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Artist/Painter & Soldier
World War II
Private Leonard Barkin:
In the hospital
after being injured.
"Casualty" Ink & watercolor by L. Barkin
May 17, 1944
The Red Cross in this hospital is quite quiet in the morning and I am dodging a nosy medic, so I'll write you a letter which I have been wanting to since I came.
Mother, I imagine has already told you I was wounded in action, having lost two fingers and a bit of a thumb from my left hand. Outside of that there were no complications.
When the medical clerk came to the side of my stretcher, (I had made my way back to the aid station on foot) he asked me if my wounds were due to enemy action. I told him "either that or someone was throwing rocks at me!"
They then slapped in my good hand a purple heart, a shot of whiskey down my throat, and fifty million kinds of pills.
Now I am in a gigantic general hospital, really gorgeous, with pretty nurses, picture shows, game rooms, etc. Tonight I am going to a real live symphony concert, and I have discovered a well-selected library, I have already played a few games of Ping-Pong, so even though my arm is slung-up, I get around.
I hope this reaches you at Oxford, and that you will have the graduation you want, and when you are up in Maine if you hear a call form one Lenny Barkin don't be surprised, as the doctor that most likely I'd be sent home.
All my love. Lenny.
May 18, 1944
With the sound and the fury left behind, I relax in a very comfortable quietness, totally different than what I have known for some time. What was only a hew short days ago is now only a vague incomprehensible memory, too weird too entirely forget, too confused to entirely remember. Caesar's Hills and Italy's hills are the setting in which the greatest drama was played.
Here, in the peace of the hospital the good world smiles again. When we have music, the perfect sound world, and books, the mind world and candy, fruit juice, etc. to make the body feel important again. I play one arm Ping-Pong (which is all I need) and pitch horseshoes and even draw a few pictures. My hand should heal quickly, although the haven't removed the stitches.
Enclosed you will find a symphony program I attended the other night--good orchestra!
All my love, Lenny.
May 19, 1944
If my notes are short please understand that words cannot say the story. All I can do is tell you a little hello and I know that you can feel with me though the distance the unspoken things.
In the quiet of the hospital the battle is hashed over and the stories retold until the reality of them is almost lost in a babble of superlatives. This does not detract from their essential reality, but only shows the doughboy's leaning on the more spectacular side of truth.
One doughboy though, came thorough like a thoroughbred, mongrel that he is, and fought and died as "bravely as any Russian". And those of us who were fortunate as to be only wounded, as those who are still fighting on, are still the same old dogfaces. And thought who are back in the states, and while sitting in the Stock Club, or Joe's tavern, despair of victory, I tell them that our doughboy's stand eight foot about any Jerry or satellite thereof and is the only thing that is left with spirit and few pose in this hollow-eyed Europe.
Many boys from outfit are here with me and we never lack company, or to do. There are movies and shows and pretty nurses to flirt with and I am even doing some drawing.
We may see you soon, darling, sooner than we expected.
All my love. Lenny