Harry Ashworth 1943-1944

Harry Ashworth (c) in Tunisia

I use this blog as a chance to explore, and help others discover, the lives of people in their families and communities. It is fun, and therapeutic, for me to spend my free-time researching and writing about people whose lives may not have received any attention at all until now. This time I continue my writing about someone important to me, and I am asking for your help in discovering his story in more depth. That person is my grandfather, and my personal hero, Harry Ashworth (1921-2007).

22 year-old Harry Ashworth spent 18 days on board a transport ship that carried him, and the rest of his unit, from Newport News, Virginia to Algiers, Algeria in North Africa in the summer of 1943. He was a long way from Bordentown and Fieldsboro, New Jersey! Upon arriving in Africa, Company B, 795th Military Police Battalion was broken up into smaller detachments for service throughout the region. Harry was assigned to Detachment K.

By the time my grandfather arrived in Algeria, the United States Army had already captured Tunisia, and was actively engaged in occupying the island of Sicily. Detachment K was sent to Maison Blanche Airfield on the outskirts of Algiers. Maison Blanche was used by the French prior to the Operation TORCH landings, by the Royal Air Force during the Tunisian campaign, and then by the US Army Air Forces.

Maison Blanche Airfield, Algeria, c. 1943. (Source: http://abmc.nomadmobileguides.com/Normandy.php?page=narrative&id=cont-2915)

When my grandfather arrived at Maison Blanche, he would have seen the Army’s 63rd Fighter Wing, 350th Fighter Group and, later, the Army’s 97th Bombardment Group. The airfield also served as one of the principal hubs in North Africa for moving cargo, personnel, and aircraft throughout the theater. Detachment K may have been tasked with security for the base and/or guarding any prisoners-of-war facilities nearby.

Writing about this period of my grandfather’s service brought back a fond memory. My grandparents were blessed with numerous grandchildren, and my grandparents would often host all of us over the holidays. When we got a little too loud, my grandmother would bring out a small suitcase full of small black-and-white pictures of planes, tanks, jeeps, buildings, etc. my grandfather had sent home during the war. Many of these pictures had small portions cut out (I now know that these were done by the army’s censors). I’d love to see that suitcase, and the hints of my grandfather’s service it contains, today!

V-Mail letter from Harry Ashworth to his mother-in-law, Caroline Bentz, 17 November 1943. (APO 698 indicates the letter was posted from Algiers, Algeria)

Harry Ashworth was stationed in Algeria at least through the end of November 1943 based on surviving letters that he mailed home. It is probable that his detachment served at other locations in Algeria or Tunisia as well until at least June 1944. That month he sent home a picture of himself and two of his comrade-in-arms (see header photo) that was taken at a photographer’s studio “somewhere in Tunisia.” Harry’s service in the European Theater would end two months later.

My grandfather’s service brought him back to the United States. I’ll share with you more of what I’ve learned about that service in a future post.

© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.


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