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    This is an article written for Colliers Magazine in June of 1944 by T/Sgt. Barrie Stavis.  Sergeant Stavis went on to become the well known playwright, Barrie Stavis.  "He has authored several powerful plays about men struggling in the vortex of history."  This article certainly illustrates his insight in this respect.  Among his works: 

John Brown--adopts guerilla warfare to overthrow slavery. Harpers Ferry. New York, A.S. Barnes, 1960,67. 

Galileo--challenges religious dogma with science. Lamp at Midnight. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1966. 

Joe Hill--confronts power by organizing a trade union.  The Man Who Never Died. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1972. 

George Washington--leads a revolution to establish national independence. inDramatics Vol. 57, No. 8 and 9 (April and May 1986). 

Joseph in Egypt--helps establish human control over nature.  A Coat of Many Colors, A Play About Joseph in Egypt. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1968.

The information above is from the  Barrie Stavis Home Page, managed by Ben Stavis. http://nimbus.ocis.temple.edu/~bstavis/barrie.htm
The article THEY SEE WITHOUT LOOKING was graciously provided by Mrs. Elizabeth Hamner of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  It was printed in Colliers, June 1944. It is placed here with the kind permission of Mr. Barrie Stavis made possible by his cousin, Mr. Ben Stavis 5 August 2002. 

 
 



Ambulances being loaded at Van De Graaff Airfield

THEY SEE WITHOUT LOOKING

by T/Sgt. Barrie Stavis
Junior hostess from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Service Center are helping in the readjustment of battle casualties in a way no doctor or nurse can.  Here a hospital patient tells how they do it.

