ELKHART — Ronald Duvall, 89, of Elkhart was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943.
He had just completed his first year of college, studying pharmacy. That little experience would come in handy later, when he would care for wounded soldiers.
Duvall said he wasn’t worried about being hurt or killed overseas when he learned he was going into the Army.
“When you’re only 19, you don’t worry too much about things,” Duvall said. “Everybody was patriotic in those days. I don’t know that any of my friends (who were also drafted) objected to going in (to military service).”
Duvall spent one year as a military policeman and two years as a medic on a ship.
“I was assigned to the 708th military police battalion in Connecticut,” Duvall remembered. “(The military) had police battalions scattered along the East Coast.”
He worked in the dispensary with a doctor and a dentist. One of his jobs was operating a drill that was powered with a foot pump.
“I had to pump it pretty fast, or it would stop in someone’s teeth,” Duvall said. “It was kind of an important job I guess, at least for the guy getting his teeth drilled.”
Duvall stayed in Connecticut for about a year. Then, his assignment changed.
“By 1944, the possibility of the Germans attacking the East Coast was pretty much nothing, because they were on the run by that time,” Duvall said.
He was reassigned to take care of wounded soldiers on their boat trip back to the United States. Duvall’s group of about 12 people had little medical experience, he said, and they mostly changed bandages and gave injections.
“We used the same needles over and over again,” Duvall said. “They were sterilized, but sometimes they weren’t too sharp.”
Duvall made six trips to England and France. He said that each trip took about 10 days one way, and when the ship arrived, it would stay in port for about a month. Most of the soldiers on board didn’t require much care, he said, but others were severely wounded.
“Some of them were really bad, and they couldn’t be helped,” Duvall said, his eyes tearing up at the memory.
In February 1946, Duvall was discharged from military service. He re-enrolled in college and eventually got a Ph.D.
Duvall moved to Elkhart in 1962 when he accepted a job at Miles Laboratories. He worked there, as director of medicinal product development, until he retired in 1990.
He said that he never regreted his time in the Army.
“At least I hope that I helped some people,” he said.