443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II

FRENCH MOROCCAN CAMPAIGN

CASABLANCA OCCUPATION AND DEFENSE

Following the armistice 443rd Platoons B-5, C-3 and C-5 moved with the 67th Armored Regiment to the Cork Forest of Marmora, near Rabat. There they set up a perimeter defense of the 2nd Armored Division. After another three weeks in Safi defensive positions, Platoons A-4 and A-5 were released from Safi harbor and airport defense with the 9th Division’s 47th Regiment, and moved to join their parent Battery A, also in the Cork Forest, defending the 2nd Armored Division.

443rd Battalion Headquarters and the four Battery Headquarters units arrived in Morocco on the D + 10 convoy and for over four weeks the 443rd was engaged in a number of missions. Headquarters was housed in an orphanage three miles north of Casablanca where it set up a Gun Operations Board to plot all intelligence on enemy air or sea movement and order antiaircraft firing — both naval and land-based — in defense of Casablanca, its port facilities and its airport. The Battalion Executive Officer, Major Larson, had been placed on temporary duty (TDY) with the Artillery Section, Western Task Force Headquarters in Casablanca. There he set up and coordinated the antiaircraft and naval defense of the Casablanca area including the Harbor Entrance Control Post.

Battery B was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division for protection of the bivouac and docks at Fedala. Battery D was attached to the Provisional Brigade, 9th Infantry Division, for the protection of similar facilities at Port Lyautey. Two platoons of Battery C were sent inland, one to defend a vital bridge at Meknes and the other to protect the airport and Fifth Army Headquarters at Oujda.

Not only had men of the 443rd matured as a combat unit but they discovered a new and different society in North African Morocco. A French protectorate since 1912, the country was ruled by a Sultan under direction and advice of the French Resident-General. The Sultan, who was also religious head of the Moroccans, headquartered in Rabat with his wives. Although French influence in homes and theaters was evident in Casablanca, the Arab influence was even more prominent. Most of the Arabs lived and dressed as they had for centuries. Men were entirely dominant — wives almost servants.

Many Arabs were extremely poor and stealing was a way of life for them — as many G.I.s discovered to their sorrow. Stories abounded about a number of men who had been murdered for their valuables — including clothing. One 443rd G.I. awoke in the desert one morning to find that his boots had been stolen off his feet during the night. During the landings, the many ammunition trailers that had been landed at points distant from their gun-tracks were invariably found looted of everything except their ammunition. Beggars were seen everywhere. Most of the women kept the lower half of their faces veiled in public and it was noted that various tribes were identified by tatooed markings on forehead, cheek, or chin.

Weekly market days were held at desert crossroads where chickens, goats, sheep, camels, fruits and vegetables exchanged hands. A battery of women could also be seen at these events, each sewing madly on a treadle-type, Singer Sewing Machine. One 443rd member, who spoke a little Arabic, was watching an auction of young girls, either sold by their fathers or captured by other tribes to be sold into slavery. Stripped to the waist, they would submit to arm and teeth inspection by potential buyers. Before he knew it the 443rd soldier had made a bid in Arabic and had bought a girl. She followed him around all day like a puppy dog but when evening came he managed to get away from her in Casablanca’s narrow streets — leaving her free.

What came to be called "Arab Express" buses were frequently seen barreling along desert roads, loaded inside and on top with Arabs, luggage and chickens. Due to the shortage of gasoline the buses were powered by gas from charcoal stoves. The contrasts of wealth and poverty were seen in the Casbah (Arab quarter of towns) and the modem French section. The latter had whitewashed homes with walls that surrounded cool courtyards with beautiful shrubbery, flowers and mosaic tile fountains. The Casbah had no real street but winding alleys where one could buy anything, amid the smells of perfumes, donkeys, goats, sheep and camels as well as fish. Here, too, beggars and prostitutes were plentiful.

menu3.gif (2333 bytes)
redline.gif (912 bytes)
menu2.gif (2093 bytes)

Copyright 1998 443rd AAA Association. All Rights Reserved
This World War II history is sponsored and maintained by TMFM