November 5, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

November 5, 1943
No. 64
Palermo, Sicily

Dear Folksies,

            I have been kept busy for the last couple of weeks and never did manage to sit down at a typer long enough to do much good. When I have had some few minutes time then all our typers have been busy. Mine, at the moment, is somewhat on the fritz, but is in the process of getting fixed by one of the boys.

            Today is the kind of day that makes us all rather thankful that we are so nicely situated inside of buildings and that we have sidewalks between the various buildings so that slushing through mud is not a necessity. I am remembering our sojourn at Pickett a year ago, when we stepped out of our cabins into the reddish mud of Virginia. Nope, this place is definitely rather nice and though the buildings are rather cold because of the tile and the wind whistling through the large hallways, we have managed to close up most of the window frames with tar roofing paper and thus have warmed them up a bit. The heating situation is still a big question, because of the great quantity of fuel needed to heat these buildings and the question is, do we have it?

            George Davis left us yesterday. He is to be an Adjunct for the American Military Government of Occupied Territories (AMGOT). It ought to turn out to be quite a good break for him and certainly should be interesting work. His replacement has not yet arrived and no one is very anxious for him to arrive from all the stories we have heard. I don’t know why the Col. doesn’t just let Fadley handle the job instead of getting a new man in when our Table of Organization doesn’t call for a QM officer anymore anyway. But so it goes.

            Understand that Miss Bell is returning to the U.S. She is the oldest of the nurses and under the ruling that 1% of the outfit can be returned to the U.S. she is being sent back. Speaking of trips, the Old Man had a nice 7-day one, which took him to the land of Cleopatra. Wish we could get a nice trip like that. Such is the life of a Colonel.

Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for the rest of letter on
November 10, 1943


René’s pal, George Davis left the 59th Evac. Unit – to serve as an Adjunct for the American Military Government of Occupied Territories.





“The Old Man” – aka Colonel Bolibaugh – had a nice one-week trip to Egypt.



November 10, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

November 10, 1943
Continuation of No. 64
Palermo, Sicily

Dear Folksies,

            Numerous packages arrived the other day – packages that apparently were mailed after the glasses you got me. These, of course, were Xmas packages and I’m amazed that they arrived so quickly. Have not as yet opened them, but wonder if they will really keep till Xmas. We’re getting awfully itchy fingers.

            Have kept plenty busy of late. In fact, I think that the two busiest departments have been ours and Lois’s. There have been a lot of interesting intra-hospital problems cropping up all the time to give someone a headache and somehow a lot of them fall on us in the dispensary, such as the question of giving shots, etc.

            The latest problem was the question of Schick testing the whole gang, which I had to do. Obvious reasons. This, of course, included a great deal of culturing and when the scare became a full-blast one, then men poured in from all over with the same request. It soon got out of hand and became ridiculous to a great extent. The number of cultures as compared to the number of positives was a top heavy ratio and the number of cultures compared to the number of clinical cases was even more top-heavy. Of course, numerous positives were definitely only the oid type, but the poor lab was snowed under for some time. It had to get assistance, but now things are slowed down to a walk. We toxoided all the Schick positives in our gang. Had only one clinical case in our gang – Miss Vencko.

            You should have seen our “Charlie Chaplin Production Line” the day we were Schick testing. Fran was the left-arm specialist (control) and I was the right-arm specialist, while the boys kept us supplied with fresh needles. The remarks from the boys as they were attacked from both sides were really funny. But the most common one was, “Gee, with both shooting, I don’t know which one to watch, so I can’t tell if it hurts or not!”

            Of course, all this business would occur while the Col. was away. Mattie had his hands full, partly too, because Reilly was rather unreasonable on several things and they went round and round for a while.

            Jack Dunlap turned up with a positive throat, but wasn’t ill – however he was stuck in the hospital and I had the problems of the Evacuation Office dumped on me.’Twas quite a job for a few days. For a while I thought I was going to have to buy a pair of skates, because I was running back and forth from the Receiving to the Evacuation office. These offices are at opposite ends of the building and one nice long hall between them. It would be quite a nice skate.

Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter on
November 14, 1943


Lois working in the Isolation Ward with Tom Voicheski, who was in charge of the ward. René tells his parents that the two busiest departments have been his and Lois’s.




René says that the day they gave everyone in the unit Schick tests – to test for susceptibility to diptheria – they set up a “Charlie Chaplain Production Line” like the one depicted in the film “Modern Times.”



November 14, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

November 14, 1943
No. 65
Palermo, Sicily

Dear Folksies,

            Here it is Sunday night and Lois and I are down in Supply again pounding away at the typers. Things have slowed down considerably as far as my business is concerned, but Lois is still going pretty much full blast. Somehow she manages to tear around her wards like mad continually and tho’ she is constantly claiming that there has been nothing accomplished by her that day, she actually has done more than any other two nurses could or would have done in her position.

          Time out for the moment –- we are having a picnic down here. This room, which used to be George’s and is now Wygoski’s, is a meeting place for the Supply-Utilities gang often, and now Ehrbacher, the baker, is down here trying to get the 1st Sgt. on the phone to tell him, and have me tell him, that Ehrbacher can’t work for a couple of days. Ehrbacher is somewhat on the polluted side at the moment, but funny as can be — with his lisping when sober you can imagine how he is when in this condition. Anyway, what happened to him last night was really a kick.

          Some Italian civilian came into the Nom-Com’s Club to tell the men that some soldier had fallen through an old bomb-crater in the roof of the building and was lying hurt on the second floor. But poor Ehrbacher didn’t like the Italian’s looks or something and, being drunk, he took out after the poor Italian. The latter went out the swinging glass paneled doors with Ehrbacher after him, but the doors closed and swung back just as the “Baker” came up to them and they knocked the “Baker” back on his sit-down with glass flying in all directions, most over him. It apparently was quite a sight — and Ehrbacher hasn’t quite recovered from the incident yet.

            More about the Italian. Some poor duck had fallen through the roof of the building. I happened to be over in the 1st Sgt’s office at the time, Lois having gone to bed early, and when someone came in and told me about the fellow, I went and investigated and then had him brought over to Receiving on a litter. The fellow had fallen about 15 feet, but how he had gotten on the roof in the first place, no one knew. He was under the influence, obviously, but it wasn’t until one of our Receiving boys got real smart that some investigating was done. It was found out that the guy had escaped from the psycho ward of another hospital, had gone out and had himself a good time, and then got lost in our buildings trying to find his way back to the other place. What things won’t happen here???

Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for the rest of my letter on
November 21, 1943


René and Lois are having a picnic in Wy Wygoski’s room in the Supply Department. Wy is on the left in the photo above, with fellow supply men Charles Weistenberg, aka Weisty” and Harold Dinsmore, aka “Dinny”.



Herbie Ehrbacher, the unit’s baker, is quite a character.





November 21, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

November 21, 1943
Continuation of No. 65
Palermo, Sicily

Dear Folksies,

             I must thank you, Dad, ever ever so much for the wonderful pair of glasses you sent me. They are really marvelous, but I feel guilty when I think of how much you must have paid for them. And then again, I shudder when I think how much my heart went to my mouth this morning when I started to open the package and realized that the glasses were in that miserably squashed looking cardboard box. But, when I saw that the glasses were still intact, I merely marveled at the luck. Golly, but you certainly are a trusting soul, Pop. To have put those glasses in nothing more than their case and that cardboard box and to have trusted them to the handling they get coming over here, well – ‘tis just unbelievable.

             And, yes, the swell watch that Lois had Mom McFarland get and send for my birthday, also arrived in perfect shape. Unfortunately, Lois’ watch is now on the fritz too, so the new one is shared – daytime by Lois and night-time by me. Guess we shall have to take a chance and try to get one of our watches fixed downtown, if AMGOT can recommend a good and reliable watchmaker for us.

             Dad, I feel sort of guilty that I had my extra salary put into bonds instead of just cash for you, but you can change them to cash if you need to or wish to do so –  ‘tis O.K.

            Dad, you will be interested to know that the 59th is doing some good research work at the moment – Kuzell and an outsider from some commission are doing most of it, for Kuzell found a million little spirochetes in the only case of fatal jaundice we had. He has also found the wigglers in some of the other cases that have not been fatal. Have plenty of material here for a study of that sort.

