Frequently Asked Questions
Dear Folksies is comprised mostly of excerpts from letters written home by Dr. René Bine, as a member of the 59th Evacuation Hospital during World War II. Between 2017 and 2020, these excerpts were posted in blog-fashion, 75 years from the day René wrote them. The posts were illustrated with photographs from the albums René created after the War or with other graphics that complemented the subject of his letter. Other content includes excerpts from the journal of René’s colleague, Dr. Philip Westdahl (sometimes in the sidebar, sometimes as a separate post), as well as a few letters written by other people associated with René or his unit.
There are three main sections where you can access René’s letters:
(1) Through the 12 categories organized by location and date
(2) Through the three Curated Sections
(3) In “Letters by Date” at the bottom of the page
Other sections include “About,” “Who’s Who” and “Where René Traveled.”
The 12 categories are organized in chronological order – labeled by their location and date range:
Stateside – West Coast: April 11 – August 15, 1942
Stateside – East Coast: August 16 – December 14, 1942
Sailing the Atlantic: December 15 – December 29, 1942
Casablanca: December 30, 1942 – June 19, 1943
North African Convoy: June 20-June 25, 1943
Bizerte, Tunisia: June 26 – August 5, 1943
Sicily: August 6, 1943 – May 27, 1944
Italy: May 28 – August 7, 1944
On the Mediterranean: August 11 – August 14, 1944
France: August 15, 1944 – March 25, 1945
Germany: March 26, 1945 – September 27, 1945
San Francisco: October 1 – October 17, 1945
For the 7 categories that don’t have subcategories, when you click on the icon, you go to a page with the first letter René wrote from that location, or in some cases, an entry from the journal of Dr. Philip Westdahl or other source – whichever came first chronologically.
If you click on one of the 5 categories that do have subcategories, you will go to a page with icons for the 3 to 7 subcategories.
Categories cover a geographic location, and sometimes René and the 59th Evac. Hospital started in one city or area and then moved another. So, in the case of Stateside-West Coast, they started at Ft. Lewis, Washington; moved to Ft. Ord, California; and then took a train journey across the country. So, the Stateside-West Coast category contains 3 subcategories. In contrast, when they got to Casablanca, Morocco, they were stationed there for 6 months, so that category doesn’t contain any subcategories.
- Stateside-West Coast has 3 subcategories: Ft. Lewis; Ft. Ord, and Train
- Stateside – East Coast has 3 subcategories: Camp Kilmer August/September, Camp Pickett and Camp Kilmer November/December
- Italy has 3 subcategories: Naples, Anzio and Battapaglia
- France has 7 subcategories; Southern France, Carpentras, Rioz, Epinal I, Mutzig, Epinal II and St. Avold
- Germany has 7 subcategories: Tiefenthal, Heidenheim, Dachau Concentration Camp, Ellwangen, Wabern, Fritzlar and Bad Wildungen
When you click on a subcategory icon, you will go to a page with the first letter René wrote in that location, or in a few cases an entry from the journal of Dr. Philip Westdahl or other source – whichever came first chronologically.
On the letter pages, if you put your cursor over a photograph in the right sidebar, you will see a hand symbol. When that appears, click and the photo will enlarge. If there is more than one photograph in the sidebar, you will be able to scroll through large formats of all of them. This feature is not available for the photographs on the Who’s Who pages.
In this section are all 524 posts that appeared in the original Dear Folksies blog. Each post is displayed separately, highlighted by a featured photo and with the date of the item below. You can browse through this section and click on the photo or date to display René’s letter or whatever else was posted to the blog 75 years after that date.
Note: This section contains so much content that it does take a bit of time for all of the posts to load. Be patient and just keep scrolling!
However, if you know the date you want, put the full date in quotes (eg. “April 1, 1944”) in the search box at the top right corner of the page. You will instantly get just that search result listed by itself or first among a few results. Click on the listing and the letter will be displayed. This search function works on any page, not just in the Letters By Date section
René met nurse Lois McFarland when he was at Ft. Ord in June 1942. They got engaged – secretly at first, and then openly. In October 1942, they were secretly married in Richmond, Virginia. They had to keep their marriage a secret or the Army would have required that they serve in separate units.