They are dancing.  The girl's eyes look into his with bright and shining attention.  He makes some passing comment, and she smiles appreciatively.  The girl is lovely; about twenty-four, carefully groomed, and dressed in an evening gown perfectly suited for the occasion - gay and partyish, but, not fluffy or gaudy.  Her hair is golden.
  The man she is dancing with is about her own age, but his attire does not compliment her evening gown.  He is dressed in pajamas, bathrobe and slippers.  Nor is he handsomely groomed.  The right side of his face and his entire head are swathed compactly in bandages; the skin on the left side of his face is angry looking and puckered, and the ear has been partly eaten away by flames.  The bandages cover an extensive skin operation for his charred cheek and hold snugly in place the new ear that the plastic surgeon created for him out of cartilage and skin grafted from other parts of his body.  The girl makes some pert remark, smiling and laughing into his eyes; she has learned the art of seeing the man without being blinded by his disfigurement.  He grins, the faint trace of boyishness still there.
  He is a Normandy beachhead hero.  When the 88-mm. Shell set fire to the eighty octane gas and turned his tank into a steel inferno, he was the only man out of the crew who managed to crawl out.  He has been out of bed for about a week; following his second plastic.  Two or three more such operations, and he will have a presentable face, able to take his normal place in the world.
  The Normandy beachhead hero and the girl circle around another dancing couple, careful not to jog the wire and plaster-of-paris contraption which holds the man's left hand rigidly curved and thrust away from his body.  Another couple glides by.  The man is wearing a white skullcap, concealing the gaunt, shaven head from a recent skull operation.  Bone and flesh near the temple are gouged away; his face is liberally pocked with brown markings, evidence of a light peppering of shrapnel.  Another man limps as he dances, his brace visible below the cuff of his pajamas.
  These are the men returned from the wars.  The men who hit the beachheads of Anzio and Normandy; who fought the enemies (jungle and Jap) in New Guinea and Bougainville; who made the amphibious landings on Saipan and Guam; who captured Aachen-and in the process, helped create a new word in the language-Aachenize: to reduce a city to dust and rubble.
  These, the wounded, wearing bathrobes and pajamas or convalescent suits, are dancing with girls more than a cut above the average in appearance and dress.  The place is the auditorium of the Northington General Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The girls are the junior hostesses of the Tuscaloosa Service Center.
  They are pioneers in a new type of canteen, USO, and service-center work - for, in addition to the Service Center, this special kind of work is done by co-eds from the University of Alabama, and girls from a large photographic studio in Tuscaloosa.  With the continuation of war, and the increasing boat and plane loads of wounded reaching these shores for long periods of convalescence, there has been a shift in emphasis and direction of soldier servicing.
  The honeymoon days of soldier servicing are over.  Not so long ago, when a junior hostess entertained a soldier, she had a gay and easy time.  Sometimes, even, there was romance.  The men were healthy and bubbling over with spirit; it was fun to talk with them; it was wonderful to watch them pack away large quantities of sandwiches and cakes, and quarts of coffee.  Occasionally a bruised soul may have gone through a fifteen hour stretch of K.P. or a twenty-mile forced march with full field pack.  However junior hostesses soon discovered the remarkable therapeutic properties of a bowl of hot soup or a thick slab of chocolate cake.  Bruised souls were healed in the twinkling of an evening.
  But now some of these very men have gone to foreign lands, fought a war and returned.  Now the bruises are deep, and the therapy must be equally deep.  The dancing can no longer be the carefree dancing of two young, healthy people.  The trip across the ocean fixed that.  Honeymoon days are over; the days of hard work are upon us.
  The brief story of Tuscaloosa's Service Center is the story of a new path which had to be hacked out, and which others will have to follow.  Organizations whose attendance has been falling off will have to replan their activities.  This is especially true of those organizations (and there are a surprising number of them) which are situated close to both camps and hospitals, and are learning that the camps are emptying, and the hospitals are filling up!
  Tuscaloosa was ready for a service center long before one was actually founded.  Finally, in January, 1943, a center was formed by the Junior Chamber of Commerce.  A directress was needed, and Elizabeth (Betty) Coles Morley volunteered.  Located originally in a small building, which was soon outgrown, the Center moved into its present quarters, furnished by the Federated Club Women of Tuscaloosa, on September 1, 1943.
  Their overhead was supplied by the War Chest, current running expenses by the citizens of Tuscaloosa.  They entertained men who were taking the Army Specialized Training Program in the University of Alabama, which is situated in Tuscaloosa;  French and American cadets who were training at the Van De Graaff Airport two miles outside of town; Air Corps cadets training at the University of Alabama, and sundry other small groups of men.
  So far, this is the average story of the average service club in the United States.  But change soon began.  First the Army Specialized Training Program was cut down to negligible proportions.  Then French cadets were transferred to another field and Van DeGraaff Airport was turned over for commercial use.  Next the Air Corps program at the University of Alabama was closed down.  The healthy young men began to disappear.
  Meanwhile construction of Northington General Hospital was progressing.  On September 5, 1943, just five days after the Service Center took over its new home, it was dedicated.  Soon many Pacific casualties were routed to Northington General Hospital.  Betty Morley, who is also a member of the Recreation Council of the hospital, saw this change of balance from two sides, the Service Center and the hospital, and appreciated its significance.  If the Service Center was really to serve, it would have to re-orient its program.  And it would have to do it fast.
  Betty Morley called a meeting of all the hostesses and discussed the situation.  From the first, these hostesses had been carefully chosen.  Between the ages of eighteen and thirty, they include teachers, students, professional and business girls.  They were checked carefully and, once accepted, had to take a five hour indoctrination in such subjects as Military Security (conducted by Northington General Hospital's Director of Intelligence); Boy Meets Girl in Wartime (conducted by a member of the faculty of the University of Alabama); Physical Health in Wartime and Sex Hygiene (delivered by a County health nurse).
  Now these girls, about one hundred twenty strong, were called together and told the story.  The able-bodied soldiers were being shipped off to war.  They were being replaced by the very sick and wounded, the men who were brought back for extensive hospitalization and treatment, the long term war casualties.  This was the new job.
  Those who were not interested or did not feel up to it were invited to resign. No one resigned.
  Then began a short intensive course.  Appropriate articles were studied.  There were group discussions.  Again and again the girls were impressed with the fact that a bad error on their part could invite psychological catastrophe.  The girls were taught the art of seeing without looking-to see the whole without looking at the injured parts.
  To conclude the course, the chief of plastic surgery of Northington General Hospital, Major John Francis Pick, delivered a talk on the type of cases they would most likely come across.  This talk was illustrated with "before and after" slides.  They were gory slides indeed, but then the reconstruction of a mangled body is a gory business.  There were nervous giggles in Major Pick's audience, and some of the girls turned green and gray when certain slides flashed on the screen. But no one resigned.
  Thus it was no accident that the wounded who were routed to Northington General Hospital were met by the intelligently trained, human and good-looking girls.  They did not turn away, and they did not shudder.  They smiled, carried on a friendly chit-chat, looking directly and steadily into the faces and eyes of the scared and wounded men.  No one resigned.
  One girl confessed that couldn't sleep after her first date with a bad plastic case, but she hadn't let the man down; he had no idea of what was going on inside her head.  Several evenings with this and similar plastic cases, and she accepted the men for themselves; she saw the men, not the injuries.
 