             So far, only a couple of our boys have been thusly ill – none of the officers or nurses.

            The Officers Club is having a big shin-dig this coming Saturday night. It promises to be quite an affair. Some of the gals have gone in for getting formal dresses made, and this is going to be a good opportunity for them to show them off. Lois is one who did not become so inclined.

            ‘Tis bed time now – we have been both going to bed pretty early lately, what with colds going around, etc. and trying to keep up resistance as much as possible.

Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter on
November 27, 1943


René tells his father that doctors in the 59th are doing some good research work – particularly Bill Kuzell, pictured above.



November 27, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

November 27, 1943
No. 66
Palermo, Sicily

Dear Folksies,

            Here is your very bad son again, being most repentant for not having written. Please forgive me!! Have no particular excuse except that we have been admitting some every day instead of every-other day and as a consequence it has seemed that every time I sit down to try and get a letter written, what happens, but that mere act seems to bring business in on top of my head.

            We have been kept plenty busy in the dispensary as our next-door neighbors, tho’ supposedly rather settled, are not able to handle their regular work plus the out-patient stuff that comes along, the latter being particularly of the VD type. As a consequence we have been doing practically all of the out-patient work around here and this office has been kept on the go almost continually during the day. Nevertheless, we still do not compare in business to Lois and her department.

            I mentioned before that we had received numerous packages, well, we did not have the self-control that I thought we might have, and anyway, rationalizing, we decided ‘twas much better to open packages as they came rather than save them all for one big opening. Who knows what might happen on that one big day? Remembering last year, but not anticipating anything like that this year, we still felt that, well, one never knows, does one? Sooo, anyhoo, with edibles for instance, ‘tis far better to eat them as they come rather than get a stomach ache eating everything all up at once, particularly if one had to do all that eating to lighten one’s luggage as one ran for a boat. There is actually no prospect of that, as far as we know, but, as I said before, one never knows, does one? Anyhoooo, we rationalized, and we continue to rationalize, and consequently before this letter is finite I will have gone into a long dissertation on the presents received and attempt to thank you all, one and all, for the wonderful things you have sent us. Only wish, as I know you do too, that there would be no such presents – but instead that the only Xmas present would be for all of us to be together – but, maybe on the next one!

Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for more of this letter on
November 28, 1943


René is handling practically all of the out-patient work, including the VD cases, in addition to working in the dispensary.



November 28, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

November 28, 1943
Continuation of No. 66
Palermo, Sicily

Dear Folksies,

          Last Thursday was Thanksgiving. And what did we have as a Thanksgiving feast? Had chicken instead of turkey, but the chick was mighty good, and along with it went stuffing, sweet potatoes, peas, cranberry jelly, apple pie, cheese, nuts and hard candy. ‘Twas mighty good and, despite the fact that we were still in the U.S. last year at this time, our meal here was far and away better than last year’s. What a difference there is in eating chicken like that, as compared to the canned boneless chicken. The latter is swell eating until the real thing comes along.

          Somehow the turkeys didn’t arrive in time, but for supper tonight we are feasting on those birds. Lois and I are hoping to be first in the mess line tonight for first comes first served, and there are only a certain number of drumsticks!

          The Officers’ Club scheduled a swanky party for the 20th and swanky it was. We opened up one end of the hall and used the amphitheater, besides all the rooms that we ordinarily use. Had a swell band playing and had the stone steps in the amphitheater covered with blankets so they could be sat on without having cold bottoms. The regular bar and room adjoining was used as usual, and what is ordinarily the card room was used for “Free” Punch, nuts, cheese and sandwiches. What is ordinarily the radio room turned out to be sort of a stag room, but others of us also made use of it.

          For a while, however, Lois was the only femme in the room – a special member! Somewhere Pete had found five turkeys and after they were duly inspected by the Veterinary Corps, they had been cooked and sliced and made into sandwiches for the party. The boys who made up the sandwiches in some of Ehrbacher’s special buns did not calculate too well, and as a result there were several who were cheated out of the turkey and had to be satisfied with hard-boiled-egg sandwiches. Trust us, however, we were among the first in line and got our share of turkey alright.

