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Harold Chamberlin




of Iowa City, in which he describes his experience with German gas shells




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, even
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 together.
    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; two
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.