IN NORTHERN GERMANY
On 13 July 1964, two days after their performance at Zur Post - Kropp, it was such a beautiful day that Travis put his Sunbeam Alpine's top down for his drive into town, and in so doing, noticed the seatbelts he'd installed before he drove to Bremen to pick up his older brother, Jimmy, then stationed in Berlin, for a shared week's leave motoring holiday--and it was that oft-neglected seat belt that probably saved his life.
On the freshly-tarred road above the Prince of Panker's estate, a German Army armored truck skidded and crashed into Travis' sports car with such force, it thrust the steering column and engine through the firewall into the driver's compartment. Travis came to when the German soldiers pulled him out of the wreck with a nasty gash above his left eye, a broken left anke, and a misery of unhappy vertebrae, but he'd survived the crash.
A German ambulance transported him to the hospital in Preetz, where his forehead and eyelid were stitched up and his ankle set in a cast, but the following morning, U.S military authorities notified the hospital that Travis was to be transferred to the U.S Army Hospital in Bremerhaven, about 150 miles south and west of Preetz.
Travis was officially attached to a small U.S. Navy facility in Todendorf, on the Baltic seacoast, in the British Zone of West Germany, and the Bremerhaven Army hospital, also still in the British Zone, had no orthopedic staff. Nevertheless, when Travis arrived, they removed the German cast, fearing swelling in the ankle had made it too tight. In the week it took to arrange a MATS flight from Bremerhaven to the U.S Army Hospital in Frankfurt, the pain eased considerably and Travis, staying off the ankle, had been able to get around on crutches, but the morning after he was admitted to the hospital in Frankfurt, he was wheeled into a room where an orderly painfully reset his ankle and applied a walking cast. Returned to the orthopedic ward, even with the ankle elevated, the pain was so severe, Travis had to be sedated. The following morning, still in excruciating pain, he was summarily discharged from the hospital with orders and train tickets for his return to the U.S. Naval facilty in Todendorf.
It took two days by train and finally bus, and within a day or so of his return, the walking cast had deteriorated so much that the sole slid around freely below the cast on his leg. Stationed far from the U.S. medical facilitirs, Travis didn't learn until October, when a follow-up xray revealed he'd been using a cane to get around with a non-union medial malleolus (the swollen bump on the inner side of the ankle joint), that had never knit properly, and was finally flown Stateside to Chelsea Naval Hospital, immediately aacross the Mystic River from Boston, Massachusetts, for reconstructive surgery. That painful bone graft operation successfully restructured the ankle bone, but did nothing to restore the soft tissue damage incurred by walking around on a broken ankle for three months.
Travis obviously survived, but that wreck marked the end of his brief career as Die Twistsensation aus USA, and as you'll see on the following page, the Five Beats carried on...