandoned the ship and took to life rafts which floated directly toward the beach. But a heavy surf was running and the survivors were thrown from their rafts into the sea a mile and a half from shore. There was bound to be trouble when those rafts hit the rocks offshore. We tried to get the survivors to steer the rafts before they hit the surf so as to avoid being battered. Stripped to the hide, we dived into the icy water and swam out with line
to tie to the rafts which we could then pull to shore with the survivors clinging to the sides. The rafts had to be pulled, for the men on them could not steer them clear of the rocks. The surf was throwing the rafts into the air, dumping their human cargoes into the water to be crushed as the rafts were tossed about on top. We worked "for five hours, fighting against a terrific undertow, and finally pulled the survivors to safety. It was a struggle to keep afloat in spite of broken bones, concussions, and shock. Soldiers from a nearby town, and also some French and Arab natives came to assist in the rescue.
ARABS AND FRENCH ASSIST
"The Arabs would cut down large reeds, about 15 feet long, then wade into the water, extend them to the men and pull them ashore. All in all, it was a tough job for everybody. The surf was extremely rough, the undertow was strong, and the wind was cold. The French were very cooperative and hospitable. Even the children were down by the waterfront, armed with bottles of wine and brandy which they'd offer the men as they were dragged ashore. Then the survivors were taken to a little movie theater in the village, straw was spread all around the floor, and they were left there to rest." It was not until the next day that Hunter Wood discovered that he had gone to the wrong beach and because of the misunderstanding had been on the spot to rescue the survivors of the torpedoed transport.
Transport Division Eleven took part in four landings. All vehicles were to be landed on two beaches, extending from Surcouf to the Oued Reghaia. Personnel were to be landed at a third beach, about 300 yards wide, situated halfway between Jean Bart and Ain Taya, and at a fourth beach, of about half that size, in front of Ain Taya. At a transport area chosen about seven miles northeast of the debarkation points, the SAMUEL CHASE, LEEDSTOWN, ALMAACK, and the cargo vessel USS EXCELLER stopped at 2201, on November 7. Boats were lowered at once and by 2256, the SAMUEL CHASE had all her boats in the water. The first wave left the SAMUEL CHASE at 0015, on November 8, and arrived at the designated beach at 0118. From then on the debarkation continued uninterruptedly. After the Last wave had departed, the transports approached to approximately a mile offshore, preparatory to unloading equipment.
HECKMAN DESCRIBES ARRIVAL AT ALGIERS
Describing the landing, Ensign Heckman said, "Hearts began to beat faster and perspiration flowed more freely as Algiers, the North African Paris, lit up like Coney Island in peacetime, came into view. We drew into position, and then came the word, 'Take stations for boat lowering. Away all boats.' Our boats were lowered, the troops disembarked, and the boats vanished into darkness on their way to the beach. The division then moved into a new position closer to the shore, and the fort surprised us by a searchlight barrage. Caught in the pencils of intense white light, the transports slid along. Suddenly there was a belch of orange flame from shoreward-the fort had opened fire. A British destroyer, close in, diverted their attention and a battle royal ensued. The fort shelled the tin can and the cocky
little can defiantly stood off and answered every salvo. By this time we had successfully rounded the cape and took up a position about three miles from the beach. The boats started to return and we began sending equipment to the army on shore. With each vehicle went a certain amount of ammunition as our combat-loaded cargo began to come out of the holds in priority as needed on shore. By daybreak our boats were making steady rounds to the beach. The same doughty little destroyer, endeared to us by the previous night's action, closed in and again bombarded the fort on the Point. About noon a British cruiser started to pour heavy shells into the fort. This remaining point of beach resistance was finally dive-bombed by carrier planes, and toward evening American troops marched in and found Admiral Darlan inside."
LANDING BOATS STRANDED UNDER FIRE
"During the afternoon the surf became very high and treacherous," Ensign Heckman reported, "and consequently we began losing boats. At one time all of our 26 landing boats were stranded on the beach. Mechanics managed to get two in running condition, and a final total of six boats, including two tank lighters, unloaded our ship in the next five days. During this time we were under constant aircraft attack. Every day we would get shot at by high observation bombers, and every morning the Junkers 88's would precede our breakfasts and follow our dinner. Always it was the same: the high precision bombers, the torpedo plane attacks. The ship's complement fought gallantly. Our six salvaged boats ran constantly from the ship to the beach, even under aircraft attack. The unloading continued under fire.... So continued six days at Algiers. When we departed, our official credit was three German bombers. Our crew had unloaded the ship under fire with a few salvaged boats. Living up to the lifesaving traditions of the Coast Guard, the beach party had heroically hauled through the surf the survivors of the American transport LEEDSTOWN, sunk by aircraft bombing and enemy torpedoes. We had all weathered so many near bomb misses that they became a joke. Proud of the fact that we received commendation from the British Admiralty for gallantry in action, our transport and one other remaining American ship started back to England for more troops. Still in our minds was the message sent in to us from the British battle fleet outside the harbor and just over the horizon. They wanted to know which American battleship had slipped into Algiers, so intense was our anti-aircraft fire. Thereafter we were dubbed the 'battleship.'"
"The dangerousness of the mission," said Commander Heimer, in a report to Admiral Waesche, dated December 1, 1942, "can be ascertained from the fact that these ships were assigned to the mission farthest east of all the task forces; that is, east of Algiers, Algeria. We were, therefore, given most ardent attention by the enemy. The hazards of this ship are also indicated by the fact that the other three ships were torpedoed on this first invasion movement, and one of the three sunk. As a result, the SAMUEL CHASE is the remaining ship of Division Eleven."
