Thomas Haynes Marnette
168th Inf div 34th Div 3rd BN Co I
Killed in Action 29 March, 1943 in the Fondhouk Pass,
Tunisia, North Africa
-- Diane Marnette Sagen --
My father, Tom Marnette, was from Des Moines, Iowa. He had been a business major at the University
of Iowa, but his love was music and writing. He had a jazz band called the Tomcats. He played the
banjo and the piano. From his letters from North Africa I know he was a man who was interested in
everything around him -- people, their customs, music, food, golf. He was a man who loved life.
An ROTC officer, he was mobilized when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Before being sent to North Africa,
he trained at Fort Ord, California, and Fort Lewis, Washington. During that time he wrote his father
and my mother, Kathryn, beautiful letters describing the United States as he traveled between bases.
His letters from North Africa describe the country and the people, as well as what the censors
allowed him to say about the war. One letter describes his experience of the landing at Casablanca:
"Now I know how a fly feels caught in a web."
As a claim to fame, Tom was the writer of the popular "Stella, the Belle of Fedala,"a popular song
among the soldiers in North Africa. From the Stars and Stripes: "Meanwhile they were stuck out here
under canvas in bivouac with absolutely nothing to do in the evenings but sing "Stella, the Belle of
Fedala. Everybody sings "Stella," from yardbirds up. It's a highly censorable ditty that goes to
the tune of "Abdul Abul Emir" and it starts off like this:
"Now every young Yank who was in Casablanca
I was born two weeks before my father was killed in Fondhouk Pass. The battle was one that probably
should not have happened, and there was much criticism of the leadership which ordered that particular
battle. I am looking for a comrade of my father's, a Lauren McBride, who survived the battle and
wrote my mother a letter describing my father's part in it. I would dearly love to talk to him.
Knows Stella, the belle of Fedala,
A can of 'C' ration will whip up a passion
in this little gal of Fedala."