||During the summer of l943, I felt that they were grooming someone else for my job and thought I better do something about it. The Chief Clerk of the Signal Section of the Fort, (by now we were in a relatively new “encampment” at Eatontown, N.J. just s short ways from the West gate of Ft. Monmouth and still a part of it.) called me and told me he had an opening for Staff Sergeant but it was for overseas duty…Doris and I prayed about it and felt it might be the leading of the LORD so I signed on…The outfit to which I was to go was listed only as “AFHQ”…Being entranced with anything to do with airplanes, I felt that meant Air Force Head Quarters….Not so. It was a First of a Kind unit assigned to “Allied Force Head Quarters” in Africa!! General “Ike” Eisenhower’s HQ.|
Corporal Paul Tice- Self Portrait.
Doris went back to Battle Creek (we had been living off the Post together for six months or so) to stay with her folks while I and some others found our way to Fort Devens, Mass. to assemble the new unit. I was the ranking Non-Commissioned Officer at the time and was to be Chief Clerk, but there were two or three other clerks who did most of the work and I just tried to keep busy…So, I got out the thick book of Army Regulations and started reading those, and found that if any soldier had not had his inoculations within six months prior to going overseas, he must start them. I mentioned it to my Lieutenant and he said to wait until orders came down from higher.
|A picture of a good bunk, if I say so myself.|
While waiting, I was taking new recruits to the infirmary for their original shots and thought I ought to start mine…Before I was done, I came down with a good cold and they put me in the hospital…Didn’t know for how long, so Doris came up to be with me for CHRISTmas…But when she came to the hospital ward and walked in she didn’t recognize me! Both sides of my nose and both lips were caked with cold sores! She found a room with some CHRISTians in the little town nearby and we were able to spend one or two days there…We got word we were to ship out for overseas within 24 hours, so she headed back home…She had to stand up from Albany, N.Y., all the way to Detroit – and she had just recently been examined at Ft. Devens and learned we were going to be parents
Our new outfit shipped out shortly after CHRISTmas to Ft. Dix, New Jersey and we were billeted in the large pyramidal tents, 6 soldiers to a tent with a wood burning stove in the middle…Shortly after arriving there, the order came down about immunization shots which as I recall, included about 5 or 6 at one time, among them the small pox vaccination.
Our whole outfit stripped down to the waist and walked
a gauntlet of medics each armed with needles….I had only the last of my series
while everyone else were just starting their complete series…The next morning,
I was the only one who could get out of bed!
The rest of the guys in the tent cussed me out good, blaming me for their
misery! It wasn’t me, but Army
Regulations which did them in!
I don’t really remember our exact shipping point,
but I think it was New York Harbor. I
do well remember the ship, a converted freighter, the S.S. Cristobal, of
Panamanian registry, and we were
the first ship aft of the Command ship in the convoy. And it was a bit convoy of upwards of 40 ships in all.
Among those ships was the Battle Ship Texas whose position was just off
our Starboard (right) bow.
Many interesting memories of that voyage, but the greatest was rocking
and rolling through a huge storm on the Atlantic Ocean…We were on deck in our
life jackets trying to settle our stomachs (a lot of the men were unsuccessful
in this!) watching the command ship
ahead wallowing, in the deep troughs of the waves, then
going nearly vertical on a new wave!
I remember the Battleship Texas also pitching so violently she was
showing her huge screws (propellers)!
Our convoy made it safely into the harbor of Oran,
North Africa and as we slowly passed by two of the English Royal Navy’s
Battleships, their sailors lined the decks and gave us the well known English
salute, “Hip, Hip, Hooray!’ We
appreciated that gesture and immediately were chagrined as some dumb head on our
ship yelled back at them, “You guys can go home now, we’re here!” There is no call for such arrogance!
