Harold Chamberlin Describing His Experience With
German Gas Shells
Sept 16, 1918.
My dearest Mother:
I s'pose you will have heard of it before this, cause
it seems I've broken into the casualty lists, but you will be looking
for this letter to tell you that the whole process has been mostly a
matter of form and that I expect to be turned out of the hospital no
later than tomorrow. The gas seems to have affected my eyes, and they
are very much better already. I'm sure they will not be permanently
injured, or even weakened.
How did it happen? I was driving the ambulance back
from our advance post and could see shells dropping across the road in
front of me, but they were high explosive so I didn't look for gas,
though I had heard the Germans had taken to using gas in high exposive
shells. As I passed through the shelled area one broke a little in
front of me and just off the road and the gas was on top of me before I
had a chance to put my mask on. Anyhow, it vaporized in such a way that
you didn't see anything -- lots of gas makes a visible cloud, but this
is a new kind used this summer for the first time.
I must have been holding my breath, 'cause none got in
my throat or lungs, but the stuff burned my eyes so I could hardly see.
I got in the car in all right -- the wounded men shut up inside had not
been hurt. Lieutenant Fialip, who is about the nicest medical officer
attached to our division, got my eyes bathed in something that stopped
the burning and I was evacuated at once, although I believe
I would have gotten along just as well had I remained in quarters and
been treated by the divisional medical staff. All this happened on the
afternoon of the fourteenth. Shorty Howlett was riding on the front
seat with me and got it the same way. We have come to the hospital
We were taken to [censored] by ambulance and yesterday
morning brought into Paris on a French hospital train. Here we were
transferred to American hospital authorities and are being taken care
of very well in an American hospital for gassed patients. We have
Americans all about us and even American nurses, which we consider
quite aluxury. they are the first American girls I have seen, save one,
since February, and the first since early april -- seen to talk to.
Shorty and I are enjoying the experience and also the
rest away from the line. Except for a slight aching of the eyes we feel
perfectly natural. Last night I slept on a mattress and between sheets;
night before I lay down on plain boards with a folded raincoat for a
pillow and wearing an overcoat to keep warm! So, you see, getting
gassed is not such a bad thing after all, especially when there is to
be no permanent injury.
But writing does tire my eyes just now, so I'm
going to stop. Will certainly write you again before leaving Paris.