- Historic Sites
A Flier’s Journal
The planes were fragile and the Boche was tough, but the girls were pretty, the wine was good, and death was something that happened to someone else
December 1969 | Volume 21, Issue 1
March 24 —Ankle badly swollen so they say I’ll have to wait at least until tomorrow for X rays. I don’t know why but they are terribly busy. It is the Johns Hopkins Unit.… Almost everyone in this big ward is from Seicheprey up on the Toul sector where the Americans took a lot of casualties from mustard gas, a few days ago.
March 25 —X rays taken in the morning. They show broken ankle, broken middle finger on left hand, some cracked ribs and bone in left forearm. I am sore all over and it hurts like the devil to move. No sleep—just cat naps.
March 26 —All set in plaster of Paris casts and tape. Finger in a splint taped to a board on the left arm. General Gerard of the French VIIIth Army came to pay a visit here at the hospital this morning. With an aide carrying a box of medals, he moved over the whole ward, which is almost 100 per cent occupied with wounded from the Seicheprey action, pinning Croix de guerres on everyone, conscious or unconscious. When he came to me, I thanked him but told him that I didn’t belong with the Seicheprey crowd, that I was an aviator who had crashed in the woods near Amanty when the motor quit. Also that I couldn’t take a decoration for having a forced landing. My squadron would laugh me out of the service. He seemed kind of puzzled but moved on to the next bed without decorating me. A quartermaster corporal in one of the beds was out cold. He got a Croix de guerre and the kiss on both cheeks by the general. It turns out that last night, being quite drunk and noisy, he resisted arrest by the MP’s in Neufchâteau so strenuously that they had to hit him over the head with a billy to quiet him down. He didn’t come to until a short time after the decoration ceremony. A nurse told him about his getting the Croix de guerre pinned to his pajamas. He is proud as hell about it. He says he earned it in combat. It is the only decoration he will ever have a chance to get in this war and he is going to keep it…
April 10 —Surprise. They got us up at dawn and loaded a lot of the partially recovered patients on a train for Vichy to recuperate. An excellent hospital train, Number 1919, comfortable, good food, nice nurses and doctors. We pulled out at 8:00 A.M. On the train all day. Won about all the money on the tram shooting craps. Won a little over 3,000 francs or roughly $600.
April 11 —Arrived at Vichy about 9:00 A.M. As we were the first American wounded to arrive in town, the automobiles supplied by the French toured the place to show us the sights. It is a pretty town but I was tired and cranky by the time we got to the Carlton Hotel, which has become Base Hospital Number One, Bellevue Unit. … In the same room with me are Lieutenants Martin and Bonnell and Captain Bond. Bond is from the 5th Field Artillery. The other two are infantrymen. All three were gassed at Seicheprey and in the same hospital with me at Bazoilles. At noon, the mess was so lousy that we checked out and with them I hobbled around town. We had lunch at Francois. Good food. François used to be a waiter at Delmonico’s when Teddy Roosevelt was police commissioner of New York City. He said Teddy would come in in the morning, sit down, read his paper for about five minutes and then, “Damn it, where’s my eggs?”
April 14 —Captain B—— of the hospital wants to cut my middle finger out of the left hand as he says that the second joint will be stiff, or ankylosed, and the finger will just be sticking out straight and in the way. I said I liked it that way and it was my finger and I was not going to have it cut off. I was reminded that I was a patient subject to his orders. I suggested that he prefer charges against me as I would like to discuss the matter with a court. He glared at me and left …
April 21 — … While riding around in my hack in the afternoon, I picked up a French doctor who runs the French rehabilitation hospital here. Talked about my foot to him. We had dinner at François. We both got crocked and wound up at his hospital. He X-rayed the foot and said I’d never walk if it wasn’t operated on to take out little pieces of bone that were messing things up. We made a date for the next day at 8:00 A.M. I figured I might not get back to the Bellevue Unit that night so I fixed it up with the nurses to check me in at night and mess up my bed before the morning shift came on. It only took a couple of pounds of marrons glacés.
April 22 —That French doctor is an artist. With a local anesthetic he took out a couple of splinters of bone, tied a ligament back in place, and sewed me up in no time at all. Stayed in the hospital that night. In a few days he will put me on a daily schedule of baking, electrotherapy, mechanotherapy, and massage.
April 23 —Met Yvonne S—— and a Russian girl named Sasha something at the hotel. Martin … latched on to Sasha, a tall, handsome, dark-eyed quiet type. That left me with Yvonne, chubby, full of fun, and vivaciously French.