The nurse was tying my right arm to a board, wiping off the inside of my elbow with alcohol, and then the big needle! "Start counting slowly now," she said. I had not counted past four when a feeling of relaxation came over me like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. I could feel my taut muscles relax, such a wonderful feeling and I drifted off into unconsciousness.
The next thing I remember is trying to shake the fogginess out of my brain, desperately trying to remember where I was. Then I found myself in a huge ward, clad in a pair of faded wool pajamas (I had been stark naked when I went into the operating room) and my leg swathed in bandages. Two cots away was Black but no sight of Crabtree. On my right was an airforce pilot who had been shot down, wounded and singed a bit.
News clipping from the BRUNSWICKER, Brunswick, Missouri
A letter from Arthur Clayton written April 5th while in a hospital in France says he has plenty of time to rest, listen to radio music and think."It's time like this when I become more homesick than at any other time. More time to think of home, familiar music which brings back so many memories.
"I've thought many times of one thing the Army has done that I will always remember favorably. At Camp Roberts I became acquainted with boys who later became nearly as close friends as Renie, Gene Godt, Clyde Bachtel, Bill Freeman. I say nearly because I think Renie will always be almost as near a brother to me as Ken and Bob. With the exception of Jack (Coble) the rest of us from Roberts have stuck together up until the time three of us were wounded at once and became separated. During the time over here our whole squad became close friends; we knew of one another's past, what we did, what we hoped to do, his wife's name and how many children he had.
"Many nights in foxholes we have slept peacefully, trusting our life to the alertness of another then trading posts and doing the same for him. There have been times when we shared small bits of crackers or a square of chocolate when no other food was to be found, the last swallow of water in a canteen, slept "spoon fashion" on the cold ground for mutual warmth.
"We've raced across open fields to take a town, running with pounding hearts and legs of lead while enemy machine guns seemed to blaze in our very faces.
It's experiences like those that cement friendships that can never be broken. Yet now, back in a hospital, I'll probably never see those boys again while over here. I may go back to my old outfit, probably not, but even so, many of those I left will be gone. Chances are I'll never see them again. By the time we're home again there will be new faces, new friendships. But none will be forgotten.
"What am I doing? This isn't a letter, it's an essay! I didn't intend to write so much but my mind strayed. But I have found so many "good fellows" you might say, who I'll always be glad to have known.
"The stitches in my leg were removed today and although I feel afraid to move for fear the wound won't stay stuck, it seems well on the way to being as good as ever. Right now my leg is weak, in fact I am weak all over but almost three weeks in bed would do that anyway. I'll probably get several week's rest to regain my strength, maybe if I'm lucky, part of it will be in Paris or England. That was the 'break' I mentioned before but there is nothing definite on it yet.
"Can think of little else to write. No mail yet and no telling when I will get any, especially if I move someplace else.
"But keep on writing and guess it is time to put in another request for a box of cookies, candy and other eats. Keep sending me clippings and all news from home.
"Love to all,
Black and I became separated then; he went to one hospital and I the other. After a long ride on a hospital train, we came into Vittel, France, and I was carried up four flights of stairs to a ward in the hospital. Clean white sheets, soft beds, and nurses and ward boys waiting on us hand and foot! Our slightest wish was their command, but somehow we hated to ask these pleasant, busy people to do things for us -- they seemed to have so much to do. But there was always a drink of water, the fluffing of a pillow, or rubbing our bed-tired backs, maybe washing our dirty feet (scolding us for not taking a bath more often, then making fun of us when we argued we couldn't take baths in foxholes!), bringing us our trays of food -- or a dozen other things.
One morning the nurse told me I was to eat no breakfast-- that meant I was going back to the operating room! About 10 o'clock I was wheeled off to that "awful room" and a medic started snipping the bandages off -- and I thought I was going to jump right off the table! When he yanked the last bit of gauze off it hurt like infernal hell and I thought I was going to pass out. Then I raised up to take a look at what the doc at the evac hospital had done.... expecting a little cut about two inches long. I nearly choked when I saw a gash nearly a foot long! Then came the needle again and I passed out for the second time. When I awoke I was again back in my ward, this time the wound had been sewed up and hurt more than it had open.
