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A Twist of Fate Leads Berger to Early Role in Space Program
BY LARRY TEITELBAUM
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After a grueling hike, he went to bed extremely tired. The next morning, he awoke with a severe headache, and couldn’t swivel his neck without unbearable pain. He walked to the infirmary, where, within minutes, doctors put him on a stretcher and ripped open his fatigue jacket. What they found alarmed them: a chest full of angry rashes.

“I went into a coma, woke up 10 days later and I was delirious,” says Berger, who shared this story on reunion weekend with a group of World War II veterans from the Class of 1941.

He recovered after 91 days of bed rest, but suffered a serious emotional blow when told, early in his convalescence, that he could not rejoin his unit because they had been wiped out in the Ardennes Forest on the German/Belgian border. His best friend in the military was among the casualties. “When I found out about the massacre at the Battle of the Bulge one of the doctors said, ‘You know, you’re the first person in the history of the American armed forces saved by a case of spinal meningitis.’”
 
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