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23rd, GENERAL HOSPITAL
U. S. ARMY
October 15, 1943
To: Albert J. Cadaret, Lieut. (jg), USN.
On September sixth in darkness, off Bizerte, wrecked, forlorn,
Lay the LST fleet waiting for the morrow’s fateful dawn.
Through the blackness came the Gerries; we could hear their bombers roar.
Then they dropped their deadly cargo – some hit water, some hit shore.
This of course was the beginning, our Baptism under fire;
It was just a portent of the coming deluge far more dire.
Then in convoy we traversed the Mare Nostrum’s waters blue;
Once the power failed when someone turned the wrong valve—there were two!
On the night before the Big Day, saw a convoy catching hell;
Saw the tracers burning upward, saw how slow the white flares fell!
Then came D-Day and the sun rose to reveal the Appennines;
All was peaceful ‘til the sweepers started touching off the mines
Toward this hostile shore we go now, changing course and shifting speed;
Of all talents of the Captain and his crew now had need.
"Here it is"—the biggest moment we shall see forevermore—
Here are guts and rage and courage, fear and death—yes here is WAR!
In we go amidst the geysers raised by shells shot from the shore;
It is deafening the way those 88s can rip and roar.
First a "short" and then an "over"—then one whines above the mast;
This is surely not "surrender"—these guys have our range at last.
As we make the run for beaching, Gremlin Grief comes ‘board our craft-
Something stinks out on the fantail, something’s burning somewhere aft.
Yes the armature and gear box of that fine stern anchor winch
Are a total loss and won’t pull us offshore, now that’s a cinch!
So we hit the beach at topspeed, lose the anchor off astern
To become a nice fixed target, as our range the Gerries learn!
Gingerly a jeep rolls down the ramp into waters bright,
Sputters forward, deeper, deeper, then just drops clean out of sight!
What we hit was not the beach but just a sand bar out to sea;
Tank-destroyers can’t get off here—now thank God for LCT!
Captain Cadaret has done it!—pulled us off with just the screws!
Unload quickly! Bombs are falling! We have got no time to lose!
Through the endless afternoon, and through the evening, through the night,
Tank-destroyers, other weapons, go ashore to join the fight.
"General Quarters" interrupt the men unloading stuff below.
How they leave those shells behind them when they hear the sirens go!
German bombers coming on the blinding rays of setting sun,
Lay their eggs, come close to three ships, but thank God get only one.
All night long the stricken vessel is consumed by hungry fire,
‘Til at four a wild explosion ends her role as funeral pyre.
With the dawn some other bombers hit a ship and LCT.
Of the eighty men unloading, fifteen live, untouched are three.
With the Navy’s contribution, Army also gave her sons—
We won’t soon forget those doughboys going ashore to face the guns.
Down the ramp they went, those brave ones, eager for a chance to fight—
Many gave the last full measure of devotion to the Right.
Now the world knows that Salerno was no picnic, but damn tough;
Words can never half do justice to those men that had the stuff.
On the next night, marked by tracer, bomb and flare and whistling shell,
We saw stuff defy description—well perhaps it looked like Hell.
Little can be gained from telling of the other journeys four
By the LST three-five-five to that hostile, foreign shore.
On the sea it wasn’t easy: German planes were often seen;
The the radio would signal: "Off the stern a submarine".
In between the nightmare chapters we would see a friendly port,
But these visits were not restful and were always very short.
Working through these weeks with shipmates gave us friendships that should last
Through the years when lesser values fade in the distant past.
For although we’d often argue, fight and rant at one another,
Ships have subtle ways of bringing men much closer to each other.
Please remember that I’m far more grateful than my power to say,
For the many kindnesses while sailing under Cadaret.
There were things which while on board the ship I had a chance to learn:
"Tailfan" isn’t in the books: The meaning of "Two Block firm"!
In closing I’d express the hope: When we return to native shore,
We must reune in old New York, and Jeez I sure hope YOU"VE got FOUR!
David H. Clement
Capt. M. C. U. S. Army,
Submitted by Al Cadaret
Submitted by Al Cadaret
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