Willson, other WW II clerks provide Christmas for families in Algeria

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 6, 2010 

I was billeted with the personnel section in the little suburb of Bermandries, Algiers, Algeria, North Africa.

I was Company E's company clerk. We were of the Second Battalion, 133rd Infantry, 34th Division. Our battalion had been designated by Gen. George Marshall, General of the Army, to guard Allied headquarters in North Africa.

It was Christmas time, 1943. We had become acquainted with quite a number of children and their parents in the surrounding neighborhood and knew that the Germans had been through there and left the people in poor shape; Christmas would be slim when it came to gifts and goodies.

So, we clerks decided to do something about the situation. There was a shaggy old evergreen tree in the courtyard next to our building. With an assorted bunch of stuff, we concocted what turned out to be decorations for that old tree.

Next, we notified folks in the area that Santa Claus was going to be in that courtyard come Christmas morning. We gathered up all the goodies and gifts we could spare from packages we'd received from home, and Christmas morning piled them under the "decorated" tree.

By 10 o'clock the place was crowded with mothers and their children. Sure enough, a jeep came rolling up with a chubby G.I. Santa Claus.

Such happiness was a pleasure to behold. Some mothers even cried. I'm sure that every child there left with something from Santa Claus, and a Christmas that would be remembered for years to come.

Maybe this isn't quite the kind of war story you'd care to hear, but it is one best remembered by me.

Chelsea Willson, 97, lives in Bellingham.

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