Chapter 66: Flight to Alexandria! The Waiter Called 'No Good'. Striking Out With Nené. Jewish Brigade. Hairy Landing in Malta. CO Leaf
July 14,1944 Alto, Corsica. Nothing exciting happened the past few days. Today is different however because I am going to Alexandria, Egypt for a 10 day pass. The guard got me up at 4.00 Am, and I, Eipper, and Brandman boarded the squadron's B-25 and we took off at 6.30 AM.
This plane is a newer one, replacing our original tired plane. The B-25 is a stable medium bomber and we found it to be quite dependable. We passed Sicily, and Malta, and in 4 hours we landed at Bengazi, Libya. We had a meal there, and continued the trip. 2-l/2 hours later we landed at Alexandria, Egypt.
Our pilot, Capt Yates phoned for a truck from the Red Cross, and they took us to their building where we were to stay. The room and food are practically for nothing. They have a snack bar which is opened when the dining room is closed. There we got hamburgers, Tuna fish sandwiches, Ice Cream, Cake, Coke, coffee, etc. I shopped around a little and bought $45.00 worth of leather goods.
July 15th, 1944 Alexandria, Egypt. When I went down for breakfast I asked for a waiter called 'No Good'. The crew chief of our B-25 told me to ask for him, and I wasn't sorry I did. He kept bringing me platters of Bacon and eggs until I was stuffed like a Thanksgiving Turkey!
I met some British sailors and we made the rounds of the bars, guzzling beer, etc and just having a good time in general! Afterwards I went to visit Nené, the girl I had dated when we first arrived at Alexandria. She was from a Jewish family that spoke Hebrew, Italian, French, and Arabic. I thought I would impress them by speaking Italian, but to my surprise, in the 2 years since I saw them last, they all learned to speak English. I had ideas of romance, however I quickly learned that she was now engaged to a British Soldier, so I struck out there!
July 17, 1944 Alexandria, Egypt. For breakfast, 'No Good' brought me 7 fried eggs and half pound of bacon. I shopped around a bit, then went to the beach t 11 AM where I met a Jewish W.A.A.F. (women’s air force), in the Palestine brigade of the British Army.
I met her again at 7.00 PM and she took me to visit people and we had a good family time of it. Afterwards we went for a walk along the beach. She is staying at the YWCA and complains about the food. So I will bring her here to the Red Cross for a few good meals tomorrow. I was surprised to learn that many Jews in Palestine had formed a Brigade in the British Army. She explained the situation that existed there since the end of World War I, when the League of Nations declared Palestine to be a mandate, that was to be administered by Great Britain.
The Jews living there hoped that someday they would have a country of their own, and they would need trained and experienced armed forces. (Moshe Dayan for example, was one of those, and he fought against the Japanese in Burma, where he lost an eye. When later the country of Israel was formed, Moshe and many others were responsible for the defense of Israel when all their Arabic neighbors attacked them. They also made up the core of the new Israeli Army, which replaced the Haganá (underground Jewish Defense force in Palestine).
Juy 24,1944 : I spent the last few days going to the beach and meeting some nice women. Some were WREN's (British Royal Navy Nurses), a couple were SPAR's (I forget what branch that was) and I dated some of them. In between I met Lt. Wise on the beach and spent some time with him.(He had been on the plane with us) and had a couple of beers and chatted. He is a really nice guy!
When first I was here in Alexandria, I thought I was having a good time because I could speak Spanish with many people. Now however, I am twice as fluent because I can speak Italian also and there is a large French-Italian colony here. As a matter of fact they are the ones that actually run the country, because the Moslems education largely consists of learning to read and study their Koran (Bible), whereas the French-Italians obtain a formal western style education.
Well, the honeymoon is over today. We were awakened at 6.00 AM, and after breakfast the truck took us to the airport, from which we took off at 8.30 AM. We stopped at Bengazi to re-fuel and have a snack of tea and biscuits, and then took-off again. We next landed at the Island of Malta to pick up a pilot. We had had a spot of engine trouble, so we re-adjusted one of the magneto points, and that fixed it.
The landing we made at Malta was a hair raising event, because you must drop down on a landing strip which is on top of a huge cliff. It is a short strip and you must touch down immediately or you will overshoot the field. It is quite scary to see how close the wheels are to the edge of the cliff when making contact with the ground. Malta is a huge rock (like Gibraltar), and if you walk around a bit, you wear out the soles of your shoes.
The rest of the trip home was uneventful and we had to land at the 79th's airfield, because our’s is unserviceable. It is presently being repaired.
Surprise. Major Benedict has gone home on a 30 day leave, and Charles Leaf is now our commanding officer.
So ends part 66 of my wartime memoirs.