One thing there was plenty of at Karouba, once we got organized, was work. Our repair unit consisted of shipfitters, electricians and motor machinists. The shipfitters worked at the floating dry-dock in the inlet towards Ferryville, beyond the electric shop, and also aboard the ships. The motor machinists worked out of one of the hangars where they overhauled diesels and pulled and installed them on board. The electricians worked out of a shack on the palm covered point at the Ferryville end of the docking area, and aboard ship. There were no set rules. If a shipfitter needed help with those oxyacetylene tanks, we helped him, as well as the motor machinists.

I recall a time, just before the Sicilian invasion, when we worked 72 hours straight, pausing only for an enemy plane or a can of c-rations. One helped the other, not because anyone ordered us to, but because we wanted every one of our craft to be ready. We Succeeded.

Our job as electricians was to unwire and rewire the diesels as they were replaced, repair starters, generators and all electrical equipment. Charging and maintaining batteries was a big job. Those diesels were hard on batteries.

One of the worst jobs we had concerned the huge Hill diesel generator. This thing was big enough to run the anchor winch at the stem. Theoretically, the anchor was to be dropped in deep water as the craft went in for a landing. The anchor would keep the thing from broaching and the winch could pull it back out. This several kw generator had to be run constantly for ship's power which very often consisted of a couple of light bulbs and the galley stove fan. Therefore, this 4 cylinder diesel had to be replaced frequently.

The contraption sat athwart ship in the forward port comer of the engine room with all connections up against the forward bulkhead, 2 feet down, in a space six inches wide at the most. To reach the linch and 2 inch armored cables which entered, naturally, from me bottom of the stuffing box, one had to lean over the top, and while practically stand on head, remove them.

The misery of this job was compounded when the diesel had blown a gasket and covered everything with a greasy black film. The fact that we had to wash our own clothes in cold water and yellow soap after work, didn't help much.

Cookie came into the electric shop one day when the temperature was hovering the 100 degree mark. He had just finished a job like this.

Cookie was an electrician from the Pacific fleet. Those who stayed too long out there on the China station were said to become "Asiatic," strange. Cookie was, by his own admission, a little "Asiatic." I liked him for it. His crazy antics were a welcome relief from the dull, everyday sanity. Sometimes when it was too quiet he'd shout, "God damn it, Why doesn't somebody say something?" Sometimes, he would just yell out. Why? Because he wanted to.

Charlie Miller was at the bench instructing me on how to repair and test starters. Cookie came in from a Hill generator job. His face , hands and clothes were black. He didn't say anything for a while, just sat on a box in the comer. Then from out of nowhere came, " You know, Charlie. If I wouldn't feel so foolish afterwards, I'd go out, lay on the ground and screech." Charlie and I smiled and vowed our lips were sealed, but he didn't do anything, just sat there. I guess he was too tired.

By the end of June in '43 , we were, miraculously, a pretty good maintenance unit. About the same time, every olive grove in the area, every street in Bizerte and Ferryville became choked with war machinery. The pace quickened, the LSTs began loading and pulling out into the lake to allow another to do so. Our LCTs were the last to load, because when they were loaded, there was hardly room to breathe. It didn't make sense to subject the troops to these conditions any longer than necessary.

Then one morning, I went down to the electric shop and the lake was empty. An eerie hush hung over all, as if the World was holding its breath. It was July 10,1943. The first full scale invasion of Europe was on.


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