SIDI BEL ABBES, OH SAY CAN YOU SEE

Sidi Bel Abbes houses a large army encampment and is the home of the French Foreign Legion. Three British Gun Batteries and my Battery were ordered to emplace our guns in a defense zone on the perimeter of the Foreign Legion encampment.

My corporal and I, and the related British noncom officers, were invited by the Foreign Legion noncoms to attend a banquet to be given in our honor in their Mess Hall. This hall was adorned with red, white and blue bunting. The champagne and wine flowed freely. The entree, strangely enough, was American Spam. One could sense the spirit of good will and camaraderie that was in evidence. The lights were dimmed, and two French soldiers slowly paraded in carrying the dessert: a huge cake appropriately adorned with red, white and blue icing. In the center of the cake were three miniature flags, representing the three nations who were attending the banquet. The French noncoms arose and sang a stirring rendition of their National Anthem, the "Marseille." The British noncoms arose and a powerful"God Save The King" was sung with typical British gusto.

I realized that we were the act to follow and I whispered to my corporal, "Do you know the words to the 'Star Spangled Banner'?" "Hell, no," he replied. The British songsters sat down, and the audience looked expectantly in our direction. We slowly arose and we made a valiant attempt. "OH SAY CAN YOU SEE, BY THE DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT,WHAT SO PROUD WE HAILED, TRA LA LA LA LA, and we "tra laad" slightly off key to the end of our National Anthem. This deflnitely was not one of my flner moments. We sat down totally embarrassed and I can still see the look of befuddlement on the faces of our French and British friends. It is now over fifty years later and I still don't know the words to our National Anthem.


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