Christmas in North Africa, December 1942
... a soldier's remembrance of 58 years ago
by Sal J. Saccardo
In our local travels, we happened to meet an army veteran of World War II, Sal Saccardo. Sal was a member of the 2nd armored division under the legendary General George Patton.
Participating in landings at Sicily, Italy and Normandy, this group was the first division to enter Berlin on July 4, 1945. Sal told us of many of his personal experiences. The following is a different war story that happened while he was in North Africa.(Dave & Marie Moreland)
I was a member of the 2nd armored division, commonly called, "Hell on Wheels" which boarded our assigned ship in Brooklyn, New York. We left the United States on my birthday, November 12, 1942. After zig-zagging for weeks (because of mines floating on the vast open waters of the Atlantic Ocean) we arrived at our destination, Casablanca, North Africa.
We were taken into port by the French who manned the tugs. We were moored and ready to disembark when the news came that one of our fellow GI's had come down with spinal meningitis. We were told not to leave the ship until further notice. The victim's name was Charles Spittler, a southern lad whom we liked very much. He was isolated on the top deck in a make-shift tent and we were ordered not to visit him and to stay at our designated places; namely, way-below-deck!
After ten days of nervous tension, we were then advised to gather up our seabags and be ready to disembark. We found out later that our buddy Charlie did not make it.
We were loaded on two half-ton trucks and headed towards Casablanca, prepared to fight our way in. As it turned out, we met little resistance, mostly Arabs under German command. We found our little camp; it really was a scrubby piece of land called, "Le-pas", a cemetery for Arabs.
After everyone settled down in their pup tents, it started to get dark; the hills were huge and there were a number of palm trees around us. Hearing some singing in the distance, we looked around and saw Arabs dressed in their long robes and fez leading camels down and across the bottom of the hills. We then realized that the singing actually was coming from some GI's who were there before us. They were singing "Silent Night", "Oh, Come All Ye faithful" and other familiar hymns.
It was only then that we realized that it was Christmas Eve, December 24, 1942! We looked at each other - our faces wet with tears - as we thought of our homes and the families that were left behind.
January 5, 2001