BATTERY OFFICER DESCRIBES ATTACK
According to Edward Pearson, Chief Boatswain's Mate, USCG, the convoy was under almost constant fire. He also describes the attack on the CHASE which appeared almost certain to end in disaster.
"It was the closest shave we had," he said. "The torpedoes came head-on for our bow. I was assistant battery officer on the forward battery, and while all of us were too occupied firing at the planes to watch the 'fish' I knew they were coming at us. It was plenty tense awaiting the shock that would knock us into kingdom come. Then as one torpedo neared our bow, it suddenly veered off and passed astern. The other kept on coming right at us. But it, too, turned at the last minute, just enough to pass between the bow of our ship and the anchor chain."
SAW THE AVENGER TORPEDOED
Pearson was at his gun station on the after deck when the British aircraft carrier HMS AVENGER was torpedoed and sunk. "She followed us in the convoy," he said, "and was only a few hundred yards off our stern when she got it. I didn't mind all those shelling we went through, but seeing that explosion gave me a shaking I won't get over for a long time." Officers said it was one of the fastest sinkings on record. The AVENGER went down in about two minutes, and more than 500 men on board perished.
FIRST TO LAND IN ALGIERS
Actually, the first American service man to land on the beach at Algiers was said to be Eugene Lowry, Machinist's Mate 2nd class, of the Coast Guard. He went ashore soon after a British destroyer wrecked a huge searchlight which the enemy was using to illumine the oncoming vessels bringing the United States invasion forces. "That destroyer really turned the tables, "Lowry declared. "Although it was sunk in the attack, it helped the landing parties. The beach was bare when we landed. I jumped off and was followed by soldiers and other Coast Guardsmen. When we had completed our unloading, we returned to the ship for more. Quite a few landing barges were damaged in the heavy surf and it took longer to transfer supplies and men ashore then we had anticipated. But everything ran off pretty smoothly. There were only a few casualties."
COMMANDER HELMER'S ACCOUNT
BEST BOAT LOWERING DETAIL
When the officers and crew of the SAMUEL CHASE sailed from New York on September 26, 1942, for the United Kingdom, with 1431 army enlisted men and 71 army officers and all the attendant combat cargo, they were sailing on their shakedown cruise and their first training cruise. "I am positive," Commander Heimer reported in a letter to Admiral Waesche, dated December 4, 1942, "that by comparison with any other transport, the record of the ship as a unit and of the personnel will look very good indeed." The rest of his report on the conduct of the CHASE personnel under fire follows. "By meticulous training under
ideal conditions our boat lowering detail was the best. Naturally, on the night of the invasion the personnel was directed to be careful and deliberate, and the boat lowering was conducted without incident.
FINEST BOATING RECORD
"The training of boat coxswains had been under show-window conditions on an ideal beach. On the night of the invasion the conditions were not bad, nor were they ideal, and in the pitch darkness the crews under the leadership of the Boat Wave Commanders, found their beaches. Those coxswains who operated their boats continuously without loss of their boats are to be especially congratulated. About half of the coxswains were navy men who came with their boats. Their performance was by any measure as good on the average as that of Coast Guard personnel. The record of the USS SAMUEL CHASE boating was definitely better than the other ships of the Division; we concluded with seven boats remaining out of twenty-six, the other ships had none remaining.
HEROISM IN RESCUE OF COMRADES
"The Beach Party, comprising one Coast Guard officer in charge, one medical officer and 42 men of many different ratings, carried out its assigned mission with a large quantity of hard work. They handled cargo and performed other tasks without rest for long periods. It was the USS SAMUEL CHASE Beach Party which was on the Beach when the USS LEEDSTOWN personnel abandoned their ship about 750 yards from the beach in a moderate swell and rather rough on-shore sea. They rushed out into the surf to help their comrades-in-arms without regard for their own safety. The heroism in assisting in the bringing of 480 survivors through the surf (the LEEDSTOWN had lost all of its boats previously) was general and no specific instances are commented upon for this reason.
AMAZING SPEED OF UNLOADING CARGO AND AMMUNITION
"The hatch crews and other who handled cargo on board did so with a constant attention to duty and without relief in many cases. The final unloading, during which operations many men from all departments joined in, was done at a most amazing speed and in a period of time under the most optimistic expectations. The vessel was completely unloaded by boat and barge by our own personnel and every vehicle was taken ashore on our own boats. Also all the ammunition was unloaded by means of our own boats.
SHOT DOWN THREE ENEMY PLANES
"The guns' crew of the ship laid down a volume of fire against attacking planes which made up in part for its lack of accuracy. This was the first action and the guns' crew performed with credit to themselves and to their ship. Attention is invited to the fact that the USS SAMUEL CHASE is credited with having accounted for three enemy planes. The Gunnery Department had the equipment in excellent conditions and under a constant state of readiness.
MERCY MACHINES ARE LOWERED FROM A COAST GUARD-MANNED TRANSPORT INTO AN INVASION CRAFT FOR TRANSPORTATION TO SHORE
MULTIPLICITY OF TASKS COURAGEOUSLY PERFORMED
"The Engineer's force is usually a forgotten outfit in action, but they 'take' more mentally in not knowing what is going to happen than most others in the complement. The sounds of depth charges and torpedoes and guns are augmented it seems. They received from me an acknowledgement of their courage and of their job well done as usual. On any large ship there are a multiplicity of assignments in battle; some are manned by few, some by an individual. It would be impossible to pick them out and mention them individually by task. Suffice it to say they acted coolly and courageously, and they stuck to their posts unflinchingly. It will be noted that no names are mentioned. This is intentional as fully 95% of them could be praised. However, during the period November 1 to December 1, 1942, inclusive, 204 men have been advanced in ratings."
