Friday, July 2, 1943
Tunis, Tunisia, North Africa
July 2, 1943 Diary Page
Tonight is Atabrine night. For those of you who have not enjoyed the pleasure of a tour of North Africa under the auspices of Uncle Sam’s army, Atabrine is a little yellow pill that tastes like the bitterest fruits of evil. Evil, in fact is not the word. You take 2 pills on Tuesday night and 2 on Friday. You throw them as far back in your mouth as far as possible. Then you drink three cartons full of water trying to get rid of the taste. The pills are for the purpose of safe guarding our forces against the ravages of malaria. That is what the Doc. says but I still firmly believe that they are for the purpose of keeping a poor soldier’s thoughts from home too much. It’s a cinch you can’t do much thinking of anything when you are running to the latrine at 5 minutes interval wondering which end of your poor body will divulge the inner most secrets of your mistreated stomach this time. It’s generally a tossup. Of course eventually you get immune to the ravages of said microbe of hell that is a long and arduous climb. However you feel quite elated when you finally arrive at the stage where you can take the pills with a minimum of facial contortions and with absolute immunity of the inner origins. Today at noon the 25 men on D.S. came back. Now we don’t have to worry about guard, D.O., K.P.’s and the other hundred details that have to be taken care of even 30 miles from the front. I think there are more details and paper work here than in the states although the one reason we wanted to come over seas was to get away from them. You can’t win. Tonight I saw a show. I had seen it in the states but over here you get desperate so it makes no difference if you see it ten times more.
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The Day That Was: July 2, 1943
|• The U.S. Army Air Corps 99th Fighter Squadron, the first of the all-black Tuskegee Airmen to see combat, had been based in Africa for four months when they were assigned to escort 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers on a routine mission over Sicilian targets. Lieutenant Charles B. Hall of Brazil, Indiana became the first Tuskegee Airman to score a confirmed kill when he shot down a German fighter plane. The United States would not allow black airmen to fight for their country until 1943, when the first of a contingent trained at Tuskegee, Alabama, were formed as the 99th Fighter Squadron and shipped out to North Africa. That unit and the 332nd Fighter Group that followed (which comprised the 99th) would prove their worth in the last two years of World War II. Besides establishing an outstanding record for not losing a single bomber they escorted to enemy fighters, several of the Tuskegee Airmen went on to distinguished postwar careers in the U.S. Air Force. (http://timelines.ws/20thcent/1943.HTML)
The 99th Fighter Squadron trained in and flew P-40 Warhawk aircraft in combat in North Africa, Sicily and Italy from April 1943 until July 1944
1943 Diary Recaps
January 1943 Recap: We first met Lt. Reichard in January, stationed at McClellan Air Base in Sacramento, where he was in charge of a motor pool unit. Expecting to be sent overseas, their orders were changed and they became restless to see action. Lt. Reichard’s sweetheart, Ginnie, would write frequently, and he would go to dinner and movies with local girls – Dorothy, in Sacramento, and Marie, when the unit moved to Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. The men have spent their days in lectures, and physical demonstrations to try to keep sharp mentally and physically. But they are getting increasingly restless.
February 1943 Recap: The unit continues to be restless as they still haven’t any orders for overseas. The days are kept busy with lectures, physical demonstrations, and frequent hikes in the mountains above Boise. Lt. Reichard receives a promotion to Lieutenant First Class and continues to write to Ginnie back home, though her letters are becoming more infrequent. February 1943 comes to an end with the unit still feeling bored and discouraged.
March 1943 Recap: March brings uncertainties in weather and daily life to Gowen Field. Still no word about overseas orders, the outfit must now share quarters with another unit. There is now time to begin a photo album, collecting pictures from times with the outfit. Letters from Ginnie are becoming more infrequent but there is no shortage of dates with the local girls in Boise. March comes to an end with everyone in the outfit anxiously awaiting word of upcoming furloughs.
April 1943 Recap: Last minute furloughs come through, and Lt. Reichard returns home to Maryland for some time with his family on the farm. He and Ginnie have a chance to talk things over and hopefully save the relationship. Just before leaving Boise, the unit gets orders that a move will come at the end of April. April comes to an end with the men spending a week in Stockton, California getting ready to ship out. But where they are going remains a mystery.
May 1943 Recap: The long journey begins by train as the outfit travels cross country to Camp Shanks, New York, where they will prepare to head overseas. Lt. Reichard now knows the destination: Casablanca, Morocco in North Africa. After ensuring that all the supplies are in order, the outfit boards the “West Point”, the newest in troop carriers and heads to sea. Lt. Reichard spends many peaceful evenings enjoying the time at sea before landing in Morocco. May ends with the outfit setting up camp and adjusting to the customs of Morocco.
Lt. Reichard’s WWII Diary Project : On January 1, 2009, WorthPoint began a three year project following the life of a WWII soldier through the daily pages of his diary. To read about the inception of this project, or to add your own comments, click here.
Diary transcription: Sharri Seippel
Diary photos: Claudia Forbes
Video production: Alison Harder
Narration: Mountain Vista H.S. Theater Department
Jeremy Goldson, Department Chair; Bryan Smith – voice of Lt. Reichard