It's Hard to be a Hero if your Story has been heard before!
Capt. Art Heiden, 79th FS, 20th FG, 8th AF
"Ice Wagon" was Col. Cy Wilson's description of a P-38. It's cockpit heat was so inadequate that it became nonexistant at altitude. The longer the mission at altitude, the more severe the frostbite on fingers and toes. With bombers, the open gunner's windows was a far worse problem than our's. Consequently, they had priority on the new electrically heated gloves and spats. They had our heartfelt sympathy, so we waited. A frostbite could be compared to a bad toothache or migraine. However, the pain of frostbite would subside with restoration of circulation.
After an especially long mission and an unusally cold day, Bradshaw and I were sitting in the pilots room with our shoes and socks off trying to get circulation back so we could walk to the old 6x6. It served as our buss to the O-Club where we could get something for our hurt.
The trouble started when Doc Roberts came by to check on us. "Doc, if we ever needed you, we need you now. Our feet hurt-like-hell. Can't you break out that Old Grandad we saw in your medicine locker?" "Sorry, but i haven't been resupplied. I'll have to keep that for tomorrow's mission." Excuses, excuses, how about letting your ambulance take us to the O-Club? We can't even walk." "Both you guys look in very bad shape. It might be that you have frozen your feet. I will have to put you in the hospital ward so that I can keep a watch on those feet. You will need something better than booze too."
Via ambulance and liter-bearers we were taken to our hospital beds. "OK Doc, what kind of a third rate joint is this? Where are the nurses?" Three medics moved closer. Doc Roberts says, "haven't you met Tom. Dick, and Harry?" We jabbered away at the Doctor with our opinion of someone's planning and procurement.
"Geez Doc, getting in a hospital means Purple Hearts, doesn't it? Drag them out." "Well, the only way to get a Purple Heart for frostbite is to have an amputation. Who's first?"
Doc Roberts knew, all along, that he didn't have the "Right Stuff"in that hospital. No heroes today.
------- Art Heiden
Biography of Art Heiden, Capt, 79th Ftr Sqdn, 20th Ftr Grp, 8th AF, USAAF
20th Fighter Group, By Art W. Heiden, Capt, 79th Ftr Sqdn, 20th Ftr Grp, USAAF, Use Back Key To Return
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