US Naval Air StationPort Lyautey, Morocco
The following photographs and narrative are from a personal letter collection of Jerry (Gerald J.) Zimmerman who served at NAS Port Lyautey between 8/2/47 to 4/15/48. The personal narrative is a collection of letters to his future "bride" Dolores while on duty with the Navy and in particular, Port Lyautey.
CLICK THIS LINK FOR PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION
Jerry was born and raised in West Allis, Wisconsin where, today, he remains a resident. Following his June, 1946 High School graduation, he enlisted in the Navy. After Boot Camp at Great Lakes he attended the Naval School of Photography in Pensacola, FL. Graduating as an Aerial Photographer, he was assigned to NAS Port Lyautey. The Base was expecting a CPO and at first, Base Commander, Captain Dudley, was not too pleased to have a recent graduate with a Seaman First Class Aerial Photographer rating take charge of "his" Photo Lab! Captain Dudley, reluctantly, gave 19 year old Jerry 6 weeks to demonstrate that he was capable of heading the North African Naval Fleet Post Office Photo Lab. Jerry quickly proved he was, and Captain Dudley accepted him as his personal photographer.
Captain Dudley above, NAS Port Lyautey Base Commander in the 1947 - 1948 time frame, addressing his command after inspection. It is interesting to note that during his tenure as Base Commander, the Naval base became a Naval Air Facility before returning again to the status of Naval Air Station in the early 1950's. Many servicemen in the later 50's, 60's and the final years of the 70's, were unaware that the station began with the designation of NAS, not NAF.
In the latter part of the 1960's and early 1970, the station was redesignated as a Naval Technical Training Center with the prime mission of training Moroccan Air Force Personnel who were now stationed on the base. All former US Naval Air Squadrons had been reassigned to the US Naval Air Station in Rota, Spain
Jerry was one of the last, 2-year Navy enlistees of the "Post War". He was honorably discharged at the end of his assigned, Moroccan duty in April of 1948. After his discharge, Jerry had a successful photographic career in Lithography, retiring in 1988. Following retirement he volunteered as the Wisconsin VFW Newspaper's Photo Editor and columnist through 1996. Then, he volunteered as the Wisconsin State Fair's historian, a position he continues to enjoy and hold in 2007 at age 78.
The following edited version of Jerry's 10 months at NAS Port Lyautey, were taken from the letters he wrote to his high school sweetheart, Dolores. They married June 25, 1949 and look forward to celebrating their 58th anniversary in 2007 with their 3 children and 5 grandchildren.
Left, Jerry Zimmerman and future "bride" Dolores at the Great Lakes Recruit Training Center in 1946
Right, Jerry and Dolores Zimmerman in December of 2006. A larger photograph of both of them and their family can be seen at the end of this journal of letters.
Mixed within the collection of letters to Dolores which are dated are interesting, notes from 1993 and 1994 that Jerry added as he rewrote the memories of his days in Morocco while gleaning his letters of the love story they contain to his beloved Dolores. They are noted as PostScript.
The personal letters to Dolores lead up to January 1, 1948, when the United States returned NAS Port Lyautey Base Command and control back to the French. The entries end with Jerry's April, 1948 return to the USA. Other interesting events, such as the landing of the first B-29 on an airfield in North Africa, the Base's responsibility to delivering mail to the Mediterranean area's Fleet of ships at sea, personal visits to Rabat, its Medina, and Casablanca are detailed within the edited collection.
GERALD J. ZIMMERMAN AF3 (AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHER) USN
NAS PORT LYAUTEY, FRENCH MOROCCO, NORTH AFRICA
AUGUST 2nd, 1947 to April 15, 1948
Letter to Dolores JUNE 12th THURSDAY--- (aboard the Navy Tankard, USS Canisteo)
I am 8 days out to Sea from the Norfolk Navy Yards now, and this morning our Division Officer said we will anchor at Gibraltar tomorrow afternoon between 1:30 and 3 o'clock. So it is official, and because of this stop I won't be going to Naples. How I will get from the "Rock" to Lyautey is anyone's guess. By next Monday I should know.
The sun is warm today, we are out of the Labrador Current again and the water is a richer, deeper blue than ever.
I have never told you about the Ships mascot. He is a brown mongrel named "Lucky", but he is better known as "Sh** Bird". In the morning when the loud speakers pipe the call to Quarters for everybody to Muster up on the cargo deck he's the first to shoot out of our compartment and on to the deck. When Chow is piped down on the speakers he is the first one to go tearing up the ladder to the Galley. He sleeps near my bunk and when ever an Officer comes near the compartment, even before we know it, he barks his fool head off! That lets anyone doing something he shouldn't be doing to shape up.---I am off to Chow now.----
--Well here I am back---had pork chops today. We are listening to a Portugal radio station. Land has been reported as being 200 miles away. That means we will be in sight of land by dawn. I hope that I get ashore and mail these letters as soon as possible tomorrow. I hope you haven't worried about me, and hope that you accept this long line of letters aboard this ship as an apology for not writing as regular as I should have while I was delayed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I washed my two jumper's stripes last night, so they are ready for either a Liberty or storing. I sure hope that I fly back home as one Ocean ride aboard a Ship is enough for me. I guess I am what they call "LAND BASED AND AIRBORNE!"
Letter to Dolores JUNE 15th, SUNDAY N.A.S. NAVY 214, PORT LYAUTEY, FRENCH MOROCCO
We sighted land Friday morning about 7 o'clock and it was the coast of Portugal. For some time it looked like the hills of the coast line, but as we got closer we could see that they were mountains, the highest I have seen. I spent most of the morning watching things on the coast become larger and larger.
It wasn't till after Chow that we were in view of the Rock of Gibraltar. It didn't look like much at first, but sure proved something to see after we got closer to it. You could see the fortifications all over it, and the town along the bottom of the "Rock". My ship, the oil tanker Canisteo, didn't go into the Dock Area, but anchored out in the Bay. Some boats from the Destroyer Tender, the "Shenandoah", came out to pick us passengers up.
Ship mate Beneke and I didn't know how long we would be at Gibraltar, but we were hoping that we could get in a week end on the "Rock". But on Saturday morning we were surprised to learn that we were to have our gear packed and ready to go by 11:30 A.M. More to our surprise was that we were to fly to Morocco.
The plane was a Navy C-47 Mail Plane. We took off and had a great view of the "Rock" as we took off from the runway that lies just east of the high flat face of the famed "Rock". We had it in our sights as we climbed, and as we circled to head South across the gap of the separation of the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea. I was surprised that I could make out the very top, northwest side of Africa, appearing much like I remembered it looking on a map. Right below us we could see Tangiers, and we landed there to leave off mail for that U.S. Consulate. Then we took off and flew to Lyautey non stop. All along the way we were able to see small villages of grass huts, just like in the movies. There were many sheep and goat herds below us too, which made it a very interesting and picturesque flight. We landed on the air field that didn't seem all that long. There was a very large Hangar and a number of planes about it on the apron. To the West was a very high hill and on top of it were three large white buildings. The building on the far left was to be where I will live. The Base is very small as buildings are concerned, and there is a lot of open land. After Don and I got squared away we went to a place on the Base called the "Oasis". There they have a recreation center built in a couple of "Quonset Huts" joined together. They sell beer, soda, short orders, and sandwiches. The buildings look a little primitive on the outside, but are very sharp on the inside.
The Hill - From the NAS P.L. Hangar Roof - September 1947...
There are more than beautiful clouds to see in this picture! Note to the bottom left and you will see the tail end of a banged up British Mosquito Bomber. It had made a crash landing shortly after Jerry's arrival at the base in August of 1947. Late in September of 1947 a British crew came in and put it back together again. Looking along the base of "the hill" and just above the left to right landing strip you will see many, many Army vehicles that were abandoned there for whatever reason. Jerry recalls there was a time the US planned to ship them home but it never happened, and they were left there to rust away. The vehicle area would become the location for the FASRON 104, VR-24 and ECM-2 Hangars in the 1950's.
After Chow I looked up one of the three Photo Mates stationed here. When I found him he showed me around the Base which is pretty nice. I think I will like it better than Pensacola. We have the same kind of lockers, too. Two of the Photo Mates are Third Class Petty Officers, and one is a "Striker" who I out rank. This is why a Chief was supposed to come in. I am told I will be the second in command of the Lab, until the Third Class that is now in charge returns to the States. He is the one I was brought over to replace. The other 3rd Class is the 4-U Squadron Photographer and just uses the Lab for his film and print processing. The "Striker" is just a "sweeper" and a chemical mixer. He has the position I would have hoped for if I hadn't gone through school and graduated with my First Class Photographers rating. The Operations Officer is a bit angry that the Photo School pulled a fast one on him and sent a graduate student here. He said that he likes my recommendations and my good grades and will give me a chance to see how I work out in the Lab. If I do well before the present 3rd Class moves out, I will have the Lab as my own! He said if I do not work out I will still stay but that a Chief would be called right away. I told the Commander that I was confident that I would be able to handle it because the Chiefs at the School would not have sent me otherwise. The Commander, sitting at his desk, looked up and right into my eyes, at first he was very stern and I felt myself break out into a sweat. Then he smiled and said, "I think so too Zimmerman, you are dismissed." That sure felt good!
One disappointment. Because my duties are not tied to the Air Base itself I will not draw flight pay. I will be doing some flying, but I will not be listed as having flying status as far as the pay roll goes. I will also have to get a Passport. I don't understand that, but then this is the Navy you know. Just so I do fly now and then.
The Commander says he wants me to become a Third Class Petty Officer as soon as possible. He says I must wait 6 months from the time I graduated in April. I don't mind the delay, and I don't mind not flying, I do mind not getting the extra money. That money would have meant a savings that would have made it a better start for us after I am discharged. So it goes I guess.
I have been told by the fellows here that you are sent home about 6 months before you rate a Terminal Leave, so it is possible that I might get home by late February or March. Of course that sounds like the old song and dance we went through at the Lakes and Pensy doesn't it? The Lab here is a beauty!
Letter to Dolores JUNE 16th, MONDAY
I got paid this afternoon. The three other Photo Mates seem like a good bunch. All are my age or a year or two older. I have the duty tonight so that is why I'll work on my film. I have nothing to do but standby in case there is any emergency that may need to be photographed. No calls and my time is my own as long as I stay in the Lab.
Tomorrow night Curry and I, the 3rd Class and the one that I am 2nd to, are going to town--Lyautey--or maybe Rabat. This may seem a little complicated so go through this slowly. Curry is a Syrian because that is what his mother is, she raised him in the Canary Islands, but because she gave birth to him in the United States he has dual citizenship and was able to enlist in the Navy here in Port Lyautey. He started as a Striker here in the Lab and has worked him self up to his 3rd Class rating. He can speak Spanish, knows some French and Arabic, so he will be able to show me around pretty good.
We are rationed here and I got my Ration Card this morning. A bit of the reason for being on rations for these particular items is that most of them are worth a lot on the black market here and this is one way to keep things from getting out of control. My rations are as follows: 1 box of candy, 6 cartons of cigarettes, 3 boxes of cleaning tissue, 1 roll of film (HA-HA-HA-HA-we'll have to do something about that!), 6 boxes of laundry soap, 8 cans of nuts, 5 bars of toilet soap, 1 box of gum, 6 cans of juices.
You can see my sweet tooth will run short, I'll be depending on you to help me out. The fellows say not to send any soft candy--although caramels come pretty good. 8:30 P.M.--I have just finished developing 7 rolls of film, so I am going to knock it off and go to the Oasis for a while.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 18th
I enjoyed my first Liberty here very much. Curry is a nice guy and very interesting. Because he speaks three languages, Spanish, French, and Arabic he knows just about everyone in Port Lyautey of importance. That has helped me make some new civilian friends. It is so much like a story book coming to life in town, veiled women, Arabs, tables set out on the side walk, donkey carts, and fellows trying to sell their wares out on the street, and so many unexpected things. We visited our own Navy operated Recreation Center in Port Lyautey. It is big and modern. They have dances, serve beer, Pepsi-cola, short orders, sandwiches, and have a game room. All the fellows are friendly, and there are a number of French and Arabic girls that speak pretty good English. They found out fast that I was fresh from the States and wanted to know some of the latest about that "wonderful land". I had to laugh because when I thought they would really have a blank look on their faces when I said I was from Milwaukee Wisconsin a couple of them said, "OH--where they make much beer!"
I have tasted a number of new wines and my new drink is "Kinkina". I don't know what if that is that is spelled right or not. You pronounce it, "KIN-KEYN-NUN",---heck I don't know, it's good anyway. I am also picking up a little French; my favorite word is "gataue" which means "cake".
Tomorrow night a gang of us are going to celebrate my birthday in Lyautey, it will be quite a change over last year in Boot Camp. I am off to take care of some film that is washing.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 20th, FRIDAY
I had a pretty good Birthday yesterday. We went to town with a gang and enjoyed ourselves a lot. There was a dance at the Recreation Hall and it was nice to watch. The orchestra was a French four piece band and they played all U.S. Music. It seemed pretty much like home listening to them, also you should see the fellows and girls jitterbug, MAN they are better here than at home! I didn't try any dancing and was content to just watch. I visited with the Band and they speak some English. One doubles on sax and clarinet and on one of the numbers he offered me to use his clarinet after I had told him I played one. I did and it was fun. Everyone was asking me what the latest and new songs were in the States. They seemed to know most of them except "Mamselle", "Heartaches", and "Peg of My Heart".
I have Liberty tonight so I will go to town, I will spend the week end on the Base. Next week Curry and I are going to Rabat which is the Capital of Morocco, so I can see what a bigger town looks like over here. Then on some other week end I will visit Casablanca.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 21st, SATURDAY
A week finished here. I went on Liberty last night but there wasn't much doing, so a bunch of us got together at one of the sidewalk Cafe's and talked about home and sang songs, it was a fairly good time.
PostScript This would be a most popular pass time for week day Liberty in Port Lyautey. The town was about 5 miles from the Base. It was not a very large town and if it had not been for the Navy Recreation Building being located there it would not have been a very good Liberty town at all. The weekend dances were something enjoyed by all. Local civilian groups would bring in chaperoned girls that shared dancing and socializing with the servicemen. There were a number of favorite Cafe's and, unfortunately, that meant sooner or later one, two, or more Sailors would have too much to drink, leading to a fight or two. I would gain respect in the months to come because I was not a "drinker." Some of the big party shipmates would trust me with their wallets and depend on me to get them aboard the "last bus" of the night and safely back to the Base.
"THE" Liberty town was Rabat, about 35 miles away by train. Because of the distance it was truly only accessible for weekend Liberty. As we read through these letters we will hear more about this city. Port Lyautey, as did other larger Cities of Morocco, had its "French Section". Each of them were built very modern, were very clean, and, surprisingly, quite populated with French. Those sections seemed more like France than Morocco. In Rabat and Casablanca the French sections were built tight to and just out side a large earth and stone wall, establishing the line between the more modern and the "old City", the Arab section called the Medina. Entering the Medina one walked into the past, seeing it as it was 3---400 years ago or more. Within the Medina's there was also the Jewish Ghetto.
It came as no surprise to me that in the 1950's the Arabs reclaimed the possession of the French influenced Morocco, and banished the French rulers from their country.
Because of bad memories from French colonization, as soon as that happened many of the French landmarks were removed. It was General Lyautey that had conquered the Arabs and, then, led the colonization of the African Morocco. It was in his name and honor that the French changed the Arabic name of Kenitra to Port Lyautey. What the Arabs thought of General Lyautey was quickly understood. When they became a free nation again, one of the first things the Arab leaders did was to rename the city "Kenitra".
What the French thought of General Lyautey came to light in 1990 when Dolores and I visited our daughter Jane when she lived for a year in Paris. She took us to the building called the "Invalides", the place where Napoleon is entombed. I was surprised when I walked into a room to find General Lyautey entombed and honored within eyes view of Napoleon's tomb.
It wasn't until 1993 that I realized Port Lyautey had been renamed. In 1948 and after I left Morocco for home, I had not taken any particular interest in what had happened politically there, other than reading about the problems the French had in the 1950s and that the Arabs had eventually regained control. In 1985, Dolores and I visited Disney's Florida Epcot Center. Because of my lack of any detailed knowledge of the change from French Morocco to Morocco I had a surprise coming. I was not aware that a city named Port Lyautey had not existed in Morocco for nearly 30 years!
We enjoyed visiting Epcot's beautiful reproduction of an ancient Moroccan Medina. It was exactly as I remembered the ones I had seen in 1947 and 1948 in Rabat, Sale, and Casablanca. It was as if I had returned to those wonderful places. I explained to Dolores that if she never had the chance to travel to North Africa she should know the exhibit was close to visiting the real thing.
We learned that the young Arab youths, dressed in native clothing and acting as clerks and guides, were from Morocco. They were spending a period of time in the U.S.A. as ambassadors of their country. I visited with a couple of the young people and it was difficult. They did not understand or speak English very well. I also plead guilty of not remembering ANY Arabic and I was grateful for their effort to communicate with me. I asked if any of them were from Port Lyautey. There seemed to be some confusion among them about that question. I explained that I had been there in 1947and 48 as a member of the U.S. Navy and that I had been stationed at the nearby, Navy Air Base. As they visited amongst themselves I seconded guessed that, perhaps, Morocco covered more territory than I remembered or these young students were not very up on this secondary seaport city. As they continued to visit in Arabic they suddenly brightened up and two of them took me by the hand and led me to an Arab youth in another room. He said, with a smile and a handshake, "yes", he WAS from "Port Lyautey". We visited as best as we could about his home town and, as limited as our conversation was, I was very pleased to have made a contact with him. I left feeling I had returned to Morocco once again.
In the days and years that followed I often wondered WHY had there been so much confusion about this City of Port Lyautey among these seemingly bright, Arab youth? In 1993, when I discovered that this city had become Kenitra, the light went on for me as it had for those young Arabs in 1985. They had all been born years AFTER Port Lyautey became Kenitra and had less reason than I to recall the change. The city had always been Kenitra to them. Because I could not understand Arabic, I had missed the conversation that eventually led to finding an answer for me about Port Lyautey in 1985. They put together my mentioning of a "Navy Air Base" and the years of 1947and 48 and had come up with the recall of the "ancient" name (to them!) of Port Lyautey. It was then that they visited in Arabic with the young man from Kenitra, filled him in on the American that didn't know a heck of a lot about their modern day history. The young man from Kenitra was very kind, he never attempted to set me straight or embarrass me of my ignorance.
If the readers of these letters never travel to Morocco, please consider visiting the Moroccan exhibit at Epcot Center. That will leave you with a living, mental picture of some of what I will be writing here. As these letters continue we will find more about what happened as the result of the Arabs taking over their country from the French in the 1950's
Letter to Dolores JUNE 21st, SATURDAY 1947 (Con't.)
I am going on 20 years of age now, I will be out of the Navy before I have another Birthday, and so would you accept a date to go out with me on the 19th of June 1948? I will take you out for a nice big supper and bring you a big corsage.
I hope that I get a package from you, my Hershey Bars are about gone. The U.S. servicemen can make about 500 to 600 francs for a carton of cigarettes outside on the Black Market and you know how little I smoke. I have 4 cartons left of my ration of six now. We pay 90 cents a carton and a franc is worth less than a penny.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 22nd, SUNDAY
It is 6 P.M. and I guess that is about noon back home, it seems so strange that we are so far a part in time. I knew that we always had the earliest showing of the latest movies at Pensacola. I was always pleased about that, but now I find that I may never see a movie over here that I haven't seen already! Last night it was "The Man I Love" which I had seen, but I didn't mind. Tonight there is a Charlie Chan movie and I plan to go to the late show. If it is one that I have seen I will come back and hit the sack.
Today I took a picture of a colored boy who sleeps in the bunk under me. He wanted it for his mother's birthday and the negatives look pretty good. I haven't had time to print them yet, I will try tomorrow.
PostScript This "colored boy", as we ignorantly referred to our Black friends in the 1940's, was a young Black Afro American named Willie Moore. In sharing our bunk bed and having our lockers next to each other we became good friends. He was one of the early Blacks to be integrated into the white section of the Navy and to share duties. As I recall he was a "striker" at that time in Transportation and was working to move up in the ranks. During November 1993 I received a roster book from the "Port Lyautey Reunion Association" made up of former navy men that had served in Lyautey and were trying to locate guys like me and Willie. It was from that roster book that I had discovered the address of Cmdr. Breedlove, the pilot I wrote about and flew with in Photo School. It was by chance that he had served in Lyautey after I did in the 1950's and had heard about the Reunion Association and joined it. It was just my hunch that he was THE Breedlove when I called and fortunately he WAS! When I was typing the letters and came upon the name of Willie Moore I checked the roster book and there was Willie's San Francisco California telephone number. I called and Willie answered the phone and I asked him if he could recall a tall thin photographer he shared a bunk with in Port Lyautey. Without a hesitation he cheerfully called out "I sure do, is that you Zimmy??? You were one guy that had it all together!" What a pleasant thing to hear after a separation of 46 years. Willie went on to tell me that he made the Navy his career and had retired as a Chief Petty Officer. He had raised five children while in service, and had just returned from Japan where he had been visiting one of his sons who is a career Naval Officer, a Lt. Commander, and a graduate from the Naval Academy, something that was not available for Willie when he entered the Navy back in 1946. Willie and I hope to visit in person some day.
PostScript- In 1993 I received a Christmas card from Willie, and we promised to keep in touch. Sadly, and I believe it was Christmas 2003, I received a Christmas card and note from one of Willie's children informing me he had passed away.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 24th, TUESDAY
I have no excuse not to write, I have the Duty. Sunday night after I finished up here at the Lab Beneke came down and we went to the 8:30 show. I planned to write after the movie. They had a cartoon and of course that pleased me. Half way through the cartoon a call came over the P.A. for the "Duty Photographer". I had to take off and report to the Master At Arms Office and I picked up an order to take pictures of a truck we call a 4X4 that had cracked up on the road to the radio Transmitter. It made me sore that I had to miss the movie, the second time something like that has happened. Well, I jumped into my Jeep and drove down to the Lab to get my gear. I had to take flash shots because it was dark out. Right after taking the pictures I had to go to the Lab and develop them to make sure they would be O.K.---and they were. I hit the sack about 12:30 A.M. with a very satisfied feeling.
I have been studying the books on 3rd Class Photo's Mate, as well as printing some more of my own pictures. In the evening Currie and I shoved off on Liberty. We didn't do much but gab with a gang of buddies here and there about the town. I have learned some French already. I can say "GO AWAY!!" which you must say to the little kid beggars that are always looking for a hand out. They are always poor Arab kids---but they know French as well as they know Arabic--for me I have to learn one language at a time! I also have learned to say good bye, I know, I don't know, yes, ---and even some that I can not publish. I find that swear words are in all languages, and all are the easiest to learn and remember for some reason. The little beggars that pester us for money or treats really laugh when we yell "GO AWAY" in French and follow it up with a burst of swearing in French!
Today I was busy printing up Identification Cards, mixed some developer, and got all my mail ready to go out on time for tomorrow. I heard that a mail plane came in this noon, we probably will not have that sorted out until tomorrow. I found out that Currie doesn't like candy, Toddy, or peanuts! He gave me his ration card so I have ample amount of those supplies. Tomorrow is a half a working day and I have Liberty so we are going out to the beach and I am going to go swimming on the African shore of the Atlantic coast.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 26th THURSDAY
As planned, Currie and I went to the Beach after our half work day yesterday. The weather was too cold for swimming so we just walked the beach. After that we took the Navy Bus back into town. There was a party there and Currie and I took pictures. They had a bunch of Arabs in the main Recreation Dance room performing some of their dances, all they did was "Shake", that's all, but the fellows seemed to think it was enough. We had a good time there as we always do.
I have developed a new taste--SHRIMP--and I really like it. They put it out in bowls at the Cafe's just like Kastelic's Tavern back home puts out popcorn. They are small shrimp but delicious, and there is a cream sauce that you dip them in after they are peeled.
I am satisfied with everything here and I am getting along fine with my work. I am proud to tell you that my photographic work is improving rapidly. I may even get my 3rd Class before the 6 months are up! This evening I tried some oil painting of some pictures with a set of paints here in the Lab, it worked out pretty good. I also have been experimenting in retouching and I seem to have the talent to do that. It all helps. I guess it was lucky for me to join the Navy after all and to have asked for Photography.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 27th, FRIDAY
Another half work day to morrow. Old "Ike" as Kurri wants me to call him, and I are going out to the beach again, if the weather is nice, and maybe to Rabat on Sunday. I'll pack my camera along. The pictures I took at the Birthday Party with Ike came out real good. I printed up a whole batch of them, but all the fellows have been coming around and have walked off with almost all of them. I was able to save a set for you and the Folks though.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 28th SATURDAY
A cloudy day, no swimming--it looks like rain--can this really be Africa??? This place is really a waste land as far as entertainment goes, not much in excitement at all.
I'll be darn, the sky is clearing up! I can't figure this place out. They say we will be getting hot spells pretty soon. As long as the wind is from the general direction of the Ocean all is very cool, but as soon as the winds start coming from the Desert they say the heat is almost unbearable. I hope that I will be able to hold up under such heat.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 29th, SUNDAY
Kurri and I are going to Rabat today, my first visit to that city. The bus leaves the Base at 1:30 P.M. so I am taking this time after Chow to tell you how things went yesterday. We didn't go to the Beach because the weather wasn't quite what it should have been for swimming. We played pool at the Recreation Center in Lyautey. Neither of us play all that well so we were a good match. We spent most of our time at one of the town's Photo Studios. It was surprising to find that I know quite a bit about Photography and to discover how little equipment you need to do some portrait and printing work. The place was very small and the people that are running it are doing fairly well, but Kurri and I gave them a good check out. We showed them how to improve their lighting for their portraits and we asked them for the negatives of some pictures they had hanging on the wall to show them some better differences in the way they are printing. We gave them quite a bit of useful instruction and information. We will go back some time to see how they are doing, they really appreciated that we stopped by. We plan to visit some more photo shops in town in the future to pass the time of day away, it was fun. I was grateful that Kurri was able to act as an interpreter. It was really interesting to see how much we understood each other, although we couldn't speak each others language.
