Wallace's Tent on Salisbury Plain

Wallace's Tent on Salisbury Plain
Writing a letter with candle on clipboard, see Oct. 16 letter

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

January 20, 1945 Saturday

1830 – I’m starting a new system of writing you right now. I am planning to keep this stationary by me all the time and just scribble you off notes as they come to me. We should be pretty close contact that way, don’t you think? And I’ll try to keep the regular mail coming, too. – Gee, I love you.

1900 – This hospital has all the latest facilities – only trouble, the damn lights go out every few minutes. Overloaded with X-ray and other equipment, I guess. I just lay down and sleep ‘til they come back on again. Am talking with my buddies now, just getting acquainted. They’re good boys – regular infantry men, and there are no better fighting men. No glamor here, but a real war being won in a real way.

I have been reading “A Bell For Adano” by John Hersey, but am going to forsake it for “We Cannot Escape History” by John Whitaker. “A Bell” is O.K. but I think I have the core of it already, and want to get on with this other. General Marvin in “A Bell” is surely a picture of Gen. Patten. And a true one, they say. Also a lot of “G.I.” atmosphere in the book – well-written.

2000 – Just found out that one cannot sharpen a pencil with a knife with one hand for sour apples. I finally got my room-mate to do it for me. Guess I’ll go to sleep soon now. So unless something else comes up, Good Nite. Remember I love you and will be dreaming you are here with me as I spend my first night on a mattressin several weeks. I love my Honey.

January 21 [Sunday] – 0730 – Ho-Hum, what a beautiful way to get up – first the electric light in the hall, 5 minutes of quiet and then our room light. No calls at all, we just decide to roll out to eat. These real hospital beds are out of this world for comfort. Well, off to eat – I love you.

0830 – As usual, I ate 2 complete breakfasts. That may be a hard habit for me to break when we’re together again. Have I mentioned that my appetite has been enormous ever since I hit Europe? I doubt if I have gained weight, tho, there have been so many periods without regular meals. Here in the hospital I have a field soldier’s appetite and garrison soldiers’ food. About 2 of each meal does the job. No doubt my hunger will go down after a few days here.

My arm is O.K. this morning. – my little finger is numb, I think from the tightness of the cast. I look like this –
oh my, I have lost my touch! But definitely. Need practice, no doubt. Here is my left arm, solo


That’s got it! The oval spot represents the lacerated area.

I read the first chapter of Whitaker’s book last night, and was very happy yo find it just what I wanted. Good info. on the changes in Hitler’s gov. that made the war inevitable. Also stuff on the influence of the general staff.

1800 – During the day today I read “This Simian World” by Clarence Day. A clever satire, that presents a lot of things to think about – how just being people colors our thinking; how much more noble the concept of evolution is that that of biblical creation; how the search for knowledge is the mainspring of human development – and how much we might accomplish if we understood and thought thru all the facts we learn.

They took off my cast tonight! Wore it in all only 5 days. Tomorrow morning I am going to have another job done on it – don’t know just what it is, maybe they will sew it up. I’ll let you know when I do.

I’ll send these notes along now, and start some more. Hope you can read them, Honey.

All my love, always,
Wallace.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

January 20, 1945 Saturday

My dearest Honey,

Here we are at last at old General Hospital no. 21[Mirecourt, France*].  I left the evacuation hospital, you know, and rode an ambulance to a R.R. station. There I waited in an officers’ ward for one whole day before the train came. That is where I wrote my last letter from. The train was a beautiful job – a hospital train, with a nurse and ward boys in each car. We took quite a long ride on it, and I would have written you from it, but it jiggled a little too much. The Red Cross kept morale up with cigarettes, magazines, and big old cookies all the way.

This hospital is a modern structure with all possible facilities. I am in a room with two other Lieutenants and the set-up looks very good. I already have 3 or 4 books picked out to read. It appears from here as tho I may spend as much as a month in the hospital. However, my address will not change they say.

Aerial view of Mirecourt, France (Hôpital Psychiatrique de Ravenel), where the 21st General Hospital was established from October 21, 1944 to September 12, 1945.
Aerial view of Mirecourt, France (Hôpital Psychiatrique de Ravenel), where the 21st General Hospital was established from October 21, 1944 to September 12, 1945. [https://www.med-dept.com/unit-histories/21st-general-hospital/]


Administration building and signpost, 21st General Hospital, Mirecourt, France, the organization’s last overseas operation. Vintage map illustrating the Hospital’s area.
21st General Hospital, Mirecourt, France 

Pocketbooks and the even smaller Special Service books are wonderful things. We have here a library of all the recent best sellers and hundreds of other good books in all fields. The standards of the books are high, and are much better than the old “magazine collections” they had at Wheeler.

