The second of a three-part series of my 80-year-old father recounting his experiences in World War II.
My next stop was the Army Hospital in New Caledonia. I was surprised to see a former members of F Dompany of the 81st. The First Sargeant was being treated for shrapnel wounds and filled me in on all the details of my former Company. Thankfully he told me that my twin brother was OK. He had not been touched by enemy fire. The other person and I visited and played cards and quickly became acquainted with everyone in my room. One incident I will always remember was the group of doctors making rounds one day. A doctor lifted my left leg and told me he was going to let loose and I should hold my leg before it hit the bed. I told him I could not hold it. He dropped it anyway but caught it with his other hand. They left. Later the nurse yelled to ask me my shoe size and I responded 8-D. Down the hall came a voice yelling, "HEY MAC YOU'RE GOING HOME!" He then told me that I was brought in on a stretcher with no shoes, one of the first things done before sending soldiers home was to get them some shoes. He was right. I will never forget those words-- "Hey Mac, you're going home!" I had sent my folks and Irene [Note: That's my Mom!] a letter while I was in the tent hospital. The folks received my letter before the telegram arrived from the War Department telling of my being wounded. Mr. Richardson printed one of my letters in the TONICA NEWS. I received many cards and notes from my home town people.
My Dad had instructed the railroad station agent, Mr. Taylor, not to bring any telegrams home unless he was present. My mom's heart condition was such that he thought it best that he receive the message. When any soldier from Tonica was killed in action, Mr. Taylor would get Dad to go with him when he delivered the message to parents. [Note: My Grandfather was the Methodist minister in Tonica.]
It seems that the Army often gets things mixed up. A telegram came stating that my brother George was wounded. Mr. Taylor looked all over for Dad and everyone thought someone was killed in action. When he found Dad both were puzzled as George had written home and told them he was OK. The Red Cross verified this and all was well except for George. He was Red Lined for payroll and received only partial payment since the Army thought he was no longer with the Company. Later when George was coming home he played poker and won a lot of money. He gave it to the ship's chaplain to send home. The next day he had lost the money he had and asked the Chaplain to give him back his money and the Chaplain refused. I learned about this after the war was over and still get a chuckle remembering it.
At the hospital I was given physical therapy with heat on my hip. The wound was a through and through bullet wound in the abdomen and out the left buttock. The hole on the exit was much larger than the entrance. When asked what it felt like, my response was like a hot poker run through me.
I responded to treatment and was walking with crutches. I never realized my arm pits would get so sore. When the crutches were taken away from me, I was limping quite a bit. The doctor told me that no patient of his would walk with a limp so he made me carry a weight either on my shoulder or in my hand. This did the trick for me. The care at that hospital was more than I could ask for. The fact that I knew I was going home might have been a factor.
It was December, 1944 and I now was sailing back to the United States. Preveously I failed to mention that we were initiated when we crossed the equator. Once we crossed we were shellbacks, before crossing we were polywogs. We arrived in San Francisco and taken to Letterman General Hospital. We did get a bus ride to the scenic spots of San Fran --all the passengers wearing bathrobes. After a few days at Letterman I was transferred to DeWitt General Hospital in Auburn, California. The most striking thing about this hospital was the Mess Hall was open all day for milk, coffee, soda, cookies, etc. The meals were esxcellent. We congratulated the helpers and were told that a Congressional investigation was held relative to food at Army hospitals. Since then service improved. Milk was a treat for most soldiers as it was not available overseas.
I had arrived at Letterman a couple of days before Christmas and DeWitt soon after Christmas. I was permitted to go on a 30-day sick leave and was happy to do so.
The train trip to Tonica took three days and I got off in Rochelle, Illinois where my sister Ruth was teaching. At the depot the station agent helped to phone Ruth and she walked down to the station and back to her rooming house. She did not have a car.
Dad drove from Tonica and took us both home. Again I remember this was on a Sunday. Thirty day sick leaves can go so fast.I was so glad to see the folks and especially Irene. I even visited high school for part of a day. Dad told me that he had received a letter from Senator C. Wayland Brooks expressing concern over my being wounded. Dad thanked him for his letter and stated that I was in an Army hospital in California even though he and Mom had hoped I would be at a hospital closer to home. Soon I was on a train back to California, not realizing that a telegram came the day I left telling me to report to Mayo General Hospital in Galesburg, Illinois. It was from the Army Surgeon General. Arriving at the hospital in California, I was immediatrely notified that the chief officer wanted to see me at once. Arriving at his office, he yelled at me, "Has your mother been writing your Congressman?" I replied "No Sir, but Senator Brooks writes my Dad." The officer in a soft voice told me that tomorrow I was being sent back to Illinois. At the time I did not realize how good my answer was. My oldest brother told me that mhy army record folder would have P.I. on it, meaning Political Influence.