The “Wartime Love Story: Lois & René” section, with 145 posts, contains four types of content: letters in which René mentions Lois, letters written by Lois, a letter written by René’s father in which he mentions Lois, and notices of a couple of important dates in René’s relationship with Lois.
René and his family had many French relatives, all of whom were Jewish. Most were living in Paris at the start of the war. This included two of René Sr.’s first cousins: Lilice Baumann and Jeanne Salomons and their children.
The “Living Dangerous Lives: René’s Jewish French Relatives” section, with 92 posts, includes letters in which René mentions his French relatives as well as a couple of letters and other writings by these relatives.
Dr. Philip Westdahl joined the 59th Evacuation Hospital at the same time as René and most of the other physicians, and he remained one of René’s colleagues until August 1945. Dr. Westdahl kept a journal of his experiences and impressions, and after the war he compiled them in a 148-page document entitled, “Notes on the Experiences of the 59th Evacuation Hospital Overseas.” He gave a copy of the document to Linda Bine (René’s daughter) and she later obtained permission from Dr. Westdahl’s daughter to include excerpts in the Dear Folksies website.
“An Uncensored Perspective; Dr. Philip Westdahl’s Journal,” with 79 posts, includes all of the excerpts that were originally published as part of the Dear Folksies blog. Sometimes they are in the sidebar, next to one of René’s letters, and sometimes they are stand-alone posts. Because his document was a journal, rather than letters, which were subject to censorship, Phil was able to include information and details that René was unable to mention in his letters home.
There are seven Who’s Who sections: Doctors of the 59th, Enlisted Men of the 59th, French Relatives, Non-Physician Officers of the 59th, Nurses of the 59th, René’s Family, Visitors to the 59th & People René Visited.
Most people mentioned in René’s letters have a corresponding mention in one of these sections. Sometimes the mention is just the person’s name and their nickname. In other cases there will be a photograph of them. And for a few there are more details about their background and what they did after the War.
It’s important to check in Who’s Who to discover if René referred to someone you are searching for by any nickname(s). For example, if you’re looking for mentions of Colonel Oral Bolibaugh, you would logically put “Bolibaugh” in the search box. But that bring up only about 5% of relevant letters, because René referred to him most often as “The Col,” but also as “The Old Man” and “The Colonel.” So, in order to find all of the letters in which René mentions the commanding officer of the 59th, you would need to do 4 separate searches.
This section contains three maps that show where René was stationed during the War: Two locations on the West Coast of the US, two locations on the East Coast of the US and the path of his journey from Morocco, across North Africa, to Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. The map of the 59th route in the European Theater was drawn by Dr. Philip Westdahl, one of René’s colleagues in the unit.
About includes background on René, his family and his service in the 59th Evacuation Hospital. It also provides information on the Dear Folksies Blog, which ran from April 11, 2017 (posting letters 75 years to the day from when René wrote them) until October 17, 2020. It also contains a link to a page about what René did after the War.
When you enter a word, name or phrase in the search box and don’t hit return or click on the magnifying glass, a pop-up will appear with the matching posts in chronological order, followed by any pages on which term is used. You can then scroll down and see all of the matches before choosing the one you want to open.
If, instead, you do hit return or click on the magnifying glass after entering a search term, you will be taken to a new page with all the posts (listed chronologically by date) and pages on which that term is mentioned.
On most devices, but not some iPhones or iPads, to search for a letter posted on a specific date, put the full date in quotes (eg. “April 1, 1944”) in the search box at the top right corner of any page. You will get just that search result alone, or it may be listed first among a few results. Click on the listing and the letter will be displayed.
Quotation marks are also useful if you are searching for a specific phrase, such as “59th Evac”.
For tips on searching for an individual, see the answer to the FAQ below: “What do I need to know if I am searching for an individual?”
For tips on searching within a post or on a page, see the FAQ below, “How do I search for a term within a post or on a page?”
One of the most important thing to know is whether René referred to them by a nickname, or more than one nickname. For example, if you’re looking for mentions of Colonel Oral Bolibaugh, you would logically put “Bolibaugh” in the search box. But that bring up only about 5% of relevant letters, because René referred to him most often as “The Col,” but also as “The Old Man” and “The Colonel.” You will find this information in the Who’s Who. Then, in order to find all of the letters in which René mentions Colonel Bolibaugh, you would need to do 4 separate searches.
