CASABLANCA, PASSOVER

We were in a static position, our guns were emplaced in an anti-aircraft phase and stationed around the harbor as protection against a hostile air attack. We, of Jewish faith had obtained leave to attend the passover Seder. Previously, my friend had met a Jewish family, Mr. and Mrs. Hatchwell, and we received an invitation to attend this religious function.

They lived on the third floor of an apartment building located fairly close to the harbor. Conducting the Seder was a full bearded patriarchal Sephardic grandfather and in attendance was Mr. and Mrs. Hatchwell, a son and daughter, and we two American soldiers. Suddenly, the wail of the air raid siren was heard indicating the approach of hostile aircraft. The family arose and gazed uncertainly at grandfather and I whispered to my friend, "Lets get the hell out of here." At the sound of the air raid siren, all residents are instructed to proceed, post haste, to their nearest assigned abri (air raid shelter). The grandfather, in a strident voice, roared first in French and then in broken English, "Sit down this is Passover. God will protect us."

The Seder proceeded. An armada of German Dornler bombers flew over the harbor area and deposited their load of bombs. The thunderous crash of exploding bombs was so intense that we could sense the vibration and the blast of the explosions. The lights flickered off and on but the Seder ceremony continued. I will be the first to admit that this was my baptism to hostile action and I was petrified with fear. As an aside, fear is a constant state during stressful situations but a greater fear is apparent. You suppress this panic and you atttempt to appear unconcerned. The Seder was finally completed, and my friend and I departed with a feeling of awe and respect for this grand old gentleman deeply imbued with his fate in the knowledge that no harm would befall those who attended this holy event.

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Not surprised they were frightened...