"LUCKY CHASE" ONLY SURVIVING TRANSPORT
In a letter to Admiral Waesche, dated 10 December, 1942, Commander Heimer states that his ship, the SAMUEL CHASE, was easily the most formidable looking of the transports and drew much enemy fire. Due to her ability to get away undamaged she was referred to as the "LUCKY CHASE." His letter in full follows:"Dear Admiral: To give you an idea of how great a part the USCG on the USS SAMUEL CHASE played in the party - on December fifth the allies gave out the information that in the North African campaign, the Americans had lost five ships, and the British lost one aircraft carrier, three destroyers, and six miscellaneous craft. This is how we tie into the story. (Our Division of Americans was the only transport division in the Mediterranean, in fact the only American ships; and we were farthest east of the entire parade). The USS THOMAS STONE of our Division was torpedoed en route to our beach east of Cape Matifou (this encounter was not admitted, in fact the ship was towed in, unloaded and is now beached). The USS LEEDSTOWN of our Division was torpedoed within 400 yards of us at anchor on D-day, and sank in that position subsequently. One of the British escorts, the destroyer HMS CORDAY was blasted by bombs and was beached in Algiers Bay. (This destroyer was bombed and strafed while close to our Division 11 and screening us). Another destroyer was hit at the time, damage unknown, and is reported to have sunk en route to Gibraltar. Then on the convoy out, the USS ALMAAK of our Division was torpedoed but made Gibraltar safely, in tow. A British ship of the convoy, the ETTERICK was torpedoed and sank in a few hours; and astern of us 600 yards,at night the HMS AVENGER, a carrier, was torpedoed and blew up in a most terrifying spectacle, which will ever remain in the conscious foreground of this war. I can guarantee that on that night, when they got three of the convoy, the ship's complement was 100% scared as hell. Colonel P. C. Betteriberg, USA, who took passage in the original invasion on the HMS BULOLO, as a part of Major General Ryder's staff, stated that on the way from Gibraltar to Algiers, these two officers remarked that the American ships stood out for their trimness and looked the smartest, and for that reason would be singled out. Also Colonel Bettenberg stated that the CHASE easily was the most formidable
COAST GUARDSMEN, OFF WATCH, AND YANKEE SOLDIERS GATHER IN THEIR JAMMED QUARTERS TO "BAT THE BREEZE" ABOARD A COAST GUARD MANNED TROOP TRANSPORT
looking of the transports and due to being a lead ship naturally would draw fire. He certainly was right. On our contact with the U. S. Army officers and men whom we brought over to Algiers we were most warmly received on our return trip. It is interesting to state that we are customarily referred to as the 'LUCKY CHASE' and not as the 'SAMUEL CHASE'...."
OFFICIAL REPORT OF THE SAMUEL CHASE
THOMAS STONE IS HIT
At about 0545 on November 5, as the convoy was underway, an enemy plane glided in from the port quarter of the CHASE, dropping a torpedo which hit the USS THOMAS STONE aft. A torpedo was dropped off the quarter of the CHASE but missed by about fifty yards. When on the port beam, the plane gunned its motors and pulled away, showing a red light. A message received from the THOMAS STONE said, "Hit in the steering room believe rudder and propeller gone. Steering compartment and after magazine flooded. Bulkheads holding. Request tow." The Commanding Officer of the CHASE advised the Commander of Division 11 that he was prepared to tow the STONE and believed the absence of the STONE'S wheel would make possible a towing speed of 11 knots. Shortly afterwards, the Commanding Officer suggested that the CHASE go alongside and take off the Army personnel. This suggestion was promptly denied. The STONE was left behind with a destroyer escort.
ALL BOATS LOWERED AND AWAY
At 2055 on November 7, Cape Maxine light was sighted bearing 1 point forward of the starboard beam. The CHASE called Condition 4 at 2109 - prepare to lower boats. At 2138, a signal light believed to be a submarine, was sighted.
The CHASE swung her boats over the side at 2155, and began lowering them at 2201. All boats were over at 2256. Debarkation had begun at 2242. Other ships present included: USS LEEDSTOWN, USS ALMAAK, the MACHARDA, MV DEMPO, the MARON, and the EXCELLER. At 0105 on November 8, all boats were reported loaded. Word was received at 0133 that the first wave had reached the beach at 0118. Reports indicated there was very little resistance and very little surf. There was at the time a Force 1 breeze, no chop, slight ground swell which did not cause a motion of more than one foot from crest to trough. Debarkation of troops and their equipment continued during the day.
HEAVY AIR ATTACK BY ENEMY
Enemy planes were active over the landing area. At 0225 a low-flying plane was overhead. The CHASE opened fire and the enemy plane was driven off. At 0349, gunfire was observed on the beach and at Cape Matifou. British ships shelled the fort on Cape Matifou at 1520, and planes dive-bombed it, when less than two hours later at about 1700, a concerted bombing attack was carried out by Axis bombers and torpedo planes. Bombs of one attack fell 75 yards off the starboard bow of the CHASE, while in another attack a
TWO COAST GUARDSMEN WATCH THE LONG LINE OF MERCHANT SHIPS MOVING IN CONVOY EASTWARD TO THE EUROPEAN WAR ZONE
stick of bombs fell 100 yards off the transport's stern. Torpedo planes which approached over a nearby ledge of rocks released two torpedoes simultaneously, one of which missed the starboard quarter of the CHASE by about twenty yards, the other passing between the ship's bow and the anchor chain. The enemy plane then banked to the left and flew behind an anchored British AK, by this excellent maneuver escaped being shot down by our gunners. In this attack, the LEEDSTOWN was damaged in the stern by an aerial torpedo, the damages including a probable bent shaft and rudder post which immobilized the ship. One destroyer escort, the HMS CAWDREX was bombed and strafed by a dive bomber, several casualties resulting. By good luck, Captain Richie, Supply Corps, RN, who had been a passenger on the CAWDREY had left her earlier that day to come aboard the CHASE, for further transportation. Hostilities came to an end later that night when word was received of the agreement between the U. S. Army and the French to unconditionally cease fire in the Algerian area.
