OUR FLIGHT SURGEON
In June 1940, the School of Medicine at St. Louis University graduated promising, young Doctor Lee A. Hall. While he was an intern at St. Louis County Hospital, he answered his country's call for doctors, and volunteered for active duty in the U.S.A. Armed Forces. After joining the Army Air Corps, Doctor Hall was assigned to the 93rd Bomb Group in England. This much-traveled unit moved from Alconbury, England, to Algeria, and later to Libya where it was involved in the final stage of the defeat of Rommel's Afrika Corps. The group then returned to England. In May 1943, Doctor Hall was reassigned to Randolph Field, Texas, to attend the Flight Surgeon school.
His first assignment as a Flight Surgeon was with the 45th Bomb Squadron, 40th Bomb Group, Pratt Army Air Field, Kansas. He was responsible for the health of a gang of spirited, young men who considered a Flight Surgeon as just one more staff officer to be ignored. To better understand the working conditions of his new comrades, Doctor Hall attended ground school classes with aircrew members to study the B-29 Superfortress. He studied aircrew clothing, survival gear, cabin pressure, and aircraft systems to determine how they affected an airman's health.
At that time, few of us were aware that the young Doctor was wise beyond his years. His tour of combat in the harsh climate and primitive living conditions in North Africa, gave him valuable experience while tending to the injuries and wounds of soldiers. Doctor Hall also gained vital experience in the constant battle to keep his comrades alive and healthy where every drink of water and bite of food posed a threat.
When the 45th Bomb Squadron transferred to the combat theater at Chakulia, India, Doctor Hall became a very valuable staff officer to everyone in his squadron. When the mess halls were set up at Chakulia, and at our forward base at Hsinching, China, the Doctor's first concern was the drinking water. Malaria and hepatitis had become common ailments in the China-Burma-India Theater, and until we became more careful, Doctor Hall inspected the squadron lister bags of water and our personal canteens daily. He also paid attention to our mosquito netting and our use of DDT repellant.
Flight Surgeon Hall spent much of his time in the mess halls, particularly in China. Chinese farmers used human waste as fertilizer, and crops grown in their fields were the source of amoebic dysentery and other stomach ailments. The Chinese cooks who prepared our food were disdainful of our Flight Surgeon because they did not always cook to his satisfaction. We seldom went to a mess hall without seeing him busy checking on the sanitary conditions in the kitchen, in the dining room, or outside the building.
Doctor Hall's persistent, sometimes stubborn, refusal to allow certain articles of food to be served, was not always understood by the Americans or Chinese. He often made the cooks boil some water for a second time before it was used, and sometimes made them discard food that appeared O.K. to them and to us. After a few cases of severe dysentery and hepatitis broke out in our squadron, we realized that Doctor Hall knew what he was doing. From then on, we complied with his instructions, and fewer airmen got sick. He also persuaded us to stop buying roasted peanuts, tomatoes, and other food in the area outside the base. Once we were convinced that foolish disregard of his rules for good health could kill us, his job as Flight Surgeon became easier and our life became safer and healthier.
In 1945, while the 40th Bomb Group prepared to move from India to Tinian in the Pacific Ocean, Doctor Hall was advanced to the position of Group Flight Surgeon. Those of us who served with him in the 45th Bomb Squadron regarded him as a vital part of our operations in the Asian Theater. His tireless efforts to keep us healthy undoubtedly saved a few lives and much suffering. In addition, he became a friend of all who knew him. This fact is apparent at the annual reunions of the 40th Bomb Group Association, when no veteran attending the reunion is greeted with more affection than Flight Surgeon Lee A. Hall.
* From Ira V. Matthews' Eighty-one War Stories. *