49. The Attack Continues
Orme stated that the Captain of the John Ericcson was one cool chap and seemed unfazed by all this and continued to give his crew orders in a quiet voice. Someone had given the Captain a steel helmet, which the Captain wore backwards throughout the attack. Also Orme noted, that the attacking planes were flying so low that the guns had a hard time, or were in some cases unable to depress far enough to get a shot at them. Only when a plane appeared in our front, then our gunners shot it down and it crashed on the ships stern immediately in front of us.
I believe that the way Joe Smith, a Sgt with the Rceme related his story was he was on board another ship and they rescued some American sailors from the torpedoed destroyer, and I could be wrong but they also picked up a couple of the German fliers.
# 14 General Hospital Staff including over one hundred nursing sisters had to take to lifeboats after their ship listed and was sinking from a torpedo strike. The seamen were pretty terrified and the nurses took to the oars showing great coolness and as nurses were very resourceful. The nurses were picked up by another ship and as they scrambled up the nets lowered for them they came aboard so I am told swinging their watches and rings in condoms borrowed from the troops. This was again good thinking as watches had to be a great part in a nurse's equipment as they would be very hard to get replacements.
I cannot say how long the attack went on as you lose the passing of time under this type of attack. When the all clear sounded we then found out from Orme what had actually went on.
The rest of the night was spent aboard our ship with an increased number of machine guns being manned and I have been told that after the aerial attack that we could expect this, followed by a submarine attack. Also we really never knew how many ships went down until much later. The official report was three ships sunk and three aircraft shot down. No Canadians were lost and that was a miracle. I think two of the ships were either towed or made it into a North African port and then went down.
The next day, all day, machine guns were manned in event of another attack, but we were not attacked by either submarine or aircraft. Seas were smooth and the sun shone bright and we entered Naples Harbour on the 8th of December 1943.
We had arrived in a foreign country. The harbour was a shambles of sunken ships and blown up dock yard . We disembarked in the evening to start a 14 mile walk to a field near Afrigola Italy...