Letter to Dolores JUNE 30th, 7:45 P.M.
Hi Sweetheart, I just got the word that the mail is going out tomorrow and I have to get this out by 8 P.M.! So a few words--I had a swell time yesterday. Rabat is a fine Town, large, modern, and also has a typical Arab Market place.
Last night I played with the Orchestra again and did pretty good. All's well. This is going to be really short, they have just called on the phone and said "you better bring you mail running!!" I have already found some pretty good Buddies here!!
Letter to Dolores JULY 1st, MONDAY
The Mail Plane came in about a half an hour ago so I am patiently waiting for mail call. I am sorry I wrote such a short letter last night, but because I did, the letter should be in London by now. I took a few pictures in Rabat yesterday. It is really quite a town! It's neat and it is very modern in the French residential and main business section. Then you walk through an ancient wall and you are in the Arab section known as the "Medina" with an exciting Arab Market place. I will take pictures of it for you so that you can truly understand what it looks like. It is like a story book coming to life as you walk down the narrow crowded streets. They sell almost anything you can think of from the many shops lining those narrow streets. I must take you there some time so that you can see it for yourself.
Back here at the Lab I have a very nice office. Ike and I share a big desk, he has one side of drawers and me the other. It is a very popular place here on the Base. Everyone is looking for pictures of anything that is going on. A lot of them try to "Brown Nose" so as to get a roll of film developed and printed---so it goes. Some days they are pests, and some days I don't mind. Today I MIND! But that is because I didn't get enough sleep last night. I really like this place, it is as though I was running my own business and I like that. Tonight is Liberty and I am going to town with Ike. He and I really get along good, we had a very nice week end and are raring to go on another one, but that's two weeks away. We get Thursday and Friday off because of the Fourth of July, so we will have SOME week end. Last 4th I had a chance to play in the Great Lake's Navy band and a parade in Racine, this 4th I have a chance to take pictures at a Chiefs masked Ball. As of now I have not committed myself to that. I have to get down to the Mail Room, I am going to tell the Chief there--NO mail---NO pictures at his party!
Letter to Dolores JULY 2nd, WEDNESDAY
I had a pretty busy day, and I got in quite late last night. I haven't decided to go to the movie or to hit the sack early. Liberty tomorrow night, and all day the Fourth of July, and then the Chiefs party Saturday night. I will be worn to a frazzle by Sunday. I don't mind though, it makes time pass pretty fast and that's what counts.
PostScript In Pensacola all my letter writing took place for the most part in my Barracks and at my bunk or in the recreation room. In Morocco just about all my letter writing was done in my office in the Lab and on a typewriter. Remember that the Hangar and Air Field are on low land along a river that comes in from the Ocean which is 4 to 5 miles away. This river snakes around a high "hill" that is to the West of the Hangar and the Air Field, and between that and the Ocean. It is on top of this hill that all the living quarters of the Naval Station were. "Going up the hill" also meant going to where the Movie Theater was. Our Chow Hall was down at the Air Field just across from the East side of the Hangar. It was about a mile and a half between the Hangar and our Barracks. It was kind of exciting taking that trip because the approach to the main runway of the Air Field crossed the roadway. There were crossing gates and warning lights that came on when a plane was coming in for a landing and all traffic had to stop. It was a great place to be because at that point the in coming plane was but a couple of hundred feet from touching its wheels down. It was a thrill to be there and watch some of the BIG planes come in, B-17's, B-29's and F4RD's, and also fast fighter planes put their wheels down and land, you could just about reach out and touch them. That thrill NEVER went away in all the time I was there, and it was that way for most of us. In case my letters forget to mention it, one of the most breath taking picture assignments I had was to cover that particular area when the first B-29 ever to land at Port Lyautey came into land. It was the largest plane to land there. They knew that the Air Strip was long enough but they were not too sure the runway would hold up under the weight of the plane. I was assigned to taking pictures to record the good or the bad news. The landing went off without a hitch to everyone's relief. We would see B-29's come in regularly after that. Another incident involved the Air Strip that crossed in the other direction. On that strip the planes had to come in over the river, much like they had to come in over the roadway on the other strip. One late afternoon, just coming onto dusk, a mail plane, a NC4 (DCS, C-47) came in for a landing. Our Tower man realized that the Pilot was coming in too low and would be dropping his wheels right into the River if he kept coming in. (The Pilot would tell us later that light reflecting off the darkened river appeared to him to be a part of the black topped runway). The Tower Man yelled, PULL HER UP!!!PULL HER UP!!!PULL HER UP!! And the Pilot was able to give the heavy air craft full power just in time and was able to go back up and come around for a safe landing. I was able to take the Official pictures of that Sailor Tower Man being decorated with a hero's medal at one of the Base Inspections by our Captain.
I will probably have more to write about the river in later letters but I think it helps to have a better idea of where this all takes place and for you to have a mental picture of it now. We had a pier at the river and a fast couple of boats tied up there and always ready to go. They were similar to the famed P.T. Boat that J.F. Kennedy commanded but designed and out fitted for Air-Sea Rescue. They were not only used for Navy duty, we used them to an extent for recreation too. I am sure we will hear about that in the letters. What was very interesting to me when I got to Lyautey and began to learn the history of the World II invasion here by the U.S. I found that this was the first place the Americans put their feet on. The mouth of the river at the Ocean was attacked and after a long exchange of fire from shore an American Destroyer was finally able to move into the river and Navigate its self around a couple of scuttled freighters and make it near to where our pier was built. The first casualty on land happened here too. The Officer that tried to get on the road out side of the Air Base to drive to Rabat to seek a cease fire from the French was shot and killed near by before he could carry out his mission. The Air Base was where the first U.S. Aircraft landed, arriving from Air Craft carriers. For more details on this invasion please look in my book collection and read the "Introduction" in the book "History of U.S. STRATEGIC AIR BASES IN MOROCCO, 1951-1963 by Colonel Gerald M. Adams, U.S.A.F. Ret. Although this book is written about the Post War Phase of Morocco this introduction gives a very good capsule look at the 1940's and the time I was there. It will also give you a very good history of how the French were finally moved out of Morocco and how the Arabs took over their Country.
Letter to Dolores JULY 2nd, 1947 Con't.
Tomorrow I am going to have to break down and get a hair cut. This business of wearing "Whites" means I will have to get a couple of new jumpers and maybe a pair of pants. I should be getting my "clothing allotment" next payday so I will check at the Dispensary to see if I can get fitted.
PostScript I recall that the Navy gave this "clothing allotment" once a year. It was by no means a wind fall, it only helped out a "bit" in financing and encouraged the navy men to freshen up their wardrobe.)
Letter to Dolores JULY 3rd. THURSDAY
I am getting ready for Liberty, there is a dance tonight and I guess I will play in the orchestra for some fun. The fellows that talked me into coming here at Photo School were not kidding about the good duty, they were not handing me a line about this place. I like all the fellows and the officers, and especially my duty. I have been taking portraits lately and I am getting the knack of it pretty good. I took a portrait of one of the girls that works in the laundry and it came out so that even modest (?) me likes it. I hope that you don't mind me taking a picture of a girl now and then, it is good experience, and I get tired of, AND it breaks the monotony, of taking pictures of all these White Hats. Taking pictures has really put me in good with everyone here, Servicemen as well as the Civilians. Everyone likes pictures and who better to get them from than the Base Photographer! I get early Chow because I took the Chow Hall Master at Arms portrait, I get my mail special delivery now because I printed up some negatives for the Head Mail Clerk. I got paid before payday because I did some work for the Chief in Dispensary, I can get a ride anywhere on the base at any time from the Fire Departments Master At Arms because I made a special set of prints from Smokie's birthday party for him (the party that the Arabs danced at). And so on down the line as I do favors for friends and pals. Now you can see why a Photo Mate is sometimes known as a "Racketeer".
PostScript On this morning, February 28th, 1993, I was visiting with a very good friend Bill Moore at our Church, St. Peter's West Allis. Bill is a commercial Airline Pilot and had been a Pilot in the Navy and stationed in Pensacola Florida LONG after I was there! He too dive bombed the trains crossing the swamps east of Mobile Alabama so nothing had changed! He has been interested in some of my flying experiences. I told him about the first landing of the B-29 Bomber at Port Lyautey and how the Bomber circled the Air Field for a couple of hours to empty its fuel tanks before landing. My thought has always been that the plane was lightening the over all weight of the plane so as to prevent it from breaking through the runway. Bill asked me if the runways may have been too short for such a large plane, because that would be one reason for reducing the weight as much as they could, that would give the plane an easier chance to stop after landing. That made sense to me when I recalled the runways--the river was on the North, tight to the run way, --"the hill" tight on the West side and swinging around a bit to the South, making the landing strips short in deed for the B-29. That is why, as I wrote earlier, such a thrill to watch from the roadway crossing on the South end of the strip to see the planes drop down to land. That is also why the Pilot nearly dropped into the river one day, he was trying to use all of the landing strip possible and was trying to put the wheels down on the very first edge of the runway. I remember now that a few weeks later we had another B-29 land at our Base with more of a fuel load and there was no problem, and after that a visit from a B-29 was taken for granted. It is of further interest that two years later, 1951, (From Page 2, Chapter 1, History of U.S. Strategic Air Bases in Morocco) "an early survey in January 1951, by the recently arrived USAF (U.S. Air force) Mission determined that airfields listed in the 1950 agreement were in adequate". The agreement mentioned was between the United States and NATO ally France, signed December 22, 1950--(one year 8 months after I left Morocco in 1948), designated five air bases in "French" Morocco for the USAF to "improve and occupy". This was to prepare for the new long range Strategic Air Command Bombers ("SAC"), which were much larger than any B-29, to be based in Morocco. Already the Air Base at Port Lyautey was not mentioned as one of the five bases in this report, there was no way to extend the runways. The interest was for the prospect of American Bombers to operate from French Morocco and thus be capable of reaching targets in Eastern Europe and Asia, "which introduced a new dimension to the Cold War equation". "Air bases in French Morocco would be an air defense asset for the Mediterranean Seaway, Europe's Southern flank and the Middle East's Western flank". From these new bases that were built in Morocco between 1951 and 1953, it would take from 1954 to 1956 to completely get four of the bases operational. Here was another interesting occurrence. My Cousin Bob Goergen from Virginia, Minnesota came to live with my Folks and me in West Allis in 1948 after he was discharged from the Service. We shared my bed room as he tried to get settled into civilian life. He became very interested in my "tales" about my experiences in Morocco, and when he heard that there was a call out for heavy construction equipment operators to work in Morocco in 1951, he jumped at the chance and went there to operate one of the big "earth movers" and helped build these new Air Bases. He was also impressed by the country and its people. Dolores and I had befriended a College student, Claire Lugassy, here at U.W. Milwaukee after we were married. We had seen her picture in the Milwaukee Journal telling about her coming here from Casablanca. We became a family away from home to her until she graduated and returned to Casablanca. When Bob was there he visited her and her family at their home. Her family was Jewish and after the Arabs regained control of their country the Lugassy family all moved to Milwaukee. Claire married a Milwaukee boy and her Father became a teacher in the Milwaukee School system.
Because of the rapidly changing times, Air Missiles and modern technological advancements these bases would be abandoned by December 1962. The phase out had begun earlier that year but was put on hold October 22, 1962 when the "Cuban Missile Crisis" surfaced. When that was settled by President John F, Kennedy, the closing of the SAC bases continued. In December 1962 American Personal in Morocco totaled 9,851. During the time talked about here more than 100,000 Americans served during those 13 years, Armed Forces, their families, civilians and construction workers like my cousin Bob. The Bombers used by SAC were the B-29, B-50, B-36, and the Boeing B-47.)
Letter to Dolores JULY 4th, 1947 FRIDAY
I just returned from Rabat, I got the word that 3 cent mail came in today and that I had a package at Operations.
PostScript In 1947 Air Mail meant Air Mail, it had a separate stamp and rate and had the quickest delivery time in Morocco as it did in Pensacola. "Regular postage" was with a 3 cent stamp and that mail went by whatever means was available wherever the letter happened to be. Dolores and I learned that regular posted letters and packages could end up taking a boat ride of a week and a half or more on its way to Morocco before getting to an air delivery from England via our Navy Air Craft. When word went out that "3 Cent Mail is in!" it usually meant long awaited packages would hopefully show up.)
Letter to Dolores JULY 4th, 1947 Con't. I went right down to the Hangar to see if it was true, and there was the box with your familiar hand writing! It kind of made the day a little more like the 4th, I thank you, and I love you!
Everything came in good shape, I don't believe the chocolates even melted. I hope that you don't mind,----even though you ask that I do---that I don't tell you what to send me, because I always think of the package as a surprise. Even if it is the same thing each time, as long as it is something you sent because you thought that it would please me, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.
This 4th of July wasn't as lost as the last 4th when I was at the Lakes. Ike and I went to Rabat and all the stores were opened---remember it is a U.S. holiday and not one over here! We enjoyed window shopping. It is really something to find everything so modern here in one part of town and then walk into the Medina (Arab Market) and see what you would picture ancient Africa to be and look like. NEXT 4th of July you and I are going to Waukesha Beach! UNLESS there are Races some where. We will end up at State Fair Park for the evening fireworks.
I will have to muster to morrow morning for the Duty Week End. I wish that you were waiting for me up on "the Hill" in person instead of just in my dreams. I've been here 3 weeks already and in another I'll have but 11 months of my enlistment to go.
Letter to Dolores JULY 6th, SUNDAY
I missed writing to you yesterday, I caught up with all the others that I have owed letters to. I did print up a roll of film I took in Rabat for you and I will mail them with this letter. The one with the little girl at the fountain is my favorite one.
I am going to a French Movie tomorrow in Rabat, I won't be able to understand it but Ike says it should be fun and interesting to me. In Rabat they have American Movies playing and they have the French written beneath the picture while it goes on just as in the States. That works out pretty good for us Americans. The picture "Week End At The Waldorf" is playing there now. They finally had a picture at the Base that I had not seen, so I went to a movie here for a change. Speaking of change, it is raining out, seems good to have that fresh smell in the air. My Portrait work is progressing very well. I have been doing all I can so I will be acquainted with that when I get out of here.
Letter to Dolores JULY 7th, MONDAY
I just had a little trouble with old Ike about some printing that I was doing and I am pretty P.O.ed! I thought that I would take a break and cool off a bit. You know I seldom get mad and when I do there is hell to pay! I have been printing all day for our Photographic Officer and I guess I am a little bit on edge and nervous. I have Liberty tonight so I will be O.K. by that time I am sure.
Today has been real cool and the sun has been no where to be found, but I appreciate this bit of cold weather.
I have thought that this wouldn't be such a bad place for Duty if we were married and lived on the Base like a quite a few of the married guys do. I could see signing over as far as everything has gone so far to this day. I guess I couldn't see you doing that---and I can't really see myself staying in the Navy. Just look for me to come home next spring.
They are closing the Recreation Center in town for repairs, so that ends my playing in the Orchestra for a month or two. We have a club house out at the beach where we will spend our time when on Liberty. I will hate to see the Center close because they have a pretty good Chow there, and it is a nice place to hang out. Also it is the only place you can buy Pepsi-Cola.
PostScrip Coca Cola was a world wide company and was a product that you could get no matter where you traveled. Pepsi-Cola was not, and the only place you could get a Pepsi was at a U.S.A. Service Center. I would have been a good one to have started Ray Charles advertising for Pepsi---"YOU'VE GOT THE RIGHT ONE BABY--UN-HUH----UN-HUH---!!)
I saw an old Monte Cristo movie last night, "Beauty And The Bandit". The next two nights they have the "Joe Palooka" movie. I am lucky as it is one that I haven't seen. Maybe they are finally catching up to me.
Letter to Dolores JULY 8th WEDNESDAY
A British Mosquito Bomber that crashed here a few days ago is on the Air Field apron right outside my window across from the Lab. They have sent a work crew of "Limmies" down from England to put it together and get it in the air again. I have taken some pictures of it and the crew hard at work.
Letter to Dolores JULY 9th, 11:55 P.M. THURSDAY
I'll bet that you thought that I wasn't going to write to you today, didn't you? Well I fooled you by 5 minutes! The fellows were saying that they wished that they had the Liberty this evening and I just happened to bet that I could catch the 8 o'clock Beach Bus and go to the dance. I was bet about 1500 francs that I couldn't do it. Ike has some faith in me and said that he would take half of the bets with me. Well, you know how I can manage to talk myself into this and that, anyway at 8 o'clock I caught the bus to the Beach and tomorrow Ike and I collect that 1500 francs! Now you must know that I did not rate Liberty, the fellows knew this and that is why they didn't think that I could get myself legally off the base. What I did after a bit of thought and consideration was to call the "Officer of the Day" and asked him if he would pass me through the Gate on the Beach Bus with my camera and gear because I wanted to record the first dance of the season out at the Beach Club. That was why I made the bet because I thought it was a sure thing he would let me go. Right from the first he gave me a hard time and told me I would have to get permission from the Executive Officer, who had just become my Photographic Officer. That made it a little tough because I had met him but once. Because he knew him I wanted Currie to ask him permission for me on the phone, but the guys thought they had me and said I was to do all the talking or I owed them. Well I started out to try and reach the "Exec" at about 4:45 P.M. and didn't get to him until 7:30 P.M.! I knew from what I had told the O.D. (Officer if the Day) that I would have to say a little more than I had to him. I came up with a good idea and asked if it wouldn't be at all possible for me to take pictures at the first dance at the Beach Club, that I was a little "weak" in covering Social Events" and that this would give me a pretty good opportunity to get myself checked out. I could try different shots and so forth, and if I fouled up any where it could be added up to experience, and then when the real call to an occasion came up I would be fairly well set up to go. When I finally gave him a chance to say something he said it was a very good idea and that if I wanted transportation to go ahead and take HIS JEEP! I was going to jump at that and then I knew the fellows would hold me to the BUS so I had to say "No thank you Sir, the Beach Bus will just do me fine."
As soon as I got away from him I got out my "Ready Camera", got a lift up "the Hill" and in 15 minutes I was shaved and into my Liberty whites, and at 8 sharp I was on the Bus!
I had a good time and it WAS good experience, and I took some pictures so as to please the Exec so that I could show him that I did what I had said I would. I came to the Lab as soon as I came in from the Beach Club and developed the film and now I will be able to show him how I made out first thing in the morning. All the shots came out perfect except one out of 8, not a bad night's work.
The film will be ready to hang up and dry in 6 minutes and then I will hit the sack in hopes that there are no accidents to cover the rest of the night so that I will not be too tired tomorrow. The first thing I will do is razz the fellows that doubted me and to cheer Ike for sticking by me.
Letter to Dolores JULY 14th, 1947 MONDAY
There has been a missing of letter writing for a few days. I shouldn't be neglecting you but the time is passing by fast. I worked late into the night on Friday on Party pictures that I took Thursday night and I left no energy for writing. I did pick up on writing a number of Pals that I was behind on answering off and on through the work day. Then on Saturday morning I developed film until time to secure and then Ike and I headed for the Beach. We enjoyed that and then came back to the Base for Chow. After that we boarded a special bus that took a gang of us fellows to a farewell party that we threw for an Officer who is going back to the States this week. (This would have been Commander Roberts, an Officer that enjoyed being one of "the Boys" with the enlisted men. Everyone really liked and looked up to him.) It cost $4 but it was worth it. I took my own camera along rather than the Speed Graphic. I sure got some beautiful shots with it. They had American Liquor and it went over big, it can not be bought around here except on the Black Market and many Officers will bring their own private stock from the States making it a rare treat. We had a big feed, steak, French fries, tomatoes, peas, and all the wine we wanted. We also had Pepsi-Cola, Toddy, and ice water to drink. For desert we had fresh grapes and muskmelon. There was a lot of other food that I just can't remember. I took pictures from the lowly White Hats right on up to the Captain himself.
Sunday Ike and I went to Lyautey early and had a lot of fun as always doing nothing. We hung around town, window shopped, visited with the gang at a couple of different Cafes and then headed on to Rabat. We bummed around there, too, we enjoyed finding some French ice-cream and some delicious bakery. Towards evening we headed back to Lyautey and then went to the Beach Club where they had a regular Sunday night dance. Ike doesn't dance either, and we enjoyed joining the fellows in some discussions of the day.
PostScript A couple of things come to mind here in 1994 in my second rewrite of these letters. One is that the memory still lives about the large juicy fresh fruit in the Moroccan markets. Like Dolores says, it was picked at its ripest and sold the same day. The French ice-cream was more to the "icy" side because of the lack of the use of rich cream. We were also warned not to drink or eat milk products that had not been "heated" or cooked". At times I couldn't resist, but I remember some mean stomach cramps when I did. I recall that it was great sport for a group of the Sailors to gather and have open discussions on a specific topic. It was the "older" White Hats that usually got it started and it made for some very intelligent and interesting evenings. It stays in my mind because this didn't happen in any of the other Stations I had been at. There were times that French Military men would join us, even some from the French Foreign Legion. It wasn't all the time but it could happen in town in a cafe or back in the Barracks in the evening. It was something that I thought was unusual and a compliment to the mentality of that group of young men. Think again if you doubt that there wasn't something special about French Bakery and pastries! The display cases were always works of beauty and they tasted three times as good.
While I am typing here in the Lab a few buddies have come in to look over my Photo collection, I hope that all of you at home will enjoy it half as much as the fellows do here on the Base. They really like the pictures of New York and D.C., probably because they have been out of the States for so long. These guys are giving me a hard time and they want me to shove off to the movies with them. Guess which one---Danny Kaye in "The Kid From Brooklyn". Yea man, I am in my Glory! I know if I were home you would rather not see it--so I will close and let you read a book this evening, and I owe you a big letter next the time I write. Mail should be in tomorrow!
Letter to Dolores JULY 15th, TUESDAY
I sure had a time trying to write yesterday with that gang here! The Danny Kaye movie was as good as if I hadn't seen it before.
I was still busy printing party pictures from out at the Beach Club Thursday night. You see, when we take pictures we have to make a set for everyone that was there from the best negatives. Then we had a farewell party for the Officer at the Horse Race Track Restaurant Saturday, and I also had to print up those pictures. Yesterday was only a half working day because it was the "French 4th of July" the 14th--Bastille Day. Even so I worked straight through until I wrote the letter to you last night.
The weather remains quite nice, we haven't had a hot day since I have been here. It is strange that you should write letters of how you are suffering with the heat back home, and after how everyone back there had been razzing me about the heat I would find here. I find it to be exactly like the Chiefs at Pensacola--that WERE here before and told me how great it would be---good duty, fair Liberty, and for the most part good weather. I'm satisfied.
Letter to Dolores JULY 16th, WEDNESDAY
The Army is leaving this place altogether, and by Saturday they expect to be completely moved to Germany. No telling what the Navy will do. We understand that the Russians think we have too big of a hold here. The Russians want a part of the French Moroccan Base Sites, but the French don't want them in. We think that the Army being moved out is a National compromise.
Letter to Dolores JULY 17th, THURSDAY
The day is warm and a cool breeze is blowing a lot of beautiful white clouds up in the sky from out in the Ocean making the day a most perfect one. Last night, when I left the Lab to head up "the Hill", a million stars were out, but the moon was somewhere else, I hoped that he was on his way to see you!
Letter to Dolores JULY 18th, FRIDAY
13 months in the Navy finished today! Last night in town was a different one for me, it is the first time I got into a fist fight. I and another fellow tried to break up a fight between two other guys that were a bit drunk and fighting pretty rough. Then a Soldier told us to leave them alone and socked my buddy Smokey. I couldn't see that as being right so I in turn took a swing at the "Doggie" (U.S. Army Soldier), and when we went to town on each other Smoky wanted me to lay off so he could fight him. Another Doggie thought that we were ganging up on this other boy and he started in on Smokey. Then some of "our boys", Ike, Willie, and Silvers tried to break it all up and pretty soon they were all in it plus a couple of more Doggies. I thought that it was a lot of fun last night, but I got an awful sore face and body today, and I should have a colored shot taken of my pretty blue eye! At least I have all of my teeth. How was the fight broken up? Someone shouted "SHORE PATROL!!!" and when we saw "the Wagon" coming we all ran off like mad in different directions. What happened to the two fellows that were fighting? When all of us fellows regrouped after knowing the Shore Patrol had gone back to their Duty Station we drifted back to the Bar once again. And guess what---there were the two fellows sitting at the Bar with their arms around each other laughing at the rest of us! So it goes.
I am waiting until 6 and then a few of us are going into town. The Army is pretty well gone and by tomorrow I believe they will be all out. This will be U.S. Sailor and French Navy country and territory from now on. The guys are cheering that there will be more women to go around now.
JULY 20th, SUNDAY
Last night I took a long walk out on the Beach. I walked all the way out to the end of the first break water just as the sun was going down, it was very pretty. It was good to be by myself for awhile, and I was able to imagine you at my side. I watched the sun sink into the Atlantic Ocean and there was just a ghost of a moon, hardly enough to see it, but enough to send my love to you, and ask him to keep an eye out for your care.
It is quite a feeling to walk along the Ocean Beach and be all alone, seeing absolutely no one in any direction, and know that on the other side is the United States. It makes one feel so very small, and yet with the surf rolling in it is a grand feeling to have seen the sun set and the evening slowly become dark. When I got back to the Beach Club I met some of the fellows and we got into a HOT argument about racial prejudice. There were three against it and one fellow for it. We were getting pretty hot on it until we finally decided we had better change the subject and forget about it. We caught the next Base Bus back to town and we started singing the old songs really good. Another fellow had joined us and by then and we all sang without getting too loud, which usually happens. We got to town and went to our favorite hang out, the Lux Bar, and we continued to sing at our table out on the sidewalk. Others came by and joined us and we soon had a really beautiful chorus. We sang until the last bus came through, and we sang all the way back to the Base, and on to our Barracks. There hasn't ever been a sweeter night together in the Navy, we were all together as one happy family, singing the old songs, each of us, I am sure, putting memories of home on each of them. Many times this gets started when a certain bunch has a bit too much to drink, but this time it started in a mellow way, and lasted all evening in good and great comradeship. It may never happen again in such a nice way, and I was happy that I was a part of it. It seems strange that it got its start by three of us trying to talk some sense into one guy that doesn't think he can get along with anyone that isn't white. It would be nice if all of the world could get along as we did last night.
