World War II Corpsman Served on Hospital Ship

Paul Bandelier served as a corpsman aboard the USS Relief.

In 2022 I’m introducing more World War II veterans to readers with a weekly series of excerpted stories from my books.

Let me know what you think about these men and women who served our country from 1941-1945.

Did you know them or people like them?

Has someone from your family served in the military? If so, share information as you know it.

Find more World War II veteran stories at my blog by searching on the magnifying glass icon on the right.

Then check out my Youtube Channel (Kayleen Reusser World War II Veterans) to hear dozens of WWII veterans describe their military service.

This particular vet has a video there. Please Subscribe to these weekly segments and Like/ Share.

Thanks to all veterans reading this for your service. And thanks to your families as well for their sacrifices.

**

(excerpted from We Gave Our Best: American WWII Veterans Tell Their Stories)  

When Paul Bandelier of Fort Wayne, Indiana, sailed to New Caledonia with the Navy, he was not on a ship filled with ammunition and guns, but 500 hospital beds.

Bandelier graduated from Northside High School in 1940. He enlisted in the Navy in June 1942. 

After completing basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Bandelier was assigned to the USS Relief. The Relief and other hospital ships were painted white with large red crosses painted on their sides as part of the Red Cross. They were supposedly safe from enemy fire under the Geneva Convention and thus traveled without escort.

The only armament the Relief carried was an 18-inch gun placed along the keel for ballast. “It helped keep the operating room tables steady,” he said.

Bandelier’s duties were to aid the 44 doctors and 13 nurses on the hospital ship. The ship’s 500 hospital beds were usually full. “We treated patients with gunshot wounds, bayonet wounds, dysentery, and malaria,” he said. Additional duties included bathing patients, helping to feed them, and working in the contagious disease ward.

Crewmen lift an injured flight member from a plane during a raid on Rabaul in 1943. Courtesy National Archives,

The ship contained two operating rooms and a place for autopsies.

The Relief sailed to places in the Pacific where invasions were planned. At Tarawa and the Marshall Islands wounded troops were transported by medics and litter bearers back from the battle to the shore. Small boats then carried them to the medical ship away from the chaos.

Once the Relief was loaded with patients, it sailed to land-based hospitals in New Zealand and Pearl Harbor.

One rule aboard ship was no ingestion of alcohol for recreational purposes. A particular malady the medical staff often treated was the ingestion of a concoction known as ‘torpedo juice’. It was a drink mixture made of pineapple juice and 180-proof grain alcohol fuel used in military torpedo motors.

At Christmas, Bandelier was still aboard ship at the hot climes of the equator, listening to holiday music played on vinyl records. Bandelier was happy to receive a package from home. “I got a Christmas card, wool scarf and cookie crumbs,” he said. 

After a year at sea, Bandelier applied for and was accepted into the V12 Navy College Training Program. It was a series of college courses designed to develop military leaders. Bandelier was at Notre Dame when the war ended in August 1945.

Pharmacist Mate 2nd class Bandelier was discharged in January 1946. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in business. He and his wife, Pat, were parents to three children.

Bandelier worked at WKJG in Fort Wayne. “I’m glad I served in the military during the war,” he said. “This is a wonderful country and we owe it something.”

**

Paul Bandelier’s complete story is featured in We Gave Our Best: American WWII Veterans Tell Their Stories

ISBN: 978-1720515517

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