When I woke this morning and saw the sun shining, I knew it was going to be a good day. Ken and I ate our favorite breakfast of banana and yogurt topped with granola while we watched “Lucky Dog” and “The Pet Vet” on the tube.
I got dressed and planted the perennials I purchase at half price yesterday. When I came into the house, and found Ken dressed and sitting on the bedroom floor. When he attempted to sit on the vanity bench, his butt missed the chair completely and he went down in a heap. Yes. It was time to call 911 and ask for the rescue squad to come over and lift him off of the floor and into his power wheel chair.
After the rescue help left, Ken drove out to the living room, talking with a “thick tongue.” He looked exhausted, and I knew we were in for a long day, especially when he didn’t argue with me to take a time out and rest on the sofa.
An hour later, he attempted to get up and couldn’t. He wedged his body between his chair and the sofa while attempting to make a trip to the bathroom. Needless to say, he didn’t make it and now we had another problem. As I tried to strip him down, wash him, and then put on clean disposable underwear and slacks, he was like a 180 lb. ball of jelly. He couldn’t move his body, but after a few attempts and deep breaths, I did manage to get him changed and comfortable again.
He said he was hungry, but it took him about a half an hour to eat half a sandwich. He returned to the sofa and remained in this stupor for several hours. He even thought I was his Mom. He kept asking for Barb — and there I was in the flesh. So not only was his body malfunctioning, his mind was playing tricks on him, too.
All I can say is, I hope we don’t have one of these days again for a long, long time.
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)
Sicily, Italy—June—Josie and the other nurses worked even longer hours than ever before. They treated men with missing limbs, and men so badly burned they didn’t look human any more. They witnessed enough brain matter and damaged intestines for a lifetime. Death surrounded them.
Josie held on to her sanity by keeping her hands busy, but she also found it necessary to steal a few small breaks to relax and think about something other than flesh and blood. She found a quiet nearby cave where she took long drags on cigarettes and a cold soda. Her only other diversion away from the broken and burned men came from an unlikely source. Every month the Army sent a movie to the troops to lighten their load for a couple of hours. Usually comedies, the movies provided the best medicine for everyone–laughter. Being able to laugh in the midst of horror around brought a welcomed sense of relief. Josie always slept well after seeing a movie.
A few weeks after establishing the field hospital, one of Josie’s nurses walked through the camp talking nonsense. The young nurse wandered around with blank eyes. Oblivious to her surroundings, she kept calling for her cat named “Buttons.”
Josie took control the instant she witnessed Judy’s strange behavior. “Do you remember who I am?”
“Sure Josie.” Her high pitched voice sounded like a little girl. “Everybody knows you.”
“I think we need to take you to the doctor.” Josie said softly.
“Why do you think I need a doctor, Josie? I’m not hurt.”
“No. But you don’t seem to be yourself. Let’s go. He’ll take a quick look at you to make sure everything is all right. I will not let one of my best nurses get sick now, can I?”
“Okay.” Judy’s childlike voice remained with her. “The doctor won’t hurt me, will he? I’m not really sick and I don’t like shots.”
“No, sweetie,” Josie said in a soft voice. “I promise the doctor won’t hurt you.” She took Judy’s hand and led her to the doctor’s tent.
Combat training attempted to prepare people for the physical unpleasant, primitive conditions they would encounter, but no training prepared people for the psychological shock and the unimaginable sights of wounded and dying men they would encounter. The distinct stench of burned human flesh and the shaking of the earth as bombs landing too close never could be simulated.
The doctor’s diagnosed Judy with “shell shock.” He sedated her and then sent her to a rest center far away from the daily casualties of battle. The combination of rest, sedation, and psychotherapy would be required for her recovery. Josie hoped Judy recovered quickly from the severe physical and mental strain everyone endured since they landed in Sicily. Losing another nurse left Josie short-handed yet again.
Chicago, Illinois – June—Donna and Marilyn got along well and decided to live together in Marilyn’s apartment. They didn’t argue once. Marilyn’s level head balanced Donna’s spur-of-the-moment exuberance. Living together cured the loneliness and danger of living alone in a big city, plus the arrangement cut living expenses in half for both of them.
Since coming to Chicago, Donna worked as a waitress during the day and a USO volunteer any other waking hour. She played chess, listened to homesick soldiers waiting to be shipped out, and danced until her feet formed bunions. She operated on little sleep. Her favorite part of the day was when she sang for an audience.
One night after the girls played their last set, Jeanie, the band leader, corralled the girls before they left to go home. “Come here, everybody. Wait until you hear this!”
When Jeanie spoke, the other girls always listened. Donna said, “What’s up chief?”
Jeanie wore a broad smile. “We’ve gotten a request to join up with a USO camp show. If we agree, we’ll be part of the overseas group nicknamed as the Foxhole Circuit.”
Donna’s eyes widened. “Really? How exciting! When do we leave?”
Jeanie answered, “I’m not sure. The talent scout was in the audience tonight and he talk about a specific departure date.” Jeanie squealed. “Girls — he represents Bob Hope! The guy said he loved our show.” She turned to Donna. “He especially liked you, kid. He told me your arrangement of “Sentimental Journey” knocked him out!
Donna’s face lit up. “Wow! Bob Hope? How swell is that?”
