On April 11, 1942, René Bine Jr., MD — a 26-year-old resident physician and newly minted Army lieutenant — wrote the first of what would become more than 230 letters to his parents back in San Francisco. Typed on his portable Remington or whatever typewriter was available to him, the early letters were mailed from various military bases in the US — where he and his fellow physicians from Stanford Hospital and Medical School, as well as a cadre of nurses and other staff, received their requisite military training.
By year’s end, he would send dispatches from Casablanca, Morocco – where the 59th Evacuation Hospital first set up its tents. Over the next three years, as a member of this World War II M.A.S.H.-type unit my father sent letters home from Sicily, Italy, France and Germany.
With the salutation, “Dear Folkies,” the letters were addressed to his mother, Alma, and his father, René Sr., who was also a physician. They also were shared with his younger sisters Marie-Louise and Barbara, as well as other members of the family.
My Dad and his family had a very personal stake in the outcome of the war. Many relatives were Jews living dangerous lives in occupied France. One of my father’s cousins, Alain Dreyfus, was a soldier in the French army. Another, Yvette Bauman, was a high-ranking official in the Resistance.
On August 15, 1945, a month before my father left Paris to return home to San Francisco, he wrote to his parents that he was sending the carbons of his letters home under separate cover. He added the following comment, “I may some day clip out portions to make a consecutive story, who knows?”
Sadly, when my father passed away in 1988, after 40 years as an internist and cardiologist in private practice in San Francisco, he had been too busy caring for his patients to put together his story. So, I’ve done it for him. I hope he would be pleased with my editorial judgment as I pared down the 1,000 pages of text on those faded carbon copies. I did my best to excerpt, while keeping the editing to a minimum.
I am posting these excerpts 75 years to the day after he wrote them and adding photographs of the people with whom he spent those historic 3-1/2 years. I hope you will enjoy getting to know Dr. Bine, his family, and his friends in the 59th.
P.S. Here is an article about Dear Folksies published in the Stanford University School of Medicine’s blog Scope, on Memorial Day 2017.