AIR ATTACKS CONTINUE
However, at 0321, the following day, parachute flares were dropped overhead and the CHASE sounded General Alarm. At 0410, flares were again dropped. The vessel got underway at about 0507 at various courses and speeds. A plane was sighted at 0559, which dropped bombs near the EXCELLER, probably intended for the CHASE. The crippled LEEDSTOWN was left with a destroyer escort. The CHASE anchored in the open roadstead south of Cape Matifou. She established a beach and began unloading troops and troop equipment. Bombers were sighted at 1300 and the CHASE opened fire on them. At 1531, General Alarm was sounded upon the sighting of bombers. Bombs were dropped between the EXCELLER and the CHASE. One bomb, a near miss, buckled the EXCELLER's plates. One of the enemy planes was shot down by a Spitfire. The USS LEEDSTOWN was reported to have been bombed and torpedoed at 1220.
THREE PLANES SHOT DOWN
The CHASE sighted a bomber flight and called Condition 4B at 1629. A heavy attack on the ships present ensued. Three planes were shot down nearby. The USS SAMUEL CHASE was underway and maneuvering during the attack. Two torpedo planes about one hour after sunset released two torpedoes while the CHASE was at full speed. According to a British officer on the stern, both torpedoes missed by about 100 yards.
SURVIVORS BROUGHT ABOARD
The CHASE anchored at 1801, on November 9, and took aboard the survivors of the HMS CAWDREY, which had been bombed the day before. Also brought aboard were twenty-nine U. S. Coast Guardsmen from the EXCELLER. At about 1900, the CHASE knocked off boat operations due to force 6 wind and swells coming around the point, two boats having been broached during the day. Either because the CHASE had the appearance of a larger vessel with greater fire power, or because she was known to be the flagship of the Division, she was the objective of most of the bombing and submarine attacks. Unloading continued for several days and was completed in the early afternoon of November 12. The CHASE unmoored at about 1800 and left the breakwater at Algiers, her part of the mission having been completed.
COAST GUARD AND NAVY MANNED LCIs (LANDING CRAFT, INFANTRY) PRESS TOWARD A BEACH IN INVASION MANEUVERS
MANY BOATS FOUNDERED AND SANK
Twenty-three boats from the CHASE were used in the initial waves to land troops. Of these boats, about half shipped large quantities of water over the stern and seven foundered and sank. Five were permanently lost. In the estimation of the Commanding Officer, these boats were absolutely unsuited for beach landings except in ideal conditions or in such places as for instance Solomon Island, where the beach seems to have been selected with a view to proving the effectiveness of these retracting boats.
SMALL EXPENDABLE BOAT DESIGNED
The necessity of an expendable small capacity personnel boat which was light and because of that capable of being handled under paddles was conclusive. The Commanding Officer designed such a personnel boat and it was suggested to the Amphibious Forces. These boats could be suspended overhead in the holds by "C" clamps. They would occupy a then vacant space. When approaching the transport area they would be brought on deck. These boats would be strong enough to be lowered with the men in the boats.
In the evening of November 8, the mighty American Expeditionary Force, which stormed ashore along 1000 miles of the African coast, swiftly consolidated positions in the French colonies. The city or Algiers surrendered at 7 P.M. (3 P.M. E.W.T.) to the attacking American Forces, paving the way for occupation of surrounding defense areas. Admiral Darlan, commander-in-chief of all Vichy French armed forces, himself was reported to be in Algiers, probably to be a war prisoner. Hitler was reported to have screamed "I'll never quit like the Kaiser did." When the time came, he wasn't even asked. The French General Juin, who negotiated for the surrender of Algiers, was one of the officers sent to Africa by the Vichy government with Admiral Darlan to "fight to the last." But with the exception of resistance in the harbor there was little fighting. The American planes under command of Brigadier General Doolittle operated from captured airfields.
TWO FORMER U. S. COAST GUARD CUTTERS, WHICH WERE TRANSFERRED TO THE BRITISH AND RENAMED HMS HARTLAND (FORMERLY CGC PONTCHARTRAIN) AND HMS WALNEY (FORMERLY CGC SEBAGO) ARE SHOWN RAMMING THE BOOM AT ORAN DURING THE ALLIED LANDINGS ON THE NORTH AFRICAN COAST IN THIS PAINTING BY THE ENGLISH MARINE ARTIST, C. E. TURNER. BOTH SHIPS WERE SUNK AFTER CARRYING OUT THEIR MISSION.
ORAN HARBOR OPERATION
FORMER CUTTERS ON ASSIGNMENT
Two former United States Coast Guard cutters, the PONTCHARTRAIN and the SEBAGO, transferred to Great Britain under the Lend-Lease Act and renamed the HARTLAND and the WALNEY, met the only determined resistance to the Allied landing in North Africa, on November 8, 1942, at Oran Harbor. Naval support for the landings at Oran was furnished by British naval forces, assisted by the two former cutters. Aboard the cutters were American shock troops as well as British Commando units and a number of specially trained British Navy men. Their mission was threefold: (1) To capture Fort Lamoune and the battery near Cape Blanc; (2) to capture and hold the wharves; (3) to board and hold the merchant ships in the harbor in order to prevent sabotage. The cutters were flying the Stars and Stripes because this was an American operation although directed by Great Britain. The harbor of Oran is a mile and a half long, rather unusual in shape, the town of Oran being situated on a high cliff. The narrow entrance had been blocked by a boom. The two cutters serving as escort craft of the Royal British Navy found their way into the harbor of Oran at 3:15 A.M.
