Mason City Globe-Gazette

Mason City, IA

29 Jan 1945






Somewhere in France (IDPA) -- Electric lights were shining brightly in the dining hall where a group of Americans -- flying and ground officers of the air forces, female ferry command pilots, flight nurses and a few others -- were eating near a Paris airport one evening. I was with 4 Canadian flight officer at a table.

A Sergeant rushed in and turned the light switches.

"Blackout" he said quietly in the silence which ensued.

Some diners continue to eat by the light of cigaret lighters and a few used lighted matches to find their food.

Most of us went outside where we saw American planes, carrying wounded soldiers from the front to general hospitals, circling for a landing.

Sound of explosions in 1 direction revealed the approximate whereabouts of enemy craft.

Pilots and nurses on the evacuation ships said they were certain the Jerries had pursued them.

"They would fire on anything." gritted 1 youth.

"I was on a hospital plane they fired at only the other day," said a nurse, whose natural beauty had been marred by ordeals she had undergone.

The 50 casuals brought in were face and arm cases. They were taken to the enlisted men's mess hall to eat before going to bed. I saw them there, quite frankly through tear-dimmed eyes. About 10 wore white medical masks, through which they could see and breathe and feed themselves. Each of the others had an arm in a cast. The food had been cut so they could eat is easily with a fork in 1 hand.

Sgt. Clarence Johnson, Eldora, a crewman on 1 of the planes, told me much about the victims of the nazi drive, which then was raging on the west front.

I talked with a sweet-faced 19 year old kid, who went to high school graduation into the army in May 1943. He had been hit at Luxembourg in his right arm and back.

"I could feel better but I suppose I could feel worse," he smiled. "Maybe everything will be all right with me some time."

The flight surgeon said the arm probably would be amputated.

A two wars' veteran on duty at the base clutched my arm.

"Christ, they're young and I've got a boy up there somewhere tonight," he said.

I didn't sleep so well that night for thinking of those youngsters and the thousands of others slain and maimed since Dec. 7, 1941 and those who will be before victory is finally won.

Flight Officer Howard G. Lenning, Thor, and I talked this over that evening. He hadn't been overseas long but he had seen considerable.

"How I wish this thing would finish so I could get back to the quiet of an Iowa farm, " he said.

In London he had by chance run across Lt. Thomas Thorson, Thor, son of the Rev. T.B. Thorson.

The next day on a flight south together Lenning, who was going where he wouldn't need his sleeping sack, gave it to me, something I wanted and tried futility to get all winter. One needs a couple of them some nights in the Apennine mountains.

His brother, Staff Sgt. Henry Lenning, was at Camp Shelby, Miss.

"Yes, I'm going to get married right after I get back to Iowa. Girl all picked out and has said yes," the flight officer grinned as I bade him goodbye in Naples.

That night I used his sleeping sack in a Naples hotel room, the only one I could find. The bed was twisted out of shape and was without blankets.

Lenning will have a warm place in my heart.

Source: Mason City Globe-Gazette, January 29, 1945

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