Friday, March 27, 2015

October 15 1940 : a Fighting 69er fights SBE instead ?

Almost everyone dimly recalls hearing about New York's famous "Fighting 69ers" / "the Fighting Irish" - an infantry regiment more formally known as the 165th (infantry) Regiment, New York State National Guard,--- part of New York State's 27th Division.

Though a state regiment, it in fact recruited exclusively from NY City.

On October 15th 1940, the day before America's first ever peacetime draft registration, the day before History's first ever antibiotic shots, it was 'federalized' and began moving to the US Army's Fort McClellan in Alabama.

And there by hangs yet another intriguing tale in the wartime penicillin saga.

For at the very beginning of 1932 (January 4th), an eighteen year New Yorker old named Charles Aronson joined its Company K - which recruited from the eastern part of the city.

The extreme earliness of this date in the year means statistically he was almost certain to be born in 1913.

That recruitment area and the age of this recruit makes him very likely to be my "dying of heart disease" Charles Aronson.

My Charles Aronson was a young man who had just survived a series of life threatening diseases that left him with a permanently weakened heart but not too weak to work - first as a office boy and then as a teletype operator in a newspaper office.

I no longer doubt - just because of his past illnesses - that he couldn't possibly join an infantry unit.

Not after my refusing for years to believe that a top champion athlete named Aaron Alston could possibly be my "dying of heart disease" Aaron Alston - except that he was.

So - possibly - Charles Aronson had to hear on the radio of his old unit leaving to possible fight for America, just as he was fighting for his own life and about to enter history as one of the two people who were the first ever to receive an antibiotic (penicillin).

So on October 16th 1940, the very next day, as he was supposedly just about to die and receiving an historic - and desperate -  first ever shot of penicillin, the draft registration team visiting his ward probably mentally marked him down as 4F, in fact a 4F of the 4Fs.

But for the grace of an accidental and recent infusion of tooth bacteria into his bloodstream however, tooth bacteria perhaps received from brushing his teeth too vigorously, he would never been fighting this fatal disease in October 1940.

Instead he would have been regarded as a 1A member of the federalized National Guard ---- bad heart and all.

Life is funny isn't it?

Because later in the war, the united Allied scientific and medical elite, taking a leaf out of the Nazi playbook, decided that young people like Charles and Aaron were useless because they couldn't possible fight.

They then ruled them as 'lives unworthy of lifesaving penicillin' and so sentenced them to a death as certain as any trip to Auschwitz.

It didn't really matter to their doctor, Dr Martin Henry Dawson, whether or not they had been infantry soldiers, champion athletes or lifelong invalids - to Dawson all people was worthy of lifesaving penicillin.

Charlie beat this first bout of invariably fatal SBE endocarditis and did so again in 1944, with Dawson's penicillin, He survived the war too - living at least into the 1950s.

Meanwhile Dawson gave up his own life in his belief in the worthiness of all human life ---and finally won his point, just before his own premature death in April 1945 ....

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