16 July, 2011

16 July, 1944

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

My dearest darling –

I thought I’d take some time off for a while and write you a less hurried letter than usual. I’ve really been busy this past week and it has been a great relief. The past 5 days have literally flown by and when evening has come I have been tired and slept well.

When I got back from the hospital last night (the 34th Evacuation Hospital) I found two letters from you, darling, and that’s always been a pleasant way to end up a day away from home. It sure is comforting, dear to realize that despite the tediousness of waiting and wondering – you are still in love with me and keep me first in mind. The fact that the reverse is true – is of course obvious – but in case you’re not sure, sweetheart, I’ll tell you again that nothing occupies my mind so fully, so constantly and so completely – as the thought and vision of you – and us together right after the war and forever after that – ‘until death do us part’ – as man and wife. Like you – I have imagined us together in Salem – so often – that I now accept it as fact – and it must be so some day, dear. I have the added advantage, though, of knowing what Salem is like – what it was like before I went into the Army – and how much I missed by not knowing you earlier. Well – we’ll make up for it!

Your letters last night were of June 29th and 30th and when the mail does come now – it isn’t too old – not that it makes much difference, really, because a letter is a letter – and a statement of love and affection doesn’t ever get old, does it, dear? You had received my letter of June 21st and I don’t know what I wrote in that letter, Sweetheart, but I’m sorry it made you worry. I thought that you knew by now just about what my outfit was doing – and if I had created an illusion before then – I’m sorry I inadvertently destroyed it. I must have had a blue day – or a bad night before. I’m really sorry, darling, because there’s no need to worry you about details that won’t do you any good at all to know about. As for foxholes – etc. – it’s just the safest place to be and we take it as a matter of course now. The food in the early days was necessarily monotonous and packaged – but there was always enough – I mean enough to make one nauseated – but there I go again. Really, dear – it was adequate. In addition – I had some concentrated vitamins A B C D and G which I’ve been carrying with me for over a year. I started taking them when we arrived in France and I think they balanced the “diet” – well.

Since then – our food has picked up a great deal in quantity, quality and variety and we now get bread at least one meal a day – which is a relief from those damned biscuits. At the hospital – the food is even better and I usually have my evening meal there. As for sending me anything, dear, – there’s really no point to it – although I appreciate your desire. Once in a while you get the desire to eat something like a bar of Nestle’s or a Milky Way or some such thing – but now that I’m busy from early a.m. – to late evening – I don’t even get that desire anymore. You just keep sending me your love and affection, sweetheart, and that’s all I want.

It’s nice of Granny B. to feel so well disposed towards me when she really only met me a couple of times. I’m glad though – because I’ll bet if she didn’t like anyone – she wouldn’t hesitate and say so. I must drop her another V-mail – perhaps today.

Darling – if I haven’t already told you I love you hard – I’d better do so now. It’s true – and you too will find out how much when I return. Before I stop – I want to tell you again that there’s no point in worrying – but plenty point in having faith. And your Mother’s right about ‘foolishness’ in feeling funny about eating good food etc. I’ll bet I’ve had more eggs in the past couple of weeks than you have – and don’t forget, dear – from French hens!

Have to stop now – Love to all at home and to you, darling.

All my love forever


about Evacuation Hospital Work

The following is excerpted from Medical Service in the European Theater of Operations, written by Graham A. Cosmas and Albert E. Cowdry for the U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1992.

During World War II, a field hospital could perform approximately eighty operations a day, and over 85 percent of those soldiers operated on in field hospitals survived. While field hospitals proved more than equal to their task, the 400-bed army evacuation hospitals found themselves consistently over-burdened. Processing all patients who were transportable and needed more than the most elementary treatment, these hospitals worked in rotation, some receiving casualties while others, cleared of patients, rested or moved forward behind the divisions. During the first weeks, evacuation hospitals lived from crisis to crisis. "When a hospital moved in and set up" the 41st Evacuation Hospital commander complained, "there would always be a big influx of patients, which continued until every bed was filled and this hospital bogged down. Then the hospital would be closed and left to work itself out of the mess."
[As usual, Click to enlarge and Back Arrow to return]
Conventional Layout of an Evacuation Hospital
usually comprised of up to 27 tents.

With the arrival of more evacuation hospitals the flow of patients evened out, but in more units a chronic surgical backlog persisted. The majority of the casualties reaching these hospitals were injured men who needed surgery - for example 894 out of 1,302 admitted by the 5th Evacuation Hospital during its first two weeks in Normandy and all but 360 out of 3,200 treated at the 128th Evacuation Hospital in a similar space of time. The surgical staff of this type of installation, working 12-hour shifts and reinforced by as many auxiliary surgical teams as the hospital's 40 nurses and 217 enlisted men could support, could perform about 100 major operations every twenty-four hours; the patient influx during heavy combat occurred at about double that rate.

Inevitably, less urgent cases had to wait their turn on the operation tables, often developing infections in undebrided wounds or suffering other complications. To help its hospitals overcome this backlog, the First Army deployed surgical teams and mobile truck-mounted surgical and X-ray units and, when these proved insufficient, added provisional teams from combat zone hospitals which had landed but were not yet functioning. The medical group assigned a collecting company to each evacuation hospital, to provide relief ward officers, additional litter-bearers, and ambulances to help in moving out patients.

Clinically, surgery during the first two months of combat produced few surprises. Surgeons were impressed by the frequency and severity of the multiple wounds from artillery fire. On his July inspection trip one General saw a patient "with a penetrating wound of the skull, sucking wound of the chest, partial evisceration and a compound fracture. This means that one surgical team, on that one individual, must perform four major operations."

Causes and Locations of Wounds
Battle of Normandy
June-July 1944
Patients with post-operative stomach wounds were routinely kept in an evacuation hospital ten days before they were sent on, and those with chest wounds were usually kept at least five days before they were evacuated. Critically wounded patients needing specialized treatment were air-evacuated to station and general hospitals, which advanced more slowly than field and evacuation hospitals and were usually housed in semi-permanent locations. Stable patients requiring a long recuperation were sent back to England via hospital ship.

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