Longform

Letter in a Battle

Page 5 of 18

"Hear the radio a little each evening. That's how I know we're going somewhere. The programs are changing from American to British, French and German. Have a feeling that I am in for a terrific education in the next few months -- from a lot of different angles."


On November 8, Murdock's 7th Infantry Regiment went ashore at the French Moroccan port of Fedala (often misspelled as Fedela by Murdock), on the Atlantic coast of North Africa. It was the only place in the war where American troops fought French troops, then commanded by the Nazi-run Vichy government of France.

"We've all been hanging on the radio, waiting for the papers," Rachael wrote her mother on November 8. "There must be millions doing the same thing. Doesn't it seem so unreal? I keep thinking -- our Davey is a part of it all. He's landing in Africa or watching the shore. Somewhere he's in on the biggest military adventure in history. I'm mad and proud and jittery and weepy and excited. At least for him there must be satisfaction to be part of the move of the hour. Gee, I hope the French cooperate. But we've all got lots of waiting and anxiety ahead of us. We can't poo out at the beginning. If thinking can help, I'm mine sweeping for Davey."

Before the invasion, Murdock dashed a note to his brother: "Well, Kid, This is it. We're in good shape and as far as I can tell it's a complete surprise -- no air or sub attacks all the way across. It's now 12 o'clock and the first men are going over the side. I go at 2:15. The night is dark. The waves very still. The sky is dark and everything looks perfect.

"Strange, no sensation of fear. I've often wondered, even figured how to say, 'I'm scared' in French -- 'J'ai crappy les pants.' All equipment complete. I'm a walking arsenal. You should see the men. Morale high. You'd think they were headed for a picnic. Wonder how we'll feel in 24 hours.

"The lights are all on in the town. We can see them 10 miles away so of course we're curious as to how much they know. We are prepared for any reaction from the defending population. Everything is planned to minutest detail.

"Better get my stuff on and get up and take a last look at my maps. I'll censor this and leave it aboard. It may get to you in time for a 'MERRY XMAS and a Happy Noo Year.'"



Ten days later, Murdock detailed the invasion to his brother:

"I wrote you a note aboard ship at midnight before we landed. Get it? We went over the side at [CENSORED] scheduled to land in the fifth wave at [CENSORED]. We had just heard the President's message to the Free French so we knew they would be alert for us. First wave was to hit the beach at [CENSORED]. But as I feared the best laid plans didn't work out perfectly. Our wave was late starting for shore in the first place and about halfway in, the motor of my landing boat froze up and stopped (they -- Navy -- forgot to water it). The rest of the wave went on in. Our last two boats waited till the skipper got the motor going and then found that no one knew the way to our beach. It was just turning light and all Hell was popping ashore, rifle, machine guns, artillery, and then the ships in our fleet opened up on the shore batteries at [CENSORED].

"I took stock of the personnel in the two boats. I was the only officer (besides our chaplain). I finally argued the Navy kids that were piloting the [CENSORED] that the only thing to do was to get ashore anywhere and then we'd find the rest of our units. We finally landed on a rocky reef and waded, floundered and swam on in. Each man had from 50 to 70 pounds of equipment and ammunition on him and when we hit shore we found that a lot of it had been dropped including all our m.g. ammo and the tripod mount for the gun.

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Edward Lebow
Contact: Edward Lebow