Muscatine Journal News-Tribune

Muscatine, IA

23 Nov 1944




Miles 'Thumbs' His Way, Visits Injured Iowan

(Iowa Daily Press War Correspondent)

With the Fifth Army in Italy (IDPA) -- Usually when an army correspondent wants to be somewhere to get a story the public relations section of the part of the armed forces to which he is attached furnishes him with a jeep and a driver.

When a vehicle for that purpose is unavailable the scribe, who wears the uniform of an officer with insignia denoting his job, may hitch hike. That's easy to do because there are always many military cars on the roads in the area and most GIs at steering wheels are generous.

The day this was written I desired to reach an evacuation hospital three miles from where I am billeted. All jeeps had gone so out on a mountain highway I went.

It was a new experience for me to put a "please pick me up" expression on my face and electrify my right thumb but I got quick results.

Rode With MP's

The two occupants of the acrobatic auto into which I climbed were MP's.

"So you've come from Iowa," said the passenger, as in the conversation I told my home state. "I used to live there. And you're a war correspondent. Well, I'll tell you of an Iowan but you can't publish his name.

"He is about 22 or 23 years old, was born on a farm, didn't like the work there so left and went to Des Moines, where he got into a bad crowd. Draft caught him soon after the war started and he came into the army thinking he was a tough guy. Nevertheless he was a good soldier in combat as he proved in Africa and later in Italy. It was when he was not in the field, he would go haywire and get into trouble.

"Several times the MP's grabbed him for being in fights with other GI's and civilians which he always started. He'd promise to be okay, then get into a scrap the very next time he was on pass.

"Lot of his friends warned him he'd better straighten out, and he'd say he would but he got worse. A while ago he came into the camp drunk, took a poke at a private, then a corporal, then a sergeant and cussed at a lieutenant who was a swell fellow.

"You know what that meant. He got a court martial and now he's a prisoner. You might see him with a 'P' on his back working along the road.

Soldier Cured, Belief

"But I am dead certain the rap set him right. I have talked with him a dozen times lately, and I'd bet six months pay that soldier will be cured. He's got a lot of good stuff in his system, he realizes he was foolish, he's loyal as any one could be, and he swears he will have a clear record the rest of the way."

At the hospital of tents, remarkably dry and comfortable despite the sea of mud from recent heavy rains in which they were pitched, I found a young Iowa lieutenant among the patients.

One of his arms and one of his legs was fractured and in casts and a heavy bandage covered what the nurse said was an ugly gash in his back, but smiling cheerfully when I told him who I was.

"I am surely glad to meet you." he said. "I read your Iowa Daily Press Assn,. articles in my home town newspaper.

He left Iowa in a national guard company for Camp Claiborne early in 1941 and landed overseas in February, 1942, in the 34th division. After a period of time in Ireland he returned to the United States for officer training. Upon acquiring a commission he was assigned to another outfit and landed in Italy early this year.

From then until three days before I met him he was often in combat. When he was wounded he was leading a group of doughboys in the Apennines. A nazi mortar shell killed three of them and sent him and two others to hospitals.

Injured Man's Comments

"I hope my wife won't worry too much about me," he said. "because I am going to recover. When I do I shall want nothing more than to rejoin my company. My home town, the best in Iowa, my state and my country are worth fighting for."

He won't fight again, his doctor confided in me. His name can't be published until after his 'next of kin' is officially notified. I hitch hiked back to my press camp in a truck, saying nary a word to the driver except 'thanks" when I get out -- because my mind was too full of the two Iowans who had come into my thinking in the ways I have tried to describe.

Source: Muscatine Journal News-Tribune, November 23, 1944

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