I sacked out until 8:30 and then came down to the Lab to get some of the fellows film printed and to write you a letter. I am waiting for Ike to come down the Hill and then we will go to Chow. (He thinks I am nuts for catering to the guys and taking care of their personal films!) I hear they are having ICE CREAM TODAY!!! I haven't had a taste of fresh milk since the third or fourth day out at Sea on the Canisteo. I sure am craving for it since then. They do not get any fresh milk here because they do not have the pasteurization or health standards in town to make it possible and safe. There are no Dairy farms here like back home in the States to even provide milk products needed by civilians. What we have is powdered milk. It is mixed in a big machine they call "the Cow", but that milk is too sweet for me and I can't drink it. You know I could live on milk, so you know that this is quite an adjustment for me. We do get Toddy at the Ships Stores so that helps out a little.
Toddy was a milk based, canned, chocolate drink. It had to be refrigerated to have it last in storage, and if you didn't have a place to store it you had to drink it as soon as it was purchased. Because it was rationed it was a scarce item at times, and the occasional buyer could be out of luck because of this. Well---the Photo Lab had a very large refrigerator, much like a large deep freeze chest, to keep our film and printing supplies stored in. Guess where our full rations of Toddy were kept for our ever convenient use? This was a long time before canned soda and beer, which was dispensed only in glass bottles at that time. Perhaps some one in the industry got the clue to the use of cans from that product!)
JULY 21st, MONDAY
I developed and printed shots that I took this morning of a stork one of the Boy's caught. It has a busted leg and they have splinted it and wrapped it. They will keep it caged until it is O.K. and can walk and fly on its own once again. There are Storks all over Morocco, their nests are a common sight. I am waiting for the prints to wash, then I will put them through the dryer and head on up the Hill.
I didn't go out to the Beach Club until late last night, and then I was back by 10 o'clock. There was a crowd at the dance, but I didn't feel in the mood for any visiting so I came back and hit the sack early.
Today I had to take pictures of all the dogs on the Base so as to have them registered. I am surprised at the number of them and it was really a job. It was fun and a change of pace from the usual developing and printing. I also worked on some accident shots I took of a car and a motorcycle accident, a bunch of passport pictures, I finished just at lunch time and I was very pleased with my morning. THEN I noticed that the prints had turned "PINK" and discovered too late that the hypo had become exhausted- the prints were spoiled--soooooooo tomorrow, besides all the dog pictures, I have all this mornings printing to do over again! So it goes.
Letter to Dolores JULY 22nd, TUESDAY
It was a busy morning catching up with yesterday's disaster with the Hypo. I have been working on Passport pictures of the married Soldiers and their Wives, they are the last to leave here for Germany. It is quite a job because it is a rush job, they found out late that they would be needing passports to be able to find housing off the Bases in Germany. STILL NO HOT WEATHER!! The weathermen on the Base say they don't believe the "Siroccos" will come this way this season, then who can believe a weatherman. Personally I hope they don't come, I am satisfied as it is now. (The Sirocco is the hot desert winds that come out of the central desert section of Africa.)
Letter to Dolores JULY 22nd, TUESDAY
- You speak of the French girls here quite often and warn me about them, and I know that you are teasing me. For the most part all the girls that are interested in a relationship have "steadies", and then there are others that are just enjoying a night out and are brought to the Recreation Center or Beach Club by Organizations that bring them Chaperoned for the dances. They are not allowed to "date", or get serious with any U.S. Serviceman. If they do, the ones from Rabat can no longer take the Navy Service Bus to any of the Services dances here. As I have said before, a married man, or one engaged is discovered quickly and it seems that kind of status gives you a more "friendly" association with the girls. They come to enjoy a good night out, to try out their English, hear U.S. music, learn and dance American style, and feel less threatened than by the wild single ones that are too often after more than a friendly evening!
Letter to Dolores JULY 25th, FRIDAY
Three of us fellows and one of the fellow's wives shoved off for the Wedding yesterday morning at 8:45 A.M. and went to the home of the Bride in Port Lyautey. The fellow that got married was Curnen. He was nervous as all heck and worried about getting to the church on time, trying to get his Bride to be and his future Mother-in-law to stop decorating the tables we were to use for the reception dinner later on. But we got to the Municipal Building on time and without any problem.
Here, the couple must get married by the State first. After that they went to the beautiful Catholic Church in Port Lyautey. I took flash pictures inside the church right at the altar during the ceremony. The Priest looks like he is 80 years old or more, and has a beautiful long white beard. I went to the altar so that I could take the shots of the best man giving the rings to Curnen. The Bride told me that no one had ever taken pictures inside the Church before, and when the flash went off the poor old Priest jumped a mile high and for a minute I feared that he would die of a heart attack! I took pictures of them coming down the aisle on their way out too. I took pictures during the State Service too, and at the Cafe where we went for our Appetizer before going on to the house for the reception dinner.
The dinner was excellent. The first course was ham, tuna, tomatoes, and muskmelon. Then came steak, potatoes, peas, gravy, and some things that I did not know what they were---BUT they were GOOD. After that we had chicken and French fries. The food just kept on coming like that until I thought I would bust! It was the first good meal--I mean MEALS!- since I was home on leave---and I couldn't help that I ate so much. We had wine to drink, and Champagne too. Desert was another meal in its self, and there was fruit galore. I was even given a bushel basket full to take back to the Barracks.
I "souped" the film as soon as I got back here because I could not have rested until I knew how it came out. (MARCH 1993--I see that I felt that way from the first wedding I covered right up to the last!) I headed right back here from the Wedding feast and told the couple to stop by the Lab later in the day when they had a chance to check on me and the film, and that I would take a portrait of them in the Studio. When they arrived I had all the film developed and they were excited to see their own Wedding on film in a matter of hours after the ceremony.
After I took their portraits I took off up the Hill and took a shower and changed into a clean pair of whites and headed into town where some of the departing Army boys were throwing a farewell party. Everything was free, sandwiches, potato salad, pickles, boiled eggs, and more. Drinks were all free too and I had my fill of Pepsi-Cola. There was a dance and the old Rec Hall was packed. Everyone had a grand time and it didn't break up until three in the morning! Then I learned some of the fellows got a bar to open up and they stayed there until 7:30 A.M.! I came back to the Base at 2 A.M. and MAN I was full to the gills!!! I never ate so much in my life in one day! I never spent a cent except for a French ice cream in one of the Cafes for a little change in deserts.
Letter to Dolores JULY 27th, SUNDAY
I went to Rabat yesterday and had a very good time. I went to see the Sultan's Palace and to walk through the gardens. It was all very pretty. I spent the whole afternoon going through the flowered parks. In the evening I went to what has become my favorite Restaurant, all of the guys on the Base go there, and had a delicious steak dinner. Then I went to the big French Movie House and saw a double feature, "Salutas Amigos" and "Enchanted Cottage". I enjoyed them both, they were in French, but the fact that I had seen them once before in the States it was fun to see them with different voices and speaking French.
I met up with some of the gang and we took the last Navy Bus back to the Base together. The Bus leaves from the Shore Patrol building in Rabat, and their Office is always a nice meeting place for everyone. I slept until late this morning, and I am letting my noon Chow settle before I head up the Hill for a shower. If I have the ambition I may head out to the Beach Club for a while tonight. The Bus stops right at our Barracks door and drops us off right at the Beach Club, so it doesn't take too much of an effort to go. There is nothing on the Base for diversion like we had at Pensacola, so you can get pretty bored here at times. Just the bus ride along the Ocean is worth making the round trip.
PostScript The "Beach Club" was very unique, it was a thatched covered building, very typical to how Arab tribal huts in the interior of Morocco were built. It looked and felt very African when you were there. It was built on the top of a hill over looking the Atlantic Ocean which had a great view. Because the Ocean was to the West the sun sets were most beautiful. It was Navy owned and operated and only for Navy personal, just like the Rec Center in town. Civilians were not allowed in to the Clubs unless they were pre registered and approved guests. This meant that Sailors could not bring in a girl friend unless she had the guest credentials.)
Letter to Dolores JULY 29th, TUESDAY
I finished the Wedding pictures and gave them to Carl this morning. Then today I started the special picture project on the Base and it has been quite a challenge. Today it involved 36 shots and I got what I wanted, all are sharp and clear. There were a lot of flash shots and I used a bundle of flash bulbs. There will be a lot of outside shots tomorrow, and I will have to plan my day so that I get the sun at the right angle to get it all done.
PostScript I remember this as a "Classified" project at the Radio Communications buildings and I had to take pictures inside and out. They were ordered by and passed on to the U.S. Navy Bureau in D.C. All the shots that I took, good and bad, negatives and prints, had to be placed in envelopes and turned into the Operations Officer, no questions asked. Note that "flash bulbs" are being used. 1947 was still a few years away from a usable and dependable electronic battery flash unit. The flash bulb that I used on that project would have been a No.22 which was about the size of a 100 watt light bulb. More common was a much smaller one called #5 or a #25, so know that the 22 packed a heck of a lot of LIGHT! With the United States within about 6 months from returning the Air Base to the French and the Army having just pulled out I imagine that the pictures I took were the beginning of an inventory and for a "good look" at the equipment that was in that communication center. This was the main land based communication station in all of Africa and no doubt held the most up to date equipment available.
Remembering those large No.22 flash bulbs brings back an amusing incident that may not have been all that funny to Jerry (me) at the time it happened and it may not be in the letters, so I will tell it here. On one of my night assignments to cover an accident on the road from Port Lyautey to the Base I ran into a bit of a problem with the main flash gun on the Speed Graphic. A Sailor, a bit on the tipsy side, had been driving his motorcycle back to the Base from town a little too fast and drove right, square into the back end of a Horse Taxi Carriage. He split it in half, fortunately the driver and the horse were not injured. I was up on the Hill when I got the call and I had to jump into the Jeep, stop off at the Lab at the Hangar to get my "ready case" and then drive to the scene. Nothing could be moved from an accident scene until official photos were taken so to have picture evidence when it came time to deal with the civilian government. The Officer in charge at the scene was upset that I had taken so long to arrive and told me to hurry it up so that they could clear the road and get the heck out of there. When I went to take the first picture the flash didn't go off. The Officer came over, not aware of my problem and commanded "get in gear Zimmerman!!" I turned the camera around to face me to check the camera and flash hook up as best I could in the light of his hand held flash light, I tripped the shutter and "BAMB!!" the flash went right off into my face! The Officer booted me in the rear end and said "quit horsing around and get busy!!" I knew I had better get on the move and I rose up, but I had been temporarily blinded by the brightness of the flash and I staggered a bit before I could see well enough to find my ready case to get a fresh flash bulb. I did get the pictures taken and they came out O.K. and I never heard anything again about that night from the Officer. I know that his impatience was to get back to his hot cup of coffee in the O.D.'s Office!)
Letter to Dolores JULY 29th, Con't
Ike is going to Rome and France on a flight these next three days, it was to be my flight but I got tangled up with this picture assigment here. I felt I had better finish this first and told Ike to take my place. It kind of hurt to pass up that trip, but I will have more opportunities for that than Ike, if he doesn't go this time he will be in the States when the next trip comes up.
A "Draft" for the States is leaving the 11th of August, there are a number of happy boys around here---well---what the heck I'll have that happen to me in about 8 months after that.
I was glad to have you write that you were not bothered by me taking portraits of some of the girls that work here on the Base, I am through with that phase of photography. Now my time is spent taking pictures at parties, weddings, and I am super busy taking I.D. pictures of ALL the French Navy Personal that is moving in and piling up. They are taking over the former Army quarters that are empty now.
Yesterday the Army gave a real show. The last four B-17's that were stationed here pulled out and for a full 15 minutes they buzzed the field and crossed over the Hangar, so low that if they were to have let their wheels down they would have had to gain about 4 feet of altitude! I had to say good-bye to some swell buddies. The Army Captain was a young man and he always came to the Lab so that I could check him out on printing and developing, and he was beginning to do real good. What I couldn't get use to was when he would take my prints out of the washer and put them through the dryer for me. I always told him that I sure couldn't get use to a Captain working for me like a "striker"! He would always tell me that as long as he was in the Lab he was the lowest rated man there, and he worked for me. All the Army boys were that way, all easy to get along with. That's the trouble with the Service, you make so many friends and then you have to say good bye, and you know that you will probably never see one another again. All of us Navy personal were out of the hangar and watching the 17's make the runs on us, it was very thrilling and we knew that it was their special way of saying farewell to us all. Then they headed North East and up into the sky headed on their way to Germany and disappeared. We all headed back to our stations and we didn't dare look into each other's faces, it wouldn't have been very manly to have seen the tears in each other's eyes.
Letter to Dolores JULY 31st, 1947, THURSDAY
Today has been awfully warm, the first "too warm" day I have experienced, and yet it isn't "too" hot. I spent the morning taking more of the Official Pictures and a fellow from Personal went with me to point out some specific shots that were needed. When we finished what had to be done and I was sure I had what he was after I had some film left over and I suggested we take some shots of each other. There is a great big Palm tree near the North Air Strip and we posed each other under it. Then I set up a self timer to let the camera take a picture of us together. I set the camera up on the tripod and then tripped the timer. I had but 10 seconds to run to the tree and Jenkins before the shutter clicked. We wondered what the guys up in the Hangar Control Tower were thinking if they happened to be watching.
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 2nd, 1947, FRIDAY
It was a busy work day yesterday and I was working hard late into the evening until I decided I had to take a break. I finally headed out to the Beach Club. Out there I met a fellow that is a Naval Correspondent and is in town writing a story about us fellows and the Base. I did some picture work for him all day today, from the time the Captains Inspection was over. I am making a bunch of prints for him of the Base (Robert C. Ruark) and it became more of a job than I had expected. I spent a good part of the night talking to him.
Lyles and I flipped a coin to see which one of us would take pictures of the Inspection, and I got the low end of that, so I have another job on my hands. It does give me another chance to show my stuff and that's good, it is getting close to the time to ask to go up in my rate. I have developed all of the Inspection shots and they have come out good.
I will have Wednesday off and I may go to walk the Sultans Gardens and take some pictures, if it is a sunny day. I want to take some in color, I found some rolls here in the Lab's supply room. The gardens are larger and more beautiful than Mitchell Park back home.
A surprise here, all of a sudden we are getting paid in American Dollars. They surprised us and called in all of the "Script" money we had. This let all the Black Marketers in town get stuck with all of the Script money they are holding. All that they have now is unredeemable and it leaves many of them holding quite a bag full of worthless money.
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 5th, TUESDAY--PAY DAY
--- I was able to get mail out on a special flight to London last night so you should have an early mail call. We hope to receive mail here today too. I hope that I get it all at once instead of a letter here and there through out the week. There must be a better way to sort out our mail from all of the Fleet Mail. The mail just gets dumped into bags for all of this Mediterranean area and then it first gets sorted here before our Base flies it out to all the ships at Sea. When you consider all the ships in this large area, from here to the Suez Canal, plus all the Embassy and Military Attaché mail, and that it comes here unsorted I guess they have their hands full. The Postmen don't want to hold our mail back and keep putting it out as they come across it. We could wait until they tell us it is all sorted but that would be impossible. The weather continues to be beautiful, not the African weather that I had always imagined, thank the Lord!
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 8th, FRIDAY
A new SNJ plane came in today. I and Commander Phelps will fly together in it to give it a check out. It has a faster engine than the ones I flew in at Pensy. Carl Duren and his wife left for the States via London this morning. I will miss another friend.
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 11th, MONDAY
Two days without writing, so this is to make up for it. After I wrote the letter to you Friday I was invited to go along for a Crash Boat ride out of the river and into the Ocean. I was told that some of the fellows were going to ride the surf board so I grabbed the camera and took off. The boat is a fast one and is used as an emergency rescue boat in case a plane would go down over water.
We went right out into the "Open Ocean", all of us had to wear life vests and there was quite a roll. Smokey was the first to go and he got on the board and was doing pretty good for awhile and then crashed and fell off. We went back to get him and the rope on the surf board broke. We got to Smokey to pick him up and then Rock jumped into the "drink" after the board. The water was getting very rough so we really had a hard time picking Rock back up and when we finally dragged him aboard he was just about dead. Commander Phelps wanted a ride, but decided not to do it in the open Ocean and we went back into the river. He got on the board and had a very nice ride. Then one of the Army boys who had come along with us, one of a few that have stayed on here to keep the Army in contact with the Base, tried it. He is a "fat" guy and Mr. Phelps is a bit on the heavy side himself, and they tried to ride the Board together. They didn't quite get it balanced out and they really took a tumble. Mr. Phelps was tired so he came aboard and the Army boy went for a ride by himself. The Coxswain gave him the works, but he stayed on the board. When he had enough another Army boy went out and took over. He KNEW his stuff and put on quite a show. Then another Army boy went out to join him and they both rode the Board all the way into the Dock.
It was 6 P.M. when we got in and the Chow Hall had closed at 5:30. Mr. Phelps got the Hall open and got us all chow and let us eat in our dungarees. We had a great time and then the gang came over to the Lab and I developed the film. The shots all came out good and after everyone was satisfied we shoved off for the late Movie.
I went to Rabat Saturday without my camera for once and did some sight seeing. It gave me an opportunity to get an idea what I want to shoot of the town and I will take my camera next week and shoot the place up. There is a hilly area just outside of Rabat its self, just beyond the ancient wall that surrounds the city. The road that leads to that area from town goes through the rich French district and some of the places beat the mansions along Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. The drive is named the "President Roosevelt Drive". At the top of the hill the drive takes a turn and, from there, a trail winds down a steep hill to the valley below. Bamboo trees line a path which leads you to many "troughs" that are dug along the rivers edge. These are also lined with bamboo trees that are there to hold the earth in place. Horses are tied to horizontal poles and then walk in circles, turning big wheels that have clay vases tied to them. As the wheel turns the vases pick up the salt water from the river, and then, dumps the salt water into the troughs, and in turn the water is channeled to the large, lined "beds". In those beds the water evaporates and after that happens, the Arabs come in and rake up the salt that remains. It is hard to believe that this is going on today in what we Americans think is a modern world!
At the bottom of a steep cliff, down at the rivers edge, is a really nice secluded cafe. I will have to have a lot of film when I go back to take pictures.
I went to the Cafe in town and had a big meal of pork and French fries, ice cream for desert. The cost of the meal was 190 francs, and with the exchange of 240 to the dollar it was a pretty cheap meal.
I went to the French movie theater in the evening and saw "Love Letters", again it was in French but because I had seen it before I was able to understand the story. From there I went to the Shore Patrol Station to wait for the bus and was told that the bus would be late so I went to the corner bar. There I met buddies Willie, Silvers, and a few others. We watched the people dance and we visited until the place closed. We went back to the station and told stories until the bus finally came. I stretched across two seats and slept all the way back to the Base. Sunday I was up fairly early and hung around the Barracks until time for Chow. It was a good one, chicken and all the trimmings, plus chocolate ice cream.
I went to town with Silvers and we went to the Lux Bar and gabbed with the fellows gathered there. Later I went to the Bakery shop and bought a bag of sweets. They really know how to make bakery here! Then I went back to the Lux and bought a lot of fruit, a small bottle of wine and I had a feast for a king!
In the evening I went out to the Beach Club and then I went with Silvers and a fellow that left for the States this morning to one of the Cafes out there for supper. We all had steaks with all the trimmings. For desert we had a French desert, it is like whipped cream, almost, and it sure was good. The way you are served a meal here you must plan on 2 hours at least for eating. It makes for a good time.
"Public Works" gave me a call today and I had to take some pictures of the "Mechanical Cow", the machine that coverts powdered milk. They have some problems and we can't get powdered milk until they can get some quick replacement parts, it is the only way the powdered milk can be made into the right kind of liquid. I had to take pictures of the areas that they believe are giving them the problem so that it can be flown back to the States on the next plane.
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 12th, TUESDAY
I am surprised to hear about your hot weather back home, as it stays beautiful here. It is, I am told, a freak summer here, but that is O.K. with me, I am not disappointed one bit. They say the winters here are pretty bad, cold rainy, doesn't sound so good, sounds like Pensacola!
PostScript A look at a World Map will inform you that Port Lyautey and Pensacola are very close to being on the same Longitude lines. Pensacola is at about 31 degrees, and Port Lyautey at about 36 degrees. Port Lyautey is about 200 miles further north, more in line with Atlanta Ga. This will help you realize why the weather was not what the casual observer would associate with the Africa we think about most of the time---hot deserts and tropical jungles. Morocco is truly the very top of Africa, and Africa is a lot farther North than most of us realize.)
I have seen only one rain shower since I have been here, and how refreshing that was, otherwise nothing but blue skies and beautiful fleecy clouds.
Ah YES---Laundry! We have a laundry and it does a pretty good job, and a few of us (like Photographers) manage to get it back pretty fast, in a day or two. Then sometimes they foul up and I have to wash and press Whites for a Liberty, like I had to do this weekend. I checked with my girls and the laundry I handed in yesterday will be ready tomorrow morning!
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 16th, SATURDAY
Thursday evening I went on Liberty, last night I stayed on the Base, and I was hot to go on week end Liberty. I wasn't scheduled so I put in for a special request and at 12 noon I will rate the rest of the week end. I will catch the 1:30 Base Bus to Rabat.
PostScript There were two civilian transportations to travel between Port Lyautey and Rabat. The train was the better of the two but the schedule and in frequency made them very inconvenient and the Navy was kind enough to provide a week end bus to Rabat. I can only remember riding the civilian bus once, and maybe twice, but that was enough. It was not used by the French at all and it was a very interesting look at the poverty level and the mix of the local culture of the Arabs. The buses themselves were old and shabby, they were crowded and you could forget about ever getting a seat, you were differently a minority because NO Sailor in his right mind would want to ride that bus bad enough to go on Liberty! It was quite an experience to sit among veiled women, turbaned, bearded and robed Arabs that would give you the look of death for invading THEIR mode of transportation. You would be warned by those that had tried it, their "one time", but you would have to try it JUST once to see if it was all true, and it was. The bus did not have any particular stop and for that reason it seemed that at about every mile someone was getting off or someone was being picked up and what should have been a 45 minute or so ride could last an eternity. Some of the "back wood" natives would not have more than a hut for a home and of course were without the modern facilities to bath. That added to the smells of dogs, chickens, and some times other market animals carried aboard. It was like I have always said about my Navy experience, I am glad that I did it once, but I wouldn't want to do it again!)
The sky is a little cloudy but the sun will have it cleared off by the time I get there. I plan to take pictures of the places I visited last week.
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 19th, TUESDAY
We have been working long, hard, and late on Identification pictures for our fellow's French Hunting License (believe it or not) so that they will be finished in time so that we can take our Liberty tomorrow at noon. It seems everyone on the Base except Ike and I must be planning on going hunting!
We are listening for the sound of the Mail Plane to come in, it is something how we all learn to do that here, it has it's own sound it seems, it is becoming to me like an angel bringing love messages from home to all of us on the Base. It was due to land at 5:36 P.M. and now it is 5:50 P.M. You learn to get a bit worried when you are a part of an Air Base crew and a scheduled flight gets to be over due, ESPECIALLY when it has YOUR mail on it!
The Pilots had great pride in landing on their scheduled time, it was sort of a game between them. It meant nothing to be early, either, it was a test to see if they could put the wheels down at that exact minute they were scheduled to "touch down". I had been in a plane when the co-pilot called to the Pilot "NOW" as he was watching the dial of his watch and the pilot would hit the wheels to the runway! After checking in they probably collected a dinner or at least a drink from the crew that bet them who could come closest to the arrival time! Again, I say, there was no one more special and fun than the Navy Pilots.)
The policy of having your personal car sent from the States had been discontinued just before I arrived in Port Lyautey, but prior to that Servicemen with families coming to live with them in Port Lyautey were able to have their personal cars transported overseas by ship to them. There was some kind of fee involved, which wasn't that expensive, and the Senior Officer had to approve of it so that the person was a responsible Navy man. I remember shipmate Kiernan's car coming to Casablanca and he had to take a bus the hundred miles to pick it up.) We were well on our way to Rabat in his state-side car in some open and desolate country side when Kiernan said the temperature gauge for the water was going up on the car. As we sweat out the possible problem, it brought to my mind the time I had a "freeze plug" pop out of the Folks 1937 Plymouth when I was home on leave and I told the fellows about that story.
A freeze out plug was a circle of metal about an inch and a half round that fit into a like hole in the engine block. It was made so that if the engine water would freeze the plug would be forced out, preventing the engine block itself from cracking. The "permanent" anti-freeze of today was not yet in use and we relied on alcohol additives which were not all that reliable and "freezing up" and "boiling over" was not unusual. The freeze out plugs saved many a motor block. I am continually amazed to find how the different technologies have advanced in these 46 years since these letters were written. It makes me feel older than my 64 years at this writing.)
I told everyone how I was unable to get a replacement plug right then and where it had happened and there was no way the engine could be run without water in the system for cooling. I explained how I got a bright idea and carved a wooden "cork" from a scrap of wood that I got from my Shoemaker and, then and with his cobblers hammer, I drove it in and was able to drive away!
Just as I finished telling the fellows about my experience the temperature on the car went all the way to the top.---- and steam came from under the hood.---Guess what???? We had lost not one, but two FREEZE OUT PLUGS!! Now Morocco does not have gas stations out in the country, so we were very lucky to spot a watering hole near by. Some Cattle were drinking from the run off and a few Arab women and kids were drawing water from the hand dug well. Also difficult to find is any scrap of tree wood because the Arabs pick it all up for heating and cooking fires. You often see an Arab with his burro piled high with sticks and branches that he has collected and sells to his fellow Arabs. It took a bit of searching before we found the material to make a couple of plugs. We finally made the emergency repairs and then waited our turn at the watering hole. We had to wait while some native Arab women filled their tall clay vases with water and walked away with them balanced on the top of their heads. They were chattering away to each other in Arabic and smiling shyly, but it was apparent that EVERYONE got in line for their turn to drawing water. We were lucky to have had a bucket in the trunk and we filled the radiator and went happily on our way after I took some pictures of our African adventure.
