Saturday, February 26, 2011

Remembering Norm Riley Part IV

We left Norm's story at Part III at the battlefield hospital....

This was my first experience with sodium pentathol, used to put me under.  This and penicillin were new drugs that only combat causalities had access to.  Anyhow, when I woke up the next day I was swathed in plaster but fingers were sticking out the end.  The X-rays that I saw the next hospital showed a complete break with bone and shell fragments in between.  The wound on my head was superficial but to this day I do have a small scar over my ear.

On Thanksgiving Day we were moved to an old hotel requisitioned as a hospital.  Before leaving I had Thanksgiving dinner and when I got to the new hospital I had another dinner....

....I was at this hospital through Christmas.  On Christmas Day, Brian Aherne and Katherine Cornell gave a performance of "Barretts of Wimpole Street".  Also at this hospital packages arrived put together by my family including a nice watch.  The packages had been shipped before I was wounded (editor's note:  The packages were packaged and shipped after they heard he was wounded)   I didn't know they knew of my being wounded until arriving back in the States.  They knew but I didn't know that they knew.  After Christmas I was moved by train to a hospital outside of Marseilles.  From here I sneaked into town where the picture was taken that's in the photo album (editor's note:  I don't have this picture but will share it if one of his kids has it).
Brian Aherne and Katherine Cornell

I also engaged in the illegal money trade.  US currency wasn't given until departure dates were set.  I got those that had some to let me exchange for Francs.  I gave them 100 Francs and kept 50 for myself.  The official exchange rate was 50 Francs to the Dollar.

Also in Marseilles I watched Laurel and Hardy parading around talking French and Fred Astaire singing "Shorty George" being interpreted as "Petite George".

The train boxcars in France were labeled:  40 Men or 8 Horses.  The commodes used by the towns people of Marseilles were pits you stooped over.

Because I was obviously out of place with my heavily bandaged arm, I was stopped by the OSS (the forerunner of the CIA).  However they didn't bother me after initial questioning.

Accommodations on the hospital ship  back the way I had come were much superior to the inbound trip.  1) Fresh water to shower with instead of salt water.  2) An individual bed instead of being piled 5 deep. 3) 3 meals of great food without standing in a long line.  4)A different movie every night.

We got to New York on January 26, 1945.  Treatment at Halloran Hospital on Staten Island was fantastic.  Returning wounded soldiers from a war still raging..I called home and for the first time I was able to discuss what had happened more than two months earlier.  Dad hopped on Greyhound bus and came to see me and we walked around Manhattan for two hours before he got back on his bus and I went back to Halloran.

As a mother of son's, I can understand Sid's need to get to see Norm in the flesh.  It must have been quite a hardship for Sid to drop everything and spend the money and the time away from work to get to Norm.  The whole family needed the first hand report. 

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