Until the morning of May 1 I stayed at the hospital, enjoying every minute of it and dreading the day when I would have to leave. I found that Blank, my squad leader, had been wounded the next day after I was hit and had been sent to the same hospital. When we became able to get around alone we took turns visiting each other and passed many pleasant hours talking over old times. Then I was released from the hospital proper and went into a convalescent ward. Blank was sent home. During the time we were regaining our strength we took light training -- but mostly just loafed in the sun, making frequent visits to the small town near the hospital and, in short, having a good time.
On May 1 I found myself on shipping orders and then followed more days and nights of miserable life on box cars-- back to the old Army routine, no more pampering in hospitals! We first went to a depot in Luxembourg, where I met my platoon leader, who had been shot in the foot a few days after I was hit, and was now also on his way back to the 103rd. It was while we were in this camp that news of the German surrender came to us. Strangely enough, there was little excitement, no cheering, almost unbelief that it could be over and we were not going back to be shot at again. Now we were all anxious to get back to our old units before we became replacements for some other outfit.
More boxcars and we were in another camp in Worms, Germany, a hot, dusty, lonesome place that all of us were anxious to leave soon as we got there. Non-fraternization was in effect and anyone caught talking to a German was subject to a heavy penalty. After "open house" in France some of the boys had a hard time ignoring the buxom frauleins, who were fully aware of the no-fratting law and did every thing in their power to tantalize the soldiers. They had methods all their own....
From Worms we travelled south through Germany, stopping for several days in Kaufbauren, a former Luftwaffe center, where I had the opportunity to examine several crippled German planes, and about May 23 we were trucked back to our old companies. The 103rd headquarters were in Innsbruck, Austria, and Baker company in a small town by the name of Hall. I found the company considerably changed but all of my old friends, with the exception of those I knew had been wounded, were still there -- Easter, DeFoe, Fry, Rush, Crawford, and several others. The squad was living in a modern apartment just like a real home.
I was home again!
PAGES 51 & 52 MUD & GUTS
AJC, August 3, 1993:
Joe Milhoan called me this date and in the course of our conversation I asked:
"Joe, something has always bothered me. Remember when we were in the same replacement camp going back to our outfit, about May 5 or 6 or so?"
Art: "Well, Joe, remember that I saw you standing up there on that little knoll....?"
Art: "Well, Joe, when I came up to you to say hello, Joe, did I salute you?"
Joe: "....Well, Art, that's something I have been wanting to talk to you about..."
AJC: Add to the information on this page, Joe Milhoan was wounded March 21, 1945, two days after Crabtree, Compton, Black and I, and a platoon sergeant and maybe others, had been killed or wounded. Joe was struck in the foot by a "tumbling" bullet which pierced his boot and damaged his foot. He, too, was in the hospital approximately one and one-half months before being shipped out to return to Company B, 409th, 103rd, and the war was still going on....
From Ed DeFoe, December 18, 1991:
Ref: Page 52 MUD & GUTS
Gosh, having a hard time ignoring frauleins must have been almost beyond control.....for you, but you could take it, being a war hero and a combat vet....
From Ed DeFoe, December 18, 1991:
Ref: Page 53 MUD & GUTS
So here you are back in Innsbruck and we had ended the war for you. Billy and I rode a tank into Innsbruck amid flowers and cognac and brandy -- but wouldn't you know it, guard duty again! Billy and I guarded a cheese and butter factory. "Let no Krauts in!" was the order. "Ok! ok!" That lasted about 15 minutes or until the officers were gone. We gave a few pounds to some kids and that started the ball rolling. They started coming with coaster wagons and wheel barrows....kids, old people. We just let them take as much as they wanted.
Yes! That part about Vacation Land was truly heaven on earth. We rode that cable car up to one of Hitler's hide-aways (that's what they told us it was anyway). Remember? Even ping pong. I know we decided...Army life wasn't so bad after all. And a pretense of training.....WHY? The damn war was over!
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