The men of the 35PRS safely crossed the Atlantic and initial passage into the Mediterranean in Convoy UGS-40 before departing the convoy for Oran.  They barely missed a big air-sea battle as the remaining ships in UGS-40 fought the Luftwaffe on the evening of 11 May 1944.  Improvements in air defense since the UGS-38 convoy fiasco in April, 1944 proved effective as over 60 aircraft attacked and nearly 20 enemy aircraft were shot down, without any of the convoy’s merchant ships or escorts lost in the battle.

"Air raid on the anchorage: flak going up," by Norman Wilkinson (Magnolia Box Prints)

“Air raid on the anchorage: flak going up,” by Norman Wilkinson (Magnolia Box Prints)

Instead, the Redhawks disembarked from their Liberty ships at the North African port of Oran, French Algeria, on May 10, 1944.  Col. Sterling Barrow, then a 2d Lt. F-5 pilot in the squadron, remembers there were still sunken ships littering the harbor as the ships docked and the troops marched off.  They were taken by trucks from the port to a camp outside the city, there to wait for the ship which was to take them on the next leg of their long journey to China.

Port of Oran, French Algeria, April, 1943 (Operation Torch, French Wikipedia)

Port of Oran, French Algeria, April, 1943 (Operation Torch, French Wikipedia)

It was a Spartan setting, on a rocky hillside, or solid rock, as Col. Barrow remembers, which made it difficult to set up the pup tents the men made from the shelter halves they carried.  There they waited, “…sat around and drank coffee and ate K-rations…,” which they brought with them to the camp. K-rations were intended as a short duration, individual ration which could be carried in a large pocket by a soldier.

The U.S. Army’s K-ration Dinner Unit included a canned entrée, e.g. Pork luncheon meat (early version), canned processed American cheese, Swiss and American cheese, or Bacon and cheese, (cheese entree all subsequent versions) biscuits, 15 malted milk tablets (early) or five caramels (late), sugar (granulated, cubed, or compressed), salt packet, a four-pack of cigarettes and a box of matches, chewing gum, and a powdered beverage packet (lemon (c.1940), orange (c. 1943), or grape (c. 1945) flavor).  (Source K-ration entry on Wikipedia)

The U.S. Army’s K-ration Dinner Unit included a canned entrée, e.g. Pork luncheon meat (early version), canned processed American cheese, Swiss and American cheese, or Bacon and cheese, (cheese entree all subsequent versions) biscuits, 15 malted milk tablets (early) or five caramels (late), sugar (granulated, cubed, or compressed), salt packet, a four-pack of cigarettes and a box of matches, chewing gum, and a powdered beverage packet (lemon (c.1940), orange (c. 1943), or grape (c. 1945) flavor). (Source K-ration entry on Wikipedia)

As the Redhawks ashore were temporarily guests of the British Empire, the Empire fed them at the camp, tossing cans of “Bully Beef” from a truck for the Redhawks to eat in what turned out to be a “robust” supplement for the K-rations.

A can of Corned Beef, also known as "Bully Beef," longtime used in military rations.  (Wikipedia)

A can of Corned Beef, also known as “Bully Beef,” longtime used in military rations. (Wikipedia)

“Bully Beef” was a common ration of the British Army from the Boer War of the 19th Century through World War II. American troops serving overseas in places with a British Commonwealth presence had this beef in both world wars, even in the far reaches of the South Pacific. In fact, Bully Beef continued as a field ration in the British Army at least until 2009, when it was reportedly replaced by other rations.

In the United States, “Bully Beef” is more commonly known as corned beef, perhaps named as such in reference to the coarse granular chunks of salt which were used to cure it in the early days of preparation. The Name “Bully” appears to be an Anglicized version of the French word bouilli, which came from boeuf bouilli, or boiled beef.

How troops felt about this ration, when served day after day, cannot be repeated here, or it might melt down the keyboard. During World War I a witty American soldier and poet named Sergeant A.P. Bowen wrote a poem about this beef, which was apparently carried in the Stars and Stripes newspaper published during the war. He titled it “I Love Corned Beef,” and it goes like this:

I Love corned beef—I never knew
How good the stuff could taste in stew.
I love it “camouflaged” in hash;
A hundred bucks I’d give in cash
To have a barrel of such chow
A-standing here before me now;
I madly rush when “soupie” blows;
I sniff and raise aloft my nose.
“Corned beef! Ah ha!” I wildly yell.
“Old Sherman said that ‘War is hell,’
But gladly would I bear the heat
If corned beef I could sit and eat!”
I love it wet; I love it dry;
I love it baked and called meat-pie;
I love it cold— But listen, friend.
When to this war there comes an end,
And peace upon this earth shall reign,
I’ll hop a boat for home again;
Then to a restaurant I will fly
And to the waiter I will cry:
“Some corned beef, please!—both hot and
cold;
And corned-beef stew you have, I’m told;
And bring a little corned-beef hash.
Don’t worry, friend, I’ve got the cash!
And—now don’t think I’m crazy, man,
But could you bring a corned-beef can?
First, please hand me that bill of fare.
Now don’t stand there, you boob, and stare.
I want a sirloin steak, you bet!
And—wait—I’m not through ord’ring yet!
Hashed brown potatoes—gravy, too.
Hot biscuits? Better bring a few.
Oh, bring me all that’s printed here.
My appetite is huge, I fear!”
Then, when he’s filled my festive board
I’ll bow my head and thank the Lord
(For that’s the proper thing to do),
And then I’ll take the corned beef stew,
The corned beef hot, the corned-beef cold;
The corned-beef can I’ll then lay hold,
And ram the whole works into it,
And say: “Now, damn you, there you’ll sit!
You’ve haunted every dream I’ve had—
You don’t know what shame is, by gad!
Now sit there, bo! See how yuh feel
To watch me eat a reg’Iar meal!”

Sergeant A. P. Bowen, Headquarters Company, 116th Supply Train (Source:
Songs From The Trenches (A collection of verses by American soldiers in France).

So the Redhawks made the best of their field rations of Bully Beef on a rocky hillside outside of Oran, mixing in parts of their K Rations like the lemon powder beverage packet to give it some different flavor. Perhaps they felt a bit like their American soldier-poet predecessor, making the most of what they had as they awaited transportation for the next (sea) leg of their long journey to the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations.
References

35PRS History, April – September, 1944

Morison, Samuel Eliot, “The History of US Naval Operations in World War II, Volume X, The Atlantic Battle Won, May 1943 – May 1945,” Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1956, pages 269-272

Air raid on the anchorage: flak going up by Norman Wilkinson, at: http://www.magnoliabox.com/artist/28427/Norman_Wilkinson

K-ration, entry on Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-ration

Corned Beef, entry on Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corned_beef

Bully Beef definition, on the Free Dictionary, at: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/bully+beef

“I Love Corned Beef,” at, http://www.tastearts.com/meat-poem-i-love-corned-beef-by-a-p-bowen/

Background on A.P. Bowen, at: http://pennyspoetry.wikia.com/wiki/A.P._Bowen

“Army says goodbye to bully beef,” Daily Telegraph, 5 February 2009, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/onthefrontline/4527915/Army-says-goodbye-to-bully-beef.html

‘’Opération Torch,’’ entry on French Wikipedia, at: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Op%C3%A9ration_Torch

“Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II, History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946, Volume II, Part III The Advance Bases, Chapter XX The Mediterranean Area,” at Naval History and Heritage Command website, at: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/buildbaseswwii/bbwwii2.htm

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