On November 2, 1942, my father, Paul Andrew Kennedy, sailed out of New York Harbor on the Santa Elena. Bound for Casablanca, the Santa Elena was part of the Western Task Force of Operation Torch, the massive Allied invasion of North Africa. He didn’t know this when he embarked. He had said good-bye to my mother at the gates of Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on October 31 wondering “where and why and home and then you, Marion.” Forty-eight hours out of New York, their destination and mission were revealed to them.
Thus began what would be almost three years of foreign service, taking him to North Africa, Italy, France, Germany, and ultimately home again to my mother and to the children he had left behind, Paul and Joan, who were so young they could scarcely have remembered him. Also waiting for him was my sister Ruth, born after he left, whom he had never seen.
He was a surgeon, a member of the 2nd Auxiliary Surgical Group. After an initial period of relative inactivity in North Africa, he spent most of his time in Italy, France, and Germany, working in field hospitals, which were mobile units set up immediately behind the front lines to care for soldiers so desperately wounded that they could not be safely transported back to evacuation hospitals. This was virtual battle field surgery. Often working ahead of their own artillery, the Second “Aux” set up mobile operating theaters, for the most part in tents, to care for grievously wounded boys and young men, many of whom seemed to have no chance of survival.