||Negro-Staffed Hospital Stands By for GIs Who Miss Ledo Road Turns |
By DETON J. BROOKS
(Defender War Correspondent)
ALONG THE LEDO ROAD, BURMA—Rain was pouring. Low-hanging clouds blanked out the slippery mountain road ahead. Pfc. Willie Davis (Birmingham, Ala.), riding by the side of the driver anxiously peered through the windshield of the six-by-six as it inched its way around a dangerously sharp curve.
Then all of a sudden the road disappeared entirely. The truck seemed suspended in mid-air. The next thing Davis remembers was an agonizing pain. And as he came out of his daze he realized that he was pinned under the truck halfway down the mountainside.
Today Willie Davis is well on the road to recovering from a broken pelvis and fractured legs after two months in a recently established Negro-staffed station hospital commanded by Major William H. Strickland (Philadelphia, Pa,). And he probably owes his life to the location of that hospital and to the system it has established to care for the injured along the worst stretch of the Ledo Road.
When Willie Davis (correct name can't be given) was injured he was at a point about fifty-five miles from Ledo where every curve is at the edge of a jungle-covered cliff and the world's heaviest annual rainfall keeps the road slippery and treacherous. The nearest hospital, before this one was set up, would have been back to Ledo. And this trip would have had to be made in a truck or jeep and would have taken at least 11 long painful hours.
But by the time sturdy drivers had pulled Davis from under the truck, an ambulance was waiting. Hastily summoned on a nearby camp telephone, it only had five miles to come, for the hospital keeps an ambulance stationed day and night in anticipation of just such emergencies. Thus Davis had the care of expert medical technicians who could guard against the sometimes-fatal effect of shock and administered drugs to ease his pain during the trip to the hospital.
To truck-weary quartermasters wheeling supplies forward day and night and doughty engineers stationed along this section of the road, the hospital is a Godsend, for prompt medical care in case of injury or illness is a major concern of GIs out here.
Besides emergency work, the one hundred bed hospital services all troops stationed within a 30-mile radius. During its first two months approximately 400 patients were admitted. Of these over a hundred were operative cases.
As Capt. Maurice F. Gleason (Chicago, Ill.) chief of surgery and former assistant to Dr. W. Gibbs, famed Provident hospital specialist, says, "We have performed every type of operation from simple tonsillectomy to complicated abdominal ones. There have been three cases of acute appendicitis and if the boys hadn't been in close proximity of a hospital, they would have been goners."
Under express orders of Brig. Gen. Lewis V. Pick, commanding officer of the Ledo Project, both white and colored GIs are taken there. Approximately 40 per cent of the patients have been white -- some from the north, a great many from the south -- -all grateful for the expert care they have received from colored doctors and nurses alike.
While there is only one hospital in operation, there are in fact two separate hospital units with full complement of nurses and enlisted personnel. Attached to this unit is one under command of Capt. Robert S. Wilkinson (New York City) noted surgeon formerly of Harlem hospital. Until there is a need for them somewhere else along the road this section outfit will continue to function in cooperation with the Strickland unit.
Helping the morale problem of bed-weary patients is bright-eyed, cheerful Miss Bernice Grice, (Omaha, Neb,), American Red Cross worker in charge of patient recreation. Whenever she bustles through the wards with cigarettes, coffee and doughnuts or writing paper, a bunch of dull-eyed "Joes" brighten up a bit.
Trained at Fort Huachuca doctors and nurses of these two units first arrived in the India-Burma theatre by air last August. Doctors were assigned to a large General hospital for temporary duty while the nurses were attached to an Evacuation hospital specializing in Chinese wounded. These colored girls became quite popular with the Chinese who'd greet them like a bunch of jabbering monkeys when they entered the ward with "Ding Hao Misses."
When the main body of administrative officers and more than 100 enlisted men -- in the two units -- arrived in October they were all moved to their present location. For two months the hospital was under construction and it was quite amusing to watch dignified doctors working with hammer or shovel in order to hurry its completion along, Late in December it opened and among the first patients was the commanding officer, Major Strickland, who was forced to undergo an operation.
At night as trucks and jeeps wind their way over the tortuous mountain roadway, lights from this hospital perched atop a tree-covered peak blink a friendly note of assurance--saying as it were, "You guys down there keep your chin up. You'll get the best care medical science knows in case anything happens."