Weather continues to be nice, although it was cold as heck Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. The road between Rabat and Port Lyautey was buried in fog and I thought that we would never get back without crashing into something.
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 21st, THURSDAY
I didn't write after mail Tuesday because word went out that mail wasn't to be sent out of here until next week. Now I discovered I can get a letter on a plane out of here tonight so I will work a quick answer to most of your letters so that I will keep getting mail from you.
PostScript I recall that it was not allowed for flights not listed as "Mail Service Flights" to accept posted mail and carry it to the States. There were times that we would have a special mail plane come in that was in the Mail Service and would deliver special Official Mail to our Base, or on their way to the Fleet. In that case our Base Postman could put a sealed bag aboard the plane and have it on its way back to the States. Federal regulations were such that when regular planes came in without mail service rating they were not allowed to take posted mail aboard. There were times that if you knew some of the crew members from past trips in, (especially the photographer!), we could depend, within reason, they would secretly do a privileged few a favor and take on a handful of letters. These would be dropped into a mail box when they hit the States. Security was so tight that they would not risk taking a package or a large bundle like the pack of pictures I had ready to mail that night. This is why you find Jerry "getting the word" at the last minute, now and then, that someone was willing to take on a few letters---"IF IT COMES DOWN--RIGHT NOW!!)
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 23rd, SATURDAY
I have been taking I.D. pictures of the new arrival of French Navy men, and I developed a roll of film that the Captain took himself. It didn't turn out very good---I am afraid that he is not much of a photographer but don't tell him I said that.
I am a bit low on "fluce" as the Arabs say--but I will head for Rabat and just walk the Medina and the Ocean. I have some film left and I will do some shooting.
The Teletype here told us that Wisconsin was the only place in the Midwest that has gotten some relief from the dry spell.....in the mean time the sun keeps on shinning here.
There was a bit of excitement out on the runway just now. They had a surprise fire drill, they unexpectedly burned a truck up on one of the landing strips and it was quite a blaze. I wish I had been tipped off so that I could have got there for some pictures. I know it was a surprise, because the Fire Chief would not pass up a chance to have some pictures taken otherwise.
Last night was the (baseball) All Star Game and we were all looking forward to listening to it on the radio. We couldn't get it on any of the radios around the Barracks so we had to give up and just hit the sack. Today we are still anxious to hear the results, you can realize how isolated we are from the States! Last year when the game was on I was at O.G.U. at the Lakes trying to get out of some detail and wondering if I could work out something to get home for the evening.
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 26th, TUESDAY
I checked out Rabat a bit more. I got outside the earthen East Wall that surrounds and encloses all of Rabat. I went out to the French Airport which is way out in the woods, it is there that the first Americans camped after the World War II invasion. I have been told that all of the French people walked from town out of curiosity to look at the Americans encamped there.
I walked through the "richer" residential and Government building section of Rabat and it is quite beautiful. There are lovely gardens, wonderful architecturally designed, and all white buildings. I saw the Tomb of Marshal Lyautey too.
I had a steak dinner at what has become my favorite restaurant just off the main street and a block or two from the Medina wall. I have learned not to take the table by the window because the poor Arab children come from the Medina and stand at the window to stare at the meals put on the tables. I made that mistake the first time, not knowing this would happen, the window otherwise gives a nice view. You must learn to ignore the children even if it is kind of sad to see the little ones begging. You quickly learn that if you pass some francs to them once they never let you go by again without expecting a hand out again. After I ate I headed up the Avenue to the best Hotel in Rabat called the "Belima". They have a very large outdoor seating area with many tables, a dance floor, and a stage for the Orchestra. I met a gang of the fellows sitting there listening to the French Orchestra and we remained there until it was time to head for the Bus and return to the Base. I went out to the Beach here on Sunday and stayed out on the sand until sun set. From there I went to the Beach Club for some chow and then went back to the Base.
Last night Ike and I went to McKlintics for Mac's surprise birthday party that his wife made up for him. It was a good time, lots of Champagne and plenty to eat. Mac is in charge of the parachute loft.
This afternoon I went to the birthday party of one of the little kids of one of the Navy men. I was the ONLY fellow there with about 6 or so wives---I did very well and had quite a time.---Of course the reason I was there was to take pictures!
This morning the Base Fire Department was called to Town to put out a fire, I and Ike answered the ready call together and went along to take pictures. We were expecting more, but it was only an old shed behind the movie house, and there wasn't much excitement at all. I did get some pretty good shots that will look good in the album.
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 28th, Thursday
I was surprised to hear that we will be going into Dress Blues beginning Sept. 15th. I never would have thought that we would have weather in Africa to allow that to happen, of course this is NORTH Africa! I will be glad to wear a suit of clothes for more than one Liberty again, and not be out for only an hour in white and look like I was out in the same uniform for a whole month.
Yesterday I went to Rabat and gave a guided tour of the city to a visiting civilian Technician from State side, and we had a good time. It made me realize that I know this town very good now. With all the interesting things to see we ended up in the Bakery-Candy-and Ice Cream Store and we stayed there until we burst. We were not in Rabat very long, but it was enough for me to feel satisfied that I had a day of freedom.
When we were in Rabat we did go for a steak supper before we came back here. It is really a treat going out to eat like that after being use to just eating out back home on only special occasions. I will tell you the truth, I would pay double what I pay for a steak dinner here to have a hamburger with you at the White Tower with a cold bottle of Coke!
Letter to Dolores AUGUST 29th, FRIDAY
Good weather continues, although you can tell things are changing, the mornings are always so cloudy and it looks like rain, very stormy, then and before you know it, it clears up and the sun is shinning.
As for Labor Day here, it is the last day that the Beach Club will be opened, meaning that even summer ends here in Africa, and it will probably be my last time to visit it, NOW isn't that something? We are making progress!! In turn the Rec Center opens this Tuesday for fall and winter and the first dance of the new season will be on Thursday. I hope that I miss it-----. Why? If I miss it, it will be because I will be back on Starboard Section and I will have my fifth week end off in a row! Ike said that we could have made a fortune in bets had we been sharp enough to know that I would be the one to pull off such a run. He says that as long as he has been here no one has ever put that many week end Libertys together.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 1st, LABOR DAY 1947
I enjoyed guiding the new visitor around Rabat, we went to the Medina and even I saw a little more than I had before. Some of the shops that we walked into were more like museums to us, old pistols, riffles, powder horns, some musical instruments, and many unusual things that we found hard to believe that they were for sale. The Medina is a very interesting and a very mystical place to be. There are merchants selling along the narrow streets outside and inside their small shops. There are tables loaded with many items, some times new and some times used. It is like walking into a Dime Store because of the variety they have. You never know what you are going to find, and you never know what it costs until you ask the Merchant and then it all begins. We have been warned that the first price given is never the true cost, that the Merchants EXPECT YOU TO BARTER! If you do not, you are the loser. A famous line of all the Merchants is when you let them know that the price is not right is "you speak---LAST price!" If you leave too much room between his last offer and your "last price" he will counter with another and repeat again "you speak, last price!", coming close to your face and looking you right square into your eyes. They become very disgusted if you do not buy, yet they DO have a bottom price where they will stand firm and pass up the sale very reluctantly. There are also shops of Arabic crafted works, in metal, cloth, wood, leather, and it is all like one big Fair. You can hear the chanting call of the Merchants which is like a pretty sing song chant. At times you can here chanting coming from the Mosques, and you can hear the call from the towers trough out the Medina reminding the Arabs to come to pray. You can see inside of the Mosques which have only open tiled floors and no furniture, and only men and boys are kneeling on small rugs or mats and chanting and bowing to the East. They are dressed in their long robes that reach the ground. Like we hear familiar music playing from the different shops back home, here you hear a strange music sung to string instruments playing all of the time. All of the streets are narrow, some have awnings, in the clothing section the entire street is covered from the wall on one side to the other with heavy netting and it is woven with course straw. This screens out the suns rays from the fabrics and also shades the shopper and Merchants from hot mid day heat. It also leads to some electric lights, mostly single, unshaded bulbs, but more places are still lit by gas and kerosene lanterns. It gives you a wonderful feeling that you are walking in history of many years long past---2--3-- and even 400 or more years ago. As you walk and take it all in it is like this is all a dream, that you are watching a movie and it will soon be over and you will discover it was only make believe. Then you turn another corner and there are more small shops, more tourists shopping and bartering, more native Arabs in robes, "Fatimas" walking to you with babies in slings of cloth on their backs and veils covering their faces allowing big dark eyes to shyly take a peek at you as they pass by the "American" and you know it is real, that you are there. You realize that you are the stranger that doesn't really belong and that they perhaps wish that everything stays like it was 400 years ago. I find nothing wrong with that wish for the most part and I am pleased that they waited for me to see it before anyone changes it. Children only 7--8--or nine years old are sitting cross legged in the small alcoves of the individual clothing shops, and they are busy sewing and stitching with their small brown hands. You think that they are too young to be doing this, this is child labor, yet I haven't ever seen any of these children when they are not smiling, seeming to enjoy what they are doing, and quite often they are good naturally fooling around with each other like little kids do. There are places where the women are dying the wool that will soon be woven into cloth, their arms, up to the arm pits, are the same color as the wool they are preparing and they too appear to be happy as they ignore the tourists and visit very busily with each other. The streets are always crowded with both Arabs and Europeans, many times shoulder to shoulder all day long, and they all seem to be buying, there arms are filled with "last price" purchases. There are food shops, bakery shops, meat shops, and it is at these that the local French seem to be the prime customers. The meat markets would certainly turn you off, the meat hangs naked from overhead awning supports, there is no refrigeration, and the meat is always covered with flies, some times you can not see the meat for the flies. It can cause you to loose your appetite in a big hurry. A real treat for the Arabs is the vendors that have a small alcohol stove burning and they are frying large grasshoppers, "locust", to a crisp in a greased frying pan and selling them one by one to passers by. I could not try that! On the other hand you can not believe the fresh fruit that is available! All of it is very large, it is always displayed like a work of art, and all of it is so deliciously juicy. The bakery is just as beautifully displayed. The Arab bread, in particular, is delicious and I think even better than French bread. I had a shock when I discovered that although their pastries and cookies look just as good as the French they taste plain UGLY! Before tasting and only buying with my eyes I had picked out a bag full by their sheer looks. After I walked from the crowded shop I took but one bite out in the narrow street, I was shocked at the awful flat, unsalted, sugarless, greasy taste, and had to spit it out. I handed the bag to a little beggar boy, much to his delight and Arabic taste.
I am already recognized and accepted as a friend by the more friendly Medina Arab Merchants. I have Ike to thank for that because of his early introduction of me to these interesting and friendly Arabs. I know the reason they trust me is because they knew they could trust Ike to be just a friend, and that has given me the same respect. They know that I am a photographer and that I do not impose upon them like a tourist, that I have a serious interest in them and their history. They know that I am not looking for one of their women to sleep with and that I am not a drinker and I do not get wild and drunk. The Medinas are not a safe place for Military Personal and the Medina is off limits to us after dark for our own protection, there have been U.S. service men found beaten and even murdered in there over the years. It is quite a feeling to be able to walk down the narrow streets to see and hear some of the more out going Merchants greet me with a smile, a wave, a salute in Arabic, or even to call me "Zeem", "slim", or "beeg fella". I am very much at home there and I feel safe enough that I do walk the places where they know me at night time to see it more magically lit up. Even when they are busy with a customer they will catch my eye as I slowly walk by and they will nod my way and give me a smile, sort of "I know you are here, don't worry". I KNOW that they watch out for me and my safety and I feel very special, I feel that I belong in their wonderful old world.
There is a very large Arab town on the other side of the river from Rabat called "Sale'" (pronounced Saa-lay), that city is so exclusively Arabic that we are not allowed to go into it at any time without official permission. It is a completely walled city right on the Ocean and there is not even a French section there. They are even hostile to the French as well as to the Americans, and the French do not go or shop there either.
PostScript There was a Christian Missionary and his family living in a home within the walls of Sale'. His mail was directed to our Naval Air Station and the Base would deliver it to him. Sometimes I would go with the postmen so that I could see inside the white walls and visit with this interesting man of God. It was a village that had an even more mystique to it than Rabat's Medina. The Arabs in Sale' were very traditional and preferred the ways of the past, they objected to the French influence and rule, they were more wanting to feel that they were still in control of their lives and that this was the one city that the French left them alone. The danger here was that it was the ideal place for the militant Arabs, the ones that wanted the French rule out of Morocco to find sanctuary. They would kill a French Soldier if the situation was right, it was much like the militant Irish against British rule. Surprisingly the Missionary and his family had none of these problems and he had a successful Christian following, and lived safely within the dominant Moslem culture. In visiting with the Missionary he told us that it was the few Military men that came to drink themselves drunk and to violate their women, their lack of respect that had made the Medina dangerous to the U.S. Servicemen. His family was respected and trusted and when you have that from the Arabs he said, you have no fears, even in trying to pass along the message of Jesus Christ. It explains why Jerry's (my) friend "Ike Kurrie" was considered a friend in the Medina and why it was safe for him to be there when it wasn't for others, and why Jerry was given that same "silent pass" of safety, protection, and friendship on the small streets and path ways that had found a number of Servicemen severely beaten, robbed, and even murdered. It was unique for the young 19 year old American Sailor to have the rapport he enjoyed in the Medina, it was indeed rare. It was part in thanks to a Syrian named Ike, a young man with a warm brown skin tone, much like the Arabs themselves, one that could speak their language and knew how not to cross lines or step on their toes. I am willing to bet that after Ike left for the "States" young Jerry was perhaps the last of his kind, a white American, to have enjoyed being "just one of the boys" in the Rabat Medina. As my good friend Bill Moore would say---"that's kind of neat!" I felt it as a 19 year old but I did not appreciate it as much as I have in my older years. As I have mentioned before about having pictures in my mind, I have another, one of a favorite vendor looking to me at night from across the street at his place of business, the light of the kerosene lantern lighting his face, the tight knit Arab skull cap on his head, smiling to me and giving me that nod and message with his eyes, assuring me that everything would be safe and alright.
A very interesting story that I have often shared with friends and family, one that has stayed with me all of these years, came from one of my visits with the Missionary at Sale'. I questioned him about a problem I had, and all other Military drivers of vehicles that occurred when we would drive down the back roads of Morocco. As often happened you would come upon a group of Arabs walking down the middle of the road, spread out and not leaving a way to go around them, and they would not be willing to give up that space so you could easily or safely pass by. You could blow the horn from the time they came into sight and still they would not budge, they seemed to have no fear, and they would only get out of the way after they knew they had really frustrated the driver and brought him to a complete stop most times. The Missionary explained that the Arab, and rightly so, believed that this was HIS LAND, it was HIS Right to be where he was standing over the rights of any foreigner. He had to live with the fact that the French were making them second class citizens and this was one safe way to offer somewhat of a protest and to build their native self esteem. But there was more to it than nationalism. He said that the Arab is of course a very intelligent person and realizes that if he knows you SEE HIM, he in turn trusts that you, also a very intelligent person, will in no way deliberately hit him with your vehicle! He KNOWS that you WILL stop and hit the brakes on the vehicle BEFORE you would hit him. He suggested that we must first understand their position of living as a "Colony" of France and the suppression that creates, and when we could understand that, we should respect their right to be in a given space in THEIR country FIRST and to allow them to move from it in their own good time. Then he also offered some common personal philosophy that he had gained in his time living with the more Native Arab. He said that the next time we came upon a group of Arabs on the roadway instead of blowing the horn we should step the "clutch" in, (placing the vehicle in neutral), rev the motor to its highest pitch, and keep your hand OFF that HORN!! The blowing of the horn only lets them know that you SEE THEM and know they are in your path! He said another good quality of the native Arabs was that they were by no means stupid and that he was certain that most times they would get out of the way as quickly as they could if they had any thought that you did NOT see them. He said we might have to live with a severe word of Arab protest and perhaps a gesture or two, but we would pass by more quickly and be less frustrated. We tried this in the days to come and it worked! Not only did that work in Morocco, I have learned as a pedestrian here in the United States that it works in the "States" just as well as it did for the Arabs in North Africa. We Zimmerman's have learned to "walk as an Arab". You MUST proceed with caution at an intersection, be in the "right", and remain in the Cross Walk at all times. That is your safe piece of territory, it BELONGS to YOU and the driver of a vehicle KNOWS that but will try to use his bully force to back you out of what is rightfully yours. Keep the on coming car in the corner of your eye at all times and ALWAYS be prepared to give the right away to the car. Pretend that you DO NOT see the car and proceed to cautiously leave the curb. Rule number one---DO NOT proceed IF you do NOT hear a horn!! STOP right in your tracks! Now if that horn sounds you KNOW the driver sees you, he's NOT going to violate your safe space in that white lined cross walk, you have gained the "edge" and the possibility of you crossing safely in front of the car has just increased two, if not ten fold. With your head still pointed straight ahead, the car still in view to the corner of your eye, one slow step off the curb to the street will let you know if you have won or if you have lost--BEFORE you take the next step. My bet is that 99.9 percent of the time, that if you were indeed in the right, that driver will have his car safely in control and is going to stop and give you the right away you deserved. I must admit that in this day of the unpredictable and drive by shootings this has perhaps become a less wise game to play than it has been for me in the many years since I was in Morocco, there are still times and places that I enjoy testing the philosophy of that Missionary friend, the one that lived in the heart of the Medina of Sale' Morocco some 46 years ago. I still respect the mind set of the Arab, that he had the perfect right to be where he was, yet took no chances for his life when he might have been "dead RIGHT!" because of a stupid American!)
Letter to Dolores LABOR DAY 1947 CON'T
have trusted myself to walk the Medina by myself after dark because I recognize the Arabs that Ike has introduced to me. I do not venture into any of the more remote streets and stay on the Market street close to the ancient earthen wall that draws the line between the old Medina and the new French section of the city. I just can not resist the Medina after dark, it is then that it truly takes on its picture book look and feel of what an American would think it should be.
We walked to the Sultans Palace and to get there you have to walk from the Medina through the French part of the city, it is a nice walk up the main street, up along the flowered, palm tree lined boulevard, out through the old outer earthen wall and then to the out skirts where you come upon the Palace and the beautiful gardens of the Sultan. You forget that you are so close to the Ocean. After we strolled through the gardens we went back down and into the Medina and walked the Ocean shore its self. While we were there we came upon an Arab Military Drum and Bugle Corp playing to a large crowd. We discovered that the day was the "Feast to the Sea" and there were a quite a few festivities underway.
In the evening we were in the French Quarters at a street cafe bartering with some of the street peddlers and I got myself a nice goat skin wallet. While we were finishing the deal I saw the most impressive sight I have ever seen in all my life and in all of my Navy travel. It was a torch light parade concluding the day's celebration of the Feast to the Sea. Coming down the main street of Rabat the Calvary came riding in to view and you could hear the combined Drum and Bugle Corp and the Band following farther up the Avenue. After the horse mounted Calvary passed by the foot soldiers followed and all of the men were carrying flaming torches and singing to the music of the following march music being played behind them. Their uniforms of red and brown were beautiful in the warm flickering light of their torches, the shadowing of their faces let each one stand out like many individual portraits.
Following the foot Soldiers were the Band and Bugle Corp. It was a very large group of musicians, I have never seen such a large unit before marching and playing. It seemed like three or four large bands combined. There were foot soldiers all along the outside of the lines of band's men, and in between the band members, carrying torches so as to light the way and the sheets of music for the musicians. The music was beautiful, there were the instruments that we are familiar with mixed with many that I have never seen before. The parade was just of the French Moroccan Soldiers but I think that they would have made a hit anywhere in the U.S.A. After the band came many more foot soldiers and they were all carrying torches too.
After the foot soldiers passed by many open cars loaded with French Officers followed along and then it was over. I will remember that for a long, long time. And guess what-----I HAD LEFT MY CAMERA ON THE #$@%&*+%@#$ BASE!!--AND I WILL NEVER FORGIVE MYSELF----NEVER EVER WILL!!!
Later I and my friend, "Lamb", went to the Balima Hotel to watch the outside dancing and sat and had a drink. An all girl band was playing, except for the drummer--and he was a man. They sounded pretty good when they played French music, but when they tried an American number they didn't do as well. At least they played a variety. They played as a full orchestra for awhile, and then they would all switch to violins, piano, string bass, and the drummer, and that was pretty good. After that combination played for awhile one of the girls that can really sing picked up her accordion and played and sang a set. It was a nice time for a couple lonesome State Side fellows. We didn't want to wait on the Navy Bus so we decided to take the train and it was really a comfortable way to travel back.
The train entered Rabat from the North over and along the river valley that I have wrote about, the one that lies between Rabat and Sale'. Once over the river and into the valley the train entered a long tunnel that took it beneath the city and to its center where the depot was located beneath and across the Boulevard from the Belima Hotel. You had to walk down a number of flights of stairs to get down to the Trains platform level. That area was open and the banks were covered with beautiful flowering vines from the tracks to the top of the bank. There were many times during my visits to Rabat that I had to go flying down those stairs to grab hold of the train just as it was pulling out and the last car was about to disappear into the tunnel on its way to Port Lyautey! The trains had their own particular sounding steam whistle that would be blown just before it would leave. Depending on where you were at the time that sound would let you have a pretty good idea if you were going to make the train or not! Sometimes, if you had planned to take the early train, it meant only that you had another three hour wait, if it was the late night and last train it meant that you were in BIG trouble. If there was a Navy Bus scheduled you had one more opportunity an hour later, but if it was a week day night and there was no bus it meant that you would have to hope that you could scrape up enough other late Sailors to chip in for a VERY expensive Car Taxi ride back the 35-45 miles. Because there would be NO ONE heading back to Rabat from the Base at that ridiculous time in the morning you had to pay the fee and tip for the round trip. The Car Taxi drivers gave you no mercy because they really didn't want to make that trip themselves and as such they were in the position to let you know that they were doing YOU the favor. AND if the tip was not what they thought was good enough they would let you know that you could forget about them taking you the next time you heard that train whistle and couldn't make it down those many steps!)
When we got back to Lyautey we took a horse and buggy taxi to the Base. I like that ride when the weather is nice and there is a lot of time, the roadway is very country and peaceful, a very nice way to end a Liberty gently bouncing in the carriage listening to the slow clip clop of the horses hoofs. Once to the Base we picked up the Jeep and we went on up the Hill.
So my new friend got to see: (1) The French Residential and Office Section of Rabat, (2) Marshal Lyautey's Tomb, (3) the French Moroccan Soldiers Base, (4) the main street of town which means my favorite bakery, (we picked up a kilo and a half of bakery, about 5 dishes of ice cream, (--it takes that many to make one dish at home!), a look into every store window, a look into the inside of the movie house, the French Post Office, The Bank of Moroc, and a few other business buildings, (5) a trip through the Medina, bargaining with just about every business there was, seeing everything from soups to nuts, visiting antique stores that were more interesting than a museum, a trip to the Atlantic shore of Rabat, viewing the celebration of the Feast Of The Sea, (6) a look at the Sultan's Palace and gardens, (7) a fine steak dinner in the finest Restaurant North of Casablanca, (8) sampling about all of the brews there can be at one of the most exclusive street Cafes in Morocco, bartering with the frequent street merchants, (9) seeing a torch lighted parade, the most impressive sight one will ever see in North Africa, (10) an evening at the Largest Hotel in these parts, with music, drinking, and dancing, (11) a train ride through the tunnel beneath Rabat, a train that is unlike ours back home, individual compartments seating about five face to face, (12) a trip by horse and buggy down the streets of Port Lyautey and to the Base. Sound like a good program? You must let me be your guide some day, Ike has taught me well.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 5th, Friday
I visited the American Consular in Rabat yesterday, a beautiful place to live in. There is a hill a little way from there that overlooks most of Rabat and some of the Atlantic Coast line. I went to a restaurant where you can go to a meat case and choose your own steak, and then they cook it exactly like you want it. It about melted in my mouth!
In the evening I went to the Royal Theater and saw Bob Hope in "The Princess And The Pirate". I don't know why I enjoy the movies as I do, I guess that is the only place that seems a bit like home over here. The Royal is the most beautiful and richly decorated theater, it is like the Wisconsin and Palace theaters back home. After the movie I headed up to the Shore Patrol Station to wait for the Base Bus and I felt something drop on my head. I put my hand up there and it was something wet and I wondered what the heck???? I was walking underneath trees so I thought I had better walk out in the street, thinking it must be sleeping birds in the trees. Out in the street I felt another drop and, BY GOSH, believe it or not, it was starting to RAIN! By the time I got to the S.P. Station it was really pouring! It was the first real rain I have seen since I have been here. It was still raining this morning, but by noon the sun was back out and shinning as usual. Now at 6 P.M. it is still hot---well let's say warm. Late evenings are quite cool now and we are able to wear our Blues if we want. Silvers and I are going to Rabat together Saturday and I plan to wear my Blues and turn up the cuffs to show off my dragons.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 10th, WEDNESDAY
Today was the usual half day Wednesday work day, so I went over to the dock and the Boat Division and took a boat ride with the crew. They took out both Crash Boats and we had a race down the river to Port Lyautey, and we really WENT!! The river seems to be filled right to the top of the flat land level, and the water ahead of us was as calm as glass. The two boats take up most of the width of the river and the wake behind us looked like the Ocean! It seems strange to see Ocean Freighters all the way into the docks of Port Lyautey. They have large grain elevators there just like back home, only they bring the grain here. Lyautey is so far inland, and because of the Hill you forget that the Ocean is so near by. You can be walking down from the Hill to the Hangar, and there in front of you is this huge Ocean Freighter that is seemingly gliding across the flat open fields. There are no buildings whatsoever between the Ocean and Port Lyautey except for our Air Base. It would look like a ship going through the fields of my Grand Parents farm in Nebraska, kind of weird. After the boat ride we anchored and did a bit of swimming before we came back to the dock.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 13th, SATURDAY
I am making plans to go to Casablanca next week end. I have not been there before and I do not feel comfortable thinking of staying over night down there alone. What I have decided to do is to go to Rabat on Saturday and stay at the Royal Hotel. Then early Sunday morning I will take the train to Casablanca, spend the day, and then take the train all the way back to Lyautey for a late arrival back here. I will take pictures, of course.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 18th, THURSDAY
Mail is to go out tonight so I will write a few lines. I had a good time taking pictures in Rabat yesterday. Arab kids hang around town to make a few francs from us Sailors by doing favors, so I asked one of them to go with me and carry my gear so I could have my hands free for shooting the movie camera. I also knew it would help to have that friendly face with me in the Medina. It was really a circus to see when most of the older Arab men didn't want their pictures taken and would turn away to hide from me when I had the camera on them now and then. My Arab boy, a teenager, speaks very good English, is street wise, and was a good helper. He tells me that it is a religious thing with the Arabs in not wanting to have their pictures taken. They fear that if their image remains here on earth in any shape or form, after their death, they will not go to heaven. I spent all of my time in the Medina, at the Old Sultans Palace, and the Palace gardens. The Palace is built right on the Ocean side to its back and to its North side is the river that comes to the Ocean from the inland side. It is at least 3---400 years old or more, made of sand, clay, and stone---but not much stone. It is surrounded by a high wall that you can walk upon. It was designed for a safe defense against any attack. The corners have old cannons laying at the openings, letting you know that it was necessary once upon a time to really fight off an enemy. The view from the top of the walls of the Ocean and back the other way to Rabat, and over the river to Sale' was just beautiful. The view looking back within the walls and into the flowered gardens was the same.
