MY COMBAT EXPERIENCE Author: David T. Daniels
It was December 15, 1944 (I figured out this date many years later) when a mortar shell blast sent me into a wall where my neck and right shoulder took the blunt force. Having been in in combat for 5 months, I knew it was a mortar shell, not an artillery one. In the latter case one hears a coming whistle. I was stunned but not made unconscious. It was dusk and a couple of squad members pulled me into a basement for the night. During the night I developed a fever and a tremendous headache which lingered into the morning. We attacked at daybreak and right in the midst of combat I fell into a coma. My first “wake up” of a couple of minutes had me riding flat on my back, head to rear, in a small truck. Looking aside, I could see wooded sidings such as ones on a wagon. I knew this was not an all metal Jeep, and looking forward I saw two big German helmets on the driver and rider, who were talking loudly. In my weak mind I didn’t think I was with friends, yet I wasn’t sure or not if this was hallucinations. In my next “wake up” I was lying on the ground on my back in a large tent. I could see a large number of wounded soldiers on cots. In my weak mind I assumed nothing. But in the middle of the night I was literally tossed into a truck. It appeared that trucks after trucks arrived and in minutes tossed everyone, cots and all into them. The place was abandoned. In my next “wake up” I was again lying on my back on a hard wooden table in a room with windows. It seemed I was in this position for many, many hours during which time I heard someone say, “Why don’t we puncture his spine?” It seemed so much later that my mind did improve and I found myself in pajamas in a soft bed when arrived a doctor wearing a mask, introduced himself, and said, “We almost lost you but discovered you had Meningitis. We have shot a sulfa drug up your spine, and will do so again. You will be quarantined.” During the next 3 or so days, the doctor reappeared and told me that the diagnosis was Cerebral Spinal Meningitis and that it was bacterial, not contagious. I was given white sulfa pills to take with water. There were no showers, but I did wash up a bit. My mind seemed to be improving. Late one afternoon an aide walked me to a small train car. There were about 20 of us with several on litters. We choo-chooed across France and in the middle of the night the train stopped in a large lighted area. A voice shouted, “This is Paris. If you can walk, get out and take a shower.” It must have been a public spa which had a large circular room with 12 to 15 shower heads all in the open. I couldn’t believe my dress which would be removed for a shower. I still had on my old combat boots without socks, pajamas, an army overcoat and a wool cap. The air temperature had to be around 40 degrees but to get a hot shower for the first time in 6 months, I could endure any cold weather. By morning, we were loaded into a ship in Cherbourg. We were met by pretty nurses telling us that we were on an English hospital ship. They explained that it was Boxing Day, which was the day after Christmas. This day was an important day in England. Those pretty nurses must have done something to me because my memory completely disappeared. In my next “wake up” I was told I was in an Army hospital in Axminster, England. I assume there were several days of travel before this. This memory loss endured almost 2 months. I do not remember a nurse, doctor or any buddies. At this point I will refer to write up entitled, “Tea Time”. Don’t have “Tea Time”.