BOTH CUTTERS SUNK
The shore batteries and the warships in the harbor opened heavy fire. The American ships kept to their course although caught in the blinding light of searchlights and repeatedly hit by shellfire. The SEBAGO led, and cut through the boom. The PONTCHARTRAIN hit the breakwater but backed clear and followed through. She had only about one hundred fifty yards more to travel beyond the boom, but as she passed it her main steam-pipe was cut by a shell. Her boiler room became an inferno of cordite fumes and steam escaping under pressure. The PONTCHARTRAIN's stokers, mostly youngsters, managed to keep going, in spite of the havoc, for that distance. Orders were given to abandon ship at 0410. In the meanwhile, the SEBAGO was going at top speed the full length of the harbor, past destroyers and a cruiser firing at her at a few yards range. Into her bridge poured streams of tracer and her quarterdeck was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Only one person survived on the SEBAGO's bridge. The men on the quarterdeck, busy with grappling lines, were all killed. The cutter reached her destination but her captain was dead and she was a mass of flames. Both cutters had sunk by daylight. The PONTCHARTRAIN burned until 1016 when she exploded and sank. The SEBAGO exploded at 0445.
AMERICAN FLAG NOT SEEN IN DARKNESS
In view of the recent British attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, the landing in Oran Harbor had been entrusted to American troops and to the two former American vessels. To increase the possibility of only pro forma resistance both vessels flew United States colors at the fore, the
British ensign being flown from a signal hoist. The darkness, however, prevented the French from recognizing the American complexion of the force. In spite of this unfortunate episode, the operations against Oran progressed. In order to facilitate the capture of Oran, plans called for the seizure of Arzeu harbor, about 25 miles east of Oran. On the morning of November 8, a small raiding party captured the harbor. The final assault on Oran was planned for November 10. Firing was renewed in the morning but by 1416 all firing ceased. Armistice negotiations were under way. In due course of time Oran was occupied by United States forces and a naval operating base was established.
SIGNIFICANCE OF ORAN
The city of Oran, second largest in Algeria, slopes upward from the harbor to the side of an inactive volcanic mountain. Though this is sheer coincidence, the city has always given visitors in more peaceful times the impression that a spark would explode the whole place.... Oran's history begins with cave dwellers who cut homes for themselves in the volcanic rock of the mountain, Djebel Murdjadjo which in later years has been surmounted by French forts. The town has been ruled by Arabs, Spaniards, and Turks and has been laid waste a half-dozen time by attacking forces, and once by earthquake.... The French have occupied the town since 1830, when the last of the Beys appealed to them for protection against the Turks. They used it briefly as a convict settlement but then, after a census 110 years ago, which disclosed the population to be precisely 388, determined to build it up as a center of colonial trade.
Oran is about 200 miles west of Algiers and is linked with that metropolis by one of the world's finest highways. There is no single key to all North Africa, but Oran, northern terminal of the railroad line through the desert to Dakar, and at a junction a short journey to Rabat and Casablanca, is one of the few needed to unlock that colonial empire. Among the larger cities, it is closest to the old Africa of the Arabs.
Oran's resistance to the American forces could not have been unexpected. This, of all French colonial cities, had been sullenly suspicious of the Allies since the day in early June, 1940, when the French fleet at anchor there was bombarded by the British and lost three or more of its ships. Over 500 Frenchmen, Allies of the British, were killed.
Whoever decided to encircle the place before forcing its fall knew precisely how tough Oran could be.
SCUTTLING OF THE FRENCH FLEET AT TOULON
On November 27, 1942, the French scuttled their fleet in the port of Toulon, in Southern France, rather than turn it over to the Germans. Commander Victor Bernard Marchal of the French Naval Mission to the United States, in 1945, supplied the following account of how the French lost their ships but helped win the battle.
"This was the background. Though Hitler's forces defeated the French armies in 1940, the French Fleet - third largest in the world - was still very much afloat. Hitler desperately wanted that fleet. With that addition to his own navy, he might well put up a tough battle for the Atlantic. But he feared that the French fleet might mutiny, and so promised not to molest it. Throughout 1941 and 1942, the Vichy Government kept over half the French fleet floating at anchor in Toulon harbor, but without sufficient fuel to leave. Meanwhile Hitler secretly made plans to have the Vichy Government surrender the fleet to him for the good of 'the common destiny of Europe.'
"By 26 November, 1942, his plan was ready. The Germans had sowed mines across the harbor entrance, effectively sealing it. Great German siege guns were brought up on the railroads. Nazi planes and boats were in readiness. Armoured columns approached the city. Should the French sailors chose to fight, they would have no chance of saving their ships.
"The action was quick and dramatic. On 27 November, 1942, Field Marshal von Runstedt ordered immediate surrender of the fleet in the name of Der Fuehrer. (Marshal Petain sent the same order, though it never arrived). Admiral de Laborde, in charge of the fleet, gave the order to fire one shot. That was his answer. It was the prearranged signal to scuttle the fleet!
"The officers and men of the French Fleet knew what their duty was.
"The apparently sleeping ships suddenly came to life. Acting on a prearranged plan, the commander of every vessel - from the huge battleships to the smallest patrol boat - went into action. Explosives stored in the ships' hold were touched off. French ship fired on French ship to speed the sinkings. On shore, factories were destroyed, guns of the coastal batteries were crippled, arsenals were blown up. Soon the whole harbor and surrounding installations were no more than ruins. The mass of the French fleet - France's pride and Hitler's hope - was a smoking wreckage.