It may help to draw a mental picture of Rabat. We start at the Ocean, and it is there that the Old Sultans Palace Jerry is taking movies from sits, just above the shore line at the extreme western side of the Medina. The Medina extends east to the wall that separates it from the modern French City. Continue east, up through the French section, until you walk through another outer wall and you come to the New Sultans Palace. It is there that today's Sultan still lives. He was the teenage son of the past Sultan when I was in Morocco at the time of this letter in 1947, and he inherited his place as Sultan after his father's death. The Old Sultans Palace Jerry is visiting in this letter was preserved as a historical site and museum when they built the New Sultan's Palace.)
The most interesting part of the movies I took was where a donkey was tied up to a wooden beam and walked in a circle to turn a wheel that held many clay jugs on its outside rim. As the wheel was turned by the walking horse that moved the horizontal beam in a circle, the vase picks up water from a large pool of water, when the jug reaches the top of the wheel, the water is dumped into a stone reservoir. Small trenches are formed through out the garden beds and the water is diverted through these from the reservoir to water and freshen the beds of flowers just as it has been done for centuries.
After I left the Old Sultans Palace I took movies of the Medina merchants, their wares, and kids playing and working on my way back to the French section. Just as we walked outside the Medina wall into the main city we saw a Camel driver trying to get one of his camels into the Medina and off the street, was he ever having a bad time. A number of other men standing around came to help him, but the camel was not wanting to be moved, and he started spitting at the guys!! The Arab boy said it was something that you had to expect from a camel if he got mad. Finally one of the fellows from the crowd took the stick from the owners hand and he really laid it to the back of the rear legs. That helped the camel to decide to get on the move.
I have mailed five one hundred foot rolls of movie film to the Eastman Kodak Company to be processed. One roll, the very first one I took, jammed in its magazine so I developed it myself to see what it looked like. It came out good except at the places I had some mechanical problems. I don't know if Eastman develops the movie film into negative and then prints it to positive or not, I will have to wait to see. I have sent them a letter with the film explaining that our equipment here for processing is not in operation and that hand developing would be almost impossible. I am hoping that it will all come back ready to project.
I came back to the Base with Beneke last night and we had a heck of a good time on the old train. We took a horse carriage taxi back to the Base when we got to Lyautey, that is always fun and doesn't cost too much when a couple of guys share the fare and the tip. You HAVE to tip because all of the drivers remember you, and if you are not a good tipper they suddenly become deaf and dumb the next time you look for a ride until you tip them ahead of time. Then they hold their hand flat out and do not move it until they see the amount of francs they figure you owe them for the last ride that you didn't tip them, plus enough for the new ride. When they have what they think is fair they put it in their pocket and motion for you to get into the carriage.
I have had my first picture published in the United States, in Michigan. I don't know if I told you the story about Bruder, the fellow that saved a plane from crashing into the Sabeu River on an attempted landing. I may have sent you a set of pictures from that Inspection when Bruder received his metal from the Captain. The picture that was used was the one where Bruder is shaking hands with Captain Dudley. It was printed right on the front page of their paper. I will send you a copy of it so you can see my first published work. The only thing is that it is by lined "Official Navy Photo". It is very exciting to see a picture of mine in the Newspaper, and the front page no less! A movie tonight, "Stallion Road".
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 20th, SATURDAY
I wish that you could see the clouds that are around this place, they are always so beautiful. It is nice to have this window right at my desk where I can look out through the day and take a look at them. It is also a great view of the main runway and I can hear the planes as they are coming and going and I can always go over and watch them take off and land. Being on the second and the top floor of the Hangar helps the view too. The clouds this morning were the most beautiful I have seen since I have been here. The office windows face due west, right to the Ocean where the clouds form and come from. Many times I will walk the stairs to go up on the roof of the Hangar for an even better look. The sunsets from here and on the Ocean are just gorgeous, and when the dark of the night sets in and the moon is low over the water it looks like silver instead of water.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 22nd, MONDAY
In the afternoon I went to Rabat and bought my ticket for the early morning train to Casablanca. I checked in at the Royal Hotel for the night and then bummed through all the Photo Shops to see if that could be what I might want to do when I get out. None of the clerks spoke English but we managed to get along. To get the store people to understand right away that I am a Navy Photographer all I have to do was point to the camera patch on my sleeve. I met some of my gang at the Cafe outside the Balima and visited with them until I went back to the Hotel for the night. They all thought that I should have gone to Casa that same night, but I told them that I didn't know how I would have handled it and that it would be better the way I had planned it for my first trip done that way.
I woke up at 6:45 A.M. Sunday morning and caught the 8 A.M. train to Casablanca. It was about an hour and a half trip, with the train following right along the Ocean all the way making it a very beautiful ride.
I was out of the station in Casablanca, or Casa as everyone calls it here, around 10, and I took a horse taxi ride around town to get an idea of what was there. After that I walked the main street and did some window shopping until time for dinner. I ate at a very nice restaurant. Of course it had to be steak because that is the only thing that I could recognize on the menu! For desert I tried to tell the waiter that I wanted a banana split and I couldn't get it across to him. I finally went with him to the place where they were dishing up their ice cream, I pointed to that, and then took a banana from a pile of fruit they had. I peeled the banana and placed it on a plate, pointed to the ice cream again and had them put some over the banana, pointed to the chocolate syrup and asked for some of that to be poured on, and then carried it back to my table. I am sure that they must know what a banana split is, but with no one speaking my language it worked out just fine and they seemed to enjoy the "crazy American", as we are referred to by the "locals".
In the afternoon I took another Horse Taxi ride and questioned the driver "ANFA HOTEL??" He said "wee" and he took me out along the Beach Road to see the famous hotel where Roosevelt, Churchill, and DeGaulle had their Casablanca Conference after the invasion of North Africa. (This conference was held to make the final plans for the invasion of Europe.) It is a very beautiful place, wonderful gardens, and it sits on top of a hill that over looks the Ocean. The beach at the Ocean is the best that I have seen along the African coast. Just above the beach they had a fresh water swimming pool and there was a diving contest going on and I watched that for awhile.
After I was satisfied there the driver had the horse take us to the beautiful Park Lyautey, and then back to town where I walked the streets once more until time for me to catch the 8 P.M. train for Port Lyautey. I was tempted to walk the Medina, but I had enough warning about the danger for a lone Serviceman, and I know I am very privileged to be able to walk around Rabat's as I do, so I stayed out of it. It was a temptation though. It was a long tiring ride back, and because it was dark you couldn't see a thing outside which didn't help. I boarded the train and went to a compartment that had no one in it, hoping to have it all to myself. Then a young Arab in street clothes came in and said hello in Arabic, "La bess", smiled and sat down across from me as the train pulled out. We knew we could not visit because of the language difference and that seemed kind of strange and awkward. I had become very frustrated through the day trying to get through it with no one speaking or understanding English, I knew that I would have done more and enjoyed myself more if I had spoke their language.
Mom and Dad had sent me information about the Brother of their neighbor, Mrs. Piering. He was killed during the invasion here and is buried in the American Cemetery in Casablanca. I had thought I would try to visit there but I just could not work it out because I couldn't get anybody to understand what I was looking for. It was a reminder of how I wasn't able to work out that visit to the Prison in Port Lyautey even with the help of Cmdr. Phelps, so I am getting use to those kinds of disappointments. Helene Daumas had said that she would have gone with me as an interpreter if I had wanted her to, I may ask her to spend a day down in Casa sometime to help me find the Cemetery on another trip. I had expected to see beggar kids that I could have latched on to as guides and translators, but because it is not a Serviceman's town like Lyautey and Rabat, there were none around.
After the train was on a roll the young Arab pulled a shiny metal flask from the inside pocket of his suit coat and offered me to drink from it. I had begun to realize that traveling alone in a strange land could be a bit more dangerous than I had considered as I ventured into Casa in the morning. Having felt pretty much alone and uneasy about it more and more through the day I wasn't going to accept a drink from that flask and I smiled and shook my head no, I had thought the worse, that he might be giving me a "mickey" (Knock out potion). He quickly put it to his mouth and took a swig, and I felt very guilty that I had not accepted his move as one that was intended to be friendly. I immediately smiled and held out my hand towards the flask and indicated that I would join him. He smiled back and handed me the flask and I took a swig.......MAN OH MAN!!! Was it ever a breath taker!! He hadn't flinched when he drank, but I had to work hard to keep my control from the burning brew as it went down my pipes!! It must have been some "Home Brew", probably 100% alcohol. I smiled the best I could and handed the flask back to him, and he tucked it away into his inside coat pocket, patted it from the outside, and smiled back at me. I had no trouble relaxing all the way back to Lyautey. Casablanca didn't impress me very much, it is like Rabat but on a larger scale, but it was a good change.
I have a surprise for you that I wanted to save for the end of the letter. This afternoon I sweated out a 200 question exam for my Third Class Photographers Mate rating. You know that I don't really have a smoking habit and that I only smoke once in awhile when I am a little uneasy so as to settle myself down a bit, sort of a habit I got into down in Pensy. Anyway, when the test was over I had put away a whole pack! It was everything about Photography, and I thought I would surely flunk as I looked it over.
The Chief was kind and checked the papers as soon as I was finished, and I got a 3.5! As usual, when I was finished, I thought that I should have done better than that. It was kind of a strange feeling sitting there writing the test by myself, and the Chief standing by.....so DARN quiet! That alone was nerve racking, I wanted to ask if I could turn a radio on! There was no way a person could study for that test, in that regard I guess I am pleased. Now the papers will go before my Officers and as soon as they are approved by them I will have that new rate on my arm, that good old "sh--t bird" as they call it in the Navy. It is another successful step up the ladder, I hope that you are satisfied with your Sailor.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 23rd TUESDAY
Today I spent some time with a Look Magazine Correspondent. He is writing a picture story about the Base, the CROOK! HE IS STEALING SOME OF MY STUFF!! I felt that there was a story here some where and I guess I have missed it by a little bit. He has the walk of the Base and he is interested in every thing. I am sure he will cover all there is of interest.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 24th, WEDNESDAY
I just finished developing one of the rolls of film that I took this afternoon on a hop that I took with our Executive Officer in one of our Piper Cubs. We flew to a rich English Family Lodge in the interior, many miles from no where, and it is used as a hunting retreat. We have been warned that the Exec is a holy terror when it comes to flying and we have been told to think twice about flying with him, but I couldn't resist. The Exec had to fly to the lodge to make arrangements for him and the Captain to have guides ready to go hunting with them tomorrow.
When we came to the place the Exec made a low pass at the lodge and we could see guys sitting on the porch and waving at us. I thought we would fly right into the front of the lodge, but the Exec pulled it up at the last minute and our left wing clipped some of the high tree branches growing around it and some were left hanging on our wing! Then he banked and came around and landed on the straight road leading up to the front of the lodge. We kept on going and we taxied right up to the porch before he cut the engine with the prop almost to the railing. The men sitting on it jumped up and put their backs to the wall. Pretty exciting! It was my first flight in such a light plane, its like flying in a paper box with wings after being in the SNJ'S.
The lodge is nicely built and beautiful inside. A tribe of Arab natives live in straw huts out behind the main buildings, they are the workers and guides. They had some kind of ceremony going on, I could see them in a long line and I could hear native music, drums and singing. Because I was the Execs "white hat" I knew that I was to be seen and not heard, so I asked no questions and had to just let my eyes take it all in and just wonder what was going on.
When it was time to leave, the natives pushed the plane away from the porch and turned it around and pointed it down the road. Before I went aboard I pulled the leafed branch from the wing and was happy to see there was no damage. We took off straight down the driveway, banked and came right back and buzzed the lodge once more, this time a bit higher thank goodness, and flew back to the Base. I did feel pretty happy to land and get out, and as much as I like to fly, I am not so sure if I will be so ready to fly with the Exec.
PostScript I would notice a small article in the Milwaukee Journal about a year or two after I had left Port Lyautey. It reported that a SNB airplane, Piloted by the Exec, his entire family aboard, and heading to Gibraltar from N.A.S. Port Lyautey for his change of duty back to the United States, crashed some where over Northern Africa. All aboard, including his wife and children were killed.)
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 26th, FRIDAY
Surprise, it is a rainy day today, I think that is the third one since I have been here. The temperature is cool but comfortable. I decided to go to Rabat yesterday and had a tailor sew on my Third Class patch, it really looks great and makes me feel the same way. I can't tell you the satisfaction I feel.
Did I tell you that I have a Pass Port? It is so that I can travel in other countries in civilian clothes, that is one of the reasons it is important to get my civilian clothes here. I don't want to buy any when I wear them so seldom. It is possible that in time we will be allowed to wear them on Liberty here in Morocco, just like in the States.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 27th, SATURDAY
I was happy to pick up the Army football game on my radio, that means I may be able to pick up the Navy-California game tomorrow, perhaps some other games after that one too. If you can get any kind of National Football schedules and broadcast times please send them to me. It will help me figure out when I should search for them, it really helps pass the time away in he Lab.
9:45 P.M.- The game is over, I enjoyed it and I am glad to have a radio once again. Now I am listening to the BBC (British Broadcasting) and they are playing a pretty song, "Apple Blossom Wedding", the first time I have heard it.
It was raining again this morning, but now the day has cleared off some and it is awful chilly out. We were issued some great foul weather jackets for the cold season coming on. (This is Africa??) The jackets are wool lined and have a wool collar. I have the rain coat I bought for dress wear and I have been using that now. I will have to break out my P-Coat and send it to the cleaners to sharpen it up for the winter season. The Whites will be put away soon and I wonder if I will ever wear them again in the Navy.
Letter to Dolores SEPTEMBER 30th, TUESDAY
Our Base has become a part of some International news. You must have heard of the epidemic going on in Egypt and about all the planes from the U.S. flying serum into Cairo on a mercy mission. All flights land here for refueling and, then, continue on their way without any lay over. I missed photographing the first plane that came in because I was too lazy to set up in time. Then last night I saw a big plane, like the one I flew from Milwaukee to New York, come in as I looked out my Office window and it was too late to get shots of it and then I thought I should record this bit of history for the Base. I made up my mind that I was going to get a set of pictures of the next plane to come in. I called Operations and they said the next flight would arrive at 4 A.M. I told them to give me a call at the Lab if the plane would be re-scheduled earlier and they said that they would. I remembered seeing an Army cot and mattress up in the storage building up on the roof of the Hangar. I went up there and got them and set up a nice little "ready room" for myself right in the Lab's Office. I have a little alarm clock and I set it for 3:30 A.M., tuned in the Armed Forces radio station on the radio, turned the lights off and hit the cot. Pistol, our Lab mascot mongrel, slept on the Office chair next to me.....and I fell asleep.
The alarm surprised me and I woke up and called Operations for word on the plane and they said it had come in early! I was really P.O.ed! but headed to the plane anyway. I got some nice shots of the crew boarding the plane and then went out onto the runway hoping to take pictures of them taking off with their lights on. It was beautiful to my eyes but there just wasn't enough light for the speed of the film I had in the camera. Unfortunately they didn't come out good enough to print. The rest of them did and I have a nice set for posting down in the Hangar for the gang.
After the Mercy Plane took off for Egypt I went back to the Lab and I was able to pick up the American Army Station at Munich Germany plain as all heck. It was a regular transcribed program of popular music--and I slumbered off until it was time for morning muster.
That is all of the dope for now, because of the Mercy Planes flying in and needing ready clearance, the Mail Plane will be 24 hours late, so no mail until tomorrow----and then I plan to be on Liberty in Rabat! So it goes here in Africa.
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 2nd, THURSDAY
Yesterday was a very busy day. I got a ride from the Barracks to the Hangar for the morning Muster on the back of the motorcycle of my friend Rice. Some have brought over their personal cars here, but Rice brought his big Harley over. He is all over this place and North Africa on it and always happy to give a ride---IF you DARE to ride with him! After Muster I boarded the SN Baker plane with Mr. Phelps.
It was a compliment to you as a non-commissioned Officer or a lowly "White Hat" to have an Officer let you know that you could address him as "Mr." instead of by his rank. I didn't see that happen often and it was always considered a class act by class Officers. Commander Phelps had that class and more. To this day I feel that if he had remained my Photographic Officer in Morocco there is a fair chance that I may have "shipped over" for one more tour of duty. Do you remember that he was the one that I went to when I first arrived at the Base? Do you remember how upset he was because a Chief Photographers Mate had not been sent, as he had requested, to take charge of the Navy's only European land based Photo Lab? Instead, standing there in front of him was this "baby", non-rated and no less just a Seaman First Class fresh out of the Pensacola Photo School and but a year out of High School. That isn't enough time to even get close to a Chiefs rating and experience. Yet, after he had his say and expressed his concern and disappointment, he allowed the young Jerry to "tell him" that he knew he could get the job done. It was a credit to the man that "Mr." Phelps smiled and said he thought so, too! A wonderful man to be in charge of men---and boys too! Indeed there should have been more like him.)
Two other fellows plus the Pilot and Co-Pilot took off and we headed to the Casablanca airport where we were to be driven to the Harbor Docks. We had taken one of our Crash Boats there last month for a general overhaul and we went to bring it back to our Base. It was nice to fly and overlook the trip I had taken by train just a few days ago. I believe the trip by air was more impressive than the one by train. We are not covered as tightly by flying regulations here as state side so we were able to fly at a lower altitude and get a good look at the country below us.
Half way to Casa a British Spitfire (Fighter plane) came out of no where and joined us for awhile and we climbed to a higher altitude. He flew along side of us for awhile and we could see him smile and wave. Then he slipped out of sight and underneath us and then came up and along side of us on our right. Then he rolled over the top of us and came along the left side once again. Then, as if we were standing still, he put the fighter to its full throttle and pulled away so fast that it seemed like we were standing still. We could see him bank away out the left window, do a couple of barrel rolls and then disappear.
Casa looks quite pretty from the air, we made a nice sweeping circle as we came over the town and harbor giving us a grand view of the City that Humphrey Bogart made famous. We landed at the field and the four of us were picked up by the American Counsel's Jeep, the SN Baker headed back to our Base. We were driven first to the Counsel's building and Mr. Phelps went in to meet with him for awhile and then we were taken down to the Docks.
It was good to see the old gang that had stayed with the Boat during its overhaul, Smokey and Rock in particular were happy to see me, they really gave me a heck of a welcome!
The Crash Boat was still out of the water and on the Dock in its dry land cradle. Mr. Phelps gave the word and a large Derrick riding on railroad tracks was rolled over so it could let down this large "sling" and place it under the Crash Boat. Then Mr. Phelps gave the signal and the boat was lifted from the cradle and swung out over the water and then lowered back into the Sea once again. I got some great shots of it all, (I am sure that was WHY I was privileged to go!)
There was a large Ocean Passenger Liner at the dock opposite of us while all of this was going on and they were finishing up boarding all of their passengers and shoved off before we had everything ready to roll. A band had been playing on shore, people were waving handkerchiefs as a good-bye, and it was just like we have seen in the movies. As far as I could tell most of the passengers were French Troops, probably headed home because of reducing their World War II strength here. Smokey said the ship was heading to Marseille France, the city that I recall Helene Daumas saying that she lived near, she would have wished to have been on it I bet. She is always interested when someone mentions that a flight has come from or is going to the Marseille area, she says that she has plans to visit there in May and is anxious to do so. It will be the first visit since leaving there because of the War.
The crew was excited to turn over the engines once the boat was in the water and to check every thing out. Then we cast off and pulled away from the docks and headed out of the harbor area. On our way out to the open sea we came upon the Ocean Liner that had left before us. As we came along side of her we could see everyone was packed along the rails and waving at us, the big ships whistle sounded a salute and above it all we could hear them singing in French. Then I am sure that they spotted our Stars and Stripes and they broke into their National Anthem as we came directly abreast of them, Mr. Phelps slowed our boat to their speed and yelled to "all hands" to look sharp and to come to "Attention" and give a salute to their ship's colors. It really put a lot of chills up and down my spine!! We threw off our salute to them as Mr. Phelps gave the boat full throttle and the boat lurched out of the water and we were on our way once again. I watched the Ship grow smaller as we plowed on in a rather calm sea and I caught myself growing a bit lonesome thinking about all the happy Frenchmen on their way back home to their friends and family.
We had a very nice Ocean Cruise and we were fortunate to have such a calm sea for the size of our boat and Mr. Phelps kept it wide open. We had a lot of unexpected excitement on the way along the coast that was never out of our sight, and I can tell you that I am glad that the War is over! First of all, a little way North from Casa, a French Air Force plane came out of no where and dived on us and I thought he was going to land on our quarter deck! He made one more whining dive on us and broke out into a few snap rolls before disappearing as fast as he had showed up.
Some time passed by and we were all relaxed and enjoying our ride when one of out little Piper Cubs came along side of us and made a few gentle passes compared to the fighter and then shoved off to let us at peace once again. About the time we were enjoying the pleasant ride once again we could hear an engine screaming up in the sun and we couldn't see what was making the sound. Then another Spitfire pulled out of the sun and out of its dive on us, came across the very top of water straight at us, and then at the last split second, pulled up and over us with but a few feet to spare between him and the top of the boats antenna mast. He put on quite a show for us before flying on his way.
Just as we could make out Rabat and had again forgotten all the air attacks, out of the water, so it seemed, came our own home based SNJ making a low level pass at us and then falling off into a series of barrel rolls too. He climbed to get some altitude and rolled over to make a dive on us and Mr. Phelps violently zigzagged the boat trying to out maneuver him. All of us made the good guess that the Base Pilots knew exactly where Mr. Phelps was to be that day and the word went out along the Coast line to give him some fun, including the French and the British Spitfire that had rolled us on the way down in the SNB. I will always remember the big smile that was on Mr. Phelps's face all the time this was going on. As the Operations Officer at NAS Port Lyautey the American pilots are his responsibility and they all must answer up to him. You have to know from this that even the top Officers on our Base love, respect, and trust him just like me.
We came to the Jetties that protect the River entrance to Port Lyautey and it was nice to enter the flat water once again, there IS a DIFFERENCE between a "calm" Ocean and "flat" water! in a Crash Boat running wide open. I tried to imagine how it was during the Invasion by the U.S. forces while we were coming down that river. We passed a couple of sunken ships that had been scuttled by the Vichy French to try and prevent American Destroyers from entering. They have been dragged and moved from the shipping lane but are still a reminder of how it was on that day. As you enter the river from the Ocean you think that there is not any thing here to fight about, until you come around that big "Hill" where we live and you can see the huge Hangar and air field looming along the river bed with lines of military air craft across the empty, grassed fields. With the image of the "attacks" from the friendly planes on the day's trip I could imagine the fight that was necessary to prevent the enemy from using the Base to attack our planes, ships, and landing forces. It was quite a day in North Africa!
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 7th, TUESDAY
I listened to the final World Series game yesterday while I was working. I am sorry that the Brooklyn Dodgers lost, I expected it to be that way, but I had wished for different results.
After the game I watched a poker game until lights out. It was really a good game and one fellow, one of my pals, Fletcher, really kept us all laughing, he is a natural at that. (His nick name is "Sweetie". Willie put that on him after he put on some lipstick one night in the Barracks and cut up a bit in his shorts for some laughs!) He was losing his money fast but was still the only one with a sense of humor during the game.
PostScript After every pay day there would always be a number of different poker games, BIG stake poker games, a play to your broke kind of game. It was serious business and not for the faint of heart because there were very few winners and many sad faces the next day or so. (These card games were not really permitted so a certain amount of caution had to be taken and the different playing sites had to be chosen discreetly so as not to draw any Officer's attention, or at least not to put them on the spot to blow a whistle). As a game would break up in one area, the winners would gather at another, and that would continue until there was that one BIG last table game filled with the big and most lucky gamblers of the month. I had been chosen by the likes of Silvers and Willie to collect money from them on their lucky nights as the games progressed, making me promise that I would not advance them any money beyond a break even point, no matter how they begged or threatened me. It had to be that way so that they would at least have spending money until the next payday. There were times that it got quite heated between us when they hit a losing streak after giving me that "break even" money and wanted cash to continue. I trusted that they would not punch me out as I took my responsibility very seriously. They always thanked me the next day and each time they left for Liberty with cash in their pockets after a loosing effort, and they always passed money on to me the next night of the great poker games.)
I went to Rabat over the week end and I met a fellow that had been on duty with the Army here and had come back from Germany for a leave. He took me out to another beautiful park that I had not been to, with many paths, flowers, bushes, and vines.
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 7th, TUESDAY, Con't
We took in a French movie to catch our breath, the star of the film is the Bing Crosby of France. Only his personality, because he sounds more like Louis Prima to me. His name is Tino Rossi and by chance the song I liked best by him was "Angelina".
