Chapter 108: Leaving Florence. I'm Going Home!! B-17 to Casablanca. The Kasbah. News We Dropped The Bomb. Constellation to Accra. Japan Surrenders!!
July 28,1945 Florence, Italy It is a week now since we arrived in Florence and were told by the squadron commander that we would be going home with them shortly. This dream faded today when we were called to the mess hall for a meeting. The squadron commander said that their plans had been changed and that we are now scheduled to go directly to Okinawa. We asked to see the inspecting general and were told that he would be available the next day.
July 29, 1945 I met with the inspecting general and told him my sad tale of woe. He sympathized with me and told me that he would make immediate arrangements for me to be sent home. This makes three inspecting generals I have had to see so far! I made it my business to hang around the camp area the next several days, so as to be ready if I were to be called. You can be sure I thought the time would never pass, but I was wrong. Two days later at 3:00AM I was awakened and told 'Schwartz, get on the truck, you're going home!'
Six of us got on the truck with our duffel bags as well as several cartons of ten in one rations, and off we went. The trip over the North Apennine Mountains was uneventful although quite long, and we arrived at the Naples replacement depot early the next day. At Naples I was told that I would be boarding a troopship in several days, and to check the bulletin board frequently.
Aug 2nd, Naples, Italy I saw a notice on the bulletin board saying that anyone wishing to fly home instead of going by troopship should sign the notice. I did so and to my surprise, the next day I was told to climb aboard a B-17 (4 engine bomber). The flight to Casablanca took 9 hours, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite enjoyable. This Boeing B-17 is a very stable airship and the flight turned out to be not much different from flying in a DC-3 transport.
Upon arrival we were trucked outside of Casablanca to a tent camp and there we languished for several days, trying to adjust to the idea that we were finally on the way home! The time hung heavily upon us as we waited for a four engine transport to cross the south Atlantic to Natal, Brazil.
We received the Army newspapers daily (the Stars and Stripes) and so were brought up to date on current events. We were driven into Casablanca several times and we saw the sights. We shopped and visited the Kasbah, which was later made famous in the movie 'Casablanca'. Its streets were narrow and winding, and were lined with small shops and booths. The center of town was fairly modern and the contrast between the town center and the Kasbah was quite clear, like the difference between the haves and the have-nots! The air is filled with combination of odors, such as that of spices, hashish, and charcoal fires. There are lots of night clubs which feature exotic belly dancers, mosques, curio shops and other places of interest for a tourist. A fez cap is typical headgear worn by men here, as it was in Egypt. The fez is a round felt cap with a tassel, and he normal dress is a flowing white robe.
Aug 6, 1945: Casablanca. Morocco. We were electrified by the news that America had dropped an Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan! They say that 140,000 Japanese were killed by the blast. Given the amount of destruction so wrought and the huge loss of life, we thought that the surrender of Japan would follow promptly. History subsequently proved us wrong. The next several days brought no relief from the dull routine of our lives on the desert. Frequently the wind will come up and blow the sand two feet off the ground. This is a phenomenon which we found throughout our travels in the Western Desert of North Africa. It can be quite annoying if you have just filled your mess kit with food, and with a canteen cup of hot tea, and then find that you cannot sit own on the sand and eat your dinner. We frequently had to eat our meals standing up, which is not a comfortable way to dine! When you spend a whole year walking round on the desert, waving away the flies. it becomes such a reflex action that you are not even aware you are doing it!
Aug 9,1945 Casablanca, Morocco: Today’s copy of Stars and Stripes, the Army’s newspaper brought news of the dropping of another Atomic Bomb, this time on Nagasaki, Japan. They say that about 75,000 Japanese died from the blast. The losses would have been greater had not the bomb been dropped two miles from the target zone. During the following several days we could not help but wonder why the Japanese have not surrendered. Surely they must have know that we would continue to devastate their major cities and kill huge numbers of their people So we once again resign ourselves to the tedium of daily living in tents on the desert like Arab Nomad, with nothing to break the monotony of just marking time!
Aug 14, 1945 Finally this morning, a 4 engine transport was made available for us and we shouldered our duffel bags and climbed aboard. The pilot told us that was a Constellation, and was America’s principal civilian airliner. It had two rows of eats and the interior was a lot more luxurious that to which we have become accustomed. Once we became airborne he announced that the flight to Accra, Ghana would be 9 hours non-stop. Later during the flight he announced that he received word over the radio that Japan had surrendered! We deplaned upon arrival at Accra and spent the night at an Army in-transit camp. It began to look like we would actually be getting home soon!