Donaldson wrote with understated power about that outside world by describing the three roads that came together at Base Hospital 46 at Bazoilles-sur-Meuse, France:
"One of our doorways faced a panorama of wood-crowned hills, a river and three of the most noted roads in France. One road was tree-bordered, a silver line where trucks and motors passed up and down endlessly. The second was the railroad on which our boys went to the battlefields, singing, waving, and cheering; and on which they returned to us, silent, broken, but undaunted. There was a special train known as 'old 56,' and when it was missing from the tracks we knew the errand on which it had gone and unconsciously watched for its return. It used to come around the hill so slowly that one could scarcely see it move or be sure it halted until the three short whistles that meant 'a convoy is in' called us to our posts in the wards."(152)
Many other writers and artists dealing with the subject of war have focused on this moment of a convoy's arrival -- or in the case of films and television representations of the Korean and Vietnam eras and beyond such as M*A*S*H* and China Beach, the arrival of the helicopters. Here Donaldson suggests the closing of the devastating circle and cycle of war -- the soldiers leaving for the front "singing, waving, and cheering," and returning "silent, broken, but undaunted." In some ways the nurses and other medical personnel were outsiders to war, but in many other ways they were in its very midst. They had the devastating knowledge that 'old 56' would be coming again and again with its wounded and dying occupants. And they used their training, skill, and each day's energy to try to save them.
There was a third and last road, Donaldson wrote. "The third road ran just a few yards from our tent door, with the river beyond--the last road of all, for the boys we left in France. It was a short road, ending in a plot at the foot of the hill where the sun's light touched the white crosses 'row on row.'" (152)
|"American Cemetery at Bazoilles," Otis Wight et al., On Active Service With Base Hospital 46 (Portland, OR: Arcady Press, 1920), 9.|
|Lavinia Dock, et al., History of American Red Cross Nursing (New York: MacMillan, 1922), 508.|