Seventy years ago on about December 10, 1944, Felix A. Cizewski, my late father, was admitted to a U.S. Army hospital in Paris with severe frostbite to his hands and feet.
In his letters Ray Davidson of Company A, 3110th Signal Service Battalion reports increasing rain and dropping temperatures in Paris.
In Citizen Soldiers, Stephen Ambrose reports “It was Northern Europe’s coldest winter in forty years…”
These photos are from the about same time and near place as Felix and Company C served
None of these photos are of Felix A. Cizewski or Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion.
The following two illustrate the type of work that Felix and Company C, the Open Wire Repair Section of the 3110th Signal Service Battalion, were doing when Felix suffered frostbite.
Signal lineman repairs wire in the Ardennes.
Public Domain photo from The Signal Corps: The Outcome (Mid-1943 through 1945), p. 160.
European Theatre of Operations, December, 1944. Soldier traces a broken field wire for splicing.
Public domain U.S. Army photo from: The story of the U.S. Army Signal Corps between pages 114 & 115.
TRENCH (IMMERSION) FOOT RISK
During cold weather Signal Corps personnel needed to work in and around water such as swimming wire across the Moselle River.
Public domain photo from: The Signal Corps: The Outcome (Mid-1943 through 1945), p. 132.
British or Canadian Signalmen using amphibious DUKWs and Weasels to work in areas flooded when the Germans blew up nearby dykes.
Early February, 1945, in the Netherlands along the Nijmegen-Cleve road near the German border town of Kranenburg
Imperial War Museum photo from The Rhineland 1945: the final push into Germany (Praeger illustration military history), Ford, Ken, 2004, Osprey Publishing, p. 48.
Felix said that the Army doctors told him that they might need to amputate part of all of his hands and feet.
However, night after night, after the American doctors had gone, a captured German doctor working in the American hospital massaged Felix’s hands and feet with a special salve.
Eventually Felix healed enough to avoid amputations and return to be reassigned to the 45th Signal Company.
A captured American soldier with “frozen feet” reported that from German medical supplies, the German guard gave him “something that looked like axle grease…which we rubbed on our feet.” (From Alex Kershaw in The Longest Winter, Da Capo Press, 2004, page 168.) Could this be the special salve Felix described that the German POW doctor used?
Medic treating GI with trench foot and cold injuries to his hands and face. This illustrates what Felix might have suffered and the treatment with a salve.
Diorama in the Truschbaum Museum, Camp Elsenborn, Belgium. (Photo used by permission.)
FELIX’S POST FROSTBITE RAYNAUD”S SYNDROME SYMPTOMS
Felix’s wife reports that the skin on his feet were fragile and tender for several years after the war.
For the rest of his life, he suffered from a post frost bite syndrome with symptoms that resemble Raynaud’s Syndrome.
The circulation shut down in his hands and feet whenever the weather turned slightly cold but painless. I remember in the winter his hands up to his wrists were cold, cyanotic with poor skin turgor.
R. Richard Kingsbury in his autobiography, The Eighteen-Year-Old Replacement: Facing Combat in Patton’s Third Army describes suffering cold injuries, possibly trench foot. After the war, the VA paid him two 10% disability for the permanent damage to his legs and feet. (Page xiii.)
Felix was an unrecognized and uncompensated disabled veteran.
At a minimum, that is what I believe Felix also deserved if not more as his hands were also permanently damaged.
Links, sources, and more information:
3110th in Paris
Signal Corps personnel and cold injuries
Trench (Immersion) Foot
Felix A. Cizewski: An Unrecognized and Uncompensated Disabled Veteran?