- 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
April 30 —Therapy at the French hospital. Baking oven at 100 degrees centigrade. The electrotherapy followed by gentle massage. In the afternoon Bonnell and his girl Jeanne introduced me to Madame Fernand Dedravir. A good-looking blonde from Calais whose husband was killed on the front about a year ago. She visited relatives in Paris until a month ago. Left on account of Big Bertha. We shook Bonnell and Jeanne and had dinner at François.
May 2 —With Bonnell, Jeanne, and Fernand (Fredy) in the evening.
May 4 —Over to the hospital. Fredy along, wanted to know why they are massaging my foot with talcum powder. The doctor said of course oil was better, but they couldn’t afford it. Fredy found out what kind to get and found some at a drugstore or some place and turned it over to the masseur at the hospital …
May 11 —To Hauterive for lunch with Fredy. … On the way back, met the nurse who messes up my bed and checks me in and out at the Bellevue Unit. She says my name is on a list to go to Bordeaux tomorrow or the next day and then to be sent home for a physical disability discharge.
May 12 —Walked for the major and a captain named Burdick to show them that I don’t belong on that Bordeaux list but should really be sent back to the front to the gist Aero Squadron. The foot hurt like hell. They were both surprised but not quite convinced. They probably thought I was putting on an act. They did agree to take my name off that list temporarily but not to send me back to the front, at least for some time.
May 13 —Out to Hauterive with Fredy. Told her I was going to take off for the front by myself tomorrow and say nothing to the Bellevue Unit.
May 14 —Bought a bag and a cane and packed up. Over at the Bellevue Unit headquarters at noon. Nobody around except a sergeant who let me use a typewriter. Wrote orders sending me back to my squadron via Paris and signed the commandant’s name to it. For twenty francs I borrowed the seal and made the orders official so I could get by the MP’s at the railroad station. … Farewell party with Fredy at François.
May 17 —Looked over Salmsons which have replaced our old AR’s. They sure look classy.
II. Combat Flying, Toul Sector
May 24 —Moved to new location near Toul at Gondreville-sur-Moselle. Had lunch at Vaucouleurs on the way. We acquire Second Lieutenant James S. Suydam, photographic officer, and a photographic section of twenty-four men.
May 31 — … Sergeant Newman, my crew chief, gave me a cane made from the prop of the AR I crashed in the woods March 22, and a mahogany paperweight from the prop hub with a Y-shaped ack-ack fragment embedded in it. “I got it out of your crankcase,” he said. “That’s what brought you down, after all the oil drained out through the hole that hunk of iron made.”
Here I had figured that I just had a forced landing. I hadn’t thought the ack-ack had come that close.
June 7 —Every ship in commission, over in the morning. No combats but plenty of holes from “Archie” [anti-aircraft] fire. I went up with Al Lawson, but we developed motor trouble and had to come down.
June 14 —Battle and Williamson reported officially as missing in action. Our troops on that front saw the plane go down in German territory after it had made a couple of strafing runs on the enemy trenches.
June 25 —Officer of the Day until noon of the a6th. Got the copy of my orders from Vichy to Amanty out of the headquarters files during the night and burned it. I don’t want that paper around if I ever get in trouble later on about leaving Vichy.
June 27 —Up in Number 9 for half an hour with Lieutenant William Badham, my newly assigned observer, who has had about thirty hours over the lines with the French before being assigned to the gist. He seemed a bit worried when I told him this was the first time I had taken a Salmson off the ground but after I had made a couple of good landings, he cheered up. Anyhow, I’m over one hump. I am back flying … again.