U. S. S. LEONARD WOOD
c/o Postmaster, New York, N. Y.
28 November, 1942
Beachmaster, U. S. S. LEONARD WOOD
Commanding Officer, U. S. S. LEONARD WOOD
Report of Operation at Fedala, French Morocco, November 8, to November 14, 1942.
- The Naval beach party left the transport in the second, third, fifth and sixth waves. This was done so as not to cripple any one section of the beach party if one of the landing boats in which the beach party was embarked became a casualty. Ensign E. C. Sturges, U.S.C.G.R., who was assigned as salvage and traffic control officer, together with the traffic boat crew, radioman and signalman were embarked in the second wave, and Ensign Sturges was serving as boat-wave commander for that wave. Ensign R. L. Emerson, U.S.C.G., who was assigned as assistant Beachmaster, was the wave commander for the third wave and about one-half of the beach party were embarked in various boats in that wave. The boat in which I was embarked, together with Lieut. S. L. Shick, U.S.N.R., the Medical Officer, and part of the medical section and six other members of the beach party were to have landed with the fifth wave. The Army had trouble in loading the boat due to some mix up in the way the equipment was loaded on the transport. We loaded a jeep first, then we went to another hatch and loaded a 37 mm gun. It took us about 3 hours to get loaded as other boats were using the same nets and while loading the gun, one of the soldiers got one of his legs broken, and it was necessary to have him hoisted on board. After the equipment was loaded, the Army personnel assigned to this boat embarked and I found that we had a total of 36 men in the boat, in addition to the jeep, the gun, and such equipment as the men carried. As the boat was overloaded, I returned to the net and ordered ten soldiers, exclusive of driver and gun crew to leave in order to lighten the boat.
- At about 0700 we left the transport and proceeded to the rendezvous circle and found several other boats which had been left from preceding waves and some boats from the U. S. S. JOSEPH HEWES. I contacted the various boats and made up a boat wave and lead them to the beach. The boat I was in was still overloaded and it was necessary to slow down to about half speed in order to keep from swamping. When about five miles away from Beach Red-2, the coastal battery at Fort Chergui opened fire on us and shells started dropping all around the boats, and after getting in a little closer the batteries at Fedala and one battery on Cape Fedala also opened fire on us. As we were unable to go at more than half speed, I motioned the other boats to go ahead, but they stayed with us until we were about one mile from
the beach and they could see it without difficulty. They then preceded us to the beach. As we got closer to Fedala, the shelling became heavier, and although some were close enough to splash water into the boat, there were no direct hits until we stopped on the beach. As soon as we reached the beach the ramp was dropped, but we found the jeep had gotten wet and would not start. We attempted to push it out but most of the personnel had already taken cover on shore. The first shell went over the boat and hit the water about 30 feet away. The second was short and about ten feet away. I knew they would have the range for the next shot, so I ordered the remaining men to take cover on the beach. We had just left the boat when it was hit and the jeep caught afire. Two more shells hit and the boat was blown to pieces. The tide at this time was low and we had about 400 feet of flat beach to cross before we reached a steep bank about 15 feet high. A machine gun started strafing the beach and I yelled to the men to drop and crawl across the beach. Shots were hitting all around us and one of the soldiers was hit in the leg, but he was still crawling with us, but before we reached the bank, he was killed by additional hits in the chest and head. A coxswain from one of the other boats was hit by shrapnel, and died about an hour later at our first-aid station. We laid against the bank for awhile, waiting for a chance to get over. A soldier attempted to get over, but was killed when the ridge was sprayed with machine gun fire. After a short time, the Navy opened fire on the shore batteries and the firing let up for an instant and we had a chance to cross over the ridge where we could find cover in fox holes and trenches and where we joined the rest of the beach party under Ensigns Emerson and Sturges, who had already begun setting up a command post, and the communication section was attempting to get in contact with the ship. An evacuating and first aid station was immediately set up under the direction of Dr. Shick. The wounded and dying were given first aid and cared for as good as possible. Stretcher bearers searched the beach and vicinity for casualties, which when found were taken to the first aid station we had set up just beyond the dune line.
- After having landing on the beach, it was learned that all boats in the first three waves and about half of the boats in the fourth wave had landed on The rocky reef just off the left flank of the beach. It is my opinion that the beach marking boat manned with a special assigned crew in charge of Major Waver, U.S.A. and Chief Specialist Howe, U.S.N.R., were not on their proper station and instead of guiding the boat-waves clear of the shoal, they were leading them right on the rocky ledges and reef, where they were torn to pieces on the jagged rocks.
- All boats that landed on Beach Red-2 on the morning of D-day, that could not get off the beach right away, were destroyed by gun fire from the batteries at Cape Fedala. It was impossible to keep men on the beach to work on boats that were stranded due to shelling and machine gun fire. Despite the firing several boats were refloated and some of the boat crews managed to get away from the beach after being unloaded, despite the fact the enemy batteries concentrated their fire on the boats that were landing or had just landed. The crews in the landing boats from this vessel were outstanding in that they stuck with their boats and attempted to get them off the beach when grounded. I saw at least three boats that had broached and the coxswains took their boats off even though they were stuck on the beach from 10 to 15 minutes and the shore batteries tried their best to destroy them. George N. Paajanen (225-869) MoMM2c, was wounded by a strafing plane and George W. Klemchuck (204-533) MoMM2c, was wounded by shrapnel. Both men served as engineers in landing boats and were wounded while unloading their boats at the beach. First aid was administered by the party medical section and they were later evacuated to the transport.
