A guest post by Stephen Phelps:
Today is the 70th anniversary of the WW II invasion of North Africa, which began with the assault and landing in the port of Safi by USS Bernadou, a WW I-vintage destroyer that had been stripped down for stealth and draft. My father, Stephen E. Phelps, was a torpedoman aboard her that day; his station as the ship drove into the port was as a loader on that forward 4″ gun.
Captain Braddy grounded the ship in order to disembark his 200 Army Rangers. As the Rangers went over the side the ship continued to take small arms fire and the sailors were helping the soldiers over the bows and onto the landing nets with all their gear. As the last Ranger climbed over, with my father helping him, they looked into each other’s eyes. My father said, “Good luck, soldier,” and the Ranger said, “You, too, sailor.”
Fifty years later my father was at a reunion of tin-can sailors in Denver. He and my mother were on the hotel elevator going down to dinner when it stopped at another floor and a man got on. He and my father looked at each other, and the man said, “I know you.” My father said there was something familiar about the guy, but he couldn’t place him. “Do you remember,” the man said, “helping the last Ranger over the side of Bernadou in Safi that day?”
Presidential Unit Citation – USS Bernadou: “For outstanding performance in leading the attack on Safi, French Morocco, November 8, 1942.”