The Russians are still rolling on today, and it sure would be nice if they kept rolling right up to the Rhine River!

Just as soon as I can I will send your letters by air mail, Hon; right now I can’t get stamps. But that will be ironed out all right soon.


Well, they took advantage of me the other day when I was under anesthesia. In order to get the cast on my arm they had to take off my wedding ring! They taped it onto the little finger of my right hand, and there it stands today. Whenever the guy comes around changing dressings, I have him re-tape my wedding ring, too. I shall take very good care of it until I can put it back in its proper place. And don’t for a minute think that I am any less your husband because I haven’t it on. Having it on my right hand only reminds me more frequently that I have the best wife in the world waiting for me. I do dream of seeing you again so often, Bunny. I know I won’t be able to take my eyes and arms off you for days when we do meet once more. It will be so like heaven – just to be with you again. It surely is something to live for, isn’t it, Hon? Never fear it will come – and soon, I hope.

All my love forever,
Wallace

*"The pressure continued as the Allies now crossed the border into Germany itself. In January 1945, the 21st expanded to 4,040 beds, and treated its 50,000th patient. The facilities at Mirecourt were used to their fullest extent. Sick and wounded were cared for even in the attics of buildings." 
7 January 1945 > 45,000th patient received
30 January 1945 > 50,000th patient received
19 June 1945 > 60,000th patient re

from https://www.med-dept.com/unit-histories/21st-general-hospital/


Friday, August 17, 2018

January 19, 1945 Friday

France

Dearest Honey,

Have just completed a V-mail to you and will now start in on this regular letter. I will send it air mail if possible, but I don’t know as I will be able to get a stamp. You see I have been able to kibitz a pen again this morning.

The news of the fall of Warsaw [January 17, 1945] came thru a couple of days ago and it is held by all here to be the beginning of the final phase of the war in Europe. My man, Joe Sokol, to whom I turn for news analyses these days has held since last September that the start of a Russian offensive in Poland would mark the beginning of the end. He now gives the war here 3 months to last, and I sure hope he is right. However, I have seen so many predictions come and go that I am not getting too upset over the whole thing.

I am gradually catching up to date on my recent activities, tho the account will come thru very jumbled to you. That is because I have sent V-mail, air-mail, and regular letters and they all go at different speeds.

Yesterday I told you about Schnapps and billeting. Today, just to be accurate and complete, I will tell you just a little about some house-to-house fighting I did. I cannot say what the platoon did, or how it fared, but just personal experiences, you understand. And I guess that is just as well.

After spending some time in a perfect ghost-story setting of a big water works, where I split my time between eating K-rations and guiding prisoners in thru the courtyard on the enemy side of the enemy side of the stream, I got into the town itself. (That water works would make good setting for a tense play, believe me. In fact, we acted pretty good one there.) Well, in town we got into a few houses and got ready for a busy night. I stayed at the entrance of our C.P. [command post] and played tag with hand grenades all night.

There was a little alley that came up to the rear of the house, and Jerry seemed intent on coming thru there in small bunches. He would creep up to within 15 yards of our door and flip one of his weak little hand grenades in front of the door. I would duck until it went off on our doorstep and return the complement with one of our own. Ours is much better, so he soon realized it was a bad swap and crept back until another bunch decided to try it. This sort of thing went on all night at our door.

In the morning we counted six grenades Jerry had lobbed at us, and we returned him better than that. Toward morning they tried to shove a whole squad up my alley, but fortunately the house next door had been set on fire and I saw them coming about 50 yards away – looked like a news reel, no fooling. I let their front man get up to about 5 yards of my door and then happily flipped 3 grenades out the door-- one close in, one farther out, and one way back behind the whole squad. It was very demoralizing to the squad, and we had no more close-in trouble until morning.

That is just a very, very weak description of one night of this house to house business. No two hours are alike, much less days, but maybe this will help just a little in clarifying what it is like. You don’t get scared, or even very excited after a little. You just try to see how few men you can lose.

A lot of very funny things happen, only you don’t laugh at them until later. For instance, I once lost my dignity completely in trying to do my duty. When artillery falls, we all run like mad for the nearest cellar. One time we were all crowding into a cellar – as usual, I was one of the first to arrive. Now I wanted everybody to have room to get in, so I withdrew to the far corner of the cellar. I noticed that there was a row of rabbit cages all around the rear, so thinking rapidly, I decided that if I jumped on top of one of the cages there would be so much more room. So I made a dive to the top of the cage. To my dismay, when I was in mid-air I saw that the cage had no top. Well, I wound up head first in the cage of rbbits and rabbit pills – a very unromantic picture of a young Lieutenant, to the enjoyment of all.

