Monday, April 26, 2010

In memoriam: Donald E. Devlin (1914-2010)

The Sunday Oregonian carried the obituary for Donald Eugene Devlin, Oregon State University alumnus and longtime court reporter in both Portland and Bend. While the notice includes mention of Devlin's World War II service with the 88th Infantry Division, it fails to point out that Devlin first enlisted with the 46th General Hospital, the unit organized out of the University of Oregon Medical School in 1939.

As a member of the original 46th group, Devlin sat down with OHSU faculty member Joan Ash for an oral history interview in 1998. He talked about his early life and education, his enlistment with the 46th, and his work overseas as a stenographer and court reporter. We include here some outtakes from the interview, which is available in its entirety in the main library.

ASH: So the war started, and you were both working. How did it happen that you were - you got into the Forty-sixth?
DEVLIN: Oh. Well, one day, as I say, we were living in Salem, and we wanted to go to Portland, to my folks up in the hotel, and we stopped to see Tommy Matthews - here's a picture down here - and his wife Helga, who lived in, not Oregon City, but on the west side of the Willamette, just a little town right near by. Can't think of it. At dinner time, Tommy said, "Well, what are you going to do, what service? What are you?" I said, "Well, I'm just waiting to be called." And he said, "Well, how would you like to be in a home-grown outfit?" And I said, "Well, it might be all right. What do you mean?" So then he explained about it. It was being organized by this Colonel Strohm, and it would be, basically, a cadre of GIs from Portland, and also nurses and doctors, so you'd be kind of among people that you had some knowledge of. I said, "Well, that sounds pretty good." So that's how I got in.
At Fort Riley:
ASH: Was there training going on?
DEVLIN: Evidently - oh yes. The doctors would go away, hither and yon, and take courses in foreign diseases, how to not have them happen, you know, in other words.
ASH: Prevent them.
DEVLIN: Preventive medicine, and so forth. And then they would come back and lecture to a bunch of doctors, and I would sit there and take it all down and type it up. In fact - oh, if you want to take that with you, I'll go out and get it. I've got a little book of the different speeches they made that different doctors would go hear here and there. I've forgotten now where they'd go, but they'd come back and talk about various things to the other doctors. That's one thing I did.
ASH: You kept a record of that, a written record of it?
DEVLIN: Yeah, some of those speeches, if you'd like to have that.
Leaving Oran:
DEVLIN: When we folded, I hoped that we'd split up. One or two of the reporters went to Casablanca, which I think I would like to have gone to, but instead a reporter from New York and I were shipped to Florence, Italy. We landed at Rome first, and then I think we stopped momentarily at Pisa, and then Florence. That's where the Fifth Army was, and I didn't have any idea where I was going. It turned out that the fellow that was flown up there with me, he was sent to the Eighty-ninth Division, up in the Apennines someplace, and all of a sudden, low and behold, here came a guy looking for Sergeant Devlin, and he was the driver for the colonel who was the officer in charge of the JAG section of the Eighty-eighth Infantry Division. So he hauled me up to the Eighty-eighth Infantry Division, and this was in early January. And, of course, in Africa we were wearing suntans, and things like that, and that's what I had on, and, gee, I got up in there, and it was cold and miserable until I got some warm clothes.
The materials that Devlin donated to the collections at the end of the interview were accessioned as the Donald Devlin Collection, 1998-005; the guide is available online in PDF.

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