This enters a stage of my overseas service that was satisfying in some ways and disheartening in other ways. Since arriving in Tunisia during the Sicilian campaign, was very active acclimating to oversea assignments to Sicily, Salerno, preparations for invading Italy in more northern spots, Anzio, Rome that were in the planning.
The only interruption was the desert fever bout that I had in Tunisia, before we moved to Sicily. Sometime in October, after Salerno, I was on detached service with others of the squadron at Ouida, French Morocco. We were stationed at a paratroopers base where we flew practice drops. This was training for the French using free fall style jumps. When we dropped them, it was free fall (their choice), not using a static line.
It was a seasonal period when the desert night became cool, if not cold, while the days were very hot. For whatever explanation, possibly a relapse from the desert fever, my sinuses and face swelled to the point that my eyelids closed and breathing was very difficult. We slept in Quonset huts, and the doors were kept open causing drafts. This condition caused me to be transfed quickly to a French hospital which had American doctors and nurses.
The treatment, as I recall it, was being placed in steam tents on a daily basis to drain the sinuses, after they had been reamed with some kind of long bamboo sticks. The reaming was extremely uncomfortable and fatiguing. I was hospitalized for thirty days, mostly in bed with fever and getting hardly any physical exercise.
My weight normally was around 165-170 for my 5' 11" height, at that age. It went down to 129 pounds when I was released from the hospital. Note the picture in back of the motorbike, taken with Jordan and Newman after my return to Sicily. My legs, arms, and torso, were very skinny.
An enormous tragedy and trauma occurred during my hospitalization. Pierce, my first pilot flying overseas, was there also. One night someone came in while I was in bed and announced that he and crew were killed after hitting some wires when they came in too low on an approach to landing at night.
Our training of the French had been at night. Later, during my stay at the hospital, they announced that Sherman, the radio operator that had helped me navigate from England was killed. When, where, and how, I don't know. I was overwhelmed when Pierce and his crew were killed. It was too much for me to handle, and to spend time thinking about the details.
The hospital wanted me to stay longer than thirty days, but with days seeming to make things worse than better, I insisted upon returning to the squadron in Sicily. They finally complied. Bourg, Locke, and crew came to pick me up and returned me to the outfit, where Dr. Dryden (Bud) took over my treatment.
I was grounded from immediate duty for a time to allow me to gain strength and weight. The problem was that this was something that would not happen soon, unless someone like Patton were to slap and knock me around. That might have worked, but it would unlikely reduce the time of recovery. The bottom line was that I had lost all confidence, to the point that it was inconceivable that I could go back to flying until some time later. Scared, yes; fear, yes. I read recently that courage is doing what has to be done though scared. At the time, I did not have that quality in my physical, emotional, and mental health. I did not have the spiritual faith that has taken many years later to gain by commitment and effort. I needed time, if not a slap or kick from Patton.
Bud Dryden understood that and placed me on temporary grounding before I had to meet a review board in the spring of 1944. The time allowed me to regain some weight and physical strength, if not full confidence.
We were now into the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It happened that a 1st Lt Leroy Gohn, the Transportation, Supply, and Mess Officer was due for rotation to the states, but there was no replacement for him. Because I was grounded, it was decided that I could take that responsibility until I returned to flying, and a replacement was available. That was the state of things until spring, when I met with a review board, I believe in Bari.
Meanwhile three new navigators were assigned to the squadron, Glarrow, Atkins, and Fangmeyer. The board decided to ground me in June of 1944. There were three options offered to me: to return to the states for rehabilitation; to take an administrative job at the R & R center on the Isle of Capri; or to remain in the 16th squadron.
Sicily in the fall of 1943. (Front L to R) Doc. Damiani and Leroy Gohn. (Rear L to R) John Holmes, Frank Walker, and Frank Atkins. Atkins was one of the new navigators, and Gohn was the Transportation Officer that John Holmes replaced.