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> Flashbacks to Wars I Never Fought in, ITT: Recall your days in The Big One and hope nobody checks your facts
post Apr 8 2016, 10:11 PM
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The Fisher King

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World War 2 the topic, eh? You know I served in it. We all did. This is my story.

We had just been shipped out from New Orleans on the troop ship Hattiesville, en route to Alexandria. We were going to relieve those poor smurfs in the 1st Free French Brigade after their action at Bir Hakeim. We all had taken French in high school, so we were part of a secret effort to keep the Free French forces up to strength. They didn't have access to recruits in North Africa at the time, you know. Well, we arrived in Alexandria after having gone the long way around Africa, so we were all ready to be on some dry land for a change. Except it wasn't long before we were bounding across the desert, getting seasick all over again in the dunes. Never knew how much the desert could be like an ocean, but there we were.

And it was lucky for us that we'd gone around Africa. Fellers was still in Cairo at the time, transmitting every detail about troop movements back to Washington, with Rommel able to decrypt every word of it. We'd have been sunk for sure, going across the Mediterranean. Sunk for sure.

We fell in with the 1st Brigade right as they were taking up positions just south of the Munassib Depression. The French had gotten mauled pretty good at Bir Hakeim, but they were in good spirits. Germans said of them that they had been the best fighters they'd faced, so that really upped their morale. No cheese-eating surrender monkeys, these Frenchies! They were a great lot.

The main attack of First Alamein and Alam Halfa didn't fall on the French, so we just had to dodge shells and dysentery until October, when the real action began for us. We were at the bottom of the line, right up by the Qatarra Depression, across from the Italian Pavia Division. Rommel was sick and back in Germany, so General Stumme was in charge of the Axis defenses. They had put mines everywhere, and those damned Italian smurfs would drag an axle and wheels through their fields, to make it look like vehicles could cross them safely. Saw more than one tank brew up after falling for that trick. We were ordered to take the el Taqa plateau, and we would have to plow through those minefields to do it.

Most of the tanks were north of us, and that was just as well with me. It meant no armored reserve was going to ruin my day, and I was glad for that. Seems like the Italians had just enough ammo in their machine-guns to keep us pinned down or crawling from rock to rock as we pressed forward. To be honest, I had a bet with myself to see what would kill me first: a bullet, a mine, or dehydration. It was miserable in that heat, and I would have given my left leg to be fighting up in France. Would have been just as hellish with the bullets and the mines, but at least the temperature would give us a break.

But we pushed on, and the Italians eventually ran out of fuel, bullets, and water. They had to fall back. That's where we really kicked it into gear. We got loaded up into trucks and started pursuing Panzerarmee Afrika on out of Egypt. Most of the other divisions in El Alamein had gotten chewed up bad, but we were in good shape to round up some prisoners. That's when I started learning German, you know. Came in real handy when I was in Alsace, but that's another story.

You kids got any stories to share? Or you want more tales from a veteran?

"The world could perish if people only worked on things that were easy to handle." -- Vladimir Savchenko
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