I took the train back to the Base and met Beneke on it. We had a compartment all to ourselves so we laid back and sang all the way to Lyautey and then took our favorite ride back to the Base in a Horse Taxi.
I had a busy time taking pictures at the Base these past days. I flew in the SNJ Friday and took aerial shots of our Radio Range, the Receiver and Transmitter Stations. Then yesterday we had quite a fire and I took pictures of that. It is getting so that I can hardly get to my own stuff!
From the news we hear from the States we understand that you are starving at home! The Chow here the last months has really been terrible, the only good meals I get is when I go ashore. The truth we had been served by the Army Air Force cooks and kitchen. We ate like Kings because all the Pilots ate at the same Chow Hall as we enlisted men. Now that they are out of here we are back to the Navy style of cooking and serving. That means that there are separate Chow Halls, a Servicemen's Mess and an Officer's Mess, and it just isn't like it use to be for us white hats. They do not put out the amount of chow we use to have either, they have really cut down and you are lucky if there is any chance to get seconds after you have gone through the line once. Remember you don't serve your self here, you walk down the line and the mess cooks put what they are told to dump on your tray, and no more than that. The only choice you have is to refuse anything that you don't want. I had started to finally gain some weight, but then it seems our chow is giving everyone the diarrhea, and I have it so often I am having a hard time keeping the weight I've got! The word out is that Sick Bay says they are running out of medicine. We are picking up something and they don't seem to know where or what from. I have to give up French ice cream from every place except the one pastry shop in Rabat, because the milk in most places is not pasteurized at all, or not to Navy health recommendations. We have to pass up all pastries that have fresh creams, anything that hasn't been baked. So it goes in Africa.
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 8th, WEDNESDAY
I am listening to the Bing Crosby program and Margaret O'Brien is his guest. This new radio is really a break! Mail is going out tonight, it is a surprise to me, so this has to be short. I did a lot of picture printing today, I will have some to send home. I have been finishing up prints of the fire drill of last week. It was a bit exciting. During the drill a gasoline drum exploded and the concussion was enough to send me for a loop. It was the first time that I took off without a plane under me. I hurt like heck, but the pictures were too good to miss, so I kept to my feet until it was over. The camera remained in pretty good shape and only a few pictures were spoiled. I had no burns, x-rays were taken against my will, but all is well, only bruised up. That happened last week but I didn't want to say anything until I knew for sure that I was 4.0.
The weather remains good, although you know it is getting cooler, more morning rain now, but the sun is always shinning by noon. 100% better than Pensacola weather at the same time of the year. Mornings are getting quite cool, and the evenings, after the sun goes down, aren't too comfortable with out a covering of some kind. Because of that I am anxious for my P-Coat to come back from the cleaners, and I am glad that I have the rain coat for the night time until then.
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 10th FRIDAY
Today a plane loaded with Captains came aboard and I was shooting the breeze with the crewmen of the plane. They gave me a WHOLE PINT OF FRESH State side milk!!! Seal test no less. Gosh darn but it was GOOD! I never knew how good milk was, but NOW I DO! That was the first, pure milk in 3 months.
I am at the Lab where I have been listening to the Radio and BBC from England. A program called 20 questions has been very interesting, it would be a good game to play back home.
This morning a R5D plane came in loaded with "Big Wheels" from the States. It is the largest Air liner in Naval service. I was to take pictures of the Captain greeting the Officers coming off the plane but I got an idea that it would be fun to be one of the White Hats that line the receiving way from the plane so I could get into the picture myself. I asked one of the guys assigned for that to trade his place with me and then had Ike take the pictures. I'll send you the picture so that you can see how it worked out, and to know that I am now in an Official Navy photo besides just shooting them.
After this was all over I took the movie camera and shot up 200 feet of film on the Air Field, 100 of it on the R5D, 50 on the PB4Y2's, we have three of those big babies stationed here, and then the last 50 feet on what we call the PD's, the fastest little plane on this side of the Ocean. I haven't had a ride in it as yet, it can make Casablanca in 20 minutes for the 120 mile run.
I mentioned the French singer I liked in that French movie, Tino Rusi, that's how it is pronounced, it is spelled Tonio Rusio. When I was in Rabat yesterday I went to a record shop and bought three of his records. My favorite is "Angelina". I will write the other names down later and maybe you can find them in the States. Although these are French records they are made by Columbia Records, I do think they are worth having. I will make sure that I mail these home before I leave here.
PostScript I did, and there are more of the 78 disks in my collection from Morocco, including Arabic music and songs.)
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 11th, SATURDAY
We don't know what the heck is going on at our Base, it is loaded with big time Officers, American and French-----something must be in the wind. It is starting to look like Pensacola, more Officers than White Hats.
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 12th, SUNDAY
It was a busy picture day for Ike and me with all the "Gold Braid" on board here at the base. (Nick name for the Officers because of that particular "gold braid" decorating their uniforms and hats). We also found the time to finish our camera inventory, we typed up all of the serial numbers and listed the ones that must go back to the States for repair. I will take it all to the Photographic Officer Monday morning and get him to push it for us, Ike is too timid, and besides he will be leaving soon and could care less.
Because of the diarrhea problem still going on here we are on what seems to be a starvation diet at the Chow Hall. I don't want to go ashore until Wed. and I hope that I can last that long! I'll have a big dinner in Rabat so that it will hold me over to the next week end.
I listened to the Army-Illini football game today, enjoyed some Pepsi and sandwiches for a late snack here in the Lab. It was a great game, I was really into it, and going into the first part of the third quarter the AFN announcer breaks in and gives the same old bad news---"Because of atmospheric conditions over the Atlantic Ocean the rest of the game can not be broadcasted". No need to say I was very upset. It is like getting thrown out of the park! I think that I swore at the radio for 10 minutes before I cooled off. It didn't help, except that I did hear the final score after the game was over this time, which was a relief. The last time it happened I waited a week before I saw the results in a paper you mailed to me.
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 15th, WEDNESDAY
Our Chow is still no better and it seems the portions are growing even smaller. They talk about Europe starving, well so is NAS 214 Lyautey! BUT NOT TO NIGHT! I will have a big dinner in town, there is no indication of a shortage of food in there. I will have to check and see what their situation really is.
PostScript Dolores and I can not recall what the story was on the mention of the seemingly concern for the lack of food supplies Jerry has been referring to in the letters. It is one of those things that will have to be researched in time. A small bit of trivia that is not really relative to the story, I just noticed at this typing a coincidence that the Navy designation of the Base was NAS "214" and I would come home to an eventual Zip Code of 53214. Dolores and I were surprised to see on the envelopes Jerry had sent home the Zip marking of "14" is already being used. When the 53214 came into play is another future research project! I will carry that one further, my car license plate number is 623, the same as my Barracks number in Pensacola.)
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 15th, WEDNESDAY Con't
Did I tell you that we have a whistle here on the Base that blows every day at noon? Well it did, and I am about to take off for Chow and check to see what they are going to feed us today. I will go for a haircut after that. I have my stuff back from the Tailor, so after I shower, shave, and shine my shoes I will be ready to catch the 5:45 train which will get into Rabat about 6:20.
PostScript Have you wondered, like I have in 1994, how long of a train ride it was to Rabat? I knew the mileage was about 35 miles, but because it was only accessible comfortably by train my memory had it more like a ride to Chicago. It forces me to search my memory more and I recall that the train schedule was not convenient to our Liberty times and many times we would just miss a train by minutes and have a one, two hour or more wait for the next one. Evidently and within my memory bank of those days, I have figured that "wait time" into the total length of the "ride time" between the two cities.)
The gang and I will come back together on the 11:45 P.M. train, that way there is always one of us awake to get us off at Port Lyautey. The train people wouldn't care if went all the way to Tangiers. It is too bad that Port Lyautey is not the Liberty town that Rabat is, we could have it so much easier. I can't think of a small enough town that I could compare Lyautey to, except that it isn't big enough to have a movie theater! There are but a couple of blocks with only a few shops of interest. Rabat, you will remember, is French Morocco's Capital City, it's their Washington D.C.----so that makes the difference!
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 16th, THURSDAY
I have received your mail to the 12th of October now! Why? It won't take mail too long to get here if some of the things work out that were discussed by the Officers that have been gathering here lately. NATS---The Naval Air Transport Service---is planning to bypass the delay of Fleet Mail that until now has to go by way of London. Can you imagine that I have a letter of yours right here in my hands that you wrote just four days ago?
When I got back to the Base last night I heard that an ETM Radar boy got off the Mail Plane, and I got very excited hoping that it was my Boot Camp buddy, Moen. I checked at Personal first thing this morning and the guy hadn't checked in as yet. I had my hopes up all morning, but then I found out around noon that it wasn't him. I did have high hopes ever since you said he was coming "somewhere to a land Base in the East" and maybe Africa. This is the only permanent Navy Base in Africa that I know of. We were expecting about 24 more ETM boys to take the place of the CCA fellows that are pulling out for the States, some more of what is going on around here. So I still have hope. Moen could have been assigned to the "African Theater" which means he could be sent anywhere in the Fleet through out the Mediterranean area.
PostScript The CCA was the Civilian Communication Air-Control if I remember correctly. Remember that "what is going on around here" is that the United States is slowly preparing for an upcoming return of the main operation of the Air Base to the French.)
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 17th, FRIDAY--- I finally got my own phonograph, and it really works out great. I never had one before and it is kind of nice to play what you want when you want. It works through my radio and uses that speaker. The most popular record and song here is "Le Mer" sung by Tino Rossi. I sent the record number to the Folks, ask them for it and see if you can get a hold of it in the States---it sure would be a hit if it ever made it back home.
PostScript That would be a very good and prophetic guess, I would have never guessed how great this song would become. We know it here in the U.S. as "Some Where Beyond The Sea" and it became an American standard that is still played today. It made its U.S. debut being sung and recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.)
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 26th, SUNDAY
I changed my mind about going to Rabat yesterday and I went out to the Radio Range after the Captains Inspection for a ride with some of the fellows.
PostScript The "Radio Range" was the main transmitting center for our Base. It was located away from the Main Base and where they had a clear shot to the Ocean. It was a set of buildings with Communication equipment. In the open fields around them, there was a maze of towers. It was the nerve center and the direct link for our Naval Air Station to the U.S. and the Mediterranean area. It was also the signal sending center that lead all of our planes when they came back from their flights and others flying to the Base.)
To get to the Range you have to drive through Port Lyautey and its Medina, so I took some movies there on our way. It was an Arab Holiday, I was told it was like our Christmas. I shot films of some Medina shack like homes and Arab families. In a room inside one home, which I would have considered to be the living room, they were skinning a sheep, all of its blood was running on to the floor. At the well outside, where they draw their drinking water, they were cleaning the brains out of the sheep head. Kind of appetizing don't you think? It was our understanding that this was a sacrificed sheep for the holiday.
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 27th, MONDAY
It rained last night, not that I saw it, but everything was wet and fresh out side this morning. It is strange to be in a place that rain becomes something special. It looked like it would clear up, now it looks like it is really autumn like weather that is finally coming in, gray skies for the first time since I've been here. What trees I do see around here, and there aren't too many, they still have their green color.
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 28th, TUESDAY
Another lunch hour. Last night I had the fellows over and we had a good time. I had the ice box filled with Pepsi, and as I expected, they spent a lot of time looking through the albums and talking about the places they had seen in the pictures and the memories they brought back. We went to the Movie Hut and I projected my movies and everyone liked them, too. We broke up, reasonably, around 11 o'clock at the Lab. It was a different evening, the fellows realized they could get along pretty good on just Pepsi, and it was a change in the monotony around here.
Letter to Dolores OCTOBER 30th, THURSDAY
Yesterday Kurrie and I had to figure out how to take pictures of the Admiral coming aboard, and a wedding plus the reception. The wedding was in Rabat, the reception in Lyautey. What we did was I went to Rabat in the afternoon with a case full of flash bulbs and film enough to take pictures of both the wedding and reception. After the wedding I gave the camera case to a Chief who was at the wedding, and he took it to give to Kurrie who was in Lyautey to shoot the reception. Kurrie had shot the Admirals arrival while he was on the Base and then that group drove to a party at the Balima Hotel in Rabat. Kurrie had fresh packed a camera case for me that was sent up in one of the official cars bringing the Captain, Admiral, and their party. I was in Rabat to pick up the gear and cover that end. It really worked out slick---don't you think? All of the pictures came out great.
PostScript I am surprised to see a few things that are not mentioned in these letters. One is that as hard as we did clean and scrub our Photo Lab ourselves, we had an older civilian Arab that worked for the Navy as a sort of a janitor in the Hangar area. He was a good old guy and very friendly, but he never did more than he was compelled to do. It was a very frustrating to keep him on the ball. Because he would begin his cleaning down on the first level where more Officers would be, by the time he got up to the Lab he felt that he was about through for the day. We would have to really raise hell with him to get the daily sweeping done and the trash barrels emptied. I always told him that I liked his hand made "skull cap", the typical one that all the native Arabs wore. One day he came to me with a big friendly smile on his face and gave me one in a manner that I knew it was a special gift from the heart. It was not a new one, it was not perfect in the hand weaving, but I considered it a treasure and I still have it among my collection of souvenirs.
Another thing is that we did have a bathroom on the second floor of the Hangar where our Lab was. But there were times that it was being used and then we would have to go down to the first floor and use the one there. The first time I went to it I walked into the stall and thought---"oh my God!!!--someone stole the toilet!" On a second look I could see that it looked like a shower floor and just as I was going to turn and leave, I saw that there were two raised marks in the floor that looked like foot prints on each side of an open hole in the floor. There was a flush tank above with a chain coming down to within reach so that it could be pulled to flush the entire floor beneath he foot prints into the large hole. I would discover that I would find this type of toilet in many places of my travels throughout the Mediterranean Area. I stepped on to the foot prints, lowered my pants and did my duty. Then I quickly learned something else. Before I stepped off the foot prints and back to the main floor I pulled the chain with one hand as I stood up and pulled my pants up with the other. The rush of the water was quickly coming up to the level of the soles of my shoes, they were below the level of the main floor! I really had to do some fancy foot work to leap to that main floor and higher ground. I can still remember the silly smiles on the faces of Kurrie and Lyles when I came back to the Lab, I don't remember how many days that they had patiently waited for the moment that they could send me down to that first floor toilet. I learned that this was always looked forward to, to send the new State side Swaubee to that first floor toilet, the reaction was always the same. I will tell you one thing, Company's in the U.S. would be smart to install them, there is no way you could read a paper in that toilet, and there was only so long that you could hold that squatting position! Not even long enough to read more than the comic page. Was this a part of days long gone? In 1990 when Dolores and I were in France we were visiting a famous village on the Ocean, San Malo, with daughter Jane, her Tom and our grand daughter Melissa. I went to the toilet at the beach and guess what I thought as I walked into it? Yes, I thought someone had stolen the toilet, that is until I saw those two raised foot prints straddling the hole in the center and a chain hanging down from a water tank above. I remembered NAS Port Lyautey right away.)
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 3rd, 1947, MONDAY
I did go to Rabat for Liberty Saturday and I stayed at the Royal Hotel over night. In the afternoon I walked the Medina and the Atlantic beach, in the evening I saw Danny Kaye in the "Wonderman". The movie was as enjoyable as it was the first time I saw it. The speaking parts were in French, but all the singing was in their regular voices and, of course, in English. The French person that did the speaking parts for Danny had a voice almost like his, and that helped make the movie pretty good. Vera Ellen's singing was in her own voice too. The French voices, used in place of the American actor's voices that I have seen here already, really take away from the movie. There is nothing stranger than to see Clark Gable on the screen and hear a higher French voice coming out of his mouth! You wouldn't think that would make a difference but it does.
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 5th, WEDNESDAY
Yesterday, I took pictures of the "Riggers" testing parachutes, and the pilots practicing "air drops". I drove out to a bit of a hill on the Base with the Riggers just off the main field, and we laid out a big, white cloth X. The plane would make passes above and over the cross, dump out a chute connected to a large case, and see how close they could get it to land near it. I got some very good shots using a red filter, which darkens the sky in the pictures, making some very pretty black and white prints.
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 11th, MONDAY
I went to the Welfare and Recreation Department to pick up a bunch of "Suspense" program records, also "Mystery Theater" records. I slept in the Lab, set my alarm clock and set it for 3 A.M. I listened to programs until about 1 A.M. and then slept until the alarm rang.
PostScript The records were called "Victory Disks". They were the first of the 33 1/3 records and, if my memory serves me correctly, held 2 1/2 hours of music and programming. It was for the Armed Forces only and not for sale. Radio was the form of entertainment and these records held all the favorites. They were recorded live performances and a real favorite to the overseas servicemen.)
I packed a Speed Graphic and my camera and took them along. We went in the truck we call the "10 wheeler", that is the number of wheels on that truck. It has an open cab and it was fun riding in it. It was dark as heck and there was quite a haze when we started off. We rode through Rabat before things started to clear up, and then on through Casablanca where the sun was shinning. On the way we stopped to break up the trip by doing a little target shooting with our 45 automatic pistols. I took some pictures too. We got to the docks early and went to the Post Office. We found out that we had to go to a ship that still had our mail aboard. Once there we shot the breeze with some of the crew while we waited for the mail to be loaded on our truck. When that was done we had to make a stop at the American Counsel's Building to leave their mail off, and then to the Casablanca airport to deliver the Army Transport Officers mail, and we had a nice visit with some of the officers before we took off. From there we drove around Casa and then went for chow at a restaurant.
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 13th, FRIDAY
Wouldn't you know that on Monday I was wise enough to pass up Liberty, but again, last night I had a chance for a ride to Rabat and I said why not. I figured that I would ride back with the Shore Patrol like I did the last time, I thought that had been a pretty slick deal. Well----it was an experience that I hope won't ever happen again. I got to the Shore Patrol Office at exactly 5 minutes before midnight, only to learn that the S.P had taken off 5 minutes before that, not waiting out his full watch!! Earlier I had been with some of the guys that had taken the 11:45 P.M. train, the last of the night, but as I kind of liked the fun ride in the Jeep, AND it because it was FREE---I decided on that, passed on the train and walked to the S.P. Office. But now I had NO transportation!! I had to be on the Base by morning for Muster and I didn't know what to do. It was dark and foggy, and a bit chilly. I figured that I could pick up a ride on the road to Lyautey, and because it is only 35 miles I thought that it would work out. I walked from Rabat across the valley on the road to Sale' where I knew civilian trucks have to check in. (I had learned that from being on the Mail Truck.) It was a good three to four mile hike, and not a single vehicle came by and I started to really worry. I made it to the truck's "check in shack" at Sale' and began my wait. It was right outside the main entrance in the high wall into the city and every once in awhile an Arab would be walking in or out and give me what seemed to be an evil look, like what the heck are you doing here sailor? It made me aware that I did not have my Rabat Medina friends watching out for me.
It wasn't until 3:30 A.M. that a truck came up the hill from Rabat, I watched his lights get closer, and I forgot that there wasn't anyone in the shack to cause any trucker to stop! The trucker slowed, but went buzzing right by when he saw no attendant, and I began yelling all the French I knew and began running down the road after him. Thank God he stopped the truck to check on me, and invited me aboard. It was a rough but a very much appreciated ride. Of course he didn't speak English, so I didn't find out what he was hauling or where he was going. He let me know what I had worried about the three hours I had prayed while waiting for a ride, that I had taken a dangerous chance to be out on the road alone and that late, especially at the gates of Sale'. He made a motion with his finger across his throat, and I nodded my head in agreement, knowing what could have happened to the throat of this dumb sailor! He left me off in Lyautey, and of course there were no taxis running, so I had to walk the lonely 3 miles to the Base Gate. When I finally got to the Base I was one tired son-of-a-gun!! But it WAS FREE! I am telling you, NO more looking for free rides with the S.P.'s, NO more hitch hiking in Africa---I will remember that particular hitch hiking adventure for the rest of my life!
No new movies in last week, so they had last weeks "Blue Skies", I think that I have seen that so many times now that I can sing like Bing Crosby and dance like Fred Astaire! When a new movie does come in it will more than likely be one that I have seen, that's the breaks.
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 18th, TUESDAY
I guess I will have the duty on Thanksgiving, that means I will have to be busy around here on the Base. We have been eating a little better lately. We are in a different Chow Hall, now that the Army is out of here, and perhaps that has made a difference. They tell us that we are still on reduced rations to save food for Europe, but we can't understand that. I guess that we must set some sort of an example because of being on foreign land. I know that there are complaints here by the civilian population that they are having difficulty getting dairy products, eggs, and even chocolate, so there must be something to it all. I think we are still rationed just to control us guys from going out and dealing with the Black Market. Whatever, I think we can expect to have a pretty good chow for Thanksgiving Day. They say we may even have FRESH MILK flown in from the states on the NATS planes, MAN, would that ever be great!
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 19th, WEDNESDAY
The first B-29 in the history of our Base landed successfully today. They were not all that sure, that it would be a safe landing, so all the crash crews, the Fire Department, and even I, the photographer, was alerted. I shot stills and movies of the whole thing.
The plane was overhead at 6:30 in the morning, and at first we thought that the reason she wasn't coming down was because of the morning fog, which we did not think could have been that much of a problem for landing visibility. We soon learned that they were instructed to stay in the air to use up all their fuel to lighten the plane, and we reasoned that they must be worried the runway might not hold up under the 29's weight.
PostScript I recall what my friend, Bill Moore from St. Peter's Church, West Allis has offered from his experience as an airline pilot. He explained what was, perhaps, the real reason it was decided to reduce the weight of the plane. Because of the shortness of the NAS Lyautey's runways, the lighter the plane, the less runway the incoming B-29 needed for a safe landing. After this test landing, B-29's would land on schedule, but I am sure they were purposely loaded to the safe limit learned from this first trip.
The huge plane circled overhead for almost 3 1/2 hours, and what had been early excitement became very boring, and when it finally came in it was a safe and uneventful landing. All the boys aboard climbed off from her, and they too were really tired and bored.
I was able to get many good shots inside and outside the plane, I have ended up with a very nice set. I also took pictures of her landing and taking off. We won't have to go out to Milwaukee's Mitchell Field to watch planes take off and land when I get home, we will be able to sit in the living room, on the couch, and have it all there in front of us! The crew was all Army Air force, all nice guys and we all got along good together. I continue to meet a lot of nice people over here in North Africa.
PostScript I had an advantage in being able to be one of the very first to know the most exciting and news worthy thing that was going on at the Base, just as the Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel Photo Journalists do when news stories break in the big city. Nothing happened of any significance without him receiving a call to bring his camera and skills along. It made no difference whether it was an Official or everyday event. As I have mentioned before, photography was not the personal thing to the vast majority as it is today. It was rare to see anyone with a camera and a professional photographer was very important to record any kind of history. One thing that hasn't changed, everyone wanted to see, and to hold, a picture of that one great moment. In Morocco they learned to call the one guy they could depend on, the one that at a drop of a hat would come on the run with his camera to take pictures, and then get them back to them, or see them mounted and placed on the main bulletin board inside the Hangar. It made no difference if it was a 3 A.M. Mercy Plane flight, flying with the Captain to take pictures of a bull fight in Madrid Spain, a child's birthday party, a wedding, a water ski and surf board ride, late night accidents between drunken sailors and civilian vehicles, fire drills, parachute drops, even B-29's taking a chance to land in a space too small, they would go to Jerry. Many times his call came first, sometimes even before the Fire Chief was alerted. The safety crews were always the first to be called, but if the Chief was off duty or away from the fire house he had to be alerted and made aware of what was going on and where it was. I'll bet the Fire Chief at that time, and even today, wonders how Jerry. the photographer, was able to beat his heavy lead foot and Jeep to some of his fire calls, not realizing that I had been told first to grab the camera and come running! It was a grand and exciting situation for a 19 year old kid!).
I was all over the B-29, from the cockpit all the way back to the tail gun turret. Through the tunnels over the long, long bomb bays. The tunnels are lined with soft cushioned canvas and are just round enough that you must lay flat, you can't even flex your legs, you must reach ahead of you and take hold of hand straps to pull your self forward a couple of feet, than reach out for the next set of straps and pull yourself another couple of feet. You can not be fat and be a part of a 29 crew! You must continue to do this until you reach the planes cabin coming from the rear section, or if you are in the cabin you must return the same way to get to the rear of the bomb bays to get to where the gun turrets are located. The turrets are one to each side, one to the top, another to the bottom, as well as in the tip of the tail. Instead of bombs in the bomb bays on this 29, there were extra fuel tanks to hold as much fuel as possible.
PostScript This gives more reason why the plane had to spend extra hours in the air over Lyautey that morning, to reduce its extra weight of fuel. The flight had come in from the United States non-stop, and it is my guess, from my experience there, that the plane would have been fueled so they could have flown to another base had Port Lyautey been closed for any reason. Planes flying into Lyautey directly from the U.S. routinely landed at Bermuda and the Canary Islands when coming to Port Lyautey, never making the crossing in one hop. There is no doubt that this was a large scale experiment with the B-29. Realizing that the B-29 was able to circle for 3 1/2 hours over the base before landing tells me that they had enough fuel aboard to have flown to a number of other fields in Europe and Africa had it become necessary. The plan, and the goal of this B-29, was certainly to make sure that a plane of its size could land and take off safely at NAS Navy 214. It probably was the event that put plans into motion which would begin designing the bases that were soon to be built in the early 1950's for the up and coming Strategic Air Commands larger, long range bombers.)
It is the most beautiful plane in the air, and just as beautiful on the ground. I had thought nothing could compare to the B-17's stationed here. None of us have ever heard so much power as it warmed up and then took off. Can you imagine four huge engines, four blades each, a total of 16 blades beating the air?
Last night my best French Sailor friend, "Dayday", was over to the Lab and we had a nice evening together. He helped me with my French studying, and I helped him with his English. He is an officer, but a regular fellow. I took a couple of portraits of him and told him that he could pick the one he liked and that I would print some up so he could mail them home for Christmas.
