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always ended up doin' things th' hard way, like in
Africa back in '43. There were three vehicles
assigned to me whenever we docked in Algiers. One
was a motorcycle with a side-car, which I didn't
know how to operate, the other was a 'Dukw'
(commonly referred to as a 'Duck'), for use on land
or water, and the third was a good ol' fashioned
Jeep. At the time, I was a courier on my ship for
classified (secret) correspondence between the High
Commands of the Armed Forces in and around Algiers.
At all times I carried a loaded .45 caliber gun and
was given orders never to stop, while delivering my
messages, for ANYONE or ANYTHING! They certainly
had the right guy for THAT job! When I zipped up
and down the streets of Algiers in my Jeep,
everyone gave me the right of way. At the time, I
imagined the 'locals,' verbalizing in French or
Arabic, saying, "Look out, get the kids out of the
street, here comes that crazy American again!"
One day, just prior to our ship being 'sealed' (due
to a mission, which was either the invasion of
Sicily or Italy), my name was called over the P.A.
system to report to the communications room. One of
the high ranking officers handed me a leather pouch
and told me it HAD to get to St. Georges in one
hell of a hurry! St. Georges was the Allied
Communications Center for the entire area and was
the coordinating force behind all combat
Mediterranean activities. It was located on top of
a mountain overlooking the harbor of Algiers.
"Oh, by the way sailor," the senior officer said to
me, "take this lieutenant with you, he has urgent
business at St. Georges too."
I turned to
the lieutenant and said, "Follow me, sir!"
We scurried down a couple of ladders (stairways)
and onto the gangplank leading to the dock below.
On my way down, I noticed my Duck, dangling in the
air, being hoisted aboard my ship. I observed, too,
that my Jeep was nowhere in sight. The only things
I DID notice were my motorcycle, with its sidecar,
and the Admiral's chauffeur leaning on the
Admiral's Chrysler limousine. They were both mighty
conspicuous since the dock was completely devoid of
anything else. Normally it was a cluttered mess of
machines and people.
As I paused, on my way down the gangplank, wonderin'
what a mess I was in, the lieutenant whizzed by me,
jumped into the sidecar of the motorcycle, and
hollered, "All right, sailor, let's get it movin'!"
"One moment sir," I said as I ran over to the
chauffeur who was leaning on his car with a
cigarette dangling from between his lips.
"Hi," he said
as I approached him.
I blurted out,
"Can you drive a motorcycle?"
was his reply.
show me how, I'm in one big hurry!"
He threw his cigarette down on the ground and
started to move towards my bike in which was seated
the gesturing lieutenant with his arms moving all
"No," I told
the chauffeur. "Teach me from HERE!"
gave me a puzzled look and started talking.
I repeated a few things back at my instructor and,
between the damn lieutenant's wild antics and
ravings, I tried to concentrate on my lesson.
I thought I understood everything I needed to know.
As I approached my bike, and swung my butt onto the
saddle, the lieutenant was fit to be tied! His
anger was just about to end, even though he didn't
see it comin'!
I kick-started the engine, put it in gear and
AWWWAAAY we went with tires a'screechin! I noticed
my passenger taking off his hat and clutching it in
his lap. He didn't utter one single word all the
way to St. Georges!
I was in 7th heaven! Never before had I experienced
such raw power at my fingertips! The trip that
normally took me 25 minutes or so only required 15!
My silent passenger slowly (and I mean SLOWLY) put
both of his feet over the sidecar and onto the
ground. I said, "My mission shouldn't take me too
long; I'll meet you back here."
As he was
putting his crushed hat back on his head, he asked,
"How long have you been driving a motorcycle?"
After a quick
glance at my watch I replied, "About twenty
he stuttered, "I'll get another ride back to the
Was he a coward, or what?
From that time on I used my motorcycle on all my
runs. And, I have the distinct feeling that if the
lieutenant survived the war, he has also told this
story to all who would listen, though with HIS
version of it!!!
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