Transcription of Document FFDoc-0276.pdf


Document Details
Document Number
Date
Type
From
To
276
02/13/1943

Letter

Dembinski, Eugene

Shields, Frank

At last - a pretty long lost, at that, - I've managed to drag out the "avec quoi écrire", find myself with 8 hours of the nite partly at my disposal, and seat myself at a lieutenant's desk, all preparatory to writing you. Finally, I've gained two of the conditions conducive to writing - time, and a place to write. Allow me to explain. Right now, I am on 24-hr fireman duty, tending to the wants of 2 soft-coal burning furnaces the one in our barracks, and the other, in another building, the Day Room (A day room is a  place set aside for the use of the soldier when he has a leisure moment and wishes to read a magazine, or write, in surroundings other than the barracks. Not that they're any more luxurious or attractive, in this case, but the building is there anyway, and has to be heated.)) To continue - the furnaces seem to function properly for about an hour without care, so  until the hour arrives, the intervening time is mine. (Until daybreak, of course, when sergeants might appear to queer things, letter-writing & reading being "verboten" while on duty.) At this moment, awaiting the hour of 2300, I am in the Orderly Room sitting at one of the lieutenant's desks. The Orderly Room is "open all nite", with a man on duty, likewise for 24 hours. It is deserted except for the C.Q. (Charge of Quarters, i.e., charge of the Orderly Room, i.e., the man on duty), another fireman, and myself.

That explains the circumstances. Say, chum, are they so backward up at City C. in the ROTC that they actually give cadence count in English? - hup, two, three, four; hup, two, three, four. In reality, it should sound: up, tuh, tip, fuh, up, tuh, tip, fuh, with variations encouraged. Each sergeant or looey has his own pet arrangement of those 4 breath expirations, some gasping, others muffling, & still others abbreviating. So help me, it's bad enough being out of step, but you can't tell when you should fall back in. Then the sarge urges: "Pick up that cadence. - Pick it UP! - Pick it up, IT AIN'T SHIT!" To go on in same vein, or worse, so pardon my blush, (got out of that stage the first 3 days in the Army) we have a corporal who, in the ungodly hour of reveille, at 1730, flashes the lights on, and before you've fallen completely out of sleep's stupor, instead of incanting the usual "Rise & shine, boys" bellows out - "Let down your --- & pull up your socks".

One moment, please, have to see how the fires are making out. ('tis now 2300, and taps have just been sounded. It's just the 2nd time I've ever heard them. Once, I happened to awake while they softly carolled their mournful notes to the still nite.)

There, that should hold 'em for at least an hour and a half (getting reckless).

You know, during the week Feb 7 to 14 (now that can't be - it was the previous week.), I was in the camp hospital recovering from a severe cold, cough, fever, sore throat, and a few incidental blisters accrued previously. When I reported for sick-call I felt so disgustingly weak & loose-kneed that another day would have seen me clutching the sands of Camp Davis. As it was, believe it or no, I slept 20 out of 24 hrs. for the first 3 days at the hospital (no drugs). After that, I was good as new, even better, since I was already broken in.

The hospital was located about 50 ft. from, and ran parallel to, the airport. They would ahve done just as well had they built that groan-garage in a R.R. yard. Every 3 or 4 mins. the window panes would actually rattle from the beat produced by powerful motors lifting some plane skyward. They even shook when single-motored planes took off. But those surging beats and the crescendoes & diminuendoes of a motor being gunned to a roar and then throttled to a purr would have proven fatal to a nerves patient. But I thrived on it.

Recently we underwent a demonstrations of the effectiveness of the gas-masks which had been issued us a week previously. (Mine fits - and feels - like a glove). We went thru 2 gas chambers containing a lachrymator, and SO2 . Of course, the lachrymator concentration was a mild one, since each man, before leaving the chamber, had to pull his mask from his face and tarry a moment. When that part of the game had been completed, he could, and everyone did, tear and tear for the door leading out. Each of us in the group of 20 that went thru the chamber had watery eyes for about 5 minutes later, and the group looked comical, everyone crying as though each had just suffered a terrible sorrow.

So far, I haven't asked for any passes (bet you fellows get plenty, now) to see the outside world, but expect to see what "Boom-town," just outside the camp boundary, and Wilmington, 18 miles distant (we have a bus service) have to offer this week-end. Everyone says there's nothing to see or do, but I suppose I'll have to go at least once for the record, and for the bus ride.

To go back to the paragraph preceding the last one, - I forgot to mention that that the process for entering the SO2 chamber consisted of each man's entering without his mask on, and then slipping it on, once inside. All went well with me. Following instructions, I took a deep breath of clean air, held it until I reached my place in the chamber, fumbled and flushed[?] out my mask, and gratefully poked the puss into the bag. Now, once you've your mask over your face, you're supposed to hold the exhaust valve and exhale the deep breath that you've been holding. The excess pressure would free itself thru the edges of the mask, and it would be "cleared" of any traces of gas which had entered before the mask was adjusted to the face. Unaccustomed as I was to breathing via tubes and filters, I forgot to hold the exhaust valve shut. As a result, I cleared the mask through the valve instead of through the edges. My next inhalation made me aware of a tinge of SO2. After that, there were no more traces of it. My point is this - is the mask as effectively cleared through the valve as thru the edges? The same amount of air is displaced in each case, so I think that one doesn't have to hold the valve. But I didn't get a chance to a repeat performance, so couldn't ascertain whether clearing the mask thru the edges would still leave a tinge of gas. However, I daresay the amount of gas remaining by either method is so small that it would have no physiological effect, even were it a lethal gas.

Time to quit now, so until you write, "Au Écrire". (Is that allowable?)

Say, see if Joe doesn't owe me a letter. I think I wrote last, but can't remember exactly. It's been quite a while since I've heard from him. At least 2 mos.



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