A Message from Linda Bine…
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 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 Bernard, 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.
On April 11, 2017, I started Dear Folksies as “blog” – posting excerpts of René’s letter, 75 years to the day after he wrote them, illustrating them with photographs of the people with whom he spent those historic 3-1/2 years. Also sprinkled throughout are excerpts from the journal of his colleague, Dr. Philip Westdahl. While René’s letters were subject to war-time censorship, Phil could write about things in his personal journal that René could not mention in his letters home.
Over the years, Dear Folksies attracted a number of subscribers, who received emails every time a new post was published, as well as a group people who followed it on Facebook. Some were children or grandchildren of members of the 59th Evac. Unit, some were doctors, some were history buffs, and some were people who just enjoyed spending time with my Dad through his letters.
On October 16, 2020, I posted the last letter René wrote – from his parent’s home in San Francisco – to one of his relatives in Paris. And in December 2020, Dear Folksies morphed from a blog into a resource. Please explore and discover, or check out FAQs for some tips on navigating Dear Folksies. To find out what René did after the war, click here. And if you have any questions or comments, use the “Contact Us” button at the bottom of any page.
P.S. Here are two articles about Dear Folksies – one in The Ark newspaper and the other on the Stanford University School of Medicine’s blog Scope.