This is the fifth in a series of posts in which I’m transcribing a document that belonged to my father titled “History of the 81st Field Hospital.” It details the hospital’s preparations in the U.S. before deployment and operations in Germany during WWII. This field hospital eventually reached German concentration camp survivors.
We found all our buildings dirty with personal belongings left behind by the former occupants. Within 24 hours, and with the help of DP labor, we had all our facilities in working order and ready for operation. We found it more convenient and practical to secure our rations, water and gasoline through local distribution points. Our supplies (Medical and General) and also all hospital laundry were taken care of by our own headquarters.
It was found by the officer in charge of the blood unit servicing our platoon to be impractical for them to deliver blood each morning as is customary to field hospitals operating under normal conditions. It was agreed that whenever the need for blood should arise we could obtain some, and also keep enough blood on hand for our anticipated needs. It was further agreed that we should return all unused blood three days before expiration date and exchange it for fresh blood. We were serviced by a blood dispensing unit presently attached to the 132d Evac Hospital at Neckarsulm, 10 miles from our location.
Due to the difficulty of obtaining large size x-ray film from Medical Depots, we experimented with captured German x-ray film. We worked in close liaison with the French dispensary located in the DP Center. We agreed that all DP patients must first pass through the French dispensary. If they required hospitalization or further dispensary treatment which could not be obtained at the French dispensary for lack of proper equipment and supplies, they were then admitted to our hospital, and if the patient was a member of the DP Center at Weinsburg, they they passed through the French dispensary also.
We received patients from the 93d, 95th and 132d Evac Hospitals as well as from the Weinsburg DP Camp. Our capacity was 100-beds but could have been expanded to 150-beds if necessary. We had our own electricity throughout the entire area generated by our own generators. Also telephone communication was established from the administrative building to the various wards through field phones. Aside from the water we got each day, all other water was obtained through the town water supply which was very irregular. However, ample water was obtained for hospital use and also for the washing machine, which was used for all personnel laundry. Our mess facilities were in a tent and we had three latrines in the field to supplement the ones in our living quarters and hospital buildings. This was done to combat the irregular water supply necessary for proper sanitary methods in maintaining building latrines.
We didn’t have much captured material along medical lines to use in the hospital, but made the maximum use of desks, lamps, chairs, typewriters and other office equipment. The dispensary handled emergency cases in addition to our personnel. The Dental Clinic did a lot of emergency work from the DP Center. We had a visitor in the person of Lt Col Elder who was Chief Sanitary Inspector in charge of DP Centers for the Seventh Army.
We used to the maximum all the DP labor here for miscellaneous duties in wards, washing, general labor and maintenance work. This proved very satisfactory and also helped carry the load as far as our mess was concerned. 90 patients passed through the hospital while Unit A was at Weinsburg.