Veteran Stories:
Earl Luther Stiles

Army

  • Photograph of Earl Stiles taken in England, September 10, 1943.

    Earl Stiles
  • Earl Stiles sent this English postcard to his mother during the war.

    Earl Stiles
  • Earl Stiles' service ribbons.

    Earl Stiles
  • Fragment of a shell shot from a German 88.
    Landed within a few feet of Earl Stiles, 1944-1945.

    Earl Stiles
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"I said, all of us will tell you, the war is over for you, you’re going back to Canada and I’m going to Berlin."

Transcript

I was born in a little town called Dorchester, about 20 miles from Moncton. Dorchester, you just sneeze and you’re through it but it’s a penitentiary town. A federal penitentiary, there’s four or five hundred inmates and that’s the main industry, if you want to call it that. But I was raised in that town and we used to hear people say, where’s so and so? Oh, he’s serving five years on the hill, because the penitentiary was situated on a hill. It still is, right there today, same institution in Dorchester, and that’s … matter of fact, my father-in-law worked there years ago. So that’s about 20 miles from Moncton.

We landed in Liverpool and it was completely blacked out. You couldn’t see a light anywhere to be seen. That was unusual, that was my first glimpse of war. Because it was forbidden to show any light through your windows that can be seen from the air. If you were smoking a cigarette, outdoors, and somebody says to you, get that cigarette out, they’d holler at you. They claim, you can see a cigarette from the airplane, through all that distance but it’s hard to believe. Anyway, that’s what I heard.

In the army, when you’re in action, it wasn’t practical to carry whole blood in any way, shape or form. You couldn’t do it because it has to be refrigerated and there’s real blood and typed and everything. And so what they had in place of it was plasma. It had these cases of stuff and there’d be maybe two bottles in it. One bottle was a liquid. I suspect it was, it wouldn’t be saline, it would be glucose likely, I don’t know. And the other bottle looked like, visualize cornflakes, smashed up into a powder like flour. And that’s what it looked like, and part of the bottle was just dry, powdery stuff. And it was actually blood plasma. You could administer to anybody, no matter what their blood type was. And so when we were in action, we had cases of this blood plasma. You’d take water in, pour it in with the blood plasma and shake it all up and you had the nearest thing to real whole blood that was possible to have.

And that’s an interesting story because we’d have a casualty come into us, wounded, and just behind the front line, and we could hook him up to this IV with blood plasma, hooked to the stretcher and a pole, in transit, he could be receiving this blood plasma. It was not as good as whole blood but it was better than, better than nothing.

The worst thing I saw - I think the quadriplegic, both arms, both legs, and I was summoned to look after, they brought him in on a stretcher. It was busy around there at the time, there was casualties coming and going and it was pretty hectic around the medical officers, whatever you want to call them. They’re all doctors. They were busy. So I went over to this chap and of course, there was no sign of life that I could see. Yet I wondered if I could find a temporal pulse up in his head, because there’s no way to check a pulse, his legs and arms are both gone. So finally after a few minutes, I go, hey, one of the docs, come over here. He went over here and he looked for a few seconds and he took off and went to look after another casualty. And I wondered why he took off. So later on, after a hectic time, a few hours later, everything got a little quiet so you could breathe for a few minutes, I went to the, the doctor, the medical officer and said, now what about that fellow … He says, I couldn’t find any signs of life. But what I was thinking, did I feel a temporal pulse or did I? And they, what we came to the conclusion it was in the, that’s in the article I wrote, had he been able to save him, he wouldn’t have thanked us I don’t think.

So that was probably the worst thing. The 16-year old, he was interesting. It was just shortly after D-Day, he was wounded in the leg or something and he could speak English. He was the only German that I handled, because we handled German casualties too, and sometimes quite a few. And at that time, we knew that any German casualties, naturally they were prisoners of war then, they were coming back to England and eventually, they’d come into Canada. Because Canadians captured, Canadians looked after them and of course, we had camps set up around various parts of southern Ontario to house these German prisoners that came back, either wounded or not wounded. So I said to him, you’re going somewhere I’d just love to go. And he said, where’s what, where would that be? I said, all of us will tell you, the war is over for you, you’re going back to Canada and I’m going to Berlin. Ha, he said, you won’t even get to Berlin. That made me mad. I said, listen, because I knew they’d been indoctrinated with propaganda from the age of three I imagine, but anyway, I said listen to this. I don’t care if you believe me now, I remember just saying, But remember, one year from today, we’ll be in Berlin and I gave the stretcher a nudge and just get him the hell out of here.

We looked after him, though, well. Now, you say, whether it was a German there that’s wounded and a Canadian wounded, who would you look after first? Well, depending who was hurt the worst. And we were trained to do that. I don’t know how they were trained but that’s the way we were trained. So if the Canadian was wounded worst, we looked at him before the German. If he could hold his head up, to hell with you, I’d get there when I got there. But if he was hurt the worst, we probably would look after him. Most of the time anyway we’d do that.

It was gratifying work in a sense because the person who’d come in that was badly badly badly wounded and they would think they were going to die and that’s another thing I wanted to point out. Men are squeamish. I’m a man, I’m just squeamish. If I get a pimple on my toe, ow. But I never seen such guts in my life, these soldiers. They had guts. They were, there was no pimple on their toe I’ll tell you.

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