Chapter 18: 120,000 Prisoners. Overcoming British Skepticism. Smells of the Casbah!
German soldiers are surrendering in large numbers now, over 120,000 this afternoon, with no fighting now on Cape Bon,Tunisia. Near Enfidaville there are still some pockets of resistance, however these are being rapidly mopped up.
May 11th, Capt Eddie Rickenbacker visited our airfield today, and spoke to the men. He is truly a remarkable man, and is highly knowledgeable. This evening, General Headquarters announced that all hostility in North Africa was ended with the capture of the German Commander of this theater of War, General Von Arnim. General Rommel had been relieved some time ago, to take over the duties of the defense of France.
Afrika Corps Retreat
May 12th,1943 is the official time given for the cessation of all hostilities in North Africa. Almost nine months to the day in which the 57th Group landed at the Suez Canal.
We recall how skeptical the soldiers of the British 8th Army were, when after our arrival we told them that we were going to drive the Afrika Corps our of Africa. They were quick to explain to us that twice they had driven the Germans to the Salt Flats in front of Tripoli, Libya, and twice they were driven back to Alexandria, Egypt! We explained that we brought a huge supply of Sherman Tanks with us with us, plus our 105 P-40 Fighter Bombers for close ground support, and we intend to go all the way, this time.
Aside from the satisfaction of participating in the defeat of the vaunted German Army, I am now completely fluent in the Spanish Language. I utilized these 9 months in studying Spanish grammar at night from a textbook I purchased when I was in Alexandria. During the day I practiced what I had studied with my Mexican-American friends. And I carried on a mail correspondence with several people in the USA and Cuba.
There are no longer any ground operations, only sea patrols. Many of us visited Tunis, a teeming metropolis, filled with French, American, and British soldiers. A visit to the Casbah (the Arab Quarter) is a memorable experience. The smells are so bad that it is indescribable. A mixture of unwashed bodies, spices, perfume, aroma from various dishes being cooked over charcoal braziers. But here were quite a lot of nice looking French girls, which was a marked change from the drab looking Arabic women we had been seeing.
The Casbah in Tunis
May 19th, we of A Party moved out, headed for Bou Grara . B Party is supposed to follow in a couple of days. We moved out this time, with a completely different attitude, than that which we had up to now. One phase of our overseas venture is now over, and we have emerged unscathed ! Who could have predicted that when we loaded aboard the HMS Pasteur in New York Harbor July 15 1942?
So ends Part 18 of My Wartime Memoirs