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Between August 1 and August 15, René doesn’t write any letters to his parents. Fortunately, we can follow the activities of the 59th Evac. Hospital through the entries in the journal kept by Philip Westdahl and photographs from René’s albums. Below is Dr. Westdahl’s journal entry for August 1, 1943

Bizerte, Algeria

           I take a walk up to an Italian fort on top of the hill behind our bivouac area. From the hill I have a perfect view of the harbor and town of Bizerte and the lake in the background with the town of Ferryville barely visible. It is a beautiful scene and quite peaceful looking at the present time. The city of Bizerte itself is situated at the innermost portion of a crescent-shaped indentation of the Mediterranean shore. From this point a wide channel passes inland and connects with a huge lake. Hundreds of ships lie in the outer harbor, the inlet and on the bay. The hollow, windowless buildings of the city can be seen in the distance and in the immediate foreground are the peaceful looking rolling hills speckled with olive trees. For miles around there are ammunition dumps, tank and truck depots and air fields serving as grim reminders of war.

      The little Italian fort is an interesting spot. The many anti-air craft guns are still in place and an abundance of ammunition is lying around as though the fort must have been evacuated in some haste. Here and there dented and somewhat rusted helmets serve as reminders that all of the men did not leave under their own power. On the walls of the bomb-shelters are the traditional pin-up girls of Italy, the nude artistic efforts with the finer points duly accentuated – all of which show that soldiers are soldiers regardless of their allegiance, and no doubt there isn’t one of them who wouldn’t give anything for peace and the opportunity to be at home again with his loved ones.


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