Just like internet hosting city corridor conferences and kissing infants, shaking palms is a should for politicians on the marketing campaign path. But that final half was difficult for Bob Dole.
The veteran lawmaker who spent eight years serving Kansas within the U.S. House of Representatives and 27 years within the Senate, suffered extreme accidents, together with a debilitating one to his proper hand, throughout his service in World War II, forcing him to discover a solution to keep away from utilizing it.
Dole’s platoon got here underneath assault and he did not know if he was going to outlive
Dole, who enlisted within the Army in 1942, was known as up in 1943, and, contemporary out of officer candidate college, was shipped out for an unknown vacation spot in December 1944, was assigned to a camp of substitute officers exterior Rome, Italy.
“The military assigned me to the entrance within the Apennine Mountains, to take over a platoon, changing an officer who had been with the 10th Mountain Division,” Dole writes in his autobiography, One Soldier’s Story.
At age 21, on April 14, 1945, two days after the dying of President Franklin Roosevelt and just some weeks earlier than the Nazi give up, Dole’s platoon got here underneath assault by the Germans, and, making an attempt to take out Nazi machine gunners, he was hit within the again. “As the mortar spherical, exploding shell, or machine gun blast — no matter it was, I’ll by no means know —ripped into my physique, I recoiled, lifted off the bottom a bit, twisted within the air, and fell face down within the filth,” he writes.
“For a long moment I didn’t know if I was dead or alive. I sensed the dirt in my mouth more than I tasted it. I wanted to get up, to lift my face off the ground, to spit the dirt and blood out of my moth, but I couldn’t move. I lay facedown in the dirt, unable to feel my arms. Then the horror hit me — I can’t feel anything below my neck! I didn’t know it at the time, but whatever it was that hit me had ripped apart my shoulder, breaking my collarbone and my right arm, smashing down into my vertebrae, and damaging my spinal cord.”
He held a pen in his proper hand to make the ‘hand seem regular’
Eventually rescued by medics, Dole’s accidents have been grave, requiring a number of operations over three years, together with a number of by Dr. Hampar Kelikian, an Armenian refugee and pioneer within the surgical restoration of legs and arms, who refused to take cash for his providers however was in a position to relieve many of the ache and return some perform to Dole’s arms.
Dole slowly regained mobility, however a lot of the harm to his arms and palms was irreversible.
“His right hand was basically unusable and, as a person running for office, he found everybody was trying to shake his right hand and it would cause him pain,” says Bill Lacy, director of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics on the University of Kansas. “And so he started putting a pen or a pencil in his hand so people wouldn’t grab it.”
During his restoration, more and more, Dole writes, the fingers on his proper hand would shut right into a ball. But he discovered that if he might wrap them round a rolled-up piece of paper, it could gradual individuals from dashing to shake his hand.
“I eventually discovered that by holding a pen in the hand, grasping it between my thumb and forefinger and wrapping the remaining three fingers around the shaft of the pen, I made the hand appear normal,” he writes. “For practically six many years now, in case you’ve seen me on the political marketing campaign path, within the U.S. Senate, in an interview, joking with Jay Leno on tv, in a industrial, visiting with our troops, or anyplace, you’ve got maybe seen that the pen is all the time there. It has develop into part of my proper arm.”
Lacy says the damage additionally meant Dole needed to signal all the things together with his non-dominant left hand.
“He bought higher at it via the years, however you could not actually learn lots of what he wrote,” he says. “There were some people in his office who were very valuable because they could read his writing.”
And whereas Dole does shake together with his left hand, that’s not with out effort, both.
“To today, one of many best-kept secrets and techniques relating to my battle wounds has been the harm to my left arm and hand,” Dole writes. “Over the years, I’ve shaken palms with so many individuals utilizing my left hand that most individuals assumed that the hand is ok. Actually, I’ve no extra feeling in these fingers as we speak than I did in June 1945, and the left hand is extraordinarily delicate. After shaking palms with a couple of too many of us, my left hand begins turning black and blue, a lot because it did sixty years in the past.”
Dole’s damage fueled his need to enter politics and assist the much less lucky
Dole’s army expertise had an unlimited impression on his political profession, Lacy says.
“Here is a person who, successfully left for useless on the battlefield, survives, undergoes a number of surgical procedures and comes again from the battle together with his physique shattered,” he says. “But his spirit is obviously very, very strong, and he basically willed himself back to health.”
Eventually returning to Kansas, Dole, who was a basketball and observe athlete at Kansas University earlier than the Army, enrolled at Washburn University close to Topeka the place he completed his diploma and graduated from legislation college earlier than successful his first seat in public workplace in 1950.
“I think, more than anything, that what happened to him in the military showed him that he was capable of overcoming anything,” Lacy says. “It showed him something he had never thought much about before, which is that there are people going through life who have disadvantages that are no fault of their own.”
Lacy says Dole’s accidents additionally essentially change his outlook on life.
“If you look at his legacy and his career, even though he was a fairly staunch conservative, he has always been very much focused on helping those who can’t help themselves — looking after veterans, looking after senior citizens, helping African Americans to be able to exercise their right to vote with fewer restrictions and civil rights laws,” he says. “And he looked after animals who can’t defend themselves — he had a very strong legacy and record on animal welfare.”
Years later, Dole writes in his guide, somebody requested Kelikian why he by no means gave up on his affected person.
“He would respond in his still broken English, ‘This young man…had the faith to endure,’” Dole writes. “To me, Dr. Kelikian’s remark was one of many biggest honors I’ve acquired in my life.”
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