James Olin Chiles – Lieutenant (jg), United States Navy

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DYING PILOT SCRAWLS POLIO REACTIONS
TO HELP ‘FIND CURE FOR THIS THING’

WASHINGTON, August 2, 1949 – A young Navy pilot who faced an attack of polio as courageously as he might have met any other enemy was buried with honors today in Arlington National Cemetery.

Lieutenant (jg) James Olin Chiles of Lakeland, Florida, a pilot at the Anacostia Naval Air Station here, died last Thursday at the Bethesda Naval Hospital of bulbar poliomyelitis – one of the worst but least common forms of the dread disease.

He might have been just one more figure in the mounting polio death toll except for one thing: He wanted to help medical science learn more about the malady.  So he kept a sort of diary of his symptoms and reactions as polio gradually choked out his life.

His notes, in a scrawl that steadily became more difficult to read, were released by is 26year-old widow, Dorothy, mother of two infant girls.

Lieutenant Chiles began the tragic journal last Wednesday, the day after he was admitted to the hospital.

“This is the best thing that could happen,” to told his wife.  “Maybe I can work with the doctors and find a cure for this thing.”

She brought his a pencil and a pad and a few hours later he wrote his first note:  “To doctor: First notices vision incoherent or something at 16:40.  Can’t see clearly what I’m writing.  If anybody puts me in a respirator please note, I cannot swallow. I have a rapid accumulation of mucus in my throat.  If I am not allowed to turn my head to the side I’ll choke to death.”

“17:58 noted very poor control of tongue in mouth.”

Mrs. Chiles, who sat at his bedside, asked if he were in pain.

“Some but not bad,” he wrote on the pad, unable to speak.  “My guess is that I’m going to be all right.”  Then he added, “Every person on this floor has a contagious disease – don’t want you around.  Cant read – vision’s shot temporarily.  Only thing I’m worried about is you.  Help me get a pillow under head.  You should not stay.  This will be my worst night.  Tomorrow we should know.”

Mrs. Chiles asked if she could get him anything.

“Doctor prescribes what I need,” he wrote.

About 8 P.M. he wrote his last note: “My neck is paralyzed.  Doesn’t hurt any more.”

He died at 9:20 P.M.

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Dorothy Chiles with the “Death Log” of her husband, Lieutenant James Olin Chiles
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Funeral Service of James Olin Chiles, 1949
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Funeral Service of Dorothy Chiles, 2001

CHILES, JAMES OLIN
LT JG USN NAVAL AIR STA

  • DATE OF DEATH: 07/28/1949
  • BURIED AT: SECTION 8  SITE 317 RH
    ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

CHILES, DOROTHY L

  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/31/1924
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/02/2001
  • BURIED AT: SECTION 8  SITE 317 LH
    ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
  • WIFE OF CHILES, JAMES OLIN LT(JG) US NAVY

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