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Penicillin comes to San Luis Obispo, World War II week by week

The wonder drug penicillin was available in local drug stores for the first time, German troops were surrendering in large numbers as the war appeared to be in the final days in Europe. Telegram Tribune front page from March 30, 1945.
The wonder drug penicillin was available in local drug stores for the first time, German troops were surrendering in large numbers as the war appeared to be in the final days in Europe. Telegram Tribune front page from March 30, 1945.

March 26, 1945

Lt. Gen. George Patton's tanks were entering Frankfurt-on-Main and another unit was an 80-mile drive to the outskirts of Wiesbaden. The First Army had advanced 22 miles from the Remagen bridgehead on the Rhine. Winston Churchill braved nearby sniper bullets crossing the Rhine near the Wesel Bridge. Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson insisted the British prime minister leave the area when artillery shells landed on both sides of the party. Six Russian refugees were the only survivors from a German prison labor camp. Germans turned machine guns on them when 500 prisoners in Dinalaken refused to move or fight the advancing Americans.

The Soviet Red Army was driving for Vienna. Near Berlin, three attempts to bridge the Oder River were destroyed as fourteen Russian attacks along the front were repulsed according to Berlin radio.

Pfc. Edmund LeBrun was at Hoff General Hospital in Santa Barbara recuperating from a hip and leg injury from a German land mine.

Sgt. Donal Laird was reported killed in action. He was a B-17 ball turret gunner who had died on his first mission, according to a website. (His name was misspelled as Donald in the article.) Laird was 19 and a graduate of San Luis Obispo High School.

In San Luis Obispo, the Camp Fire Girls made an application for the nautical branch under the name "The White Caps." Sponsorship was by the San Luis Yacht club.

March 27, 1945

Camp San Luis Obispo was scheduled to hold dual funeral services for Cpl. William E. Irwin, 21, who was killed in a plane crash in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and his father, William C. Irwin, 54, who died at Waialua, Oahu, after a lingering illness.

The Argentine government took the bold step of declaring war on the Axis. They were the last nation in the Western hemisphere to declare war or a state of belligerency.

The Navy reported the loss of the submarine Albacore with its crew of more than 65 men. This was the 41st sub lost to all causes during the war.

Some 200 American and British prisoners of war were liberated by troops of Lt. Gen. Courtney Hodges near Limberg, Germany. John McDermott wrote of a lieutenant POW reunited with his unit. "God, that can't be you sarge, it just can't be," the lieutenant said when he saw Sgt. Frank Biffin. The executive officer had been captured in the Ardennes battle on Dec. 17. An indication of the prison starvation was the request for C-ration from a liberated prisoner.

A Japanese communique conceded American invasion troops had landed unopposed on a tiny cluster of islands 20 miles southwest of Okinawa.

March 30, 1945

Early in the antibiotic age it was thought that penicillin would become a household drug. Still undiscovered were undesirable side effects of overuse. The evolution of drug-resistant super bugs and the decimation of healthy bacteria in the human digestive system were yet to be discovered. This was the dawn of the golden age of better living through chemistry. DDT was being advertised as a homeowner's best friend to kill bugs. From the front-page story: "Penicillin, the wonder-drug, announced to the world just a few years ago and until a few weeks ago not for general civilian use, is now well on its way to becoming a household remedy."

While Japan was retreating from American island-hopping in the Pacific, they were still taking the offensive in China. The 14th Air Force abandoned the air base at Laohokov, 200 miles northwest of Hankow.

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