February 5, 1945 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

February 5, 1945
Bacarrat, France

No. 10

Dear Folksies,

            Eddie and I came over here two days ago to join the boys of the Illinois University gang, the 27th Evac., who needed some help.  They are a gang the same size as ours, but are carrying an extra load now and also have some of their men ill.  Ralph and Carroll are here functioning as a team with Chris Colletti, as their scrub nurse and Annie Dunn as their anesthetist. Ten of our nurses are likewise here with about twenty of our ward men.

             Kuzell and Bryner are running some of their medical wards.  All six of us are living in a room together and tho’ a little crowded it is pretty good. We do miss those nice comfortable beds we had this last month tho’. Eddie and I are both assigned to different of their surgical teams; Eddie being on the orthopedic team, and I am on the general surgery team.

            They run their teams differently than we do.  It’s too early to judge their efficiency, but it seems to me that they waste a lot of time in surgery between cases.  (Our cases are prep’d in Shock, while they do no prepping until the patient gets to surgery, and then the surgeon has to wait until that is done.) Another thing is that no one has introduced the typing method of writing up charts in surgery to them – i.e. until Welles and I hit the place. We wonder when they are going to catch on and get a typer assigned to their surgery, for at the moment, Eddie, Ralph, Carroll and I are using my trusty baby up there.

            We have more equipment on the wards than they do on theirs, though their supply is certainly the same as ours.

            Of course, there are a good number of things they do better than we do, but those things seem to be the things that relate to personal services, pleasures, etc. — seeming to think a bit more of their own people rather than the patients as our gang does.  Some of their patients don’t see an officer for a few days, whereas I doubt if there has ever been a day that any of our patients didn’t see an officer at least once (and very often twice) per day.  Nevertheless, this outfit does seem to be a pretty good outfit and they turn out a good deal of work, and good work too. 

            Most of our snow has disappeared in the last days and we are back to the rain and slush days.  Despite the fact that this gang is in buildings, too, they do not have the modern conveniences functioning as well as we have had them in the past — even in spots where they were none too good to start with.  I guess they just don’t have anyone like our Sgt. Kuhl the fix-all of the 59th. 

            Nelson Bell came up today and delivered some mail to us and also brought the news of a new Major in the outfit – George Armanini! He sure deserves it — he’s a damn good surgeon. Other promotions – Fadley to Captain at last. Edna Haertig and Chris Colletti got their 1st Lts. Celebrated Chris’s last nite with some of the fruit cake you sent from Blum’s which arrived two days ago. Tanks!

                         Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter
February 8, 1945


René and Eddie Welles (above) are on detached service as assistants on surgical teams to help the gang from Illinois University – the 27th Evac. Hospital.




Carroll Russell (left) and Serge Bryner (right) were already at the 27th when René and Eddie arrived.



February 8, 1945 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

February 8, 1945
Bacarrat, France

No. 11

Dear Folksies,

            Have been kept busy working these last few days tho’ I cannot say that I’ve actually been hard at work. Worked nights for two nights and now am on days again. Worked straight thru both nights, but the way they work here they sort of take things easy in surgery, no rush to get done and clear them up, so the next shift has it easy, as we do.

            I have to prep all the patients right up in surgery and that takes a good deal of time, and consequently gives the surgeons relaxation or loafing time in between cases. It seems darned inefficient to us, and everyone is anxious for the 59th to open up again for business, so that we can go back to work in them manner we have become accustomed to.

            Even on the medical wards things are radically different. They seem to try to get along on the wards with a minimum of equipment, even tho’ they have plenty of equipment in their Supply. Kuzell and Bryner were given their own floor together, and they have our nurses and our men, and so they get along fine now – once they put up a squawk and got the extra equipment they wanted. For example, for a whole ward they had only one wash basin, just a few cups, etc. But now that situation is remedied and things are running smoothly. As I’ve said, the ward care we give our patients [at the 59th] is better than that which is given here.

            Another odd thing that they do is that they just admit a patient at any time of the day or night without having any orders written for the patient until the ward officer happens to get around to the ward to see him. Our receiving officer after 5 P.M. writes orders on all patients that are admitted direct to any ward, and as a consequence, the patient has medication started on him that night instead of the next A.M.

            Just what the score is on our staying shut we know not. Probably lack of adequate space up where we could do the most good. We do need quite a bit of room. Seems to me, tho’ that it would be better for us to function even as two separate units if nothing else, rather than have us split and shipped all over the country as we are. But then, we do not rule!

            Carroll and Ralph continue working days as their own team, while Eddie and I continue on teams of this gang. All are congenial fellows and nice to work with. It has been interesting meeting others and seeing how they work – sort of go back and appreciate our gang more and more whenever we stray and see how other operate.

            Dad, did I tell you that I sent $240.00 to you on Feb 1 by wire. Ought to get there in time to pay your income taxes.

            Took time out for lunch. The meals here are something ferocious. They have some French gals serving the meals and they are served nicely alright, but ‘twould be better to have the food better prepared and have self-service perhaps. Maybe we’re just spoiled now, but even their own people say the food is terrible, but don’t know what they can do about it. Evidently the chef at the 59th still puts out the good stuff, despite the lack of fancy rations at times. Looks as if we’re really going to have to hang on to that guy till we hit S.F. again and then maybe install him at San Francisco Hospital or in our own restaurant. Back to our room after lunch today and I finished off the Blum’s fruit cake – something of that sort was definitely needed after the lunch we had.

