My Father on Memorial Day

This is a short post both about and, in large part, by my father on Memorial Day. My father was a doctor during World War II and kept a diary during the months of the Battle of the Bulge. The following is a description of one of the more harrowing nights he and his fellow medical practitioners spent while operating on the wounded.

I’m very proud that my father served as a medical officer in what some still refer to “the good war.” During this Memorial Day, we should remember how many Americans died and were badly wounded defending the world from fascism. Fascism is rearing its horrific head again both globally and, some would argue, within the United States itself. I worry that many Americans can no longer recognize it for what it is, that we have forgotten one of the most critical lessons in all of history.

Here’s just one scene from the world’s war against fascism.

An Entry from the World War II Diary of Capt. William H. Vickers

That night of the 27th of February 1945 is one I’ll never forget. For 12 hours without a break we worked on the most badly wounded cases I have yet seen. These men were shot in the worst possible places and were in the foulest shock I have ever seen.

This was not enough. For three of the 12 hours the Krauts shelled us, throwing stuff, heavy stuff, at the bridge right below us. How I hated that house then, how I wanted to crawl into that cellar where all the rest of the company who weren’t working in the Clr. Sta. was safely stashed away. (The T.D. aid station moved out at 1800).

Our treatment room was the dining room with 2 exposures and 2 large, tremendous, gaping, horrible windows covered only by blankets. They looked like a perfect set up for shrapnel to ease through. We were working there with drawn taut faces, everyone carrying on as if nothing was happening, while the shrill whine of the incoming shells and then the sudden, terminating crack of the explosion filling the room. They were coming in at the rate of 1-2 every minute with the closest hitting 30 feet from our station but every one filling the room with the whine and crack.

While the whine was in the room everyone stopped for the second or second and half and were breathless waiting for the explosion. When it came some would flinch a trifle and then we’d all go back to work. The wounded were amazed that this haven of the Medical Corps was undergoing a pretty fancy shelling.

No officer and not many men got sleep that night. As the work slacked off in the early morning hours of 0800-0900 we took stock. Our A&D sheet showed 158 patients in 16 hours, a new record for our company and battalion, but it is difficult to judge the work by the number of patients for their condition has a great deal to do with the amount of work necessary. And these lads were ahurting and ableeding badly. We all aged 10 years that night.

Featured image is a picture of graves decorated with flags at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2008: