August 11, 1944 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

August 11, 1944
Somewehere on the Mediterranean Sea

No. 39

Dear Folksies,

          Shortly after I wrote my last letter I was kept sort of busy assisting Jones and Fadley in Supply, and then even went to the city [Rome] with Bergie (Medical Supply Sgt.) on business for two days. We took a few of the other boys with us, but they spent their time wandering around seeing the sights, while Bergie, Sharp (the driver) and I worked. We traveled around quite a bit over some of the darnedest roads, trying to get some equipment to a few of our boys who were on detached service with another outfit.

          Also visited the gang that used to be our next-door neighbors in Sicily. The officers seemed quite satisfied, but their men were rather discontented as they were taking care of nothing but German patients. It’s hard on the men and nurses who have to be around those patients when they are unable to converse with them – something that relieves the idle monotony of hours on the wards when there are American soldiers in them.

          That night the men had rented a couple of rooms and rather than try to get rooms at the usually crowded officers’ hotel and be away from our vehicle, I stayed with the men and we really had a good time. We were served dinner right in our rooms and ‘twas pretty good. The other fellows with us are Clive Schmidt, Spudowski, George Heath and Bert Cross. That night we saw an excellent movie, “Lady, Let’s Dance!” I don’t know who was in it, but she was an excellent dancer and ice skater. That’s the type of picture it was – sort of an ice follies thing. When we lined up to go into the theater, we were very doubtful that we would get in, for the line was a block and a half long on our side and the same length of line made up by the British soldiers coming from the other direction. However, when the line started moving it just kept going and we soon found ourselves in a very spacious theater. It was the nicest theater we’d been in to date, and despite the mob there, empty spaces were still visible.

          The next A.M., Bergie and I took off early and attended to business and then later in the day picked up the rest of the guys and headed home. When we got back, Ken greeted us with the information that I was leaving the next A.M. Had expected it for several days, but things had been so drawn out that when the info. came to leave at last it was sort of a surprise. However, we were all set in no time.

          You see, a couple of weeks before we had (those of us who wanted to) drawn straws to see who would be part of a surgical team. There had to be one major and three captains, so Mattie told all the majors that if they didn’t really feel very anxious to go that they better not be in on the draw at all, for he felt that if Roy wasn’t able to go, he would never forgive anybody. The other lucky ones turned out to be Chuck Schwartz, Paul Stratte and myself.

          After the names had gone in, the Old Man tried to get my name taken off and Pete Joseph substituted. For some reason or other he decided that I was his most indispensable medical officer. It was a compliment all right and I knew what he meant, for I’ve worked in more different sections of the hospital than anyone else and could, if necessary, run Supply without much difficulty. As it turned out the orders had already been cut at higher headquarters and it was impossible for him to change them. Now I’m glad that he wasn’t able change them.

          The four of us, with our three enlisted men – Clint Green, Chuck Davis and Bill Kioski are looking forward to a good time. Plenty active, no doubt.

          After sitting out in the dust for a very short, though too long, time, we moved to another dusty spot amid the grape vines. For some screwy reason, no provision had been made for rations for us for the next few meals. But leave it to us, Chuck and Paul went foraging and came back with a whole case of “K” rations, a can of coffee and 5 lbs. of sugar. As a result we didn’t starve, but I must say we were very happy to see the A.R.C. (American Red Cross) gals on the deck with their lemonade and donuts awaiting us.

                                                                                        Loads of love,



Watch for the rest of this letter
August 12, 1944

René tells his parents about a couple of adventures he had with Medical Supply Sgt. Bergstrom – known as “Bergie”

René labeled this photograph, “Leaving to join the 93rd Evac at Naples, preparatory to Southern France invasion.”
Left to right: Roy Cohn, René, Bill Kioski, Paul Stratte, Chuck Schwartz, Chuck Davis

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August 12, 1944 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

August 12, 1944
Somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea

No. 39 (conclusion)

Dear Folksies,

          It’s hotterin ‘ell and “bloody” sticky.  As I write, the sweat is pouring off me and the paper is rapidly beginning to curl.  Don’t let anybody ever tell you that a Mediterranean cruise is a pleasant thing, at least at this time of the year.  How people could cruise around at this time of year in peace time is beyond me — particularly in mixed company, for it is still damn far from comfortable, even au naturel.

          We’ve been roasting like this on the water for a couple of days, having sat, sweat and swat for a couple of days before that in a sunny, grape-vined area, which was covered with a foot of dust.  Even the salt-water showers aboard ship were a godsend.

          Our accommodations are really pretty good – far better than on our trip from the U.S., though I must admit that the food on that trip more than made up for the uncomfortable quarters that we lived in. Here there are only four of us in a room — a small room with two double-deckers.  And if the weather were not so bloomin’ hot, it would really be okay.

          The food that we have is good, but what the enlisted men get is definitely not good.  The British are very different from the Americans in that respect.  Their officers get excellent food and their men very poor stuff, poorly prepared; while in our Army and Navy the only difference is in the preparation and a few little extra niceties that the officers get. We’ve had some excellent roast-beef, lamb chops and pork. Another thing we get, naturally, is afternoon tea. The heck of it is that it merely serves to heat you up all the more and gives you more liquid to have pouring down your brow and back.

          Leave it to Roy – à la R.B. Sr. — the first night aboard he gets the Captain of the ship down into our stateroom for cocktails before supper.  He had also gotten acquainted with the radio officer, who was a very nice and mighty interesting fellow. So, with them, a British officer and a French Captain, we have had quite the little gathering in our cabin.

          This afternoon I had a good bridge game – seemed to hold all the cards for once, with some of the strangest distributions I’ve ever had.

          We had sort of a funny deal — we were told to turn in all of our money (all of it) and then we find that we can buy lemonade and carbonated-ade on the ship. But with no money, we’ve been in sort of a pickle.  ‘Tis well, however, that we we did make the acquaintance of some of the Britishers, as their money is good on ship, and we’ve managed to do fairly well.

          ‘Tis the end of the page, just about the end of what I had to say. ‘Tis still hot, though 10 P.M., so shall disrobe and climb into my bunk.

                                                                                        Loads of love,



Watch for my next letter
August 13, 1944

René is one of four doctors from the 59th Evac Hospital who are on a ship heading for the south coast of France. Along with the doctors are three enlisted men: Clint Green, Chuck Davis and Kioski.

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