David J. Wenner, who is stationed with the hospital and ambulance corps, 62nd infantry, U. S. regulars at Camp Fremont, Cal., where the 15th division of 50,000 men is assembling for an early departure, for France, writes the following interesting letter of his work and army life:
--Will attempt another letter today, though there is a dearth of news and nothing happening. Just the routine camp work that is worse than an epidemic in its grind, for it has nothing new, nothing exciting. We are expecting a mob of drafted men any day to fill up the ranks. Have them to break in, then we'll be ready for overseas duty.
Noon: Corned beef and cabbage for dinner. It's a soul satisfying sort of grub these days. Tomorrow is fish, Saturday is bean day. Oh, we always know what is going to be on the table, and it doesn't take long to get it off.
Night now, The work is done. I'm in charge of quarters tonight and have to sleep in the office. There are six of us that do charge of quarters. It's only one night in six that we are on the job a twenty-four hour stretch. Don't mind it. Usually not much to do at night, and we get lots of sleep, even if we do sleep in our clothes.
I've got something I'd like to have made one of these days, if anybody has a chance. A bag, six inches wide, and fourteen long, with a flap on the end to button to a couple of metal buttons. Demin or light duck or anything of that sort, and any color. You see on the march, a suit of underwear, two pairs of socks, "hankies" and towel goes inside our blanket roll, and when we take out our blankets, the stuff generally has to be dumped on the ground and gets smeared with dirt. So I want the bag to put my "undies" socks etc, in. It'll mean a clean suit for me some night when I might feel like changing. Any sort of stuff will do for the bag.
Maybe you folks would be interested in what we carry on the march. First is our belt. It looks like an infantryman's cartridge belt, only the pockets are larger, much larger. They are a new issue and the first time I wore mine, a recruit infantry nut asked me if the machine gunners all carried their shells in belts.
In that belt we have iodine for dressing wounds, compressed roller bandages, fifteen ten-yard bandages, ten first aid pockets that will cover a shell wound a foot long, yet one of them will lay nicely in the palm of your hand and is hard as a rock before unrolling, due to the compression. Then there is a tourniquet straight and safety pins, a book of diagnose's tags, to be tied to every injured man. There is a bottle of aromatic spirits of ammonia for a stimulant, and scissors, knife, arterial forceps, etc, in a small instrument case. Then there are packages of compressed absorbent cotton, antiseptic gauze and a roll of adhesive tape. We are walking dressing stations, prepared for any emergency, and trained to meet it.
Then comes our personal equipment. It is all contained in our pack and it requires exact knowledge and allows of no guess work to put our homes and furnishings into that pack. Heavy marching order is as follows: Canteen, with one quart of water, cup holding pint and a half, and fitting outside of the canteen. Both are in a canvas cover, hung on the right hip. Two blankets, half a tent, (two fellows button their halves together), a poncho, (that funny rain coat we wear that can be made into a bed sack, sleeping bag or tent flap), our underwear, socks, etc, are made into a roll eight inches thick and sixteen long.
The upper end of that rests between the shoulder blades, the lower on the hips. It is strapped in the lower end of the pack carrier. Above that goes in a canvas compartment, our baking can that holds there days' meat (salt pork). Above that goes in a corner another can holding flour, coffee, sugar, salt for three days. Then there is hardtack, and our plate (which has a handle and is a skillet in the field), knife, fork, spoon, razor, soap, toothbrush, towel, comb, trench mirror, shaving brush, any kodak films, or other personal stuff, writing paper, etc. Then on our shirt pockets, always bulging, we carry matches, notebooks, pencils, pens, tobacco for smokers, gum, a picture of the best girl and the folks back home and a thousand and one other little eccentrics dear to a soldier's heart, along with the last mail we got and our Testaments and French dictionaries on grammars.
Lord help the French when this outfit starts to talking, for it is a thing fearful and wonderful to behold. About the only statement, I am sure of in my French is to the effect, "Francis had for his dinner some turkey." Imagine that for an evening's conversation, or to find one's way about, or to even buy a stamp to write home with. And I'm a fair example of the bunch. Some of them can't talk English, let alone that scrambled egg language, French.
Let me give you an illustration of the English side of it. There are three of us, myself at a desk, records and typewriter before me; Captain McCabe genial old white haired doctor from upstate New York, whose practice has been among the landed gentry (a mighty good doctor, with an inexhaustible supply of jokes and patience), and the patient, whose name might be Anton Sadowski, Wyladyslaw Woeijescki, Peo Jaboski or Nicho Felize, (all names from my sick book).
Dr. McCabe: "Well, son, what is the matter with you this fine morning?" Patient stands and stares, then essays a grunt.
Dr. McCabe: "Where does it hurt?" Where are you sick?" Patient rubs his head and grunts twice and points to his ankle.
Dr. McCabe: Alright, take off your shoe and we'll have a look at it." Patient only stands and waits, Dr. McCabe goes through motions of unlacing shoes. The patient from Sunray Italy (or stormy Mexico) see light and the shoes come off. One ankle swollen.
Dr. McCabe: "Quarters case Wenner, sprain, moderate, left ankle." Patient goes into the dressing room and comes out in a few minutes, strapped and bandages. Now the job is up to me.
D. J. speaking: "Felize, how old are you?" Patient: "Don no."
D. J.: "About twenty-five, don't you think Dr. Mc?"
Dr. Mc: "About that I should say."
D. J.: "Felize, where were you born?" Felize looks back.
D. J.: "Voss iss Vaterland?" Felize grins "Boheme." I write down "Bohemia."
D. J.: "How long have you been in the service, Felize?" (Fatal mistake, my using the word service). Felize is nonplussed. He strikes out blindly: "Six SeC' Infantry." (Dr. Mc grins over the shoulder of a man he is examining for alleged heart trouble)
D. J.: "No, no, Felize, when did you come into army?"
Felize: "Las' Shooly." I write down 6 months in service and send him back to his quarters, then turn to the next one perhaps to do it all over again for some patriot from Serbia or Arkansas or some other foreign land, with a different brand of english. "As She is Spoke."
It is any wonder I have wrinkles in my forehead and around my eyes and don't feel like writing at night, but only want to go to bed and sleep it off. But I can always laugh, and laugh I do, meanwhile grow fat. So when I write that there is nothing doing but the routine, this will give you an ideal of what it means. And in each case there are three original and carbon record cards made, filed reports to the Surgeon General at Washington, department surgeon at San Francisco, and division surgeon at headquarters, as well as the transfer sheet to the base hospital.
All that daily, and then a blanket report once a month to surgeon general and department surgeon.
I'm a wee bit busy these days all right.
Must close now and fix up my bunk for a bit of sleep. Love to everybody.
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