Just in Time for Memorial Day: Dad’s Army Trunks

Last weekend, I drove down to Richmond, Va., to retrieve two trunks that once belonged to my dad when he was an officer in the Army Reserves. My half-brother had them and gave me one to keep for myself and one to give to my sister. They are really pretty awesome connections to my dad’s military past. They are stamped with the same ID number that was printed on his dog tags.

The smaller of the two trunks.

The smaller of the two trunks.

IMG_0251

The top of the larger trunk.

The trunks can nest together and are part of a larger set of 7(!) that has been split up among family members. Apparently, Dad traveled with all seven at the same time while stationed around the world. I never want to hear anyone complain again about how much I pack for a trip. I apparently get my preparedness from my dad.

Note: I’m assuming the blue line on the trunks indicates something — either rank or branch of service. Anyone know?

Update from The Hill

Just a quick post to share a link to another blog: Archaeology in Annapolis by the team of students from the University of Maryland who spent three weeks on an archaeological dig at the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” in Easton’s The Hill neighborhood. They found some great stuff!

Archaeological Dig on The Hill in Easton

Photos below are from the archaeological dig going on at the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” in The Hill area of Easton, Md. (323 South Street). Visitors are welcome to stop by this upcoming week, Monday thru Friday, between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., to observe the dig.

The house (built c. 1880) belonged to relatives of William Gardner, a Buffalo Soldier. The archaeological dig is part of a process to help save the house and also is part of a wider investigation of the history of the entire neighborhood.

(click on the photos below for larger versions)

UMD students examine a button they found during the excavation.

Excavating in the backyard of the house.

Combing through the excavated rubble and dirt.

Excavating an area thought to be part of an alley that once separated the house from another home next door that has since been demolished. The students have found coins, marbles and pieces of metals and plastic so far.

Photos of the house itself:

323 South Street

The rear of the house.

Portion of the side porch. Many of the windows and doors are gone and covered with plywood painted to resemble the real thing so the home looks nicer.

View of a hole in the ceiling of the front porch reveals older trim and paint.

Layers of siding reveal themselves.

Fearless Females: How Did They Meet?

This is my first post for the Fearless Females blogging prompts during the month of March. Thanks to Lisa Alzo for putting together this list!

Today’s prompt asks: “How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?”

Well, I didn’t get a chance to document their marriage, but the story I’ve heard about how my maternal grandparents goes like this:

My grandmother was working as an office manager at the Pentagon when she and the other office girls received a file about the new set of officers who were going to be transferred to their office. They were browsing through the photos that accompanied each officer’s file when my grandma stopped flipping through the photos and pointed at one in particular.

“That one,” she said. And the rest is history. She married that officer, who also was an accountant.

I forget who told me this story — it must have been one of my aunts. I love this story though. My grandma could come across as mild-mannered, but she was a firecracker too. I think this story demonstrates that well.

History of the 81st Field Hospital/276th General Hospital, Page 13

This is the final post in a series in which I’ve transcribed 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. Read from the beginning here.

HISTORY OF THE 276TH GENERAL HOSPITAL

On 18 November 1945 orders were received by the 81st Field Hospital Headquarters (at Crile General Hospital, Cleveland 9, Ohio) to the effect that this unit would be redesignated the 276th General Hospital and that the considerable reorganization involved would take place at the earliest practicable date. However, the official existence of the new unit was not reflected in the morning report until 11 December 1945. On this same date, Major John B Moring was named Commanding Officer of the new organization.

There was relatively little immediate change in the unit. Men eligible for discharge continued to be separated from the service; others, ineligible for discharge but likewise ineligible for overseas service, were to be trfd to other organizations.

60 enlisted men were awarded the Good Conduct Medal pursuant to GO #3, 276th General Hospital, dated 26 December 1945.

The additional personnel authorized by the new T/O were slow in arriving, and by 31 December 1945 there remained in the unit only six officers and fifteen enlisted men eligible for overseas service.

Captain Milton B. Smith was transferred to Crile Gen Hosp on 17 Dec 45 pursuant to 10/292 War Department Washington DC dtd 8 Dec 45, thus transferring the last Medical Officer from the outfit with a surgical background.

History of the 81st Field Hospital, Page 12

This is the twelfth 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. Read from the beginning here.

[Page 12]

Four days later on 18 November 1945, orders dated the 14th were received directing that the 81st Field Hospital be redesignated as the 276th General Hospital and brought up to the revised T/O strength for general hospitals. The considerable reorganization involved was to be effected at the earliest practicable date, and with this change of status the back cover was affixed to the history of the 81st Field Hospital.

Captain Winston C. Hall, MC, was transferred to Crile General Hospital on 4 Nov 45 pursuant to 10/256 War Department Washington DC dtd 26 Oct 45.

[There is one more page in this document.]

History of the 81st Field Hospital, Page 11

This is the eleventh 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. Read from the beginning here.

[Page 11]

Packing and crating was completed ahead of schedule and from last week in July until embarkation date, 9 August, a training program was in effect, consisting of classes and swimming, volleyball and other supervised sports.

