July 12, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

July 12, 1943
(René’s 28th birthday)

No. 46

Bizerte, Algeria
(His parents think he is still in Casablanca)

Dear Folksies,    

            Well, today it’s my birthday, and, in normal times I would be up there at Lake Tahoe with you celebrating it. I had at least hoped that I would be with Lois. But no, luck was to some extent against us there, so, actually, I’m not considering this as being my birthday at all — it shall be delayed. However, I must say that my boys came in this morning and serenaded me with “Happy Birthday.” It was darn nice of them.

            As you no doubt can realize, there is little about which I am able to write. You will be interested to know, however, that I seem to have a knack for bumping into people that I know, or who know someone whom I know.

            The other day I almost ran head-long into “Westy,” Bam‘s friend who none of us had seen for several months. We were both so glad to see each other that we practically yelled out each other’s names to each other and some of the high ranking gentlemen around us were sort of amazed.

                                                                                                                         Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next communication on
July 14


René tells his parents that he “almost ran head-long into ‘Westy'” – William Westmoreland – who was a Colonel at the time and had dated Charlotte Bambino (Bam) while they were in Casablanca. “Westy” is pictured above years later, when he had risen to the rank of General.




René misses Lois on his birthday. Here she is on the left, in a convertible with Bam (Charlotte Bambino) in downtown Casablanca.



July 16, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

July 16, 1943
No. 47

Bizerte, Algeria
(His parents think he is still in Casablanca)

Dear Folksies,    

         Unfortunately there isn’t much that I can say at the present time, but nevertheless I wanted to get a brief note off to you to tell you that I’m still fine, never felt better. In fact, the only things lacking are Lois and you folks.

         Have not been particularly busy, in fact, have enjoyed a sort of vacation – tho’ I must admit that I would rather be vacationing with you at Lake Tahoe now, than be where I am – if it’s a vacation they want to give, they can send me to Tahoe, says I.

          The last few days I’ve wondered whether you have saved pictures or articles that emanated from this part of the globe. I surely hope so, for I imagine that later on they will be interesting for us to see. Hope you have saved the June 14 Life magazine and others.

          Yesterday, being Bastille Day, we had a little celebration here. We were with some French Officers and as we had them to lunch, our cook made a swell cake and used a 10cc syringe to decorate the cake with chocolate icing and writing — saying on it, “Joyeux 14 Juillet,” and put a little French flag at the bottom. The Officers were most appreciative, and were sort of bubbling over.

          Hope you had a swell vacation and that by now you are all well rested and ready for the work that undoubtedly faces you again.               

                                                                                                              Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter on
July 17


René wishes he were on vacation with his parents at Lake Tahoe.




René tells his parents about the cake their cook made for a Bastille Day lunch attended by some French officers. He described it as looking like this one.



July 17, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

July 17, 1943
No. 48

Bizerte, Algeria
(His parents think he is still in Casablanca)

Dear Folksies,    

           Yesterday I finally managed to get some mail from you, tho’ with the mail situation still messed up, I see that I’m missing one of Mom’s letters and some of Dad’s. All were certainly most welcome, as that was the only mail in 3-1/2 weeks – I haven’t received any from Lois and wonder whether she has gotten mine.

        Thanks for the birthday wishes, but as I’ve told you, my birthday was officially postponed and I think Lois’ will likewise be postponed a few days anyway.

        Perhaps, however, she has already received the packages you mention. I hope so.

                                                                                                              Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next communication on
July 20


René tells his parents that both his birthday (July 12) and Lois’ (July 21) are officially postponed until the couple is able to be together again. René and Lois have been apart since June 20, when René and the rest of Cohn’s Courageous Commandos left the camp at Casablanca.



July 30, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

July 30, 1943
No. 49
Bizerte, Algeria

Dear Folksies,          

            The mail finally caught up with us and the whole outfit is now reunited. All, incidentally, hale and hearty. Roy and our gang officially rejoined yesterday, but I had been with the Col. on the night of July 25th, one gang arrived the following A.M. and then George and others yesterday. Collie immediately put me to work in a job similar to the first few days at the end of December, i.e. unloading our stuff. I had to drive the Col’s car around after some things, so naturally I had to have a passenger!

            We are now settled on the side of a hill in an olive grove that affords a slight amount of shade, with emphasis on the slight. Our bivouac is near the “ghost-town” near which Eddie and I have been on and off for the last month.

            I’m having some difficulties with this typing, as I am sitting on Fran’s bed in Lois’ and Fran’s tent, and the wind is whipping through and blowing the paper every which way. And now Lois decided I had to have an interlude, so she came over on this side of the tent to do some tickling! Ouch! Ha! Ha!

            To answer Dad’s letter about the razor-blade swallower [in René’s letter of May 21] – the pieces were probably about ¼ inch in diameter – about 10 pieces for one blade. No he doesn’t regurgitate them, as we could see the ones he had swallowed for the show, and then the ones he swallowed directly under the fluoroscope. The former were somewhere in the duodenum and ileum by the time we got the fluoro going.

            And thanks for the 6 more rolls of film. I took 3 rolls worth recently, but am waiting for our X-ray dark room to be set up to develop them.

            Intermission – Lois is sitting across from me with a blue bandana tied at the top like rabbit ears – looks like Blum’s little Dutch Gal. Reminds me of the good chocolate sodas – my, oh, my.

 Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter on
August 16


René looks on while Lois (above) and Fran Trembley (below) do some serious digging.





Fran (left) and Lois (right) repack their bedrolls in Bizerte.




Charlotte Bambino (Bam) (left) and Fran Trembley (right) wash their hair in an olive grove in Bizerte.




René, Hal Williams, Paul Stratte and Fran Trembley (from left to right)



On July 29, Dr. Phil Westdahl wrote in his journal, “The highlight of our arrival in Bizerte was to be greeted by the boys who left us many weeks ago — ‘Cohn’s Courageous Commandos,’ and we are thankful and happy to see them all well and in good spirits. We learn that they were divided into groups of 1 officer and 3 men assigned to individual assault boats carrying equipment on the night of the invasion. Their job was to evacuate casualties back to Tunis – their embarkation point. They tell of exciting and interesting incidents occurring, but fortunately enough, casualties were only 3% of the expected 15% and many of these were fatalities, rather than wounded, so that actually each officer only handled about 5 to 10 wounded men.”