Well, my Xmas packages have all come in now, I feel. The last couple came while we were living in foxholes on the defense. Cold – oh, my! We had to be in the holes almost all the time, but I could work it so that a few men could get off for a few hours at a time. So I set up our own company “rest camp.” Took over the best house in the closest town, kept a crew keeping fires going there and provided transportation to and from the house. When a man could take off, he grabbed a track into the “rest camp.” There he could get warm, receive mail, eat a hot meal any time of day, get new sox, sleep and eat Xmas candy. Most of the men chose to donate their boxes to a big table where all could dip in at will while resting. That is where my last two boxes went. When things get rough everything, including bed rolls, becomes community property. It’s fine to see things work that way, the spirit of friendship is much more real than in easy times. It’s a natural reaction, I guess. Too bad people get petty and selfish as they get more safe and comfortable, tho, isn’t it?

So long for now, my honey. I meant to tell you to do just what you wish with the deposits I send home from my pay. Consider them a gift – get what you want and deposit the rest. We both realize the importance of saving for our future; the more the better, that’s all. You’re in charge of that, Honey, for now. I know you’ll do better than I could. I love you like everything, Bunny.

All my love,
Wallace

Thursday, August 16, 2018

January 19, 1945 Friday

France
[V-mail]

Hello, my Honey,

This is your dexterous husband – dexterous because I have found I can do anything without the aid of my plaster-cast left hand, even to tying bow knots – bringing you up to date on my disposition. I have left evac. Hospital no. 11 and am en route to a general hospital. It involves considerable travel, and I am considering a book “Touring France without a Shirt.” I think the only reason I am a litter case is that I have no clothes – even lost my wallet! I enjoy being carried around, tho, feel like an Indian Prince.

I am writing many letters, air mail and regular, so soon you will be in good contact with me again. I love you better than any wife I ever had!

All my love,
Wallace.

January 18, 1945 Thursday

Hello again!

See, I told you I’d write again today. Bet you didn’t believe it. This time I guess I’ll tell you some of the things that have happened since my last letter and before I wound up here in evacuation hospital no. 11 [in Lorquin, France]. And a lot of things have happened – I can’t give you the “big picture,” but a few incidents may give you the temper of the whole.


11th Evacuation Hospital, Lorquin, France






































My last V-mail, I remember, told of my nightly talks with the mayor of Mulcey. Now I can mention the town, you see. He was a good old boy, but we left him pretty suddenly. Upon arriving at our new area I had one of those experiences that are never forgotten. It was in a German-speaking area, and my sergeant Schielke and I were sent out to find billets for the company. He speaks German and I, French, so we are a good team for that type of work. In this area there seems to have been a lot of good allies, for at the first house we were warmly welcomed and given each an oversized glass of Schnapps – this region’s alternative for cognac or calvados. We got rooms for a squad and proceeded on to the next house, where, to our pleasure, the process was repeated. We got rooms and sailed on down to the next house. Same story. Floated to next house – Schnapps, but no room, which was all right with us. Rolled to a hazy number of other houses at which point Schielke forgot his German, and I my French. So we crawled into one of our rooms and slept for some time. Came back to earth and completed our mission – only without Schnapps this time. Moral: never mix Schnapps and billets. Schnapps always wins.

Well, they say they are moving me again, so so long for now, Hon.

Always yours,
Wallace.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

January 18, 1945 Thursday

Dearest Honey,

It begins to look as tho I’ll get the chance to write you a good share of the 1000 things I have been wanting to for so long. So without hurrying, let’s begin. I love you like the dickens and think of you all the time. Hope everything is just as it should be at home. It is great to be able to spend a little time thinking of home again. (Hey, this gets better and better – borrowed a pen from the guy next door).

First of all, perhaps you would be interested in hearing all the details about my “wound.” It happened like this. I was rooting along one night around 2 o’clock in the morning working up to a line of departure. We passed thru a heavy, heavy artillery concentration and as usual I was too small for Jerry to get a bead on. When we passed the artillery all was quiet except for a few machine guns and I felt pretty good, because the tough part was over. Then he decided to use his mortars. Usually it takes 3 rounds for him to get the range, but this time he had some exceptional luck and the first one plopped in about 30 yards away. I saw it and ducked, but not quick enough. Next thing I felt something whang against the of my left arm.