Unit Returns to United States

On 9 August, the unit boarded USN Transport General George O Squier, bound for Manila, Philippine Islands. Only detail for the unit was dispensary assignment.

In the wake of continual suspense and excitement, beginning with loosing of the first atomic bomb on Japan, the entry of Russia into the war against Japan, and semi-official reports and rumors of peace, Japan finally surrendered unconditionally on 15 August and there was great jubilation aboard ship.

Even more enthusiastically received was official notification that the ship’s destination was changed and we were bound for the United States, our port, Norfolk, Virginia.

Administrative detail to facilitate possible furloughs, discharges, or other plans for the organization were completed on board ship and we docked at Norfolk on 20 August, proceeding to Camp Patrick Henry for further orders.

Groups were sent to appropriate reception stations from Camp Patrick Henry on 21 August with orders to reassemble as a unit at Camp Sibert, Alabama. Temporary duty was extended for a period of 15-days and the unit began reassembling 12 October. Those eligible for discharge were not returned from reception stations. The remainder of the unit completed assembling 23 October.

Move to Crile General Hospital

In mid-October movement orders were received directing that the 81st Field Hospital proceed to Crile General Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio. Further instructions directed that the remaining nurses and those enlisted men with an ASR Score above 59 be separated from the unit.

On 1 November 1945 the unit entrained at Camp Sibert, Alabama, and proceeded to Cril [sic] General Hospital. The operation had been well-planned and was accomplished with singular smoothness.

Upon arrival at Crile, the personnel of the 81st, with the exception of the Headquarters Section, were assigned to on-the-job training assignments in virtually all departments of the splendid general hospital. The experience of our men, abetted by the genuine consideration manifested by the administrators of Crile General Hospital, rendered the merger of personnel effective and harmonious.

A separate 81st Field Hospital Headquarters was set up by Major Moring and his staff. All administrative matters pertaining to the 81st were handled by this headquarters.

On 14 November 1945, Major Moring received orders transferring him to Wakeman General Hospital, Camp Atterbury, Indiana. Captain Naif L Simon, next ranking officer in the unit, assumed command 20 November 1945. However, the following day, Major Moring’s orders were rescinded and he resumed command of the 81st.

[Continue to Page 12]

History of the 81st Field Hospital, Page 10

This is the tenth 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. Read from the beginning here.

[Page 10]

A 250-bed hospital was set up and a typhus immunization team and insect extermination team sent through Allach Camp. In a period of 24-hours, 9400 typhus immunization were given. However, before any official admissions to the hospital were made, orders came to move to another site 15-miles away.

Unit B Moves to Goggingen

The contemplated site however proved unsatisfactory for a hospital and Seventh Army permission was grated for the unit to select its own site. A German military hospital in Goggingen, formerly a Catholic school and nun’s cloister, was selected. Fifty of the 211 German patients were evacuated immediately and the rest as soon as  they were transportable. A 100-bed hospital was set up to admit American GI’s from the Munich-Augsburg sector.

The average census was 80-bed patients, but a high of 92 was recorded. Many patients were treated in the dispensary. Unit B’s stay at this location was the only time that American GI’s were admitted as bed patients to the 81st Field Hospital during its stay in the ETO.

On 5 June, orders were received to evacuate all patients to other US Army hospitals in the region and close the hospital.

Headquarters Unit

After the units separated at Dieberg, Headquarters Unit made a number of moves setting up at points as nearly as possible equi-distant from the various units and at the same time in close proximity to Army Headquarters. This was thought more effective than setting up routinely adjacent to or with any of the operating hospital units.

All Units Move to France

On 11 June 1945 unit departed Schwetzinger, Germany, via train for staging area at St Victoret, France. After a three-day trip by converted boxcar, the unit arrived at the staging area, one of the first to reach the rocky dust-swept bowl off the Mediterranean Coast. The men were quartered in pyramidical tents while the nurses remained in Marseille where they were billeted with the 235th General Hospital.

For several weeks, the unit was at rest. During the month of June organizational strength remained static, despite changes, with a total of seven enlisted men lost and seven gained; two officers lost, two gained, and two nurses lost and gained.

Notable event during July was the accidental shooting and woulding [sic] of Lt Col Banks, Commanding Officer, resulting in his hospitalization. On 26 July, Major John B. Moring assumed command of the 81st Field Hospital and Lt Col Banks was released and transferred the following day. Lts Anne Y Williams and Betty J Snead were promoted to 1st Lt. In the last week of July, unit began packing and crating of equipment for overseas shipment. Except for addition of a Red Cross worker, no strength changes occurred, the unit gaining 12 enlisted men for an equal number lost, and five officers for five transferred out.

[Read Page 11 here.]

History of the 81st Field Hospital, Page 9

This post contains details some may consider graphic.

This is the ninth 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. Read from the beginning here.

[Page 9]

There was no building fit to establish a hospital in, much less to live in. Nor was the muddy, soggy terrain suitable for pitching tents. The unit had to scout around for a place to set up.

