September 1943

Twenty years ago, almost to the day, we were sitting against a wall in the noonday sun fanning Mediterranean flies out of a C-ration can of pork and beans. Stretched out next to us was a good friend, Jack Weiner, our battalion S-2, feeling feverish and miserable. We were waiting, along with the rest of the battalion, for the trucks to pick us up and take us to the docks in Palermo harbor.

The art of medical diagnosis does not flourish in a hot sun within the walled confines of a bare and smelly goat yard. Weiner had a temperature over 102° and was vomiting at intervals, but he wouldn't go to the hospital. He didn't want to miss the boat trip to Salerno. A few days later we were side by side again in a shell hole on the beachhead dodging mortar bursts. Weiner had turned yellow as a pumpkin, and the diagnosis became obvious. By this time he was too sick to argue.

It seems strange now that an ailing but intelligent man could want to pass up a legitimate chance to avoid a combat landing where he might get himself killed. But that was the way it was then. If you were in the dusty, walking Infantry, the prospect of a shower, food served to you at a real table, a night or two in a Navy bunk, and a sea-going boat trip, even on an LCL, seemed like a vacation cruise on a luxury yacht. Besides, after you had been through combat with an outfit, it was home, and you didn't want to risk the hospital, replacement depot, reassignment shuffle that might drop you into some cruddy unit.

Weiner spent the next two months in North Africa, hospitalized with the hepatitis. He finally went AWOL, bummed a ride to Naples by air, stole a jeep, and drove sixty kilometers in the rain to rejoin the battalion. Just before he reached us, the jeep skidded into a ditch, turned over, and fractured a couple of his ribs. This flared up the hepatitis again, and about two years later when Weiner eventually made it out of the hospitals on his own power, the war was over. War may never he so pleasant again.

(c) Of General Interest, The Bulletin of the Muscogee County (Georgia) Medical Society, Sep 1968, Vol. XV No.9, p.15

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