01 July, 2011

01 July, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
1 July, 1944        1030

Dearest sweetheart –

I’ve got a chance to write just now so I’d better try to get this off before something else turns up. Everything here is going along quite well and we’re getting used to living in the field again. We had been pretty well toughened up until we hit Sherborne Castle – that really was the soft spot in England for us and of course it beat anything we ever had in the States. The set-up was just unbelievable and it was pure luck I guess that brought us there. We ate in a tremendous dining room – just for our officersand the mess was excellently run. Oh well – we got softened up I guess – but we’re gradually getting into stride and are becoming the field soldiers we were meant to be.

There was no real mail last nite, just packages and journals. I got the June 19th issue of Time and the June 12th pony edition of the Boston Herald. The envelope was marked – compliments of Miller – some street in Dorchester. I know no such person – but I’ve been receiving the paper weekly now for a couple of months. It was interesting – this particular paper – because it had a picture on the front page – of one of the towns we had been in when the going was hot, and the write-up covered the whole area we’ve been in. It seemed strange to read about it in a Boston paper and then to realize that I’m here and taking part in it.

Last night, darling, we had some fun. That also seems strange considering there’s quite a war going on. The reason was this: you may or may not have read that in one of the cities recently captured – a large stock of liquor was found. Well I had no idea how large it was until our supply officer returned with a supply last nite. So much was captured from the Jerries that the General of our corps decided to divide it up among all the officers of the corps. Perhaps you have no idea of how many that is – and I can’t tell you if you haven’t. Anyway – each of us got a bottle of cognac and in addition there is left in the pool – about 40 more bottles of mixed stuff which would be difficult to divide up because of the variety. We’ll kill it from meal to meal. It includes several bottles of champagne – vintage 1939, brandies, liqueurs – Cointreau, Benedictine – and many other types of drinks. Andrew Jackson – or somebody – first said that to the Victors belonged the spoils. This is the first example of it I’ve seen. I gave my medical aid men a couple of hookers each and I still have half a bottle of cognac left for any cold or rainy nite. It’s an amazingly stimulating drink and can really warm you up if you’ve been chilled and wet. I had occasion to find that out several days ago. We were pretty cold and wet – one of the officers and I were waiting for our outfit to catch up with us. A woman in a farm house beckoned to us to come in and warm up. We did. She offered us coffee in a demi-tasse cup – black. We drank perhaps a third of the coffee when she produced some cognac and poured it into the coffee. Well – we drank about half of that and she poured more cognac in. After 3 times – we were drinking straight cognac. We were not only warm by that time, sweetheart, but also dizzy. But it did make us feel pretty good. Incidentally the French also say “faire le zig-zag” – to indicate staggering from drunkenness.

Well, darling, that brings you approximately up to date with my activities. Today is payday but we’re not getting paid. I’m not going to take any pay this month. I’ll wait until next month and if I don’t need it then – I’ll send it home. I still have on me about 1200 francs (about 24 American bucks).

That’s all for now Sweetheart. On our quiet days – I have time to think hard and it’s then when I miss you most, dear. But I know you love me – I love you – and what more could a guy ask for? I mean, right now – of course! Love to the family and

My deepest love, darling


about a TIME Magazine Article
June 19, 1944

This article in the June 19, 1944 issue of TIME tells us that battalion aid stations were only 1000 yards from the front, among other things:

Medicine: That They Shall Not Die

Thousands of U.S. fighting men who would never have come home from World War I or any other past war will come home from the invasion. Thousands more, who in World War I would have been invalided for months or years, this time will be quickly and completely healed.

This mass saving of human life is made possible by the medical service that backs up the invasion. The man who organized that service is Major General Paul Ramsey Hawley, 53. Last week Major General Hawley's medical army moved D-day's wounded so swiftly that many a soldier hit on the Normandy beaches in the morning was recovering from his wounds the same night in a hospital in England.

For the Brave, the Best. Between Pearl Harbor and D-day Major General Hawley had integrated into one tremendous organization the best the U.S. had to send of surgical and medical genius, technique, supplies. He had also supervised the building of huge hospitals which, some Army doctors say, are better than those at home.

In preparing for the invasion's wounded, he and his Chief Surgical Consultant, Harvard's dynamic Dr. Elliott Cutler, insisted on one basic principle: chemotherapy is no substitute for prompt surgery. So they recruited numbers of good surgeons, organized them for front-line work, trained legions of Medical Corpsmen, litter bearers, ambulance drivers, aircraft crews, in expediting the wounded.

As in other battle areas, the invasion wounded are evacuated through a system of echelons, beginning with the single Medical Corpsman who follows each platoon (even if it travels by parachute), the litter bearers and the battalion aid station 1,000 yards from the front, and ending with convalescent hospitals in the U.S. In between come: 1) division clearing stations (usually about eight miles from the front), where the wounded are sorted according to their wounds; 2) mobile evacuation hospitals and field hospitals, 15 to 30 miles behind the lines; 3) station and convalescent hospitals in the rear. Ready for piecemeal hauling across the Channel are huge hospitals made of Nissen huts and bricks. When the beachheads deepen, many of the wounded will be put to bed in France.

Heroism Redundant. Major General Hawley believes that heroism is necessary on the battlefield, but not required of a wounded man. Last week he paced the docks at a South-of-England port, making sure for himself that the wounded were comfortable. He saw how tenderly the litter bearers (many of them Negroes) moved the stretchers from ships to docks, from docks to ambulances, watched the doctors change bandages and give morphine in the open air. He sighed with relief: "Didn't see a single man in pain. Not drugged, mind you—they were smoking cigarettes, many of them—but enough [morphine] so that they were comfortable." Said he when someone asked him how he got such a complicated organization working so smoothly: "Give a mouse a shot of hooch and he'll yell, 'Bring on the cats.' "

Fortunately, simple bullet wounds do not hurt much at first. For more severe wounds, Medical Corpsmen are ready on the battlefield with dope. If a wounded man can walk, he is bandaged and told where to go. If he cannot walk, litter bearers are sent for him. He gets some temporary patching at the battalion aid station and more at the clearing station.

There doctors expert in wound diagnosis decide which men, irrespective of rank, need priority in travel and treatment. In general, first priority goes to chest wounds (9% of casualties), abdominal wounds (4%). For desperate cases, General Hawley plans to use a system developed in Russia—many of the evacuation hospitals are specialty hospitals. Thus a touch-&-go casualty may be treated by a top-notch specialist from Johns Hopkins three hours after he is hit. Last week these urgent cases were often operated on in LSTs in mid-Channel—the evacuation hospitals had not yet crossed. Low priorities also go to men wounded in arms & legs—in Africa these comprised 60 to 65% of the wounded.*

In World War I, 61% of those not killed outright eventually returned to duty. In Africa, 64% were fit to fight again in 90 days. About 70% of Russia's wounded return to the front. Hawley's experts cautiously whisper that they hope to do as well during the invasion.

But if and when the invasion front stabilizes a little, General Hawley hopes to save nearly every wounded soldier who lives to reach his hospitals. In Italy only one-half of 1% of battle casualties who reached evacuation hospitals have died.

*A recent widespread rumor has it that many U.S. World War II casualties are "basket cases" (all four limbs amputated). In an editorial in last week's Military Surgeon the Medical Corps flatly contradicted this rumor. There have been no basket cases (to lose all four limbs would be fatal anyway), no cases with three lost limbs. The editorial called the rumor "a deliberate effort to undermine the morale of our people."

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