          The whole place had been beautifully decorated with fancy-colored crepe paper. Even the ceilings were decorated with hanging paper, and all walls had paper hanging down from a good height. Besides this, they had some figures that they fashioned out of cardboard and paper — a big muscle man lifting 500 pound weights, and a couple of other figures. Then there were the so-called paintings (actually sketches with some crepe paper in appropriate places as garments of a sort) — paintings of Venus, Cleopatra, Lady Godiva, etc. These were really something and added a lot to the decorativeness of the place. How did we happen to get so fancy, you ask? Well, Kuzell somehow ran into some boys from a camouflage outfit, and they really did a fine job of camouflaging what used to be an orthopedic clinic into a right swanky Officers’ Club. (The best in town, so they all say!) The chief decorator for this outfit was Cecil B. de Mille’s special set-decorator, so naturally you could only expect an A-1 job — and he’s only a sergeant at that! All in all the party was quite a success.

Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for the conclusion of this letter on
November 30, 1943

Photographs from the “Swanky Party” at the Officers’ Club.



Bret Smart, Bill Newsom, Marv Hodgson, Serge Bryner (seated – front row)

Sid Shapiro, Cy Johnson, George Armanini, Ed Blasdel (standing – back row)




Paul Stratte and Hal Williams in the back (partial views)

Left to right: Charlotte Bambino (Bam), Cy Kiernan, Pattie Collins, Paulette Delpeche, Bill Drew




Helen Nelson dancing with Colonel Bolibaugh (center left of photo)

Chris Colletti dancing with Chuck Schwartz (lower right corner of photo)




Seated, left to right: Bob Treadwell (lighting cigarette), Libby Gates, Eleanor Larsen, Hope Eckland

Standing: Bob Escamilla, Frank Gerbode




Left to right: Lois dancing with René, Bill Kuzell, Ernie, Serge Bryner dancing with Paulette Delpeche, Carroll Russell, Hope Eckland dancing with Louis Huff





November 30, 1943 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

November 30, 1943
End of No. 66

Palermo, Sicily

Dear Folksies,

          Some leaves are being dished out now, for the first time since we’ve been overseas, and, as a matter of fact, we are one of the last hospitals to receive leaves over here. Collie went first and had a nice trip, going to Cairo, Alexandria and other places in that vicinity. Mattie’s orders were delayed so he did not leave at the same time as Collie and then poor Mattie ran into some hard luck. He got to Africa and suddenly had an acute backache and was unable to go on. He, therefore, spent his whole leave in bed by an airport in Africa. What a time!!

          None of the officers are on leave at the moment, tho’ some of the nurses are – a couple at a time. If our census gets down sufficiently, however more and more will be able to take off for a week. But until Jack Dunlap gets well, however, I know there is no chance for me, and at the moment Lois’ department is going still full blast and none of the gals that are on leave are from her building, so our chance won’t be for a few weeks anyway. Where we’ll go if and when we do get leave, I know not. Only wish that 7 days were enough to get back to S.F.!

          We seem to have had sort of a repeat of the occurrences of last year at about this time – i.e. at Pickett. Yes, we have had another series of appendices – none so far in the officers or nurses (except for Dottie Collins, but that was 2-1/2 months ago), but 4 in the enlisted men within 2 weeks. Sompin’ they et no doubt! I assisted George Wood on two of these.

          Got myself another pair of dark green trousers at the PX the other day. Hope you are able to get a shirt or two at Roos’ for me – i.e. the dark green. They look so much nicer and make one feel all dressed up. And, now, with Lois having her O.D. uniforms, I gotta dress up to go out with her, eh!

Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter on
December 4, 1943


René tells his parents that there has been another series of appendices among members of the 59th – 4 enlisted men in two weeks. He was able to assist George Wood (shown above with René) in operating on two of these cases.




Mattie (Carleton Mathewson) went on leave to Egypt, but suffered an acute back ache and as a result had to spend his whole leave in a bed near the airport.




Since Jack Dunlap is ill, René won’t be able to go on leave any time soon.