This drama continued until around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when we took a horse drawn carriage back to the base. The Arab saw us leaving and began to run beside the carriage asking $5 for the knife. As before, I stayed at $2.50. Bingo, he went right back to $30. I told him to leave, as he was still running alongside the carriage all out of breath. He dropped the price to $19, then by increments of one dollar, lowered the price back to $5. He did not depart from $5.00. Instead, with tears in his eyes, he turned to leave. I yelled for him to return. He did, still trying to keep up with the carriage. I asked why the tears. He said, "Lieutenant, you have insulted me all day, my knife is worth $5!" I asked if he honestly believed that, and he said that he did. I gave him $5, got the knife, and my sons enjoyed seeing it on the wall at home. Through the years I've wondered if there is any moral to this negotiation?
At some point, either Marrakech or Casablanca, we were told that of the twenty-two planes, three were shot down, with only one crewman surviving. One was a fellow navigator and basketball teammate on our cadet team at the University of Miami. We were at Marrakech for a full day before leaving for Casablanca, Morocco. As I recall, it was there when we learned our final assignment.
When we arrived in Casablanca we were given the choice of being the crew for a general, or to be assigned to an operational group. Pierce, the first pilot, allowed us to vote on our assignment. The crew voted three to two for assignment with an operational group. The crew's rationale was that promotions would be more available there than an assignment with a general. I voted for chauffeuring the general, thinking that the contacts would be of great interest, as well as the places we would visit. Besides, a navigator couldn't expect to be more than a 1st Louie at the squadron level.
Soon, we were briefed that we'd be headed for a landing strip in the Tunisian desert near an Arab village called El Djem. The crew wanted to celebrate two things; the success of reaching Marrakech, and assignment to the 64th Troop Carrier Group. It turned out that our destination was the 16th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 64th Group. We were to take off the next morning.
Back in Belfast, on the way to England, I'd purposely bought a bottle of Irish whiskey to celebrate something, somewhere. So, I took the bottle into a French cafe in Casablanca with the crew. We celebrated all night, while watching refugees who had fled from various parts of Europe. I was tired, having been the only crewman that had not been able to sleep during the ten-and-one-half hour flight from England to Marrakech. We were in Marrakech one day before Casablanca, but we explored the city. Besides, the mattresses on the French cots did little to promote sleep.