There was still a bit of “sniping” going on in
Oran as we landed and it continued sporadically for a few days, maybe a week or
so before they were cleaned out. We
were taken out to the Airport where we pitched our
“shelter halves” (l/2 of a pup tent to each man), and where we stayed about
Here in Oran, our First Sergeant and I continued our little game which we started back at Fort Dix. There, as well as here in Oran we were camped very close to the end of the runway of the air field, and as each airplane zoomed overhead, he and I would argue to see who had the better “aircraft identification” talent…We never did declare a winner!
|After the week or so in Oran, we convoyed from Oran to the Capital City Algiers, Algeria. The back end of a GMC 6x6 GI truck is a far cry from a Greyhound bus!! We had wooden benches on either side of the back of the truck with our gear in the middle. Two things I remember from that trip: one, since we couldn’t see where we were going because of the canvas covering on the truck, we could only see where we had been out the back! Apparently our route traversed the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and I can still envision one particular view looking down to a long, green beautiful valley.|
A street car in down town Algiers.
shortly before reaching Algiers, we passed a small caravan of camels, and just
before we came on them, they stopped the convoy and warned us have our side arms
(Colt “45” automatic pistols) ready for a possible attack by snipers!
Our destination was not the city of Algiers, but
rather a remote Mineral Spring Spa in the foothills and low mountains where
well-to-do Algerians go for mineral baths. Mineral Waters flowed out of the
mountainside at about 112 degrees!
It was about 8:30 at night when we arrived and we were
hungry. Most of the men were
taken to the mess hall (a converted store building or such) while the Officers
and one or two other Non-Coms were taken into the main dining room with the
other officers of the Outfit who had preceded us from England…As I walked in,
one of the Officers stood up and called out my name!
A welcome surprise to find a High School Class mate from Battle Creek,
who was also drafted with me at Ft Custer and had been transferred to England
from Ft. Monmouth, and had arrived in Africa shortly after the invasion.
French Government Buildings in Algiers.
Monument to war dead in foreground.
When this Lieutenant learned I was to be the chief clerk of the outfit, he asked the Commanding Major if he could have me as his secretary. For about a month or so I did that job and then was called downtown to the Allied Forces Headquarter Signal Section. The Tech/Sergeant in the Signal Intelligence Division of the Signal Section was being promoted to Master Sergeant and they gave me his Tech rating! As I look back on my career, it seemed that the LORD provided an increase in rank almost every six months of my army career!
Signal Intelligence Section of Allied Forces Head Quarters.
Back L To R
1St LT N.D. Jones, Lt Col A. E. Schukraft, Col H.G. Hayes
Major E. Nicholson, 2ND LT U.W. Coffey,
Front L To R
T/4 P.F. Considine, Msgt P. Tice,
T/5 Anita Cochran, T/4 A.F. Mundt
Among the many memories of “Hammam Melouanne”, the
Spa, in addition to the main bathhouse, had a row or “cubicles” much like
the early motels here in America, and these housed from two to four
soldiers. Since I was a
“First Three Grader”, i.e. either a Staff, Technical, or Master Sergeant, I
was in with but one other man, a Tech Sgt.
One of the duties of our outfit was to provide Radio
Direction Finding Units for the combat troops in Tunisia.
My “cellmate” was one of those sent up to the front, which left me
alone, and this seemed to tell the fellows returning from a night on the town
that my room was sort of a “Chaplain’s Office” and they could come in and
bend my ear no matter what time of the night -
or what shape they were in!
Since this Mineral Springs Resort first floor was entirely rooms for bathing, and in fact had two rooms with a sunken area probably five x ten feet and four or five feet deep for communal soaking, and since none of us guys had had a bath since leaving the States three weeks earlier, we were all eager – and dirty! So eager, in fact, I got into the tub with my wrist watch on! It was a Benrus wrist watch I had bought shortly after I turned 21 – (Mother promised us boys she would get us a gold watch if we hadn’t smoked before we turned 21, and I think Wayne and I were the only one of six cousins who had the same offer, that never smoked! I confessed to Mother and knew she couldn’t afford a watch, so bought my own.)- and the thing never kept good time anyway!
I had heard that if one got a watch wet, to leave it in the water to avoid having it rust beyond repair….Our Teletype repairman, Tech Sgt Ramsdell was one of those rare types who could keep machines running with a “making do” attitude….I told him about my watch and he told me to bring it up to his shop after the evening meal. He tore it all apart, cleaned each little wheel, oiled it up, put it back together and it kept better time than ever!!