“Yup,” Jeannie said. “Bob Hope.” She paused so the news set in for everyone. “I’ll get more details tomorrow night when the agent brings the contract. Girls, we’re going overseas! This is our big break! Not only will we get a chance to play for the boys, we’ll be part of a very popular professional troupe. This is a chance of a life time!”
Candy, the quietest girl of the group said, “Isn’t this the group that gets close to the front lines? In combat zones? Where shooting goes on?’
Jeanie nodded. “Who needs our entertainment more than the soldiers who face the enemy every day?”
Candy shook her head. “I don’t think I want to do this.”
Marilyn said, “We’ll be okay, Candy. They won’t let anything happen to the star performers. Soldiers will protect us. They wouldn’t send an icon like Bob Hope into the line of fire.”
Donna added. “And think of all those men who haven’t seen a woman in months. We’ll be a hit, even if we bomb!”
All the other girls laughed except Candy.
“I need to think about this.” Candy said.
Jeanie said, “I need your answer by tomorrow. If you don’t want to go, I’ll need to find a new base player.” Jeanie walked away disgusted. Why would Candy even think of bugging out of the group?
Donna put her arm around Candy. “What scares you the most, kid?”
“I don’t like airplanes. Just thinking of being so high scares me half to death, and I get sick.” Candy admitted.
“You’re not scared of bombs falling and thousands of hungry men leering at you?”
“No. Just the airplane.” Candy admitted with a small smirk.
“Hell, there’s medicine for that.” Donna said and then hollered after Jeanie,
“Hey Jeanie, Candy’s in!”
England, July 1943—When the Germans bombed London, the war became personal for the Brits. The East End of London took the worst of the devastation. Warehouses, flats, and any building near the port suffered the worse destruction leaving thousands of people homeless with many family members lost to Hitler’s bombs. Londoners passionately hated the German dictator. They wanted revenge. It pleased them when the newspapers reported stories about the allies bombing German cities.
After Germany declared war on America in 1941, Johnny flew with the U. S. Army Air Corps. In fact, he got a promotion to Captain, and his new assignment kept his feet on ground or at least out of combat as a training instructor. The newest American pilots still thought war in the cockpit was glorious; you dropped your bombs; you killed enough Germans and claimed victory. Their combat training made them pent-up for action. Johnny learned over his years flying combat missions changed every pilot. The green American pilots would come back from their first bombing run realizing they killed innocent people as well as the enemy, and the only way they’d escape the killing required pilots to successfully endure thirty-five missions.
But today, the newest recruits exhibited elation; the Allied Blitz Week put German targets in the bullseye. The intended to bomb airplane manufacturing facilities and other military targets to attempt to take some of the punch of the Luftwaffe.
As the pilots climbed into their cockpits, shouts of “good luck” and “I’ll meet you at the bar after we kick some Kraut butts.” Johnny climbed into the cockpit with no bravado. He focused on the mission and didn’t think about the kids who wouldn’t make it back to England. Flying became all business for Johnny.
The four-hour, one thousand mile trip would take every ounce of physical and emotional strength pilots could muster. Fighter planes would escort the B-16 bombers into Hitler’s front yard, but then needed to turn back to refuel because the P-47 didn’t carry enough fuel to stay with the bombers for the entire mission. The bomber boys faced the most important part of the mission alone.
Today’s plan required pilots to take off in waves and climb to twenty-five thousand feet where temperatures dropped to fifty below zero. At that altitude, saliva turned to ice. A pilot needed to be careful because he might freeze his oxygen mask resulting in suffocation. Johnny emphasized this hazard in his training, but pilots had to experience the high altitude environment before they believed it.
When the pilots reported to the field, a thick cloud cover, brisk winds, and interment rain met them. The bad weather force the flight squads to change course. The secondary target, Kiel Germany, became the designated target. To be successful, this mission needed an element of surprise.
British Intelligence did not confirm if the Germans were using “RADAR.” They found out they did when the squadrons were met by German flak, which exploded at the exact altitude of the bombers. The planes stayed in tight formation and everyone stayed on their leader–Jimmy-the same kid who Johnny consoled after the boy’s first mission months ago. Eight minutes to target, and the flak became more intense. B-17’s locked onto their target and dropped their bombs on Jimmy’s cue. If Jimmy missed, they all would miss.
“God, the flak is getting thicker, sir!” The navigator said.
“Yeah, but we need to take what the Krauts throw at us.” Jimmy replied.
The radio came alive with distress calls from other bombers. “We’re hit, we’re hit!”
A couple of hours ago crews wondered what the Krauts would do – now they understood the Germans intended to kill them. The bomb doors opened and payloads dropped on the target, Crews held on tight when their planes shook violently from enemy fire. Silence prevailed as they prayed the plane would hold together for the trip back to England.
Flying three stressful hours brought on another enemy. Fatigue. When their wheels touched down on the runway a rush of relief ran through every man. Their euphoria lasted until they realized some planes didn’t make it back. For the next few hours everyone held their breath. It became a known fact that if a plane didn’t come back to base in two hours, they wouldn’t return at all.
Blitz Week was a failure. Ninety-seven B-17’s failed to return to base and over a thousand men died. Even worse, in a week’s time the Germans recovered from the bombings. German factories went on producing planes at the same rate.