"The French sailors, their work done, were marched off to concentration camps. But they marched with honor. They had won for the Allies one of the strangest naval battles in history. Some of the vessels scuttled at Toulon were later reconditioned and joined the rest of the French Fleet in the battle for the Atlantic."
COAST GUARDSMAN ACTS AS A MEMBER OF A SEARCHING PARTY AT ORAN, NORTH AFRICA, GIVING THE NAZI SUPERMEN A THOROUGH YANK GOING OVER
According to one account, the way to Algerian success was "well greased." The French Fort yielded without a shot. The American success in Algeria was "clinched" within a half-hour of the zero hour in the early hours of Sunday morning. It was made possible by the well greased capitulation of Fort Sidi Ferruch, a strong point commanding our principal landing beaches on the coast, 15 miles west of the city of Algiers. An American newspaper correspondent reported: "Four of us - two Commando officers, a friendly French officer, whom we had encountered in the darkness, and myself - walked right into the main gate of the fort 20 minutes after we had scrambled ashore with the first assault force.
Still dripping from the surf, we shook hands with the commander of the garrison, which far outnumbered our own force, and were assured he did not wish to resist us.
He showed us the order he had received the previous evening instructing the local commanders to "facilitate the debarkation and the establishment ashore of the American troops."
If we had had to fight for it we might not have taken it, and we certainly would not have taken it within the 30 minutes allowed us."
"A HOUSE DIVIDED"
Generally speaking, it may be said that in North Africa, France was a "house divided," reflecting the political situation in European France. The unfortunate relationships existing between the Vichy government and Berlin, and with the French provinces in North Africa, together with the differences in religion and race and the deep-rooted hatreds of the heterogeneous populations of Algiers and Morocco, imposed a political problem of great complexity for the Allies. A peculiar situation prevailed in the French Navy. Since the Petain government of France had bowed to Adolph Hitler and deserted its British Ally, the officers and men of the French Navy had been approached secretly and otherwise by agents threatening them and their families in France with all manner of sufferings should they fail to knuckle down to Germany's terms. The only opposition came from Naval units. In marked contrast, resistance offered by the land forces was pro forma. Especially junior officers and enlisted men in the French Army were inclined to look favorable on the United States. The civil population was neutral, the natives apathetic.
On November 10, 1942, land operations at Algiers ceased and Armistice negotiations began. American troops received a friendly welcome in the city. French workers and the general population gave enthusiastic cooperation. Royal Air Force Fighters were active in giving cover over Algiers Bay, where many German units were operating. The following day, the order reached Casablanca, a few minutes before the assault on the city was to be launched. The North African Government was brought into close collaboration with the United Nations under
FIGHTING U.S. COAST GUARDSMEN IN THE INVASION BARGE TENDERLY HELP THIS WOUNDED WARRIOR ABOARD A COAST GUARD MANNED TRANSPORT
a provisional government headed by Admiral Darlan, with General Giraud as commander-in-chief of the French ground and air units. (When Darlan was assassinated, Giraud took his place). French West Africa, under Governor Pierre Boisson, soon joined the Allied cause, bringing additional naval power and trained ground units and making immediately possible a short air route from the United States to the North African battle fronts. The lack of resistance encountered at most of the beaches showed that the French armed forces in North Africa had no desire to oppose the entry of American troops into that territory.
FIGHTING CEASES ON LAND
Fighting at Oran, as elsewhere, stopped with the official orders to cease fire. A War Department Communique dated November 11, 1942, announced: 1. "Admiral Jean Darlan has issued to all Commanders in French North Africa, including Morocco, an order to cease hostilities. The order was issued after a conference at Algiers between Major General Mark W. Clark, representing Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander in Chief Allied Forces, and Admiral Darlan. 2. In the Casablanca area French Army forces have capitulated. 3. The residents of the city of Oran have welcomed our troops enthusiastically. All prisoners have been exchanged."
ALLIED SHIPS LOST
Following the elimination of French resistance at Casablanca, the landings at Fedala were successfully completed, but with heavy loss. On November 11, the transport JOSEPH HEWES, the oiler WINOOSKI, and the destroyer HAMBLETON were torpedoed. The HEWES sank in an hour. The other two ships were later taken to Casablanca for repairs. The following day the transports HUGH L. SCOTT, the EDWARD RUTLEDGE, and the TASKER H. BLISS were hit by torpedoes and all three sank. The SCOTT sank without burning, the RUTLEDGE sank fairly quickly, but the BLISS burned furiously before going down. All these attacks were assumed to be from Axis submarines.
MANY SURVIVORS RESCUED
"Our boats went out to pick up survivors and brought about one hundred aboard the DICKMAN," said Captain Harwood. "We don't know the total number that were saved by our boats, however, because our men took many survivors to shore," The majority were rescued. Commander Gifford of the LEONARD WOOD reported, "It was a display of real seamanship to see boat crews picking up survivors without showing any lights. The RUTLEDGE and the SCOTT were attacked almost simultaneously. Landing boats came from shore and brought the survivors to the beach. Many others were taken aboard the WOOD, All the transports then left in a hurry. The next day we docked at Casablanca and our crews unloaded the remainder of the cargo. Our crew was wonderful, working tirelessly."
