Here There Be Learning …

… or something.

I meant to post this sooner, but, well, whoever studies art “because it’s easy” is going to get punched in the face.

First off, happy Veterans’ Day. I am currently trying to make my way through a memoir by Wild Bill Guarnere and his BFF Ed “Babe” Heffron, two US paratroopers from Easy Company, 101st Airborne. The memoir is titled “Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends,” and I picked it up last year at Ike Farm where Wild Bill actually signed it “To (me): Another Lovely Gal.” This was about 6 months before he passed away. It’s quite an enjoyable read and they are both good storytellers. My only issue is time …

Wild Bill Guarnere … he really wanted to hold that gun.

Below the cut are some things learned from Ike Farm 2014 (see previous post) as well as a small event I visited a few weeks after. Enter if you dare.

– In the last post, I had a picture of our fearless leader shaving with an authentic razor (but new blade, don’t worry), while the British Prestiges looked on in mockery. This begs the question – what is a Prestige?

According to this site, the Prestige suit was “originally issued to RAF pilots performing at the air displays of the 1930s and, during the Battle of Britain, were worn as a mark of status by those who had flown in the RAF since those pre WW2 days.”

Which means that pilots who wore these suits volunteered to fight before the draft began, and the suits were a mark of prestige during the Battle of Britain. (Source: http://www.onesixth.co.uk/vb4forum/showthread.php?514-RAF-Fighter-Pilot-1940-Battle-of-Britain). Interestingly, these suits were the forerunners of the modern day pit crew uniform. Huh.

– If you don’t have eye makeup remover, vasilene or cold cream, chapstick works in a pinch. Just rub it over your eye makeup and it wipes off easy-peasy.

———–Small Event A Few Weeks Ago ——>

A couple of weeks after Ike 2014, a couple of my guys were in a smaller event somewhere in … Maryland(?) so I took another random friend with me to go check it out. This event (I honestly forgot what it was called) was much, much smaller and on private property right next to a middle school. In reenacting terms, this was the Battle of Aachen(?) so technically it was “taking place” in Germany. There was a lot of barbed wire and the signs were in German.

My friends were with the American Red Cross and were handing out donuts and coffee. I had a lot of donuts. (What?? They were free.) I introduced Random Friend to these people and made the rounds meeting my guys’ other group, who were all fun. What we learned from this interaction is that one of their friends (not present) actually got trench foot because they were doing their historical camping thing and he didn’t change his socks. Moral of the story – if you’re camping or doing anything, please change your socks. Dry feet = happy feet. Wet feet = trench foot.

Technically, that's four trench feet ...

Technically, that’s four trench feet…

My friend and I went and explored the small camp a little bit. We talked to some Germans and realized too late they were actually impersonating an SS unit. Generally, SS impressions are banned, especially at larger events like Ike Farm and FIG (which are the only ones I’ve been to). Actually, it’s a lot harder to do German impressions because of all the restrictions: No neo-nazis, no white supremacists, no Nazi official impressions (ie, Goebbels), no people with weird power fetishes, no fascism, yes to presenting the “other side”. This SS unit said they don’t generally do things like FIG because of all the rules and stuff. Which raised a red flag in my mind. As evidenced by this event, reenactors generally have multiple different units to fall in with at any event. So if these guys didn’t have another unit they were willing to do, what does that say about them and their SS impressions?

We extricated ourselves and went to the barn, which was set up like a field hospital. This was much more interesting and lacked the weird German overtones. The lead “doctor” showed us some medical instruments, including a mask used to gas the wounded for surgery. The mask was basically gauze stretched over a metal frame, and before a surgery the gauze would be soaked in ether or chloroform to knock the victim out. But the doctors needed another wad of gauze on top of that, otherwise the person administering the ether would themselves be overcome by the fumes. And that wouldn’t be very helpful.

Inside the barn he showed us some more material, like log books, clipboards, fresh bandages and the paraphernelia needed to run a successful hospital, even one run by the enemy. The two clearest snippets of information that I recall are the honey and the transportation tags.

A New Zealand field hospital diagram.

First, the honey.

German field hospitals were arranged in increasingly larger concentric half circles moving away from the line of battle. At the first line of hospitals, closest to the actual fighting, they didn’t do much more than pull out shrapnel, put on a bandage, and send the wounded further back to the next line of hospitals. But to do this, they had to close the wounds enough to make sure the guy didn’t bleed out, but not close it enough that it would start healing. The solution? Honey.

Honey is a sterile environment – it does not allow bacteria to grow in it. This is evidenced by the jars of honey that is still good which archaeologists dig up every now and then. In a field hospital situation, something that inhibits the growth of bacteria can only be a good thing. Another thing going for it: it’s easy to wash off. If you get honey on you, you can just rub it off with some hot water. If you get a burn salve or vasilene on you, it takes much more effort and scrubbing to get it off completely, and even then there’s still some oily residue left over.

Thus, German field doctors would pull the shrapnel out, slather the wound in honey, wrap it in a bandage, and send the wounded further back where the next hospital could clean it out and spend a little more time and attention on the wounds.

Modern Medicinal Honey: It’s a Thing

Second, the transportation tags.

German doctors had two tags with which they labeled their patients. One tag had red perforated strips on both sides. The other had one yellow perforated strip and one green perforated strip. These were used to classify patients. The one with perforated strips indicated a wound (red = blood ?) while the other one indicated sickness. Each tag meant something based on which strip had been torn off. If a patient showed up with only a yellow strip, that meant he was sick and not contagious, while a green strip meant he was contagious. I forgot what the red ones meant.

If a doctor received a patient with a green strip and the card said measles, he could go to the waiting train and find the car with other measles patients and route his new patient there. German efficiency strikes again.

These tags were their pass to be moving away from the front lines. They were to be hung from the soldier’s lapel so as to be clearly visible so no awkward questions would arise with their officers. I expect their officers (and anyone, really) could automatically give anyone with a green tag a wide berth.

Lastly, the green/yellow tag was labeled KRANKE, which is German for ill or sick. Which is the origin of our word cranky.

The Kranke tag.

There was more about nurses, the Geneva Convention, the Red Crescent (the Muslim version of the Red Cross), but I don’t recall enough to write this down coherently. I would recommend you read this article about the Reading Air Show last May because it has a lot of the same information. Article here: http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/maam-wwii-weekend-reenactors-depict-reality-wartime-life-d-day-celebration/2014/06/08.

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