- Communication with the ship could not be established until late in the afternoon of D-day. Due to the loss of boats there were very few supplies landed that day, even after the batteries at Fedala had been silenced. The beach was bombed by German bombers several times during the day and was strafed by low flying Italian planes throughout the afternoon, but few casualties were suffered during these raids due to personnel having had time to seek shelter in fox holes and trenches. The casualties were evacuated to the transports whenever boats were available. The medical section did a splendid job in caring for the injured both the ones suffered while landing as well as those brought to the evacuating station by the Army.
- On the morning of D plus 1 day, the unloading of the transports were resumed but due to the high surf, it was impossible to land on the surf before they could be unloaded and could not be taken off. I saw an LCP(R) boat loaded with troops, turn end for end in the breakers off the beach. Several soldiers in that boat were drowned, several were revived by the beach party. Due to the condition of the surf, Commander J. W. Jamison, U.S.N., the Beach Commander, sent a message to the transports directing that no further landings on the beach be attempted and that the harbor of Fedala be used instead.
- While waiting for a decision as to where and when the unloading would resume, I went to Beach Red-3, and Beach Blue-2, to see what could be done in salvaging some of the boats there. As I arrived at this beach, it was attacked by German bombers and I jumped into the first empty fox hole. One of the bombs dropped in the middle of a square formed by three other fox-holes. A soldier in the one nearest to me was killed by bomb splinters. The other two fox holes were covered up completely and when the bombers had passed, the personnel nearby started digging out the two men. They were two pharmacist mates from the U.S.S. THOMAS JEFFERSON. One of them was revived by artificial respiration but the other had died from suffocation. I suffered no injuries, except my nose, eyes and ears were filled with dirt, and my machine gun barrel was filled with sand and rendered useless. There were over one hundred boats on the beach, but all of them except the engines were beyond salvage. They had been blown to bits by artillery fire. While on Beach Red-3, I saw a 50 foot tanklighter attempting to make a landing on the beach. It was loaded with equipment and men. As they were approaching the breakers, the coxswain allowed his boat to get ahead of the breaker too far and the tank-lighter turned end for end, spilling out the men, guns and jeeps. Apparently the bow caught on the bottom, as the wave threw the stern over. This happened about 600 feet from the beach and only six men came out of it alive. While on Beach Blue, a message came through for all beach parties to move into Fedala and resume the unloading in Fedala Harbor. I then returned to Beach Red-2, where preparations were being made to move.
- Upon arrival at Fedala Harbor on the afternoon of D plus 1 day, all hands, with the exception of the medical section were turned to for unloading supplies which had already began to arrive from the various transports. Upon arrival of beach parties from other ships, the whole group was organized into a six on and six off shift, 24 hours a day, under the direct supervision of Commander Jamison. During the succeeding days, the beach parties did not only unload the equipment and supplies from the landing boats, but moved them from the docks and assisted the army to load trucks and other transportation for further removal inshore.
- On the nights of November 11th and 12th, at the time of the torpedoing of the U.S.S. JOSEPH HEWES, HUGH L. SCOTT, EDWARD RUTLEDGE and TASKER H. BLISS, survivors were taken ashore by the beach parties and the injured were cared for by the medical sections. Dr. Shick and part of the medical section went to the Casino where most of the injured had been taken and worked there until they were returned to the transports.
- On 11 November, 1942, by direction of Commander Jamison, I was placed in charge of a salvaging detail and proceeded to Beach Red-2, where we succeeded in salvaging and refloating thirteen tank lighters and landing boats.
- On 14 November, 1942, received orders to move all landing crafts at Fedala and rejoin the transports in Casablanca Harbor. One hundred and seventeen landing crafts were manned and taken to Casablanca where the various beach parties rejoined their own transports.
- The officers and men of the beach party worked relentlessly throughout the week, with unceasing efforts, to unload landing boats and to move ammunition and explosives from the piers and warehouses as expeditiously as possible, as it was in a constant danger of destruction by bombing.
- I desire especially to commend the following officers for their endurance and determined efforts to accomplish their assigned tasks:
Lieut. S. L. Shick, (MC), U.S.N.R.
Ensign R. L. Emerson, U.S.C.G.
Ensign E. C. Sturges, U.S.C.G.R.
- That in the future closer supervision should be made to prevent army from overloading landing boats. In many cases these overloaded boats were nearly swamped by the time they reached the shore. The engines were wet and the vehicles had to be towed or pushed out of the boats, which caused delay and in most cases the boats were lost either by gun fire or broaching and later destruction.
- During wet weather the Army should have the motor vehicles running while en route to the beach to prevent stalling.
- In future beachmarking boats, the crews should be selected from experienced personnel.
- The naval beach party personnel should have a distinctive uniform from the Army. The present twill clothing used caused confusion and handicapped the officers in keeping track of the men.
- Two boats should be set aside for exclusive use of the beach party and their equipment and should be landed one at a time in the waves selected by the Beachmaster.
- In landing the first assault wave, if during darkness, the boats should feel their wave to the beach and should not do so in one single line abreast.
- The wave commanders should be in communication with each other so that if a wave ran into trouble, the waves behind could be warned.
- The communication system between ship and shore should be studied and improved. The present joint army and navy communication team does not function satisfactorily, and communications could not be established during the early part of the landing, when it was most urgently needed for the proper direction of the naval gunfire and for advising the transports regarding the conditions on the beach.
- Short L-shaped trenches, not over 3 feet deep for use of beach parties are recommended. This type of trench offers maximum protection against strafing planes and occupants will not be buried alive when bombs or shells are exploded nearby.
J. T. HAGGLOVE,
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