Several members of the unit went over to Dachau and obtained entrance to the notorious concentration camp. It was a place of unbelievable horror and a sight that no one can forget. Guided by one of the prisoners, we visited the gas chamber where prisoners marked for extermination were sent. Outside the building was a huge pile of naked dead bodies, grotesquely sprawled one upon the other. The bodies were scrawny, emaciated, like wax dummies of skeletons. Slightly to one side lay a number of SS troopers beaten to death in sadistic revenge by the liberated prisoners. A stench of death hung in the air. It was all macabrely unreal.

Stepping inside the building, one entered the reception room where incoming victims slated for extermination were told to undress in preparation for showers. Each person was given a bar of soap and a towel. Scarcely suspecting, they were told to enter the adjoining room which was marked “Shower-Bath” and a heavy steel door closed upon them.  There was nothing alarming about the room which was of ordinary size. A number of apparent shower jets protruded from the ceiling. When the 250 victims were crowded into this room and the heavy steel door shut and locked, the “shower” was turned on. In approximately two minutes, the entire 250 would be dead of asphyxiation.

Through a bin-like door that opened from the other side of the room, the bodies were shoveled into the crematorium. Here in a row stood four or five huge furnaces with square openings large enough for one or possibly two bodies to be thrown in. We could still see bones lying in the furnaces. Across the room, through an open door,  we could see the storeroom for bodies awaiting the fiery ovens. It was a most sickening sight. Piled high to the ceiling was another mass of grotesque naked skeleton-like bodies, horribly unreal in death. The stench emanating from the room was overpowering.

According to the inmate, perhaps a million people had been exterminated in Dachau’s gas chamber and crematorium —  the largest percentage being persons brought there solely for the purpose of extermination and never seeing the inside of the prison stockade.

Going out of the crematorium and around the building, we saw another open warehouseroom, loaded with another mass of dead bodies. Here the stench was even greater. The horrors of the camp were indescribable, but among the things we saw was a little garden-like enclosure where high-ranking military prisoners were made to kneel with bowed heads and were shot in the back of the neck, the long rows of kennels where huge-ferocious dogs were kept and set upon living prisoners hung just off of the ground, and the string of 50 boxcars on a siding just outside the camp crammed full of dead bodies. There were prisoners just arrived at Dachau who were awaiting entrance into the camp. For eight days they remained crammed inside the boxcars without food, water or sufficient air. A few that managed to break out and attempted to escape were shot and found with legs or arms hanging outside the cars.

It was arranged for the entire unit to visit Dachau and see the horrors of the camp. It was something that every GI should have a chance to see.

[Continue to Page 10]

History of the 81st Field Hospital, Page 7

This is the seventh 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. Read from the beginning here.

[Page 7]

Early Monday morning, 30 April, an advance party of two officers and nine enlisted men left for Kaufburen, Germany, to make contact with the 54th Field Hospital, to which Unit A was to be attached as a fourth platoon to go into combat in support of a division. One officer and an ambulance returned to Weinsburg.

After many difficulties and after travelling 1500 miles, a total of six 2 1/2-ton trucks were secured from 132nd Evac Hospital to move our equipment and personnel. Authority to use these trucks was Seventh Army Advance Surgeon. On the whole, the organic transportation of field hospitals was found inadequate. We had six 6×6 trucks and one 10-ton tractor-trailer over and above the T/O & E and even so, vehicles were still insufficient in number to move the whole hospital at once. However, our excess transportation was used upon many occasions in helping move other field hospitals. In action, it proves most difficult to secure aid from QWC Trucking Companies since the field hospitals move as the line moves and when the line moves, unit with the greatest priority receive the QWC trucks.

On Thursday the advance party moved on from Kaufburen with the 54th Field Hospital Headquarters to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and secured five homes for living quarters. By Sunday evening, after much travail, all equipment and all personnel had been moved from Weinsburg to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Running water, electricity and central heating systems were available at our location. One ward and one squad tent were pitched to store equipment. One squad tent was pitched for mess. While Unit A was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the war ended and the 54th Field Hospital’s need for a fourth platoon no longer existed. No hospital was set up and the move had essentially proved to be nothing but a week’s vacation in the Bavarian Alps. No patients were treated.

Unit C Moves to Heilbrunn

An advance party of three officers and 18 enlisted men left Bad Mergentheim on 24 April. ON 25 April, the main body proceeded to the new area — a modern and very complete German hospital at Heilbrunn, (WS 0462) Germany.

The advance party labored under difficulties as the German occupants were being evacuated — German staff and German military patients under armed guard.

The hospital itself was found to be a very fine building built only a year before Germany went to war, and it’s equipment was complete in every detail. At first there was some difficulty due to lack of electric power, intermittent supply of water, and the fact that some of the facilities were out of order, but this was shortly remedied through assistance of AMG officials.

The problem of help in such a large plant was a big one, but we acquired a staff of German civilians for the kitchen, laundry and general cleaning, at which four Italian displaced persons also proved very useful.

Language difficulties were largely solved through the efforts of certain of our own personnel with the additional aid of a female interpreter, an American citizen, sent to us by the AMG Heilbronn. The arrival of a Russian nurse to [continued on Page 8]