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 23rd, SUNDAY
This phonograph of mine is really swell. I am able to play 15 inch records that have every popular program on them, and the records run for at least a half, to an hour a side. Right now I have Danny Kaye, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, programs of Suspense, Radio Theater, The Aldridge Family, The Lone Ranger, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Kate Smith, and a few more. Also available are musical programs and special request records like Mail Call, G. I. Jill, and others. It is pretty nice to listen to a program of your own choosing any time in the day, and if you miss the end of the program for any reason, you just go back to the record and pick it up from where you want.
I have "Peg Of My Heart" on one of the records, it is by the Harmonicats, and I feel lucky about that. I have a real collection of these records from the Red Cross Library, and I have been buying a lot of new ones in Rabat. I will have a nice collection by the time I head home.
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 25th, TUESDAY
Two days before we have that big turkey chow and, I hope, the last Thanksgiving day in the Navy. I had the chance to go out on Liberty last night, but the Rec Center isn't opened on Monday night, so I stayed aboard instead.
I had a chance to fly up to Gibraltar and visit the Carrier Midway, which has just got in from the states, but then I had to pass it up. I will try to get up there some time before she pulls out. It would be the largest Aircraft Carrier that I have been aboard.
We had a lot of Army Surplus clothing issued to us this morning. I received a "special" and great field jacket too, I will try to send it home when I leave here. I got a lot of socks, a pair of work shoes, and other army clothing. A swell sweater, I will have it dyed when I get out of here, that way it should make it nice for civilian use.
PostScript I may pick up on this in a later letter, but I want to mention that there is a good reason that Navy Personal were receiving this surprise issue of Army "fatigue clothing"----"work duty clothing". There were warehouses of that kind of gear left behind by the Army when they pulled out. Then, with the French Navy coming on to the Base, there became a problem of recognition on the Base during working hours. Both the French and the American's wore a blue working shirt and dungarees, and they looked pretty much the same. Only the hat was different and that was really the ONLY way you could tell them apart from a distance. With the plans underway for the Base returning to the French at the first of the year, the upper Officers had made the decision the American Sailor's would dress in Army fatigues, and allow the French to wear their traditional blues. It was O.K. with the U.S. Sailors because it was a free issue of clothing, and it was pretty good "stuff", even a change from the monotony of wearing work clothing meant something. This worked out so well that I would get into the habit of wearing an Army brown fatigue cap and jacket even after I was discharged, and it remains in me today. I still have the remains of one of those jackets, it is worn, torn, re-sewed and patched, and I can't bring myself to part with it. The original cap, which I styled with a large laundry pin stuck through the top of the cap just above the visor, became my trade mark in the Navy. When I became a civilian I would continue to use it as a fisherman for many years. It was while fishing one fateful day near the islands on Martha Lake in Mercer Wisconsin with Dolores' nephew, Butch, while we were close to the cottage of Ralph and Scarface Capone, I lost the treasured cap and pin to an unexpected burial at sea! A gust of wind came up, blew the cap from my head, and before I could get the boat to it, I saw it disappear, dragged to the bottom of the lake by the weight of that big pin! It broke my heart, and it still does when I think of that day. I can always bring that picture to my mind and I can see that old friend slowly sinking out of reach, and out of sight. I had always wore it in the Lab in Morocco while I worked, I would wear it in the photographic darkrooms of Milprint in Milwaukee where I began my trade as a Lithographer. Dolores was very kind and understanding of my grief. She tried to find a similar hat at an Army Surplus Store, but there was never one exactly the same, even if there had been one in its particular style, it still would have not the same. She shopped all over, and we have looked even to this day, for the same styled laundry pin, but we never have. In away it was O.K. that the hat and pin went to the bottom of Martha Lake. It was the Lake I learned to do my first real casting for fish, and Musky in particular. Dolores and I would spend our Honeymoon there, and we would take daughter Judy, and then Jane there for summer vacations. I feel that some where in the muck near the Capones cottagee, the hat may be long gone, but I bet there is still a piece of that pin down there putting my mark on all the good times and memories the lake holds for me and the family. Many of my friends, perhaps all, thought it was strange that I, a proud Navy man, would embrace Army Fatigues. They never knew or understood that it was the special mark of the U.S. Sailors of Navy 214 Port Lyautey after November 25th, 1947, and would last until the day the Navy would leave the Base for good in the mid-1970's.
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 26th, WEDNESDAY
I will begin a "little trip" starting Friday. A lot of it will be on my own leave time, so I will be able to tell you a quite a bit about it when I return. If you hunt up a map of the Mediterranean area you will be able to follow our flight. It is what we call our "mail run". We will leave in a two motor plane called a R2D by the Navy, and a C-47 by the Army. At 0400 Friday we take off for Bone Algeria. It is a coastal city East of Algiers by about 300 miles. We will be met at the airport by a Helicopter from the Aircraft Carrier Midway. We will take on their mail heading back to the states and we will leave a bag full for the crew that has arrived from the States. We leave the same day for a flight across the Mediterranean, Northeast and over the Island of Sadinia, and on to Rome. We will deliver mail to the Military Attaché, stay over night at a Hotel, and have a small amount of time to visit the city. From there we will fly North, across Italy to Trieste to deliver Fleet Mail to ships at that port, and then back down and across the Adriatic Sea to Naples. There we will deliver more Fleet Mail and have an over nighter at a Hotel, with some time for sight seeing. The next day we will fly over the "heel" of Italy's "boot", across the Ionian Sea, and into Athens Greece. Again, we will deliver Fleet Mail to the Military Attaché, have a night in a hotel with a bit of time for sight seeing, and leave the next morning. We will fly back across the Mediterranean Sea to Malta where we will spend two days aboard the carrier Midway, which will have sailed from Bone, where we had made our first stop. After that it will be a stop at Algiers, and from there we fly back to the Base.
We will put on a total of at least 4,500 miles and be out about a week. It will be a nice break away. I have been on other flights, but not for as much time away, and not with the chance for so many hotel over nighters. We must pay for our own hotel and meal expenses when we are away from the plane.
Letter to Dolores NOVEMBER 27th, THURSDAY
Thanksgiving Day 1947. I have been writing letters to a few steady writers to let them know I will not be able to write for awhile, and that I will have some new things to write about when I come back.
Everything is set, but today we have a 50 knot wind coming in off the desert interior of Africa. We are being sand blasted by the desert sand, the sky is clouded by it, and there is a red hue, the same color of the sand we find growing on the ground, being blown through the cracks in windows and under doors. It bites at your skin, you must shield your eyes, and you can almost lay at a 30 degree angle to the ground, into the wind, and not fall over. It will have to stop if we are to fly out of here.
I am packed and ready. I hope that all goes well. I plan to get you your Christmas presents while I am in Italy and Greece.
We had a big meal today, a nice Turkey dinner. We even received two packs of cigarettes, and two cigars. It was a good meal for this base, but not when compared to the one we had in Pensacola.
I went to the movie last night to have a bit of recreation, and just to relax. What happens??? The last transmitter bulb for the projector burns out!
Letter to Dolores DECEMBER 4th, THURSDAY
I am back from the trip, I will write about it in another letter. I am waiting on a new batch of developer to cool off. Everything went good on the trip, and I had a nice time. I was so happy that I was able to telephone you while I was in Rome. That was the most exciting thing about the entire flight. It was on my mind that this would be the first Birthday, Christmas, and New Years that I would miss saying person to person "happy" greeting to you. When I got to Rome and found out that they had an International Telephone center, I JUST had to do it!
It was so nice to hear your voice, it was a new kind of a thrill for me. I had to place the call 8 hours before I wanted to make the connection, and I picked a time I thought would be the best for you. I was up at three in the morning when I called, so you should thank me for that! I was also living in a different day than you, it was 8 o'clock Friday evening by you, and it was 3 o'clock Saturday morning in Rome.
I want to get a copy shot of a map so that I can trace the trip for you. We got back last night, and this morning I am developing film from it, unfortunately, most of it is Official.
I had a package of newspapers waiting for me when I got back, and they tell me the Mail Plane is in, so maybe there will be a few letters.
I missed a little excitement while I was gone, a cyclone hit this place and did a lot of damage. Everything has been pretty well cleaned up from that already.
Letter to Dolores DECEMBER 20th, SATURDAY
Believe it or not it is getting quite cold around here. We have been moved out of those pretty white buildings at the top of the Hill, the "French Barracks", and they have become just that, and we are now sleeping in what I kind of think is great, a "Quonset Hut"! I will not sleep at the Lab again until I get a stove put in, which I have ordered. I hope to have it put in by Monday. It is coming by a bit of big dealing with the "Sea Bee" Department.
PostScript My Cousin, Bob Goergen, was a Sea Bee in World War II, and in the Pacific. It was there that he learned to operate heavy equipment, the skills that would take him to Morocco in the early 1950's to help build the new air bases for the Strategic Air Command. There was a Sea Bee unit that remained the "carpenter and physical" maintenance group at Port Lyautey while I was there in 1947.
This new move to the Quonset hut's was not a "step up" in accommodations by any means, but fit nicely with the "camper" instincts of young Jerry, and it was these Quonset hut's that were still fresh in Jerry's romantic memory of what the life of the overseas wartime serviceman was really like. (Any fan of "MASH" will have a good idea what life in a Quonset hut village is all about.) The low roofed, curved ceiling was more intimate for sleeping than the very high ceiling ones in the all concrete building of the French building. They must have been designed by someone in France thinking more about African tropical heat, and therefore was not to well set up for the months of December, January, and February in NORTH Africa. They were not heated very well, nor did they hold the heat, and a shower experience there could be very frigid. It had been home for the last 6 months, but Jerry found no problem being moved from the buildings the French considered important to their regaining dignity and control of the Air Base. There was one part of the move that Jerry,(and I would think NONE of the Sailors), did not appreciate at all, it was the HEAD! It was built in a second Quonset hut that was attached to the sleeping unit just off of to the far end from the main entrance. On one wall, running half the length of the building, was a single trough of metal, and this served as the urinal. (You WANT to be at the top of the high end, and not at the low end where the yellow river runs the deepest during "rush" hours!) To the other side was an even more interesting design, one that I am glad Kohler has never thought to add to their nostalgia line of bathroom ware! There was a long, wooden planked bench, which had 8 to 10 toilet seats cut in to it, side by side, no dividers, no covers. It was about a foot to a foot and a half above another metal trough, which had water constantly flowing from the high end on one side to the low side on the other, where it disappeared out of the building and into the drainage system. The continual flow of water was to flush all the waste down the line and out of the building. There WAS some advantage to having one of the first or second seats on the HIGH end of the trough when there was a "full house" sitting and do doing "their duty", for the same reason it was smart to be at the high end of the urinal. It could be a bit threatening to be sitting at that 9th or 10th seat on the low end. To add to that excitement, never a day passed that someone would not fall to temptation. They would stand at the high end and bundle up a ball of toilet paper, ignite it, and let it float down the line beneath the toilet seats. This would cause everyone, sitting over the open holes above the trough, to raise up and let that flaming ball of toilet paper make its way across to the low end, before disappearing out and down the drain at the far end. In the beginning of this new experience you always had the hope that it would not happen again, that everyone would tire from this, but it never did. At first there was always a lot of loud complaining, but after days of that, those "sitting" would simply lift up, and if they were reading never even take their eyes off the print, and settle back down after their butt told them, by temperature change below, that the danger had passed. Then everyone would sit back down as if that was exactly how the system was designed to work. It was an interesting sight to watch, as first one, then a second one would rise, etc. As I think back, I believe this is where the wave must have got its start!
There were about a couple of a dozen of us to a unit, and by living within the confined area of the Quonset hut I believe we all became closer, more like family, than we had in the larger French Barracks. It must have been the Sailor instinct in us, I think it takes a special person to function so well in small confines, such as living aboard a ship, and this was our ship and I can remember no complaints.)
Letter to Dolores DECEMBER 22nd, MONDAY
I am up and in the Lab before Muster. I had a wonderful dream last night, I dreamt I lost my wallet! How could that be good? Well, this morning I started looking for my wallet right away, I reached into the pocket of a jacket I hadn't worn for awhile, and I found four and a half dollars, and a three dollar "chit book" that I had forgot I had. I was going to go back and dream some more, but I thought that I had better make Muster!
PostScript I have missed this "chit book" entry in the last re-writes. The Oasis, and then a Canteen that was open on the West side of the Hangar below the Lab, was operated by the Sailors purchasing a book of coupons that we used to pay for our items. It was never said, but I realize now, that it was a way to remove any temptation to take American cash by the civilian help, and selling it on the Black Market. At a 3 to 6 time return on the dollar, which would be understandable. These money coupons were in that book that Jerry has happily found, and they were called "chits", not coupons.
Letter to Dolores DECEMBER 29th, MONDAY
I like the new ruling that permits us to wear my civvies over here. One nice thing is that the "locals" don't step aside from you, or ignore you like they do when you are in uniform. When I am in civvies I even find French people smiling at me when I am walking the streets, some will even give a "bon jour"--("good day") now and then, thinking that I am just one of the locals, not realizing that I am an American Sailor. I didn't realize how different the sailor was treated before, but I guess I understand that. The uniform reminds them of war and our invasion, that we have kind of taken over from them, it marks us as foreigners, and the reputation of the sailors drinking and romancing doesn't help our "on the street" image at all. Since I figured out there was a difference I have not worn my uniform very often.
Letter to Dolores JANUARY 1st, FRIDAY 1948
I took pictures all morning of the Ceremony of the French getting their Base back, and now I have just an hour before I take off with the Captain's Party for Tangier. I will take pictures of the Army Captains Wedding, he is the Military Attaché' up there. I don't really care to go, but I have nothing to say about it.
PostScript The wedding was a very small and private affair, only a few Officers, and a few of their wives attended. The Officer that was married, I guess, was in his early 50's, as was the bride. She wore a brown suit dress and a large brimmed hat. I sensed that it was the second marriage for both, and she was a "state side". I have some of the pictures I took of the wedding in my photo album collection. The favorite of mine is a shot of my white hat in the center of all the major Officers hats, including my Captain's. I was the only white hat along, and I was left in a small reception room between the kitchen quarters and the large room where the wedding dinner took place. The Officers had left all of their hats in the room where I was. I stayed in that room until the party was over, except to leave when called to take pictures. The servants made certain that I ate very well, and drank very well, they made a stop by me coming and going to the room where the officers and ladies were with beautiful filled trays. All in all it was a restful New Year's Day. It did get a bit boring towards the end waiting for the time to pass so we could return to the plane and fly back to the base. We finally did that later in the evening. Native Filipino boys, Navy Personal, were the servants, and it was at the kind direction of the groom that I was taken care of as good as I was. If I recall, the Admiral that had been in the ceremony to give the Base back to the French was in our group, and I believe the Captain was the best man. Some day I will have to have some one identify that group of Navy hats in that favorite picture. The use of native Filipino's for serving of Naval Officers was a most common thing wherever I was in the Navy.
The base return ceremony wasn't long, or very impressive to me, all rather routine, I really expected more. I did get a good set of pictures, and I will pull extra prints to mail home. We could tell the French were happy about it, they must feel that the war is finally over, but I suggest that they keep one eye on the Arabs here, and on Russia up North! Sometimes I feel that the French military considers the U.S. more their enemy than friend.
Letter to Dolores JANUARY 5th, Tuesday
3 days to pay day. The first full week of 1948 is over. I have turned over to counting days instead of months, time is coming near for that big day when my enlistment is over. Once I am discharged I am hoping that I can make it on the "outside". All I really hope for is that I can get a good paying job until I can get my own business going.
PostScript All was not a bed of roses on the "outside" in 1948---- it was a time that a lot of early discharged servicemen had either graduated from college, or the addition to the work pool by servicemen recently discharged because of the down sizing of the armed services was flooding the job market. Add recent high school graduates to that, and realize they were no longer wanted by the armed forces in the numbers they had before, nor were the young people as interested to voluntarily join the service any more. Jobs were not all that available for the first time since the War days began back in the late 1930s and early 1940s. What was called the "post war boom" was leveling off, and leveling off fast. Jerry and his "mates" were seeing a lot of servicemen, ones who had taken discharges, begin to re-enlist in larger numbers. Many were coming back in, and some of those were showing up and telling the sailors in Morocco tales of how difficult it was to find good and steady work on the "outside", especially ones with good pay. They felt like they were finding the "leftovers", what the earlier returning servicemen didn't want for themselves, and they felt that many of those jobs were not profitable, nor were they as enjoyable or secure as being in the Navy. I would find out, after my discharge, that it wasn't quite as bad as they were making it out to be. There was, indeed, a lot of competition, but with the proper skills and desire there were jobs available for those that went after them. Many of the ones re-enlisting, after a discharge, were persons that had become comfortable in what the Navy assured them, having a daily meal on the table, and a roof over their head each night, and a regular payday once a month.
Because I had to take pictures on the base New Years Day morning, I took a quick Liberty to Rabat in the afternoon. I went to my favorite Restaurant, and then into the Medina until train time. It was a quick evening, but, as usual, nice to get away. I didn't think that I was too lonesome for Christmas at home until mail call, then all the letters telling me about the Christmas everyone had back there made me feel VERY lonesome. I sure wish that I could have been there. Let's hope it will be that way next year.
I didn't refuel my oil burner here in the Lab right away this morning and it went out without me knowing about it. That is, until it started getting a little chilly---I had to get some oil and now I am waiting for this place to warm up again. I always find it difficult to believe, by the weather, that I am in Africa! I am going to a movie here on the base tonight, tomorrow I have an invitation to a supper at my French friends, the Daumas family "just show up if you can" Mrs. Daumas said when I left them on my Christmas vacation. They are having a special meal for some family reason on the 6th. I became aware that they are rationed butter, and those chocolate candies are too expensive for them to buy, so I have hit the cooks for a couple of pounds of butter, and I picked up a Whitman Sampler box of candy for my thank you for their hospitality.........Click here for photographs of the Daumas family.
Letter to Dolores JANUARY 7th, Wednesday
Another day in Morocco, and it is a very wintry looking day outside, it looks like it will snow, although the temperature is far from letting that happen. I held a field day in the Lab this morning and the place is looking pretty sharp. The reason is that the married men's wives have to have new Dependant Cards made out and I have to take their I.D. pictures. I knew that you wouldn't want them to think that I was a poor housekeeper, right? RIGHT! It will be fun to have all of them come through here. It is interesting to see and compare the wives. You can tell the difference between the enlisted men's and the officer's wives very quickly. It is by their clothes and the way they dress, and by the way they act. I am pleased to say I get along with all of them, I like all of them, and they like the "photographer". That said, I like the enlisted men's wives the best. They are more friendly, and I don't get the feeling that I am a servant to them like I do with the officers wives God bless them, they are REALLY spoiled!
Mail is supposed to have arrived from London, and I am hoping that I get mail from you and the scoop on the rest of the packages that I have sent home.
I did make it to the Daumas family's house for supper last night, it was good that I went, Helene said that her Mother had expected me and had put out all the best tableware, and had done some extra cooking just for me, her Mother said she KNEW I would come! I discovered that it was the celebration of the Epiphany and the supper was a BIG one. For desert, she had made a very large and special cake. As the cake was being cut I was told that there were two things hidden inside of it, a little glass doll, and a dried kidney bean. Whoever would get the doll receives good luck for the year, and the one that gets the bean has to pay or wash the dishes! Turkey was the main course and very delicious, and I got the glass doll in MY piece of cake! Everyone cheered for me and my luck. Let's hope that it is a sign of good luck for you and me. I know that you like coffee----but I wonder if you would like French coffee, it is VERY STRONG!
Letter to Dolores JANUARY 12th, MONDAY
I do not know if I told you that a Movie News Reel Crew was in here to film the Ceremony on the Base New Year's Day, I saw it here on the base and it came out pretty good. It is my understanding that it will play in the States and maybe you will have a chance to see it. It is short, but well done.
Do you remember that in Pensy I always said I would have liked you to have run with me along Santa Rosa Island and the Gulf of Mexico? I have found a place here that I like to go to when I am alone, and I wish that you could walk there with me. It is the Old Sultan's Palace in the Rabat Medina. On one side of the wall that surrounds the gardens is a window that looks out at the river, and if you lean out of the old earthen clay and stone lined frame a bit, you can also look out to the sea, you can view the white caps pounding into the huge rocks on the shore which sends up high crashing veils of white mist and spray. To the North, across the river and the valley, up on a hill, is the city of Sale. You will remember that is the strictly Arab town where the missionary lives. It is the city that the French have not built a French section like in Port Lyautey, Rabat, and Casablanca. This favorite window of mine is but one of a number in the tower that was an old cannon post a top the high wall around the old Palace and gardens. There are about 6 or more cannons in the tower, all laying on the earthen floor below the windows edge that over looks the valley to the North on one side, and to the city of Rabat to the East. The wall itself is very thick, and it has ample room for me to sit on it, and to rest my back on the side of the window frames side. Then, far below the wall, outside of this old fort, you can usually see Arab women washing family clothes in the brown, chocolate like, running water of the river, you have to wonder "how do they get the clothes to look so white?" They walk out into the river to wash them, and then they walk back to large flat rocks on the rivers edge where they pound the water out of the clothes with wooden sticks. It is colorful, and at times a bit comical to this stateside boy. There are Arab women of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and always children enjoying the water. Some wade, some swim, some have water fights, and many times I can hear their happy laughter way up to the window. I can look far up the river and watch sailboats, which seem to play with each other, and see them and the river disappear where it is lost in between the Eastern hills. Up on the plateau, where the city of Rabat is built within a great wall, you can see the high tower, Tuer Hassen, which is the remains of an old temple built in the twelfth century. Beyond the tower are the fresh white buildings and homes of the richer French section. Where the river disappears, and to the East of Sale', and if you know where to look, as I do, there are the remains of a Roman ruins, the remains of Roman baths, remains of stone cut statues of Roman gowned men. That is still another story I must one day find more about. I believe it is named, "The Ruins Of Chella".
Down below the window, a good three...four...or more stories below, you can hear the wash of the waves hitting the fortress walls of the old Palace. It is really restful, surprisingly, it is rare that anyone comes by, it is like it is my private place in all of Africa.
On the opposite side of the Palace, facing West and right out to the Sea, you can find another window in another tower, and you can look out and down to the big, long, rocked jetties, see the light house that guards the river inlet, and look down along the beach. Just above the beach you can actually see green grass REAL green grass!! (I will be glad when I can see lawns of green grass again). An Arab cemetery is located within the grassy area, and often there are Arabs sitting near some of the many stones that mark the graves. On the far Southwestern corner of the Palace there is the largest single building within the complex, and you are able to walk out on the flat roof top. It is the size of at least a couple of basketball courts put together. From there you can get another view of the Medina below. There are times that horse drawn wagons will pass below and through the huge, open wooded gates. You can easily forget that it is 1948, and not the year 900 that I am told it was built. I have told you before about the garden within the walls, and the donkey walking in a circle to lift water to irrigate the beautiful flowers, but did I tell you the high walls along the inside are covered with beautiful red flowered vines? This is all preserved as a historic place, it is no longer the Sultan's Palace, but you have the feeling that the Sultan and his Harem will come walking out into the gardens almost anytime.\
I have written right up to chow time, I think that I will give that a try and get back some working energy. I am on my way.
PostScript I checked out a Library book about "The Caesars" I found that the Romans, by the leadership of Belisarius, were into the Rabat area for the first time in the year 647 A.D. It tells of cities and, indeed, mentions Chella, "across the river from the modern Sale". This would be good and interesting reading for anyone wanting to know more about Morocco. There is a map that shows "The Raid of Uqba c.680 " and the trail leads to and through the coast of Rabat, where the ruins of Chella exist. I have many pictures I have taken of the ruins in my picture collection and 16mm movies. You will find that Chella was a colony city of the Phoenicians before the first century B.C. Moroccan troops were serving with the Carthagians in Sicily in 406 B.C. In 82 B.C. the Roman general Sertorius crossed into Africa and seized Tangiers, and Tangier was granted the rights of a Roman city in 38 B.C. It was in 30 B.C. that Anthony and Cleopatra committed suicide. I have found that the wall was built around Rabat in 1339 by Abu al/Hassen. I will add no more for fear I may bore the readers, I do hope it is enough for those who wish to learn more to have some leads to library reading.
Letter to Dolores JANUARY 13th, TUESDAY
There was a surprise this morning as there was FROST on the roofs and it remained there as late as 8 am. Not the Africa I thought I was coming to.
Letter to Dolores JANUARY 14th, WEDNESDAY
I am listening to a radio station that is broadcasting from Switzerland, they are playing, of course, Swiss music and yodeling. It is kind of exciting to turn the radio dial and pick up stations from Spain, France, England, Germany, and other places in Europe and the Mediterranean area. This is the first time I have discovered this Swiss station.
Letter to Dolores JANUARY 18th, SUNDAY
With the delay of my Christmas presents arriving in the States I took a self portrait of myself for an Easter card, I hope that will make up for it a bit. It wasn't such a bad Saturday for the duty. Then I slept down here in the Lab and didn't get myself out and really moving until almost dinner time. I am letting that dinner digest, and then I am going to the movie hut and project my collection of movies for the crew for something to do.
It is O.K. this one Sunday to have the duty, the sun let us down today and it is very cloudy, windy, and cold. I didn't tell you that I have seen just about everything now believe it or not it was hailing for about 15 minutes on Friday night, hard as all heck, and the size of ROCKS. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.
They are playing "Sentimental Journey", that is a song I have heard the most times while in the Navy. Just about every person, EVEN the Arabs, know that song by heart and in English, it seems to be the theme song over here. You can tell that it has been quite popular here ever since the invasion in 1942. I have located just about all of the radio stations on my radio that play American music, and I know the times to pick them up.
Letter to Dolores JANUARY 20th, TUESDAY
I decided to go to the "Hut" and make up my laundry. I also cleaned out my locker and straightened it out a bit. With wearing the "army greens" to work we end up with a lot of clothing. It does help to tell the French Navy from the U.S., but I don't like it at all. Because we get the gear free I can live with it.
I just remembered that I forgot to send my dry cleaning in today. I wanted to send in my suit coat and a sweater, oh well, tomorrow is another day.
Last night I went to bed early and all of us guys were listening to AMF -- (American Forces Radio Munich), which has a request program every night from 9 to 11 P.M. During all the songs they played I was able to close my eyes and I could see us together doing something in the wonderful days that have gone by.