                         Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter
February 11, 1945


Ralph Cressman (above) is working on a surgical team with Carroll Russell.




Bill Kuzell (above) is working with Serge Bryner running some of the medical wards.



February 11, 1945 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

February 11, 1945
Bacarrat, France

No. 12

Dear Folksies,

            We haven’t been doing much of anything these last few days and in fact anticipate going back to our own gang in a couple of days.  Tho’ there is little or nothing for us to do, they have been mighty nice to us and their C.O. told us that we could do what we wanted — if any wanted to go back it would be O.K. with him, but that we were all welcome to stay as long as we wished.  Putting it that way made it rather difficult for us to say that we’d rather go back to our own place.  If we could continue to be of some use here, we would rather stay here and do some work, certainly, but as far as sitting around and doing nothing…Well, the food our chef puts out is better than what they have here (even though they had some excellent steaks last night) so that makes it worth our while to return, if for nothing else.

            But, rather than insult them here, we all decided that we would wait a couple of more days and then tell them we think we should not sponge off of them any longer.

            Oh yes, Mom, do send that Blum’s box along. However, why don’t you sent it to Jeanne instead, that is, if you have found out what the deal is on sending them things.

                         Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter
February 16, 1945


René tells his mother to send “that Blums box along,” but to send it to French cousin Jeanne Salomons in Paris, rather than to him.




February 16, 1945 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

February 16, 1945
Epinal, France

No. 13

Dear Folksies,

            Kind of let a couple of more days than I had intended slip by since last writing to you.  However, the last few days have been such beautiful ones that it would have been a shame to have stayed indoors just to write, and it was just windy enough to have blown the paper around a bit, making it too difficult to type outdoors.  As in San Francisco, the wonderful weather goes in streaks — and so it did, three days of it!

            Once again we are HOME and glad of it, even tho’ all are still sitting around with little to do.  However, if the weather would keep up as it has been the last few days, no one would mind so much this lazy life.  It was actually hot!  Everyone started out to get outdoor exercise: walking, volleyball, and the boys even started up some early-pre-season-baseball practice.

            The last day we were with the 27th Evac, we had absolutely nothing to do, and as Jack came up to get us to sign our pay-vouchers, we got all the dope about the “in-activities” of the rest of the 59th gang. So, we decided we might as well take off and return, rather than sit around at the 27th thinking about the swell food the gang was having dished out to them down here.

            We spent our last evening with the 27th down at their Officers’ Club and had sort of a gay time – got their Col. down with us and we got a kick out of his tales bragging about himself considerably. We had been previously warned to expect him to get us over in a corner to talk about his “friend Freddie Rankin” – i.e. General F. Rankin of Med. Dept. in Washington D.C. He told us how, when they were still in the U.S., whenever anything happened that he didn’t particularly like or if he wanted something special, well, he didn’t just go to his immediate superiors, but he merely picked up the phone and called Washington D.C. and got his pal Freddie on the phone and found out what the score was.

             Did I tell you that in a long article in one of the Chicago Tribune’s papers a few weeks ago there was all the dope about the 27th, written by some female reporter who had spent a few days with them some time ago?  Besides listing all the Illinois members of the unit and telling of all the hard work they have done in the 10 months overseas, the article stated that in the autumn months, and up to Christmas, the 27th had done one third of the work done by the hospitals in this area.  What a laugh!  The people of the 27th realize how much exaggeration there was in that article and dislike, very much, that kind of publicity.  Everyone here laughs at them for the things said in the article and other hospitals have even posted it up on their bulletin-boards ridiculing them.

            However, the most recent crowning glory was the unit that topped them in that sort of stuff.  At least the publicity that the 27th got was unsolicited.  But in a recent broadcast, the C.O. of one of the other groups spoke, telling of the difficulties of functioning in an Evac. Hospital “in tents” in France today.  It was Col. Sauer, whom most of us know.  They, like us, have not been in tents since September.  Now the 27th really has the laugh on them.  See why we are most happy that we haven’t had any such publicity ourselves? As far as any knowing what we have done and are doing, the only ones we care about are the two universities.

            It has really been interesting hearing what all the men, officers and nurses have had to say upon their return from duty with some of these other outfits.  They all felt much the same as we did — that one appreciates more and more our own outfit when one goes away like that.  Apparently none of the other outfits care for their patients as well as we do, particularly in the wards, and our system of work in the Shock ward has got them all beat.  Yes, as R.B. Sr. so frequently does, we “modestly admit now that we are good”….. 

                         Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for more of this letter
February 17, 1945


René tells his parents that the Colonel in charge of the 27th Evac. Hospital, in Bacarrat, France (where René had been stationed for about 10 days) was bragging about his “friend Freddie Rankin” — General F. Rrankin of the Medical Department in Washington, D.C. (pictured above).




René also mentions that in publicity about another evac. hospital, it was reported that they were functioning in tents, but, in fact, they hadn’t been in tents since the previous September. The photo above was taken during René’s time in Bacarrat, France in the winter of 1945.