Birthday: December 24, 1924
Birthplace: Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
Family: Basil and Eunice Barton
Occupation: Production Control
Unit: Hospital Ship Platoon
Post: Surgical Technician
Red Cross ship Bruce was on.
Red Cross ship Bruce was on.
I joined the military before I graduated from high school" says Bruce. Bruce joined at the age of 18 and served until he was 21.
"I was 18 years old and had to report in. I asked them what I had to do to be a volunteer and by the time I got home my mother said they called and I had to report. Feb. 12,1943 I reported to Milwaukee."
"I had no choice of what to do. They assigned me and that was it. I was a medic in other words a `Bed Pan commander'." After completing Basic in camp Graut and Medical Corp. training in Palm Springs he was stationed in the South Pacific with a medical platoon. "A twenty-two man outfit, there were three officers and two nurses. A captain was the head of our outfit and then you had two lieutenants, one of them was a dentist. I was the surgical technician. We arrived in New Caledonia, which was a French territory. The U.S. kept us there until they found something to do with us."
"When we shipped out from New Caledonia the ship had to stay darkened so the Japanese wouldn't see us. They would shoot us out of the water if they could. The Japanese showed no mercy toward Red Cross ships, they figured if they killed the medics there would be no one to save the injured, and they knew that America couldn't stand many casualties." The ship also used a zigzag pattern while crossing the ocean so they were hard to follow.
"Then we were sent to New Guinea. The hospital there was setup at Gurney Airstrip. The airstrip was built on top of 10,000 Japanese bodies. At least that is what I was told. At the hospital I dealt with psycho patients. When the patients arrived in New Guinea they were strapped into metal baskets along with straight jackets. The baskets were used because some of the patients could get out of the straight jackets. These guys had seen combat but just couldn't take it. We shipped these guys to Sydney or Brisbane, Australia and then sent them home."
"They fed us mutton and I hated it. The food was so bad that one time I took cookies and poured Hershey's syrup all over them and made that my dinner."
"In New Guinea I worked 6 straight months, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I remember one patient we called Big John. Everyone was afraid of him, because he was so big and strong we wouldn't have been able to stop him if he flipped. This guy had twisted his metal bed and no one could unbend it. One time I took him out to go to the bathroom, because there weren't any bathrooms in the ward were he was, he said `I want to go swimming in the bay.' and I told him `You can but you might lose a limb or two!' he asked, `Why?' I said `There are sharks in that water and a guy lost an arm to a shark just recently.' Well that big strong guy came back with me no struggle at all. He decided it was against his principles to go swimming."
"The patient I will never forget is Mary. Mary was a Red Cross nurse taken prisoner by the Japanese. In order to get her and two other red cross nurses back our military arranged for a prisoner exchange, 3 nurses for 1 high ranked Japanese officer."
"When Mary arrived at the hospital she was in rough shape. She was in her mid twenties, about 5'5". She had a scar from ear to ear. Apparently she wouldn't give into the Japanese soldiers so they slit her throat and then stitched it back up and used her for target practice. Mary was several months pregnant when I took care of her."
"It's funny with mentally ill patients, they become focused on things and won't let up. Mary would allow only myself to feed her. When I left New Guinea they put us on board a naval ship along with patients and sent us back to Seattle, Washington. Mary was one of those patients. On board the ship there were female nurses who tried to take care of Mary, but Mary wanted me to take care of her. I accompanied Mary as far as Vancouver Hospital in Vancouver, Washington. Afterwards I had written the hospital to find out how she was doing but I never heard back."
"I spent the final months of the war assigned to the U.S.S. Jared M. Huddleston on the Atlantic seaboard. We shuttled German P.O.W.'s from Cherburg, France and also Hamburg, Germany to England. We made nineteen to twenty-one trips across the English Channel, though some pretty rough weather.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104