In Algiers, our gun battery joined the British Army under the command of
General Alexander. We were advancing westward in the midst of the Sahara
Desert, encountering no enemy opposition. At this point in time the
enemy under the command of General Rommel was deeply engaged in stemming
the advance of the British forces under the command of General
Montgomery. The British were dressed in desert attire, light short
sleeve shirts and shorts. We, in turn, had to conform to the U.S.
regulation of dress, long sleeve shirts, long pants, and steel helmets
when performing guard duty.
The shimmering heat was oppressive, the sun was unmerciful; it beat down
on us with an intensity that was beyond belief. Water was at a premium,
one canteen a day and that soon heated up to the point that it was
almost undrinkable. Fortunately, our British Commanding Officer sensed
the plight of the attached contingent of American soldiers and he
immediately countermanded our dress code and ordered us to alter our
wearing apparel to match the British mode of dress. Immediately, long
sleeves were torn off, pants below the knee were chopped off and since
we were not under combat, steel helmets were replaced by light khaki
hats. The dress code that we were obliged to follow is a classic example
of Army Intelllgence gone awry.
One unforgettable incident, our lieutenant dispatched a truck to the
nearest city to return with a load of ice and we would all be treated to
ice cold beverages. The truck finally returned accompanied by the
cheers of the thirsty and dehydrated soldiers. The ranking British
Medical Officer ordered the truck to leave the encampment and dump the
ice in the desert. His reasoning? They did not have the means to test
whether the water was contaminated and he did not want to risk the
exposure of the troops to a water related epidemic.
If the expressed thoughts of both the British and the American soldiers
were transferred to reality, this Medical Officer would have suffered a
long lasting and torturous death.
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