I cursed, bent my arm, worked my fingers. All O.K., but numb and I saw a pretty good hole in my jacket sleeve. I turned the platoon over to Swirling and took off with another arm wound to the aid station. He was a sergeant, and we wandered all over looking for that damned station. That was the only bad part – finding the station. Because we didn’t know just how hard hit we were and we both felt kind of down at the heels. Finally we got there and our ride on the joy wagon started. A good medic looked at my arm, cut my clothes off all around it, and dressed it. Then to a room where they plied us with cigarettes, coffee and fruit juice until morning.

Then we piled into an ambulance and went to another point where we were separated by outfits. Another ride to a collecting place where we had our wounds re-dressed. Here they swabbed out the “laceration” in my arm, put the whole arm in a splint, gave me a shot of morphine, put me in an ambulance – this time in a litter. All this time my arm did not hurt and I passed the time finding other boys I knew being evacuated. Everybody gave us cigarettes, and when they started lugging me around in the litter I felt almost regal. I was all prepared to enjoy a nice long litter ride when the morphine took hold and I got up on a golden cloud for about the rest of the day.

I came to in places, tho – when I arrived at the evacuation hospital, and had an X-ray taken. Then they gave me every injection they could think of, and after wheeling me into the operating room they gave me a shot that really put me out. I remember counting up to 10 and then I woke up in this ward late that evening, with a rugged old plaster cast on from my biceps (very big) on down to my fingers.

That’s about it, Hon; it’s a laceration around 3 inches long near the elbow; bones, nerves and arteries all in good shape. Just a little flesh missing, I guess. Since then I have been resting and taking sulfa pills by the bushel. It has given me no trouble and I have felt fine all the way – I eat two of these hospital meals each serving. Now I have a sling to support the cast and I can maneuver all over the place.

They wasted no time in awarding me the purple heart, which everybody who is wounded gets. I sent it on to you thru the Red Cross. It is a pretty little medal, isn’t it? No great honor involved in it, tho; anybody can get in front of a shell – it’s dodging that requires skill. I’m pretty good at that, too, believe me.

Well, Hon, you know how I appreciate comfort and leisure. So no sooner was I out of the anesthesia then I began to plan on how to best use the abundance of both here. These beds, this hot water, toilets, cooked food all seem ten thousand times more blessed than ever before. And this leisure to write in, to read in and to think in seems priceless after being so long without it. I plan to read and write a lot each day and the writing will probably all be to you, so watch out! I have a list of topics already that I want to write about, and they are all in addition to the relation of events up to now that I want to tell you about.

One thing – I want to put in a good word for the army evacuation system. It’s wonderful. Expert care, helpful morale-lifters, and wide use of pain-killers made evacuation a pleasure for me and at least bearable for the seriously wounded. Morphine is used right on the battlefield; then the stuff they used on me instead of ether for that operation was excellent. No struggle going under, no hangover – just a restful sleep. About half the cases get penicillin shots every few hours, with miraculous anti-infection results.

I get sulfa pills by the dozen, and seem to be O.K., too. Red Cross people come around with toothbrushes and chocolate, and a French boy makes regular trips with a big can of grapefruit juice. It is all top rate – and democratic. We officers get the same treatment as the men in the same wards – the only priority is the seriousness of your injury.

Right now your husband is alone in France without any clothes – yes, all is gone somewhere. Oh, I guess I could wear the O.D. [olive drab] pants I wore in here, but the rest have been all cut up. I have only two items that are worn above the waist – your knit helmet and my purple heart ribbon! I have a lot of faith in Uncle Sam, tho, so all will be well, I’m sure.

So long for now, my honey. I’ll write again today, I feel. I love you very, very much and am so glad I can write once more.

All my love, always,
Wallace

P.S. No, I don’t know how long I’ll be in the hospital.


January 17, 1945 Wednesday

[V-mail]

Good morning, Hon – 

Now I can write you again, and it does seem good. Probably you have been notified by now that my left arm and a mortar fragment had a small meeting engagement. It is the type of wound called a “million dollar hit” – only a flesh wound, nothing broken or anything. It will give me a chance to catch up on my letters to you in some nice hospital, I expect. The shell that knicked me didn’t have my name on it – it was one of those “To whom it may concern” affairs. I will tell you all about it soon, this is to keep you from imagining things. I am not uncomfortable, and it has never once hurt me. Poison ivy is much worse – and I do enjoy this bed!

All my love, wonderful wife,
Wallace