Dec 17

The Life & Service of a World War 2 Mine Warfare Sailor. Part 5

Tuesday, December 17, 2019 12:01 AM


This entry picks up where my grandfather’s journal left off in May, 1944. After a long voyage to Algeria and a brief stay at the Oran Naval Receiving Station he received his travel orders to Tunisia where he met his ship. As stated in previous blogs these entries are copied word for word from the original journal. Language is contemporary and some entries may not be politically correct. They are recorded here as part of the historical record.

Saturday May 20th
Got our clearance cards this A.M.
Hate to leave. Going to Biserte
by train.

Bizerte, Tunisia was home to the Karouba Air and Naval base. This is where my grandfather met his ship. If he was expecting first class accommodations along the way he was in for a surprise.

Sunday May 21st
Got on a train last night at 2000.
The most beautiful boxcars you
ever saw. Left the station almost
immediately. Had to sleep on our gear.
My fanny was right by the door
and a cold breeze was blowing in
between the door and car. I think
it was the most miserable night I
ever spent. Had about 1/2 hour sleep.

Box car on train from Algiers to Oran circa 1944. The same accommodations my grandfather described
(Courtesy of the Author)

Monday May 22nd
All of us were up before dawn. Sat
and watched the country go by. At every
stop the Arabs come running. “Got
business Joe?” they say. A mattress cover
that cost us $1.20 will bring anywhere
from $10 to $20 dollars. I didnt have any
extra gear so couldn’t sell a thing. One
of the boys sold over $200 worth of gear.
These C rations are lousy. Only three
kinds of chow. Meat & beans the only
good one. Threw the candy to the kids
and got a big kick out of their scrambles.
These little french girls are pretty.

The “C” ration was used by all branches of military. The American military began WWII with the “combat” meal known officially as Field Ration, Type C. There were three individually boxed meals for breakfast, dinner (i.e., lunch), and supper. (1)

The first version of the C rations offered a simple menu consisting of:

Package of Biscuits

Package of Graham Crackers

Package of Sugar Tablets

Meat Can of Ham (Breakfast), Chicken (Dinner), Turkey (Supper)

Fruit Bar (Breakfast), Caramels (Dinner), Chocolate Bar (Supper)

Powdered Coffee (Breakfast), Bouillon (Dinner), Lemon (Supper)

Piece Chewing Gum

4-Pack Cigarettes

Package of Toilet Tissue

Wooden Spoon

Matches (1)

In early 1944 specifications for the C rations increased variety by alternating combinations of the “B,” or bread, units, and the “M,” or meat, units. An accessory pack included nine “good commercial-quality” cigarettes, water-purification tablets, matches, toilet paper, chewing gum, and an opener for the meat cans. A soldier’s daily ration was three cans of B units, three cans of M units, and one accessory pack. These were the C Rations my grandfather wrote about. (1)

M unit varieties
Meat and beans
Meat and vegetable stew
Meat and spaghetti
Ham, egg, and potato
Meat and noodles
Pork and rice
Franks and beans
Pork and beans
Ham and lima beans
Chicken and vegetables
B unit components

Compressed and premixed cereal
Candy-coated peanuts or raisins
Powdered coffee
Powdered lemon or orange juice
Cocoa powder
Hard candies
JamCaramels (1)


Typical C rations of the period
(Courtesy of the Author)

Tuesday May 23rd
Started climbing up into
the hills. This country
really has beauty. Climbed all
day. Must be up 3 or 4000 feet.
Stopped and washed at Ben Abi Anice
This train stops at every town. Don’t
think we will get there to soon.

Train routes through North Africa circa 1944. Shows rail lines from Oran to Bizerte
(Courtesy of the Author)

Wednesday May 24th
Went through Algiers. Had a
lay over there for a few hours. Went
down into town and a little Arab
showed us around. Got a kick out
of the way he would bargain for us.
Got his head beat off by some French
guy. He didn’t cry a bit. Tough cookie.

Rail Depot in Algiers
(Courtesy of the Author)

Thursday May 25th
Hit Bizzertie this A.M. I didn’t get off
the train until 1600. Did more waiting in
the Navy then i ever did before. Got to
Karouba at 1830 and ate and cleaned up
gear. Saw the 107 the lead of our
squadron. Nice ship, just like ours. They
said the Sway would be in soon. Went
to the show and saw “What a Woman”.
Hit the sack at 2300.

The “107” is the USS Prevail (AM-107), a member of the Auk Class of steel Hulled minesweepers. My grandfather’s ship, the USS Sway (AM-120), belonged to the same class.

USS Prevail (AM-107)
(Courtesy of the Author)


Movie poster for “What A Woman”
(Courtesy of the Author)

Friday May 26th
Had a good chow. Got put on a
working party, sweeping out the
recreation hangar. Took us till 11.30.
Had good noon chow. Missed muster.
Slept this noon. Went to movie
and saw “Four Jills in a Jeep.” Good.
Hit the sack at 2245.

Movie poster for “Four Jills in a Jeep.”
(Courtesy of the Author)

Saturday May 27th
The skipper won’t let us
keep a diary so will have
to stop. i suppose that there
will be a lot of things to
write about now that we are
on our own ship but it’s too
late. The best I can do is
remember what will happen.

My Grandfather did not record another daily journal entry until August, 1945 when he received word of the Japanese surrender. This blog, however, will continue using a combination of entries from the ship’s war journal and a few accounts of other events he wrote down.

The ship’s Diary recorded this.
27 0705 Arrived Palermo. Moored Starboard side to U.S.S. Dextrous ALONGSIDE. 1221 Underway for Djidjelli escorting H.M.S. Highway accompanied by U.S.S. Dexterous (AM341) in accordance with orders Commandant NOB. Palermo.

From The Ship’s War Diary
29 Underway as before for Bizerte. Arrived Bizerte 1218. 29-31 at Bizerte adding 20MM’s on boat deck and removing sky lookout platforms. 20 MM Mk 14 mounts exchanged for MK 10 mounts.

The USS Sway frequently operated out of Bizerte, Tunisia during its time in Europe. The ship was stationed at Karouba Air and Naval base.


Karouba Air and Naval Base; Bizerte, Tunisia
(Courtesy of the Author)

(June) 1-9 At Bizerte adding 20 MM on boat deck and removing sky lookout platform.

USS Sway (AM-120) Auk Class fleet Minesweeper. The ship my grandfather served on until 1946
(Courtesy of the Author)

Enjoy the author’s earlier posts here:

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