I guess I’m writing more V-mails than either you or I like – but at the present time, it just can’t be helped, dear. I’d rather write one of these and make sure it gets out than to take a chance on a regular letter which I don’t think I could finish. I’m writing this – as I did yesterday – in anything but a comfortable or leisurely set-up, sweetheart.
The snowing has finally stopped – but I’ll be damned if it’s cleared up yet. Just gray skies, cold wind and low clouds. This has been a mean month so far. Last evening I went over to visit Baker Battery and got tied up – and didn’t return until 0045 this morning. So I’m a little bit tired this a.m. – but there’s lots to do.
No mail for a couple of days but maybe today. No shower or bath now for about 3 weeks and believe – that’s getting to be annoying – but again – not a damn thing to do about it. Enough about our troubles, darling. Aside from everything else, I’m feeling fine, eating well and as if you didn’t know – missing you more and more. Will try to write tomorrow, sweetheart. For now, so long, love to the folks and
|Route of the Question Mark|
|(A) Aisne to (B) Chêne Al Pierre (8 miles) to (C) Verleumont|
(11 miles) 2 January - 10 January 1944
|On a Wrecked Half-Track Stringing Communication Wires|
Usually the most difficult part of medical evacuation was in getting patients from the front line to aid stations. Keith Winston of the 100th Division medics in his V-Mail Letters of a Combat Medic wrote how it was done under ideal conditions:A boy gets hurt on the line. Within a minute or less a telephone message is sent back to our forward aid station, a distance of 300 to 1000 yards from the front, where a Sergeant and four litter bearers are always on hand. They rush right up to the line with a litter.One issue concerning seriously wounded soldiers was whether some should be sent back to the States on hospital ships. General George Patton had a somewhat unsympathetic answer to this question:
During this time, the company aid man is administrating first aid on the spot... usually consisting of stopping the bleeding with sulfanilamide powder externally, bandaging and giving wound pills internally. By that time, another litter team is there and carries the casualty to the nearest point where a jeep can travel... anywhere from 25 to 300 yards, depending on conditions.
The boy is then rushed to the aid station, one to three miles behind the line. Here the physician removes the first aid bandage, makes a proper diagnosis, applies a more permanent bandage, administers blood plasma if needed, and in severe case, gives morphine... Next the boy is rushed by ambulance to a clearing station farther to the rear. Here he may be given an emergency operation. Then the casualty is taken by ambulance to an evacuation hospital further back where first class attention is administered.If you have two wounded soldiers, one with a gunshot wound of the lung, and another with an arm or leg blown off, you save the son-of-the-bitch with the lung wound and let the goddamn son-of-the-bitch with an amputee arm or leg go to hell. He is no goddamn use to us any more.The Aid Station
Temporary Aid Station, Belgium, January 1945
The aid stations had no beds and were equipped only with bare essentials. After patients were diagnosed and treated, information was jotted down on a card which was attached to a button hole in the patient's coat.
Litter carrying was hard, exhausting work and often only two bearers were on hand. Glenn Ghrist Jr., of 32nd Battalion, 3rd Armored Division Medics recalled carrying wounded GIs near Sart, Belgium:It was cold as hell… some of us survived the cold. A Captain Duffy and I volunteered to get some wounded soldiers from a field which was under artillery fire, etc. We had to wade a small river or creek to get these two soldiers and bring them to the Jeep. We carried them on our shoulders, sometimes crawling, sometimes running to get the hell out of there.Glenn had been wounded earlier at the Falaise Gap in France, and was wounded again at Sart, Belgium. Glenn, on occasion, rode in a tank in which the tankers called him "Doc".
It was not unusual for battalion surgeons to sometimes act as litter bearers. Keith Winston wrote of his unit's being short of litter bearers in emergencies:If an emergency arises your position means nothing. If it calls for five liter teams immediately, Doc and I will go up and haul. He and I were doing it one day with no facilities at all.Gilbert Lueck of the 26th Infantry division medics recalled a night when he and the battalion commander carried out a badly wounded lieutenant. It was after darkness had fallen, and Gil was bedded down in his slit trench several hundred yards behind the front when he heard a Jeep pull up nearby and a familiar voice call out, "Medic, medic!" Gil had heard that voice before. It was the battalion commander and Gil had gotten into a heated argument with him once in the states. Gil recalled how the CO had chewed him out. Gil was thirty-one when he was drafted and not easily intimidated by higher ranks. Gil stood up and called out, "Here sir!" The Colonel described the situation as they climbed into his Jeep. They drove to a nearby village and eventually found the injured lieutenant lying next to a manure pile. They placed their casualty on the Jeep and drove him to the aid station. For Gil it was a routine event until several weeks later he was summoned to the battalion headquarters where he was awarded a Bronze star.