Note: if the search involves more than one word (eg. “The Old Man”) try putting it in quotes for the best results. (This may not work on some iPhones and iPads.) Also, when searching for an individual, search by their first name (Philip) and their nickname (Phil) as well as each in combination with their last name – in quotes: “Phil Westdahl” and “Philip Westdahl”. You could also try, “Dr. Westdahl” or just Westdahl.
When you are reading a letter or are on a page, such as one of the Who’s Who pages, you can search for a name or term displayed on your screen. On a Mac computer, use “Command + F”, on a PC, use “Control + F” and then type the word or phrase. The search function will find every mention in that post or on that page.
The method for searching on your smart phone will depend on your browser.
Most people mentioned in René’s letters are linked to their photo and summary in one of the Who’s Who sections – depending on whether they are a doctor, nurse, enlisted service man, etc. If you hover over a name, a line will appear underneath and you will know that you can click on the name to go to the related listing in the Who’s Who section.
In the example below, “Bryner” is underlined, but if you hovered over “Stratte ” you would find that it is also clickable.
If you clicked on “Bryner” you would be taken to the Who’s Who listing for Sergius Bryner, MD.
Most unusual terms (from AMGOT to “V” Measles) are linked to a glossary. If you want to view the entire glossary, you can click HERE.
Comments written in the Contact Us section are routed to René’s daughter, Linda Bine. She encourages you to write to her with questions or comments. She also welcomes suggestions to help make Dear Folksies a better experience for all readers. If you request a response, she will do her best to get back to you.
Letters written from Stateside don’t have numbers. But once René went overseas, he began numbering his letters to his parents from No. 1, at the beginning of each calendar year. His parents did the same with their letters. This allowed them to know the order in which the letters were written, even if they didn’t receive them in chronological order. The numbering system also allowed René and his parents to know that they had received all of each other’s letters. And finally, they were able to comment on letters or answer questions by saying things like “Re: #60 Glad you had such a nice Xmas. It certainly was swell that Henry Jr. was able to be there with you.”
Dear Folksies features excerpts from the letters René wrote home to his family. Linda, René’s daughter, included selections from the original letters that she thought would be interesting to readers of Dear Folksies. When letters were very long, she spread the excerpts over two or more posts. She only edited the copy to clarify a reference or correct the very occasional typographical error.
No, the 59th was an Evacuation Hospital, not a M.A.S. H. Unit. We used the term M.A.S.H. in the title of the website to convey the general concept of the type of unit Dr. Bine served in – for people who were familiar with the M*A*S*H movie and television series.
As Dirk deBroekert explains, “The primary differences between the Evacuation Hospital (Evac. Hosp.) of WWII and the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H.) of the Korean War are both the scope of practice and their relative sizes. Both types of units were mobile and intended to treat and to hold patients for a limited period of time.
The role of the Evac. Hosp. was to treat all patients – medical, psychiatric and surgical – while the M.A.S.H. was intended to treat surgical cases only. The M.A.S.H. brought surgical services closer to the front lines and received most casualties directly from front line units. The Evac. Hosp. was further behind the lines and received casualties from multiple sources. The M.A.S.H. surgeon went closer to the patient, while the more established Evac. Hosp, provided vastly more capability and capacity, and a much greater variety of services.
The other distinctions were size and mobility. M.A.S.H. units were smaller and could pack up and move in 6 hours, then set up in another location in 4 hours. The Evac. Hosp. could take days to fully set up.
Some experimentation with small, highly mobile surgical units near the end of WWII resulted in the development of the M.A.S.H. concept. Dr. Bine writes of his participation in such a unit. However, M.A.S.H. units did not replace Evacuation Hospitals, which continued to be an integral part of military medicine in Korea and to the present day. “
On March 15, 2022, René’s daughter, Linda, donated all of René’s original letters and his 12 albums of photographs to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. By 2024 (or maybe 2025) they will be digitized and made available to researchers, historians and the general public. Linda also donated the letters René’s parents wrote to him during the War.