CONTINUES TO HOLD
Johnson's luck didn't end there as he was taken to Stalag 221, a German
hospital in Rennes, France nearly 200 miles SSW of Ste Mere Eglise. His
medical record indicates that he was first seen on 13 June 1944. Using a mixture of
German, French and English, page 1 of his "Feuile de Maladie" (record of
illness) lists his ASN, rank and his primary wound as "Bullets, left
chest".. He was assigned to Bed #22B.
The Stalag 221 hospital was attended to by American,
Canadian, and British POW's who were medical officers and surgeons.
A German Major oversaw he facility which was in a building that had
previously been a girl's school in downtown Rennes..
shows his date of wound as 6 June 44 and describes it as a "Large gutter
wound left cheek and (illegible). Debridement by Jerries. Pectoralis
Major severed. Movement of hand normal. This wound left wrist."
On 14 June 44, his apparent date of hospitalization,
what appears to be a doctor's order states, "Wound appears clean.
(Dalsin?) and sulphur powder dressing. Redress 2 days."
The fact that these two entries appear in English
while all remaining entries are in French is curious.
Especially noticeable is the fact that the term "Jerries" is used when
describing his debridement. It clearly was not written by a French or German
In the days following, additional attention was given
to his wound:
26-06-44 - bandage with
exoseptoplix (chlorhexidine, an
antiseptic and germicide)
02-07-44 - bandage with exoseptoplix
12-07-44 - bandage amoniaque (ammonia) and ether plus
18-07-44 - bandage decapage (scouring) with ether
21-07-44 - bandage ether application exoseptoplix
22-07-44 - bandage ether application exoseptoplix
25-07-44 - bandage with exoseptoplix
29-07-44 - bandage with exoseptoplix
31-07-44 - bandage with exoseptoplix
(translations courtesy of Dominique Potier
and wife, Dr. Potier, of Belgium)
This regimen of cleaning and redressing the wound was
effective and Curt was able to reassure his parents in a letter home
that he had healed from the injuries.
LAST WORD HOME
While incarcerated there, he wrote a letter (shown to
the left) to his parents, the only one that they received. His
return address is "Front Stalag 221, Rennes followed by a pre-printed "
(Frankreich)", German for France.
"Again what to say is a problem. There isn't too much space so I will
start." This opening lime is apparently a reference to the
censorship imposed before he went into combat.
Curtis continued, "I have been wounded twice, the wounds have been
treated and I am almost as good as new. I'm getting treated quite
well and have a lot of time with nothing to do . Eat and sleep, what a
life. Of course you will inform Rhoda and everyone of my current
status. Boy, it will be great to get home again. I hope you
will be able to read this. Don't be alarmed at my being wounded.
It isn't too painful, or rather it wasn't. I got a bullet in the
arm and chest or rather the shoulder but I'm still very healthy.
The other half of this sheet is for your reply. Keep up the good
work and don't worry. I'm swell. - Curt"
Curtis was examined at least nine times while in the Stalag 221 hospital,
the last instance being on 31 July 1944. The following day, the
4th Armored Division and Third Army began an assault on the city of
Rennes sending its 80,00 inhabitants fleeing for cover.
The confusion created an opportunity. Curt's son
Dale recounts his father's tale of escape,
"As the artillery came closer the German guards
went into their bunkers, leaving the hospitalized POWs alone. My
father and several others then killed a guard and walked out of the
compound, leaning on each other for support. Shortly in the town,
they met members of the French Resistance who harbored them until
they could be liberated. His letters indicate that he rejoined the
Yanks on 7 August 1944 and another V-Mail has his written date as 4
August 1944 (the day the 13th Infantry took Rennes). His
letters also seemed to imply that he saw some very unpleasant things
during this time (“man’s inhumanity to man”) but he never
National Archives records indicate that Curtis L.
Johnson was a POW in Stalag 17B Braunau
Gneikendorf, near Krems, Austria. His presence there was first
officially reported on 10 November 1944 and was "Returned to Military Control, Liberated or Repatriated" on 10 August
1945. The family is attempting to have that record corrected.