Sgt. Dorsey: The wallet that saved my life!

On Aug. 14, 1937, Mrs. Elizabeth Dorsey gave her youngest son, Raymond, a leather wallet as a present on his 16th birthday; she never knew that wallet would save her son’s life in WWII.

Raymond Dorsey joined the 22nd Infantry of the 4th ID a few weeks before Christmas. “We were in the Hürtgen Forest of Germany during the Battle of the Bulge. There was lots of snow, and it was so cold the soldiers had to take socks and other clothing off the dead to keep warm” – these memories still haunt Mr. Dorsey to this day. 

“If it wasn’t the Germans trying to kill us it was the weather. I fought through the Bulge until mid-January of ’45 when it was over. This is when the prisoners started turning themselves in – they were glad to be out of it. There were more of them than there were of us, but the fighting was over, and they were surrendering. Middle of Jan ’45 – my outfit started to receive a lot of German prisoners. I had to line them up and search them. They all had a wallet full of German money, which was worthless to them now – there was nothing for them to buy, nowhere they could spend it – but I didn’t have any money. I traded them anything I could give them for their money. I ended up with so much of their money – my wallet was so full I couldn’t carry it in my back pocket, like normal, so I moved it to my shirt front pocket. We took artillery fire during the fighting at the Bulge and up until this time I had several close calls – yet was never hit.

We were later moved to the city of Prüm, Germany, on Feb 14, 1945 – we were told to set up a staging area at the edge of town. The enemy was waiting to hit us until the late evening; dropping shells all around us. We had to set up a command post in a house with two medics setup in the basement. I was on guard duty when the Germans dropped a shell real close. I was a little way away from the house and hadn’t been hit, so after those shells dropped, I moved closer to the house to find some cover. I took one step into the house and when I turned around a shell landed right in front of me… and that’s when my lights went out. The fat leather wallet in my shirt pocket, now over my heart, caught the main hit of shrapnel. I was unconscious and the medics helped save me by stopping the bleeding.

When I came to, I was on the floor of a big building, maybe an airplane hangar. From what I could see, the whole floor was covered with soldiers like myself – just full of soldiers like me. I wanted a drink of water – they wouldn’t give it to me, but they did give me a shot of morphine. I hadn’t had a shave or bath since I’d arrived. I must have been a sight! I don’t know how long I was there or where it was – they kept me knocked out. They loaded me into an ambulance, and I remember I heard them say we were passing the Eiffel Tower, so we must have been in Paris at this time. When I woke up next – I woke up bathed, shaved and in a clean bed with sheets. I don’t know how long I was in France. All I remember next is waking up in a hospital in England and being handed my belongings, the wallet included; only this time it was full of American money – someone had changed all the German money for American! I felt blessed because there was enough money in my wallet to send $100 to my wife (which was a lot of money in 1945) and I kept the rest.

My right thigh was all bandaged up and they started to unwrap it. They later rolled me outside for a long way to the operating room – that’s when they sewed up my leg wound and put it in a cast. When the cast was removed, my doctor came around and asked, “how are you doing today soldier?” I said “well, they just removed my cast, but I can’t move my knee.” He went to the bottom of my bed, grabbed my right foot and gave it a heave – like a pistol shot, you could hear it – but after that I could bend my knee again. I can still see shrapnel in my thigh, my ankle and I’ve got a little in my face around my left eye. My buddies in the hospital though were the ones to point out there was a hole in my wallet, that’s when I realized that the wallet my mother gave me on my 16th birthday is what saved my life that night in Germany!”

Sgt. Dorsey was never able to tell his mom that she had saved his life with her birthday gift. When he was medically fit to be sent home, he learned his mother was terminally ill. Sgt. Dorsey told us “I was able to see my mom just before she passed, as I’d finally been released – she was a good mother. I didn’t talk to her about the war, never showed the wounds; it was too soon, and people didn’t want to know. I still have to live with it.” 

Veterans and Purple Heart recipients like Sgt. Dorsey did not only help shape history, they carry their own part of history with them, just waiting to impart their stories, experiences and wisdom on others. The next time you come across a veteran, take a moment to listen and you may be amazed at the incredibly heroic, selfless, and in cases like this…miraculous stories that nobody else knows about. One VA Center nurse took the time to not only listen to her patient, but to send the Purple Heart Foundation a written recount of Sgt. Dorsey’s story to share with all of you! Join us in saluting Mr. Dorsey for his service and sacrifice!

The Purple Heart Foundation provides various programs and assistance that supports our veterans and their families. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting veterans, and their caregivers, in all aspects of their lives, including helping those who need assistance while transitioning from the battlefield to the home front. You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve.

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