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p15.gif (5116 bytes)Africa meant more training. All Army posts, camps and stations are alike, only some are worse than others. To most of us, Magenta belonged to the others. Here we swallowed our first atebrine and participated in the Battle of Atebrine Mountain, drank red wine and encountered the heat again as we marched down dusty roads, some of us with red poppies stuck in the muzzles of our M-1’s.

May, 1943. Some of our men and officers went over on temporary duty and fought with another division in Tunisia, where the battle against Rommel’s famed Afrika Korps was coming to a close. The regiment moved to Arzew, Algeria for amphibious training. Arzew was known as "The home of the dancing girls", only they didn’t live there anymore, and it wasn’t exactly like any home we had ever known. It was, however, unmistakably an Invasion Training Center designed to prepare men for the coming assaults upon the mainland of Europe. When we had completed our lessons here, we moved all the way across North Africa to the Casablanca area. Some travelled by 4o-and-8’s and some moved by motor. A great scenic road through the Atlas Mountains unfolded before us as we passed through the many colonial towns of North Africa—St. Barbe-du-Tclat, Tlemcen, Meknes, Ouijda, Fez, Sale, Port Lyauty, Rabat and Fedalia. Our bivouac area was in the Cork Forest.

"North Africa is almost as big as Texas," one Texan remarked.

"And almost as barren," a buddy from Boston replied.

July, 1943. We retraced our route across North Africa and returned for more amphibious training at Mostaganem, Algeria, after completing our mission of training, guarding PW’s and maintaining security outposts on the beaches near Casablanca. In August, 1943, we ran the "Cowpuncher" operation—the final dry run for the then secretly proposed landings at Salerno, Italy. Then we moved into a staging area near St. Cloud and Arzew, about 15 miles from the Port of Oran. General Eisenhower came down to see us. We stood in massed formation for about three hours under the broiling hot sun. Powdery dust blew and settled on our shirts. The General drove by and smiled and waved at us. ‘We were standing rigidly at attention, and since we didn’t do "Eyes Right" or "Left", saw little of him. Then we turned onto the road after slinging arms, and marched back towards the bivouac area.

"Rout Step!" bellowed the CO—just like CO’s always bellow commands. Down the line one soldier turned to his dusty comrade and gave his impression of the visit of the Supreme Allied Commander. "Sure looked clean, didn’t he?"

Our vehicles had been waterproofed. It was September, 1943. We were combat loaded for an amphibious assault on a hostile shore. We were ready.

The next day we completed loading on transports in Oran harbor. Along with attached units, we loaded on the U.S.S. Carroll, U.S.S. Jefferson, U.S.S. O’Hara, U.S.S. Arturus, H.M.S. Thruster and H.M.S Orontes. This was the real thing.

After the transports were safely away from shore, orders and maps were brought out and each man was assigned his mission. Our regiment, plus attachments, was to land in the early hours of September 9, 1943, on the shores adjacent to the Gulf of Salerno. Our 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalion were in the assault, the 1st on the right, the 3rd on the left. The 2nd Battalion was to follow closely behind the 3rd. Our left beach was designated as "Yellow" Beach and our right beach as "Blue", placing our right elements about two and one-half miles north of Agropoli, Italy. Our mission was to clear the enemy beaches of all resistance to a depth of about two miles and to protect the right flank of the beachhead. The maps were complete and detailed. Photographs and sketches were studied until every foot of the enemy shore and its defenses was imprinted in the minds of all men and officers.

Final briefing came on the morning of September 8, 1943. Most of us attended final religious services. Then we smoked and waited, or played cards, or cleaned our weapons and went over our orders again. That afternoon we heard about the unconditional surrender of Italy. The British troops were advancing up the toe of Italy at an unchecked pace. We really felt good and went around smiling and joking. Maybe we wouldn’t have to fight for that beach after all. Then the loud speakers announced: "Attention! All troops. Attention! Although the Italians have surrendered, the Germans are known to have large forces available in Italy. We may expect to find them tomorrow when we land on the beaches of Paestum. We are ready. We have planned for a victorious establishment of a beachhead on a hostile shore. It will be victorious. There will be no change in orders. Go in shooting."

The convoy was attacked by enemy aircraft on the far left flank after dark. The Navy sprang to its battle stations as the troops filed below decks to clear the weather decks for action. The ships threw heavy concentrations of flak into thesky, cutting the night with walls of streaking tracers. The location of our ships by enemy planes had eliminated some of the element of surprise upon which we had greatly depended.

At 2300 hours on September 8th, the call to General Quarters was sounded. Immediately the ship was filled with the groaning and creaking of cables and winches as landing craft was placed in position for lowering into the water. Ammunition, weapons, radios and the hundreds of items of military equipment were being checked again and placed in designated positions for loading into landing craft. Troops began collecting their packs and weapons.

This was, it.

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