NECESSARY INGREDIENT FOR RECOVERY

It has been that way right along.  There is a weekly dance in the auditorium at the hospital, and daily entertaining in the Service Center.  The physicians and surgeons of Northington General Hospital are uniformly delighted with the accomplishments of the Center.  For self-confidence is a necessary ingredient of any cure.  Without it the doctor's load is increased; with it the patient's cure is much speedier.
  The men are urged to go down to the Service Center-especially during the in-between stages of complicated plastic work.  They go down, frequently with hesitation, and discover that they are not pariahs, that they are accepted as human beings on a plane with other human beings.  Their self-confidence flares high.
  The dance and entertaining are the least exacting parts of a full program.  These ambulatories who can leave the hospital to visit the Service Center are men who are on the road to recovery.  But there are many wards still with the seriously wounded: the paralyzed, the shocked, the burned.  For these teams of junior hostesses have a weekly schedule of ward rounds.  This work calls for unbelievable tact, patience and kindness.
  The girls must sense what the man in the bed has on his mind (the war, his girl, his kids, his plans for when he gets out, perhaps a date with the girl he is talking to when he finally becomes an ambulatory), and frequently they have to lead the conversation in that direction.  When they play checkers or cards, they must know when to win (if they can) and when to lose. They do skits, frequently of their own authorship.  "Sometimes we get into costumes and act gay and silly.  We do what we think will give them an hour away from their hurt."  After a while, these girls develop a sixth sense; they are marvels of imaginative generosity.
  The progress from bed patient to ambulatory patient confined to the hospital, to visitor at the Service Center, to gradual absorption into the stream of normal civilian life, is apparent in this typical story: 
Only a few weeks ago, there were three bed patients in Northington.  One of them had a bashed-in face, with the jaw shoved way over to the left side.  The second was a bad burn case, the skin cracked and red, with slits for eyes that were rheumy and glazed, the burned hairless scalp splotched pink and white.  The third had one eye gone, a section of the nose clipped away, the upper lip twisted into a challenging grimace.
  It was during their time as bed patients that they met the junior hostesses at ward parties. After a few weeks they became ambulatories, it being necessary to wait for the first stages of their work to heal properly before the second stage could be embarked upon.
  During the ambulatory period they were persuaded by girls to get out on the floor during the weekly dances.  Finally, toward the end of the healing period they were allowed evening and week-end passes.  But these three soldiers didn't go out.  They looked into their mirrors and remained in the hospital.
  Three girls, with their highly trained perceptions, realized what was happening.  They went to the hospital and cajoled the men into a promise to visit the Service Center.  The soldiers were as good as their word, and they came to the Center the very next Saturday afternoon.  That short two-mile journey from the hospital to Service Center was the first voyage made on their own since the day they were hit on the battlefield!  They were not in an Army ambulance or an Army hospital train; they were not surrounded by doctors, nurses and wardsmen.  They were in a public conveyance.  They paid their five-cent bus fare, and sat among civilians.
 

THE GIRLS HAVE A WAY WITH THEM

  It was a difficult journey.  They hunched down in their seats, hiding their faces, and the Service Center, when reached, was a haven of refuge.  At the Center, the girls met the men with whoops and cries of joy.  They were made to feel at home, put at their ease.  After a suitable interval, one of the girls casually - most casually - suggested they take a walk through town on this lovely, sunny afternoon.  The men held back; the girls insisted.  More persuasion, more cajolery, and finally they started out.
  What happened on that walk?  Nothing happened.  Nothing at all.  Therein lies its wonder and glory.
  In the backs of their minds, for months on end, the men were frightened at the prospect of staring eyes and the gaping horror of the citizen approaching on the street, and then after passing, the craning neck and the cluck-cluck of sympathy, the eyes and cheeks stiffened with fright at the sight of these walking wounded.
  But nothing happened.  The six bantered and chatted, and for all their wary watchfulness, the three men couldn't find a single citizen of Tuscaloosa staring at them, craning back at them, commenting about them.  They were taken in stride-which is precisely the way they want to be taken.  Indeed one of the greatest worries (perhaps the greatest worry of these wounded) is fear of the reaction of their families and friends to their disfigurement.
  There are cases upon tragic cases of men allowed furloughs and not taking them, afraid to go home, afraid of that first look, that first minute, that first hour, that first day, that first week, that first month, that first year, that entire lifetime.  If those who have had the fortune to say at home want to maintain the love and respect of that returning soldier son, husband or friend, they had better measure up to Service Center Standards.

THE END 
 
 
 
Our physically handicapped soldiers will have to win the fight to live useful, Normal lives.  In this fight, public understanding of the wounded soldier's problem is of vast importance in assisting him to assume his rightful place in society.  Through training and leadership, the soldier is courageous and physically fit.  When wounded he is given the best care that medical science can provide.  His spirit and morale are maintained during his hospitalization.  It is the public's responsibility to carry on when he is discharged and becomes a veteran.  The plan adopted by the Tuscaloosa Service Center at Northington General Hospital is of inestimable value in this regard.

    Norman T. Kirk

    Major General, USA
    The Surgeon General