When I went into WWII in the Naval Amphibs, they placed me in the Staff of Flotilla 10 which was like saying," "What do we do with this?" Nobel Lopez, a fellow from tine Bronx, was a kindred spirit. We were always together and somewhat of a pain to the more mature, so in the second week of April 1943, we were assigned as extra hands on an LCT going out of Arzew to the East.

I believe the group of LCTs leaving in the early morning numbered about six. The three Gray Marine diesels pounded away faithfully churning the water astern into a white froth, while the bow flapped away at the sea at around ten knots, and the formation gradually spread out to a distance of about 20 miles.

We traveled approximately 100 miles before putting in to the harbor of Tenes at early evening. There was hardly a ripple on the water when we dropped anchor before this beautiful Arab village nestled beneath the coastal plateau. Between the dark green palms, the white stucco buildings with red tile roofs shined brightly in the fading rays of the setting sun. Off the land came the aroma of coffee being brewed over charcoal and camel dung fires, mingled with the scent of unknown flowers. Softly, from a minaret deep in town came the gentle sing-song of a muezzin as he called the faithful to evening prayer. Lopez and I sat on the port bow with our feet hanging over the side contemplating this scene, and found it hard to believe that a few miles eastward, great armies were locked in a death struggle.

At the crack of dawn the next day we were on our way again. Along about noon came our a first confirmation of being in a war-zone. A lone plane appeared way up near the sun. We circled for quite a spell

then left. After that, he returned each day, and became our constant companion. Evidently, he hoped we would lead him to bigger things.

Our destination that night was Algiers, which we did not make before dark, so we circled off shore. it was just as well, for that night the city took a fearful pounding from the Luftwaffe. Blue-white searchlights swept back and forth across the horizon, while thousands of yellow tracers poked at the night sky. Occasionally there would be a bright flash followed later by a dull boom as the bombs hit.

At Algiers the next morning, the officers left the ships with briefcases under their arms, not to return until afternoon. They probably went up to Com Nav Med for further instructions. Lopez and I took advantage of this hiatus to walk around the dock area14

A very untidy person wearing a dirty British Army uniform approached us. He smiled displaying rows of yellow teeth, and asked us, in a very suave manner, if we were from those strange looking craft which just put in. We told him we were and being quite proud of our craft and anxious to make friends with what appeared to be an ally. We answered questions about how much water she drew, how many engines she had and her armament. As we walked away, Lopez, being less naive than I, said, "That guy asked too many questions." Come to think of it he did. I looked back. He was nowhere in sight. North African ports were full of these things, as the two friendly sailors would learn later.

The following day, traveling about 15 miles offshore, I was leaning on the starboard rail beside the wheelhouse watching a small tramp steamer going towards Algiers. She was about 10 miles away between us and the shore. As I watched, a puff of smoke rose from her. Since it was larger than normal, I watched more intently. Like

something out of a dream, she began to settle at the stern, and continued to do so until it disappeared. The silver barrage balloon at her bow broke free and rose into the sky until it too disappeared. Our orders must have been very strict, for the skipper didn't go in to investigate.

If the tramp wasn't in a mine field, she was probably the victim of an undersea companion of our airborne shadow. In any case it is a sad thing to watch a ship die, especially when you can do nothing to help.


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