Heading Accross the Atlantic

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Marshall Ralph Doak Chief Pharmacist's Mate United States Navy

Casablanca
Eventually we turned and were instructed to go into Gibraltar. We made it in and this was a new experience. At night you figured you'd have some peace and quiet and rest, but not so. The I Ties, the Italians, would come in by submarine with their frogmen and plant mines on our ships. We'd have ships being bombed with land mines. The British fought the shallow water divers by dropping depth charges periodically with no pattern. The explosion from the depth charge would rupture the abdominal veins and arteries, and the divers would usually die from hemorrhage. This was going on constantly all night long. Another thing we experienced there was all of our vegetables were coming from Spain. They used human fertilizer and so consequently every vegetable had to be soaked in potassium magnate permanganate solution. This was a cumbersome thing to do. The bread was coming from Spain as well, and it was round and about the size of a basketball. You couldn't cut it with a knife. I never went ashore, but several did and said all they did was run into monkeys.

There was a lot of shipping in the harbor and our main job then was to work on the USS Almac AK-10. The Almac was a 10,000 ton supply vessel that had been torpedoed by the Germans just off the Northern coast of Mrica during the invasion. It had made its way to Casablanca and we were given duty to try to get it back to the US.

French Lesson

We went to Casablanca and were there about three weeks. We had deep sea divers, damage control, and fire control people aboard our ship, and the Almac got minor repairs during this time. Usually when we were in a port we never stopped. We worked night and day. I remember Casablanca as being a little different. I'd had two years of French in high school and everyon~ said they were going ashore with me because I could speak French. When I did get ashore and used my French, the French would all start laughing. I could read their newspapers, but they all laughed when I spoke French. Finally I got one of them to tell me what was so funny and he said, "You're speaking high Parisian French, and we don't hear it." 'Course I was taught by Mrs. Weaver in Buchanan, and of course she was taught what she was taught. I rode my first horse in Casablanca with a yeoman named Jerry Wheeler. Another thing that happened was that we had the American Red Cross Office in Casablanca. Everything that they had was donated by the union. They had cigarettes, toothpaste, shaving cream, and toiletries, but we had to pay for these donated items. I think all the people in the states thought this was being given to service personnel. I got to have a great dislike for the American Red Cross and so did everyone else. Later on I found out that the War Department said that there was pressure from Britain that nothing be given as the British Red Cross had to pay for it. For the American Red Cross to give things away would be unfair, and so the US agreed.

Locusts

Also in the harbor at Casablanca was a huge French battleship that had been sunk, the Jean Bart. It was resting on the bottom but all the turrets and everything were high and dry. They had maybe six or seven feet clearance of the deck. It was a remnant of showing there was an opposition. I also remember being in Casablanca when you couldn't see the sun, when the locusts came in. The locusts were so thick you couldn't see the sun and all the natives were in glee because they started fires and were barbecuing the locusts. Tihis was a delicacy to them. It was slippery mess on board our ships. They also destroyed crops.

Back to the States

We left Casablanca with the Almac and we had one destroyer to escort us. This was a 10,000 ton ship that we could tow at about 10 knots in good seas. We left for the long trip home of about 18 days. I didn't realize it, but someone found a little German Shepherd puppy and they called it Arapaho. That became our pet. One Seaman had the mumps. He hid the mumps because he didn't want to stay in Casablanca, he wanted to come home. After we got to sea, he checked in with me. His parotid glands were swollen and I said, "You knew you had the mumps. This wasn't something that just popped up today." He said, "Yeah, but I wanted to go home." I said, "You're also one that's susceptible to sea sickness and when you start throwing up with your parotid glands the way they are, you're apt to end up with calcified parotid glands. Then you're gonna have a lot of surgery. You don't realize what you've done to yourself." Basically, this is what happened. He had extensive surgery after arriving in the U.S.


The trip back I had this old lucky pair of dungarees, and I never took them off from Casablanca to the US. We were constantly under sub attack and when our escort vessel would use up all it's depth charges, we'd have another destroyer or something come in and take over patrolling and protecting us as we were very vulnerable. It was a long and scary trip, but we finally made it back into Norfolk. We had a lot of engine work and had
different weapons put on like 20mm guns for anti-aircraft. We had a lot of things done to the ship.