RESULTS FOR THE DICKMAN
The History of the DICKMAN, prepared by that vessel, gives the following facts: "During the whole operation, ten LCV's and seven LCP(R) boats were stranded or wrecked. No boats were lost because of enemy fire. The coxswain of one boat was severely wounded by strafing
AN AMERICAN INVADER, WOUNDED IN A BEACHHEAD BATTLE, IS CAREFULLY MOVED ABOARD A COAST GUARD LANDING CRAFT FOR A QUICK RUN TO A COAST GUARD MANNED ASSAULT TRANSPORT STANDING OFF SHORE
and the bowman killed. Two members of the ship's beach party were wounded by strafing and one man in a support boat was wounded by the gunfire from a shore battery at Fedala. The return passage to Norfolk began on 17 November, 1942, and was uneventful except for some heavy weather. Sixty survivors from the USS SCOTT and 129 British released prisoners of war made the return trip with this vessel. Norfolk was reached on 30 November, 1942. Confidence of success was manifest throughout the whole operation. The following from the signal log of 27 October, 1942 gives evidence of this feeling. 'LZ X 24 271930 ZZZ GR 28 BT FOLLOWING FROM COMMANDANT GENERAL WESTERN TASK FORCE: QUOTE THE COMMANDING GENERAL CONGRATULATES ALL MEN AND OFFICERS ON THEIR MAGNIFICENT SPIRIT X JOINED WITH NAVY VICTORY IS ASSURED UNQUOTE.'"
SPECIAL RECOGNITION OF PERSONNEL
As a group, all the officers and men were outstanding in performance of duty over and beyond the call to duty. Since almost all were worthy of commendation, many officers did not mention any by name. However, some cases of individual heroism were reported. Captain Harwood, for instance, mentioned the following for awards in the North African campaign.
SCALAN, Bernard E., Lieut., USCG
This officer was assigned duty as Boat Group Commander,during the landing operation. He successfully accomplished the marshalling of the boats to the beach and fully carried out the prepared plans. During the following day he continued to carry out missions connected with the landing beaches.
LEOPOLD, Clarence, Lieut., USCGR
This officer was boat division officer of the 5th Wave. He successfully guided his division to assigned part of the beach, where they landed in precise order. After the troops had departed he had his crews unload a large amount of material left behind by the heavy weapons company transported. This was done although hostilities were indicated by the searchlight displayed from the control battery nearby and the sound of rifle fire.
BROWN, Fletcher W,, Ensign, USCG
This officer was boat division officer of the 1st Wave. He successfully guided his division to the assigned part of his beach and landed them in precise order. He later guided, at his own request, an additional unit to the beach.
SCHARFF, Charles W., Ensign, USCG
This officer was boat division officer of the 2nd Wave. He successfully guided his division to the assigned part of his beach and landed them in precise order. He then remained at the beach in one of the boats as the Salvage Control and later at the beach with the shore party.
McKINLOCK, George J., C.B.M. (a) (208-567) USCG
This man was in charge of unloading and debarkation at #4 hatch. Throughout the exercise he displayed indefatigable energy and drive which contributed much to the success of the debarkation.
MORRIS, Lloyd M., C.B.M. (a) (208-477) USCG
This man was temporarily in charge of beach party detail. He was active in salvage work at the beach and continued in prosecuting this work until severely wounded by machine gunfire from hostile plane.
PAENY, William, C.M.M. (a) (108-082) USCG
This man was in charge of the boat repair crew during the operation. His untiring energy and skill was largely responsible for the continuous operation of all the ship's boats.
ROM, Jack A., C.S.P. (a) (616-45-02) USNR
This man was assigned as officer in charge of the beach marking boat. He successfully located his position off the beach and held it until the assault waves had landed. He then assisted in boat operations during the day, showing a high devotion to duty throughout.
FULCHER, Sterling, B.M. 1st Class (211-166) USCG
This man was in charge of a tank lighter. During the entire unloading exercise his boat ran continuously and his endurance, skill and devotion to duty were outstanding.
McDONOUGH, Edward J., Mo.M.M. 1st Class (106-993) USCG
This man was a member of a crew of a tank lighter which operated with marked success throughout the operation. His devotion to duty, endurance and skill were largely responsible for its excellent record.
O'NEAL, Orville W., Mo.M.M. 2nd Class (107-994) USCG
This man was a member of a crew of a tank lighter which operated with marked success throughout the operation. His devotion to duty, endurance and skill were largely responsible for its excellent record.
BARNARD, Philip B., Surf man (214-509) USCG
This man was in charge of a tank lighter. During the entire unloading exercise his boat ran continuously and his endurance, skill and devotion to duty were outstanding.
DOYLE, Arnold W., Surfman (201-387) USCG
This man was coxswain of a landing boat. He showed a high devotion to duty throughout. After landing on the original assault he stood by the other boats of his division until all had cleared and on the way out he took in tow a boat which was disabled under the searchlight of the Pont Slondin Battery, towing it out of the area.
COMMODORE GORDON T. FINLAY (RIGHT), DISTRICT COAST GUARD OFFICER OF THE FIFTH NAVAL DISTRICT PINNING THE LEGION OF MERIT MEDAL ON COAST GUARDSMAN JOHN V. GOLENIECKI, BOATSWAIN MATE, FIRST CLASS
CLARK, Paul L., F. 2nd Class (224-616) USCG
This man was assigned as engineer of a landing boat. While his boat was on the beach it was strafed by a hostile plane with machine gun fire. The bowman was mortally wounded and the coxswain severely wounded by a bullet through the chest. The boat was riddled by machine gun fire but not disabled. Clark successfully retracted the boat from the beach, placed the wounded men aboard the USS PALMER, and returned to the beach. He continued to show a high devotion to duty throughout the exercise.
