1943 A.D., French North Africa

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This excerpt comes from the debriefing of P.F.C. Anthony Marno, tail-gunner on a U.S. Army B-24 bomber. Returning from a night raid against German troop concentrations in Italy, the aircraft found itself lost over the Algerian desert. Low on fuel, the pilot saw what looked like a human settlement below and ordered his crew to bail out. What they found was Fort Louis Philippe.

It looked like something out of a kiddie’s nightmare. . . . We open the gates, there wasn’t no bar on it or nothing. We walk into the courtyard, and there was all these skeletons. Mountains of them, no kidding! Just piled up everywhere, like a movie. Our skipper, he just kinda shakes his head and says, “Sorta feel like there should be buried treasure here, you know?” Good thing none of them bodies was in the well. We managed to fill up our canteens, grab some supplies. There wasn’t no food, but who’d want it anyway, you know?

Marno and the rest of his crew were rescued by an Arab caravan fifty miles from the fort. When questioned about the place, the Arabs would not respond. At the time, the U.S. Army had neither the resources nor the interest in investigating some abandoned ruin in the middle of the desert. No later expedition was ever mounted.

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