This letter is written on the back of the, "U.S. NAVAL AIR ACTIVITY PORT LYAUTEY ...French Morocco letter head and is the "Plan Of The Day". It will let you know what a day's schedule is like over here. It is tomorrow's plan and you will note that the Starboard Section rates the Liberty, so I will be taking off for my first Liberty in a week.
U.S. NAVAL ACTIVITY
PORT LYAUTEY FRENCH MOROCC0
PLAN OF THE DAY-DAILY ROUTINE Wednesday 21 January 1948
O.O.D. -LT. STILES (Officer of the Day)
SP DUTY -OPERATIONS-PUBLIC WORKS DEPT.
DUTY -PORT WATCH
0630 -Muster all PAL's and enlisted men. (Prisoners At Large)
0745 Liberty Expires on board.
-Quarters for muster.
0830 -Sick Call.
1100 -Inspection of all cooks, mess cooks and steward's mates.
1130 -Early Chow
1200 -Knock off routine work.
1300 -Turn to.
1600 -Knock off routine work.
-Liberty commences for STBD watch to expire on board
at 0745, Thursday, 22 January 1948. (STBD=Starboard)
-All hands shift into the uniform of the day.
1615 -Early chow.
1730 -Muster all PAL's and restricted men.
1800 -Movie in the Movie Hut.
2130 -Muster all PAL's and restricted men.
2200 -Taps. Lights out in all living compartments.
Notes: 1. Movie for tonight: STEPCHILD with Brenda Joyce and Terry Austin.
2. The Oasis will be secured today for the purpose of moving to the North wing of the enlisted men's mess hall. Opening date will be announced at a later date.
3. The commissary store will be closed for inventory at 1500 today, until Monday at 1000, 26 January 1948.
4. The Supply Department has contributed $19 to the March of Dimes. This is a good start. Other departments are urged to push their campaign of voluntary contributions.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
PostScript A few observations of this "notice of the day". One is that the name of the Base has had a slight change, but significant because the Base had been technically returned to the French. It is no longer called a U.S. Naval Air Station but a "U.S. Naval Air Activity". What the difference is between the two listings I do not really know, although I imagine that it had a less threatening sound to the French, and possibly to the Soviet Union. No doubt it was an indication of the U.S. reduced authority in Morocco.
Note that we did have reveille and taps, which was played or "piped" over the P.A. system in the French Barracks. I can not remember how it was handled when we went to the Quonset Huts. I do not recall any P.A. system there, it may have been an oral call by whoever was on watch at the time. I spent most of my time in the Lab from the time we moved out of the French Barracks after the first of the year, and I do not have lot of memory of the "finer points" of the Quonset quarters.
Note that meals were indeed called "chow", that to stop something WAS "knock it off", lunch was "dinner", and the evening meal "supper". "All hands" was "everyone", and when you were to start, or to get busy you were to "turn to". The "Plan of the Day" was a daily posting and you came to rely on it because it was the Gospel. "Muster" was "roll call", and "Sick Call" was at 0800, the time that you could go to the Hospital Clinic with any health problem or complaint.
Letter to Dolores FEBRUARY 15th, SUNDAY
The weekend on the Base has passed pretty fast. Last night I went to chow and then I went to the Red X, our new recreation place that has taken over for the former Oasis.
We had the first butter today in almost three or more months, and I have been getting fresh milk from some of the guys arriving on the NATS plane. They bring it by the quart to barter with us guys. For my milk I pick up Arab souvenirs for them, it is a good deal! So you know that we are still on rations here so as to help the starving people in Europe, even though we keep starving here.
Letter to Dolores FEBRUARY 18th, WEDNESDAY
I don't really feel like going out on Liberty tonight, but I want to make sure that I have a place to rest when I head out for the coming weekend. So I will round trip Rabat and stop by the Royal Hotel and make reservations. It is cloudy, cool, the sun is only getting out once in awhile, not enough to warm things up, but it looks like it will clear for the evening. I may take the movie camera along and try some night pictures in the Medina. Night time really makes the place a picture book. It is at night that I feel like I am not there as a person, that I am in a dream. Your imagination isn't needed to make a fairy tale of Africa come alive. It is at night that I can also remain as an unseen sailor in the shadows. All the tourists and local French have returned home, and the Arabs, their children, go about their ways without the shyness, or the anger they many times show a stranger in the day time. There are very few merchants that have electric lights, mostly lanterns, and that kind of lighting makes it all the more exciting. The Arab music, the prayer chanting, it all seems to have a clearer sound after dark the different smells of cooking, herbs, the spices, also seem to be more noticeable. Have I ever told you that the treat of the Medina is not popcorn or cotton candy? It is GRASSHOPPERS fried in butter, placed in frying pans over small open fires! No, I haven't tried them!! I have wanted to, for the experience, but when I see the Arabs downing them I just CHOKE! They must be good, because they are forever buying them, but I am afraid that I will never know. I do not wander too far inside the "Wall" and I make sure that it is always filled with people, and I am always near the merchants that I am friendly with. When I walk into the Medina I still walk to them first and visit very openly with them to make my presence known. The longer I am here, the more at home and safe I feel with them. They are hardy hand-shakers, they always have a smile for me, "The American" they do not call me by the name that the young boys, the ones always offering to be a guide, or looking for a hand out do. They still call me "Slim", but even that seems special. The kids will hound other Servicemen forever, but for me they will come and say "hello Slim --- you need something today?", and I will say nothing today and they will leave, if any try to hang on, the "regulars will shag them away. They have come to learn that I have one "boy" that I cater to. He is a very neat, nicely dressed youngster, an Arab in his early teens, very street wise, and speaks very good English. I depend on him a lot since Kurrie has gone back to the states. There have been times I have treated him to a meal at the Palmerie. I never have, but I should ask him sometime about his family and where he lives, and what his father does, if he has one. You just do not want to be too much of a friend to them, if you do you will never get rid of them. It helps keep other kid pests away because they respect him and know that I am "his" man.
I have taken some great movies of our fastest plane on the Base, the J-D's. Landing shots in particular, taken from the roadside at the main runway. Some were really right on me! We have three such planes here, and they are the fastest I have seen. They could, with no trouble, take off from Chicago and land in Milwaukee in less than 15 minutes! The Grave Registration crew and their plane arrived here yesterday, I believe they are preparing to remove bodies from the Casablanca Cemetery for families that have requested them to be brought home. I may try to get down there to take a movie of that.
My French Navy Chief pal, Dede (above), is going home to France for a month's Leave. I will miss that old hand shaking boy. He is a nice young guy, and I like him very much. He is going to leave March 5th, and will return the 13th-17th of April. We are planning on pulling a good Liberty together before he leaves. Oh yes, Dede, as a teenager, was a part of the Free French underground during the war --- it was known as the "Marquis". He has told me some very exciting stories of how they sabotaged the German troops during the French occupation, and how they helped the U.S. soldiers when the Germans were sent into retreat. He is lucky to be alive!
Letter to Dolores FEBRUARY 19th, THURSDAY
There was a basketball game between the French and us today. I got a lot of good pictures. I also got some of the fellows around the Base, and they will complete the album I am working on now.
I am going to have quite a mailing project when it is time for me to head home. I will mail the packages to your home so as to not have the folks worry about looking for them, or wondering just when I will get back.
All of the fellows were wondering what was the cause of the Black Market price going up on American money. We figured it out --- it is those Sterling Motor Trucks that your company is selling to the Armed Forces over seas! Ask your boss if it would be worth anything to him if I was able to get some pictures of their trucks in action around these parts. Also, along those lines, what are the chances of your Company using a photographer??? WHEN I get home.
I have to take it easy for awhile, I slipped on those long steep steps at the Rabat Railroad Station last week and threw out my back again. No broken bones, but it feels that way. I am taking heat treatments, and other than having a hard time bending over, I am doing O.K.
Letter to Dolores FEBRUARY 20th, 1948, FRIDAY
I am listening to my favorite program from Switzerland during my lunch hour. It is really beautiful music. I would really like to get to Switzerland, but I am afraid that I may not be able to make it.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, with a beautiful blue sky, white fleecy clouds were out on the horizon over the Ocean, but today is cloudy, windy, and it is raining. You might guess that the weekend is coming up. I hope that it will clear by Sunday so that I can go to Rabat for some picture taking and movies. We will have Monday off because of George Washington's birthday on Sunday. I told everyone that we are having the Monday Holiday because it was MY MOM"S birthday, not because it was George's!
It looks like I will get to Italy after payday, it will be nice to break away from here for awhile again.
Final PostScript This is the end of the letters, there should be more, but they are not with this beautiful collection of memories. Dolores and I have no idea what may have happened, or what has become of them. It was a surprise to have gone through 20 months of letters, discovering so much that has been forgotten of those days, and then find that we are missing the final story, the end of February, March, and about my early discharge and flight home to the States in April of 1948. But because of the letters we do have, so much has been recalled, and some of that recall has brought back memories that would have been forgotten otherwise, lost forever. That brings a certain amount of sadness in not finding the letters of those last 53 days of my Navy service. I believe I can read in between the lines in some of my February letters that Jerry has a pretty good idea already that he has an early discharge in the wind. My recall is that all two year enlistments became eligible for an early discharge after the first of the year. It was set for two months prior to the signed up date, with full pay for any accumulated leave time. My June 1946 2 year enlistment was one of the last accepted by the Navy, the shortest enlistment time became three years for general duty, and a four year enlistment to receive any school assignment such as I did for Photo School. I had been lucky to have received what I did in 22 months. The Armed Forces were continuing to "thin down", and this early discharge meant all two year enlisted men would be out of service, or would have to ship over for three year hitches by the end Of April 1948.
I can piece together some of my last 51 days of February, March, and April. Whatever time I discovered that I was going home early, I could not resist planning on surprising Dolores. At this time of my life I think that was a decision that wasn't all that fair to Dolores. But the memories for that lonesome sailor were filled with the happy memories of the earlier surprise returns from Boot Camp, and Pensacola, they were to exciting and filled too many lonely moments not to do it one more time. I also remembered thinking that she would be more patient in waiting if she did not know I would be coming home in April instead of June.
I did chose to confide in one person, Dolores' niece Dorothy Lukas (Kurtz), and I began to mail home my personal belongings in wooden boxes that I assembled in the Carpenter Shop on the Base with the blessings of Chief Durocher. Dorothy and her family (Dolores' sister Irene's family) kept the secret. It was 8 months of treasures that were packed away, including the picture albums that had become such a favorite attraction at NAS Port Lyautey French Morocco.
I did get back to the Mediterranean Area at least one more time. There would be more Saturday, or Sunday dinners at the Daumas home on those alternate weekend Liberty's. I would take hard to get items like butter, and even fresh milk that came in on the NATS flights, to Mrs. Daumas. She would use them to make delicious fresh custard deserts, and she always made me feel like an honored guest, some times like a son. It was a nice meeting of the two worlds while I was there, I learned what the true heart of a French family was like, and they found that the average American was no different than their sons and brothers.
Helene and I had a unique friendship, very open, very caring for each others bringing up in different cultures. We visited a lot when it came time for me to be heading back home. Our friendship came at a very critical time in both of our lives, a time that we both needed companionship of the opposite sex. I was lonesome for my home, and for my stateside sweetheart. She was trying to recover from a broken heart that had become bitter and untrusting. With our separation of her six years my senior she felt safe to enjoy a friendship through her family to me, and I felt safe in finding reason to reinforce my feelings and love for Dolores. As the friendship grew into months, I am sure Helene grew a confidence that she could survive and that she could find it possible to move on and enjoy the companionship of a male other than the one that had broke her heart years before. We did talk about "if's". The most agreed upon was not just that she was six years my senior, that I was just a "baby", but the fact that Helene would never love anyone enough to leave her native France, and I could never love anyone enough to leave the United States. We both knew that had there been more than friendship between us, this would have never made any difference. We were the best of friends, we were going to be saying good-bye, and we would probably never see each other again, but our friendship would be for ever. It remains today, 45 years after that good-bye, even growing into the second generation, between her son Herve, and my children, Judy, Jane, and Tom. I hope that it will continue to the end of time.
March 1, 2007 PostScript - I received a letter today from Helene and her son Herve'. Our friendship remains and grows into the lives of her 2 and my 5 grandchildren. It is now 60 years since our first meeting in late 1947.
How I wish that I could find those missing letters, there are questions that my memory can not answer. One is, did my relief arrive before I left for home? I do not think so, but I imagine that Lyles took over as I did when he was in the Hospital, and because NATS was making 22 hour trips from the states to Port Lyautey, I am sure that the week I left, one or both Photo Mates that were to replace me, were flown in. I wonder about them, such as, were they from the NAS Pensacola Photo School?
I know that every day was spent waiting for the mail plane to come in, that I kept up my almost daily letters to Dolores, that I couldn't wait to get out on Liberty, and that I was never able to stay out of that magical world of the Rabat Medina.
Photography had become my focus, it was occupying more and more of my time. I did not sit in with the orchestra at the Rec Center much any more, if at all the last month in Lyautey, I had less time for the harmonica, but I could never be without a camera, I couldn't say no to someone that had a roll of film to be developed and printed, to someone that was going to be married, to take pictures at a child's birthday party. I had a direction and I liked it. The freedom I had, in that Lab on the second floor of that airplane Hangar, helped set a course that would lead me, even my children, through our lives.
I can remember the excitement of finally preparing to go home, that my Navy days were ending, that the count down was down to days and not weeks, months, or a year. I was heading back to Dolores, the one that had become so inseparable through my high school years, that she was, without a doubt, the one that I knew I wanted to be at my side for the rest of my life. And I was going home 2 months sooner than I had expected!! Not having to wait until June was like telling a child in September that Christmas will be October 25th this year,
There was always something special when a fellow Navy man was going home, --- "BACK TO THE STATES!" It made no difference if it were a "lifer" headed for reassignment, or a "regular" going back for a discharge. The "lifer", or the career man, had been on the Base for his two year "hardship cruise", and on his way for two years state side duty. The "regular" or "short timer", which I was, would be going home to become a civilian once again. It was, in a sweet way of comradeship, kind of like a fellow prisoner was going to be released.
It remained difficult to be saying good-bye to fellows that had become solid friends in such a short time, you became family, and you knew that you would never see each other again. You would exchange addresses with some, but at 19 you know there will be more important things to be doing in your life. It is only now, with these letters, and in the beginning of the twilight years of my life, that I long to touch these friends in memory once more. I am grateful for the continuing contact with fellow Naval School companion, Tom Nakamura, the occasional telephone visit with Boot Camp buddy, Bob Moen, and I am pleased that I am in touch with my Port Lyautey bunk mate, Willie Moore.
My last Liberty was in Rabat, the evening before my plane was to leave for the States. (I would have my wish, that I would fly out by NATS to the Naval Air Station at Petuxant Maryland to be discharged.) Mrs. Daumas made my "last supper". It was not the happiest time that we shared at the table, it was a sad good-bye, and again we knew that we would probably never be together again. Only the knowledge and the joy of leaving for home in the morning made the train ride back to Rabat easier to take. Helene's last good-bye could not keep her from saying that she did not expect me to write once I was back in the States, that I would soon forget, and that Dolores would not permit it. I said that I would always write, she said "we'll see", in her French born contempt.
I returned to the Base that night, and the next morning, Saturday, I was waiting with old friends that had been kind to come and say good-bye when the word came that the plane had mechanical problems and our flight would be delayed until Monday morning. MAN!!! What a jolt!! My first thought was that I would go NUTS on the Base, I really thought that I was out of there! There was but ONE thing to do --- get a SPECIAL LIBERTY and hit RABAT one more time!
There was one problem, I had to go to Mr. Siegel in person, and he and I did not exactly part as friends. I worked up the courage and went to his office and he was surprised to see me, because he thought that I was long gone, I explained and asked if he could fix me up with a special Liberty all in one breath. He grunted, but reached into his top drawer for a card that he filled out for me. I thanked him, saluted, and turned to walk out the door. "ZIMMERMAN!" he called in his best officer's voice of command. I turned back to him as he reached to the bottom drawer of his desk. He pulled out a handful of familiar papers and laid then on his desk, some what spreading them out like a fan of playing cards. "I want you to know" he began. "I have kept every special Liberty request you ever wrote, and I also want you to know you haven't ever put anything over on me. I've saved all of them because NOW I know every excuse anyone can come up with, and from here on, no one is going to put anything past me, and I have heard it all!" As he finished he had a bit of a smile on his face, something you rarely saw, I accepted that as, for as tough as he had been on me, there was a better understanding from him than I had given him credit for. He must have felt that I was a bit of a project, that I needed some of that youthful take charge out of me, that he enjoyed badgering me to get me to react, and that in the end he gave me some credit for being who I was. His last words were "take off -- don't miss muster or your plane". I saluted him again, this time with a bit of respect, I thanked him, and it was the last time we saw each other.
I went to Rabat on the early Sunday morning train, the Daumas family was at home and of course surprised and happy to see me one more time. It was a more relaxed farewell, the emotion and the tears of Friday were more restrained, it gave them a feeling that perhaps I would not forget them, that perhaps some day we would meet again.
When I returned to the Base that night I was in for a shock. I was told that the plane had been surprisingly repaired soon after I had left the Base, and it was decided to take off for the states. As there was no way to contact me I was left behind. All of my gear was aboard the plane, except my toiletries and a change of clothing! My records and papers were aboard! Then the good news was given to me. Mr. Siegel had made arrangements for a flight that was coming in from Cairo in the morning, it would have room for me. It was bringing in fellows on their way to Patuxant too. The group that had left had been instructed to enter my papers for processing and if all went well I would be separated with them on schedule. I found it hard to sleep that night, I was sick to think that my last shot at being a "Liberty Hound" had been one too many!
I don't remember any sadness on boarding the plane that morning. The quick, unexpected trip to Rabat had put that sadness away. I was ready, I could leave with everything in North Africa at rest, it was like I had left, and I had already kept my promise to return and not forget the Daumas family. As the plane took off I felt at peace with that and myself, I was going home, I was going to be with Dolores, I was ready to move on with my life!
I went to a window on the plane and made sure that I was on the side where I, could watch the Base below as we swung up and out to the Ocean. I watched the three white buildings on top of the "Hill" grow smaller, the crossed landing strips, the river, melt and disappear, and soon the shoreline of North Africa melted away too as we entered those fleecy white clouds that I had so often watched from the window of my Lab during the last 8 months, and then it was all gone, the chapter was closed. I know that a part of me died, I still feel it after all of these years, I had come to feel at home in Morocco, BUT I was now headed to my real HOME!!! It is impossible for me to put on paper what that felt like.
The NATS plane was a DC-4, a popular plane that is still used today in commercial flights, the then Queen of NATS, Naval Air Transport Service. That sounds pretty classy, but it was NOT the classy air liner you find at Northwest, United, or "even" Mid West Airlines. The insides were stripped of any luxury, just canvas seats, canvas bunks, and not too many of those. It was made for hauling cargo first, passengers were not the priority. I did some sitting, but mostly I laid in a bunk and tried to get some sleep.
We made just two stops on our way across the Atlantic. The first was at the Azores, a small group of Islands, the one we landed on looked smaller to me than an Air Craft Carrier! It seemed that our Pilot set the wheels down on the very edge of the cliff that was climbing out of the ocean. I thought of the plane that almost crashed in the Wadi Sebou at NAS Port Lyauety! Our stop was short, it gave us just a bit of time to stretch our legs along side of the plane while mail was put aboard. As we taxied out and the plane gained speed, down the runway towards the ocean, I hoped that we would be air borne BEFORE we hit the edge of the cliff.
It was a long haul from there to our next stop, Bermuda. During that time I had time to think about where I had been in the last two years, what I had become since I had walked out of high school. It seemed so much longer, like a life time, but it felt good, I felt satisfied, I felt sure of myself, I knew the Navy had done its job, I had left a boy and I was coming home a man.
Although it was a 22 hour flight, we were in a race with the sun, it was winning, but we were knocking six hours of that 22 hours flying time off because of the time zone changes. By the clock it would be a 16 hour flight. I couldn't help but recall the 9 days aboard the tanker Canisteo, plus the flight from Gibraltar on the 10th day to get to Port Lyautey. I had learned that flying was the only way to go, yes, as a sailor I was strictly made for being "land based and airborne!"
The sun had won the race long before we reached Bermuda, which I recall was about 3 in the morning. I could see nothing from the air, when the planes engines reduced power and I knew we were on our way down, I was able to see the lighted runway, and I thought that if it was anything like the Azores I was happy we came down in the dark! We were able to walk to a "ready" room and everyone had a cup of coffee, and then we were back on the plane and in the air for the states.
By the time we were in the air I had run my Navy career through my mind quite toughly, and I began to focus on arriving in the good old U.S.A. I knew I missed Dolores, I knew I missed my folks, my home, but I was not prepared for how much I had missed and loved my country. As we neared the mainland I could hardly wait, and when we could see land I could not help myself, I began to sing the Star Spangled Banner INSIDE to myself. I pressed myself to the window because I didn't want anyone to see the tears streaming down my cheeks. Such an unexpected emotion, what a grand feeling! We left the Atlantic Ocean, crossed over the peninsula of Maryland, crossed the Chesapeake Bay, and began our circle and descent to the Petuxent Naval Air Station which is near Lexington Park Maryland. Washington D.C. was but 60 minutes away, the last place I had visited before I left for Africa.
As soon as we landed I went right to the Separation Unit and as I arrived I chanced to come upon the Port Lyautety group preparing to enter a lecture room to hear reasons why we should re-enlist. I was assured that all my papers were being processed, they had all of my gear and a bunk for me at the barracks, and they told me I would be processed out with them. A BIG break, I had an extra day in Rabat, and I had lost no time in getting discharged.
After a film on the advantages of re-enlisting, and a talk by a couple of Navy Recruiters, there wasn't one of us that opted to ship over. They asked if we would then like to join the reserves, and we heard all about that. No ---- we just wanted to go HOME! I asked about my 2nd Class rating, I had taken the exam in Port Lyautey and had passed it in March, but I was told that I would have to have my rate presented to me in the states. Now, at Patuxent, I was told that I would receive it only if I shipped over, and if I went for the discharge I would not receive it. I would not receive it if I joined the reserves either. I really wanted that rate, I felt that I had deserved it, but I didn't want it bad enough to ship over for it. We were told that we could re-enlist within 6 weeks and retain our present rate, (NO, I would never receive the Second Class), but we would lose our choice of duty. All but a couple of us decided we would sign our separation papers and take our Honorable Discharges, "SEND US HOME!!"
That evening I made airline reservations out of D.C. for the next evening, the earliest flight I was able to get. I also picked up bus tickets, and spent my last night in a Navy barrack.
I remember very clearly walking out of the separation Center. It was a rather dismal, overcast day, I was wearing my dress blues, that Eagle on my shoulder, the cuffs turned up to show the dragons, my white hat "winged" and cocked over my left eye brow. MAN I was FREE!! Where the heck was the S.P.'s so I could tell them I am no longer playing by their rules! As I crossed the street I saw a group of young Sailors walking to the main gate entry. I recognized them immediately as being fresh out of Boot Camp, I figured that they were on their way for their first assignments. I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at them, their heads just beginning to show the tell tale boot's new growth of hair on near bare scalps, covered by a rounded, regulation placed white hat. I was startled as I realized what babies these fellows were, I thought I couldn't have been that young when I came into this mans Navy! Of course that was 22 months ago! Were they letting younger guys in now??? I shook my head in disbelief, and I wondered to myself, as I walked to the Bus Station, how could we trust the protection of our country to these children, and I walked away from my Naval career.
It is not clear to me at all on how I came to Milwaukee from Chicago. The mind and what it chooses to remember is a very strange animal, something I have come to realize in walking through these letters. I am certain that in those days the flight would have gone to Chicago, and I would have had to take surface transportation home. Because I had made four different trips home while I was in service, I find that I have mixed them in my mind. It is most likely that it was aboard the electric, North Shore Line, one more time. Dolores does remember that I came to her home while she was in bed and asleep. She remembers me waking her in her bedroom, and that she was totally surprised. She had me go to the living room where we visited after she quickly dressed. I can not remember how I went to my folk's home, and my Mother's memory is like mine, my four return home visits kind of melt into one.
The waiting was finally over, it was April 15th, 1948 when I walked into Dolores' room, one day after my official discharge date, and a day short of 22 months since the day I had left for the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, June 17th, 1946.
A final foot note to this story...............
World changes would make me very happy that I had served my time when I did, and that I hadn't shipped over or joined the reserves. Although the draft was not in effect at that time I was discharged, it would be soon. The Korean War was not too far away. When that war broke out the call went out to the Reserve Units, and one of the first to be called back to service were the Aerial Photographers. I was listed 5-A in the draft, which meant that I had done my time and there was no chance I would be called back in.
A very good school chum of mine from West Milwaukee High School, Bob Funke, had choose not to join the service right out of school as I did. He would be drafted during the Korean War and went there to fight. He never returned, becoming a MIA. (---Missing In Action.) Only in recent years has it been discovered he died a hero's death. Witnesses say they saw Bob trying to rescue wounded comrades when a grenade blew up that position. Bob was never seen again.
Bob's fate haunts me to this day, I feel a heart break for him, his wife and our friend, Joan, his family, and friends like Dolores and me. I often wonder what my fate and life might have been if I hadn't walked from high school and graduation into the Navy on that June 17th, 1946, two days before my 18th birthday. I will take the life I have had and be thankful for it. The trade of those 22 months, the only ones that have ever separated Dolores and me, was, as our family likes to say, "WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION!"
Jerry and Dolores Zimmerman and their children and grandchildren during the Christmas Holidays, 2006.
It is the hope of this web editor that Jerry's journal of letters to Dolores and his photographs of Port Lyautey specifically and Morocco in general between 1947 and 1948 will be both enlightening and informative to all those shipmates who served there in the years following. And to the Zimmerman children and grandchildren, it is my hope that you will enjoy this two year legacy left by Jerry and Dolores to all of you.
Web-Editor Note! It is with profound sadness that I learned that Dolores Zimmerman went home to the Lord on August 11, 2009. "May her Memory be Eternal"!