CURRY, Charles C, Jr., H.A. 1st Class (646-29-21) USNR
This man was a member of the beach party. His boat landed on the east side of the Pont Blondin Battery and the boat was wrecked on the rocks. Then a small party, including himself, were isolated there through the day of November 8th and were subjected to hostile plane action several times. Throughout this time he gave an untiring single handed attention to five wounded men, who were widely separated at the beach, without regard to his personal safety. His devotion to duty was in the highest tradition of Naval Medical Corps.
GIVES HIS LIFE BELT TO SHIPMATE
Rex G. Meeker, Fireman 1st class, USCG, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for the prompt and courageous action which saved the life of a comrade who otherwise might have perished. The citation states: "For heroic conduct as engineer of a tank lighter while attached to the USS PENN during the assault on and occupation of French Morocco from November 8 to 11, 1942. When the boat in which he was stationed swamped in the high surf near Mehdia, Meeker risked his life to help a member of the crew who was in danger of drowning when his life belt failed to inflate. Without hesitation, Meeker took off his own life belt, placed it around his exhausted shipmate and brought him safely to shore..."
POSTHUMOUS AWARD FOR TRANSPORTING WOUNDED
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal was awarded posthumously to Oran D. Pagan, Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class, USCG, who gave his life that others might live. The citation, which praises his cool courage and fearless devotion to duty, states: "For heroic conduct as coxswain of a tank lighter attached to the transport USS PENN during the assault on and occupation of French Morocco from November 8 to 11, 1942. On the night of November 9-10, when mountainous waves pounded the beach near Mehdia, keeping all other boats at their moorings, Ragan, at great risk of his life, dauntlessly put out from shore with the senior medical officer and twelve wounded comrades. With expert seamanship and grim determination he brought his lighter through the dangerous surf and finally transferred the injured to safety....'' Greater love hath no man.
BRINGS AID TO BELEAGUERED GROUP BY DARING ESCAPE
For a daring escape in a rubber boat, under heavy enemy fire, to bring aid for his stranded comrades, John V. Goleniecki, Boatswain's Mate 1st Class, USCG, was given the Legion of Merit. The citation follows: "For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government
CAPTAIN C. W. HARWOOD, LEFT, U. S. COAST GUARD CONGRATULATES COAST GUARDSMAN P. L. CLARK, CENTER, FIREMAN l/C FOLLOWING HIS DECORATION FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION DURING THE NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN
of the United States while attached to the USS CHARLES CARROLL during the assault on and occupation of French Morocco, November 8-11, 1942. When the members of his support boat, landing northeast of Fedala, were attacked by hostile planes and ground forces, consequently being cut off from the other landing groups, Goleniecki volunteered to man a rubber boat in order to contact our forces and obtain assistance. Completely disregarding his own personal safety, Goleniecki, with the aid of a shipmate, courageously effected a daring escape, despite difficult conditions and hostile fire, and, reaching his objective the same evening, furnished the Attack Force Commander with the first information of the beleaguered group."
HEROICALLY REMAINS AT POST TO SALVAGE LANDING BOAT
For heroically remaining at his post to salvage a boat at a time when landing barges were critically scarce, Willard L. Durgin, Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class, USCGR, engineer of a landing boat from the USS CHARLES CARROLL during the operations at French Morocco, was awarded the Legion of Merit. "Under extremely hazardous and difficult conditions," the citation states, "Durgin heroically remained at his post in a stranded boat for two and a half days, keeping the craft bailed out and free from sand, despite grueling hardships and exposure to hostile bombing and strafing. Through his tireless efforts and dauntless courage, Durgin enabled our forces to salvage the boat for further service in transporting troops and supplies to the beaches, at a time when boats were urgently needed for vital landing operations."
NAVY CROSS FOR SPEEDING WOUNDED TO SAFETY UNDER HEAVY FIRE
"I have noted with great pride," wrote Admiral Waesche to Paul L. Clark, in a letter dated December 15, 1943, "that the Secretary of the Navy has awarded you the Navy Cross in recognition of your extraordinary heroism while serving as engineer of a landing boat attached to a United States transport during the assault on and occupation of French Morocco. I take this opportunity to congratulate you for this well-deserved recognition of your skill, resourcefulness, and unselfish devotion to duty...." Clark, a Fireman 1st Class in the United States Coast Guard, received the following citation. "For extraordinary heroism while serving as engineer of a landing boat attached to the USS JOSEPH T. DICKMAN during the assault and occupation of French Morocco.... When a hostile plane strafed his boat with machine-gun fire, mortally wounding the bowman and severely injuring the coxswain, Clark, with quick initiative, immediately withdrew from the beach. Speeding toward the USS PALMER, he placed the wounded men aboard and, although his craft was riddled by enemy bullets, courageously returned to his station at the beach...."
FIRST TO WIN PURPLE HEART
Lloyd M. Morris, Chief Boatswain's Mate, serving on the DICKMAN, was the first member of the Coast Guard to receive the Purple Heart for wounds received in action during landing operations in North Africa. The Purple Heart, traditional Army award for men wounded in action, was authorized in December 1942, by President Roosevelt, for other branches of the service.
CHIEF BOATSWAIN'S MATE, LLOYD M. MORRIS, WOUNDED IN ACTION IN NORTH AFRICA RECEIVES THE PURPLE HEART FROM VICE ADMIRAL RUSSELL R. WAESCHE, COAST GUARD COMMANDANT
The citation accompanying Morris' award reads; "This decoration is in recognition of the wounds which you received in action when strafed with machine gunfire from an enemy plane while you were landing with the Ship's Beach Party on 8 November, 1942 at Fedala, French Morocco."
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1. See the Coast Guard publication "History of the USS JOSEPH T. DICKMAN (APA-13), 10 June, 1941 - 1 October, 1945" prepared by the vessel, and forwarded by its CO, Captain F. A. Leamy.
2. See Appendix C