Thursday, April 12, 2018

Don B Snyder, Part 8: Shot in the Leg

Climbing My Family Tree: Don B Snyder
Don B Snyder
Click to make bigger

This is Part 8 of a 13-part blog series sharing my Grand-uncle Don’s life story, in his own words, via an autobiography sent to me by Don’s grandson, Ron Oldfield, after Ron stumbled across one of my prior posts about his grandfather. It is shared with the permission of both of Don’s children and Ron Oldfield. [Note – Anything in brackets with green type is my added explanation of something in Don’s text.]

Don’s story: 

Part 8 – Shot in the Leg

I was shot and became a patient in an old schoolhouse on Bataan. The doctors there operated on my leg. They removed busted bones, tibula and fibula. This shortened my leg a little over an inch. They then put a big cast on up to my hip with a walking iron below. After a few days an ambulance came and took me to a field where a small plane was waiting. It held one stretcher as the left side of the plane was missing. I had my pack on my chest. Twice they put it under my stretcher. When I got to Manilla I found my pack missing. It contained everything I had: money, pictures, letters, souveniers, a Jap flag, etc. I didn’t know the outfit that put me on the plane so they got away with stealing it.

Climbing My Family Tree: Bataan Hospital, after Battle of Corregidor, WWII
Bataan Hospital, after Battle of Corregidor,  WWII
By US Army - US Army via L. Morton, US Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific--The Fall of the Philippines,
page 382 (US Army Center for Military History, 1952) 

In Manilla the hospital was in a ball park. We had beds where the seats would be. Down on the field were a couple of good sized tents. Every once in a while a whistle would blow and guys would line up. I asked what the hell was going on. I was told that it was the romance ward. I asked what that was and was told it was all guys that got the clap.

Later I was flown to Leyte. In the hospital at Leyte in the Philippines, a hospital ship showed up and everyone was excited. Most all the guys left, I was too sick. One big guy had a back injury and he could walk. The big jerk came over and razzed me because I couldn’t go. They all left except a few of us. In the meantime I got better and was eating etc. One day a nurse and an officer stopped by my bed. She told him how sick I had been but was pretty good now. He looked at me and said “you can go.” I said “where?” and he replied “home.” I looked at him and said “you don’t mean fly, do you,” as I saw he had a set of wings on his blouse. He said, "yes." I could have cried I was so happy.

I do want to tell you about this in all sincerity. They flew me back on a hospital plane to San Francisco. At Moffett Field they put our stretchers on the tarmac. Silly, hardly. It just showed me how much I loved this country and was happy to be back here. In the hospital for five days before leaving for Nashville, the man in the next bed was really down in the dumps. His one leg had been cut off. One day a lady showed up, she tried to cheer him up to no avail. He said “That’s easy for you say, how would you like to be like this?” She said “I am,” then reached down and rapper her leg. She too had a leg off. She then told him he would be able to do most things he used to do. He said “even hunting?” She said “sure.” He was like a different man. Smiley and all that.

While we were recuperating in a ward we all got along just fine. On inspection one day the two officers went bunk to bunk checking out what we had etc. There was a nice guy next to me that had a thumb that wouldn’t bend. I heard the doctors commenting on what was wrong with it but they couldn’t agree. He left our ward the next day. I met him in the hall one time and he had a bandage on his hand. I asked him what it was and he said they didn’t know so they cut it off.

Climbing My Family Tree: Hospital Plane
Hospital Plane

They flew us to Nashville, but we stopped for fuel in Amarillo, Texas. A major, patient, could walk. Seemed like a nice fellow, got off the plane to stretch his legs as a big fuel truck pulled up in front of the plane. I looked out the window and saw him walk under the wing forward. I couldn’t see much of the truck. Pretty soon I saw a commotion and an ambulance pull up. He had stumbled as the truck pulled up and it ran over his head. Of course it killed him and we went off without him.

I had bad connections at Lima and somehow I got a ride to the city limits. Cars would pass me slow, smile and wave and keep on going. “Gee,” I thought, “here I am in uniform with a big cast on, with ribbons and crutches and they wouldn’t pick me up.” I finally realized, gas rationing was on and they were only going a little ways. An army nurse stopped and took me to Findlay.

Climbing My Family Tree: Don (left - had cast on leg) and his brothers: Paul (middle) and Clarence (right - my grandfather)
Don (left - had cast on leg) and his brothers: Paul (middle) and Clarence (right - my grandfather)

After I got back from furlough I was walking down the hall on crutches and I looked up and saw the guy with the bad back. He was really surprised to see me and said, “how did you get here?” I said “how did you?”, and he said “our boat just got in.” They had to go down under by the southern route because of the Jap subs. I told him I flew back and already had a 30 day furlough. I thought he turned green with shock.

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