History of the 81st Field Hospital, Page 2

This is the second 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.

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Registry No WD 84

HISTORY OF THE 81ST FIELD HOSPITAL

Organization enroute to the European Theater of Operations on the first of the year 1945. It was a rough lengthy voyage with subs trailing the convoy a good part of the trip. On the 7th of January we entered the English Channel, arrived at Southampton and received orders to proceed to the French port of Le Havre. Other units aboard ship were ordered to disembark at Le Havre, but port authorities had no orders for our unit this date. We headed back across the Channel to England and lay at anchor outside Southampton. Rumors persisted that a sub pack was operating near port waters. Upon sealed orders, the ship lifted anchor and continued the voyage back to the Atlantic mouth of the Channel and around the western coast of England. On the 11th of January the ship put in temporarily at Wilford Haven, Wales, due to increased submarine menace. We attempted to leave harbor during the night, but were forced back by U-boats. Sub activity and heavy depth charges were heard during the night. At noon the following day, with strong corvette and destroyer escort, the Vollendam made a run for it, travelling at full speed through the Irish Sea, entering the Firth of Clyde, and docked at Gourock, Scotland, on the 13th of January.

The next day the unit arrived at its new station, Oulton Park Camp, Cheshire, England, and began operations under administrative jurisdiction of Headquarters, XV Army. Medical personnel and technicians were assigned on detached service to the 68th, 109th, 129th and 137th General Hospitals. From the period of 6 February to 4 March, the assigned personnel remained on detached service. Good Conduct Medals were awarded qualified enlisted personnel under GO #1, 81st Field Hospital, dated 3 February 1945.

In these hospitals, the men received their first beneficial training. Here they had contact with actual battle casualties and actually worked at their jobs as they have to under own operations.

On the 15th of March, vehicles loaned to the unit, tractors, trailers, 6×6’s and vans, were loaded and departed for the continent. During the next few days, TE equipment was loaded and on 21 March the 81st Field Hospital departed Oulton Park Camp, Cheshire, England, for a staging area in Southern England. Personnel travelled eight hours by train, arriving at Salisbury, England, then moving by truck to Staging Area C-5.

A convoy of borrowed vehicles, with equipment, departed 23 March for transportation on LCT across the Channel. The remainder of the personnel moved to port the following day and boarded the Sobieski, a Polish steamer, which transported the unit across the Channel to Le Havre.

By rail, via Paris, the unit travelled to Luneville, France, near the German border. Arriving in the middle of the night, we were billeted with the 51st Station Hospital.

In Germany

Departing Luneville by truck the next morning (27 March), the unit headed for Mannheim, Germany. We arrived within seven kilometers of Mannheim before we learned that orders had been misinterpreted and we were to proceed to Marsheim rather than Mannheim. Mannheim at this time remained in German hands. At 0400, just before dawn, we found the 27th Evac Hospital and billeted in their area.

We selected a bivouac site about 1-mile north of 127th Evac Hospital, which was also in that area. Our equipment convoy, which had divided at C-5, arrived in tact. Each of the three platoons set up completely, including individual messes.

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Military Monday: The 81st Field Hospital (WWII)

My dad posing for a picture with concentration camp buildings in the distance.

This is the first in a series of posts in which I’m going to transcribe 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. The document I have was typed using a typewriter. I’m unaware of any other copies in circulation (at least among the public) besides those in the possession of my family.

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Registry No. MD 84

HISTORY OF THE 81ST FIELD HOSPITAL

The 81st Field Hospital was activated at Camp Ellis, Illinois, on 21 September 1944. Initial strength of unit was 186 enlisted men assigned from Medical Training Regiment, Medical Group, Camp Ellis, and 5 officers, under the command of Major Gerald F Banks.

Administration of the unit began functioning and all eligible men were granted POM furloughs effective immediately. Equipment began to arrive and supply tent was put up for storage.

During the first two weeks of activation, several medical officers joined the organization and a training program to begin 9 October was drawn up by headquarters. An inspection by the Sixth Service Command Adjutant General to determine if the unit had sufficient qualified men to fill the T/O was adjudged satsifactory.

Not apparent in the inspection, but noticeable throughout our preparatory stages was the low morale due to the fact that most of the strength had been transferred from other branches of services and had little desire to become medical personnel. There was no groundwork for pride of service in this particular setup where large groups of men had been pushed around for weeks and months, being transferred from one company to another, poorly fed and poorly housed in the chaos and confusion of hasty activation of the Medical Training Regiment, never knowing in what barracks they might sleep tomorrow.

The medical training program began upon return of all personnel from furlough. The enlisted men in general felt then and feel even stronger now that they derived little benefit from training classes. Monotonous repetitious lectures were conductive to sleep and even men with sincere desire to learn found themselves dozing and their thoughts taking flight.

More practical was the field training. Several night problems gave the men their first familiarity with actual tent-pitching. In a two-day bivouac, a model 100-bed hospital unit was set-up and run staged.

An organizational change was made on 26 October, breaking the unit down into a three-platoon set-up. On the 8th of November, the unit left for Camp Lee, Virginia, via troop train. Here the organization moved out to a bivouac area at Swift Creek, 25-miles from Camp Lee, and set up a fully equipped hospital ready for operation. Three moves of station during the week’s bivouac showed satisfactory progress in the men’s field ability.

Packing and crating for port movement, and classes on basic and medical subjects continued until the 27th of November when 105 enlisted men began parallel training at Regional Hospital, Camp Lee. Here, in the next two weeks, most of the men made their first actual contact with a hospital.

On 16 December the unit departed for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where it completed final training for overseas movement. On 24 December we arrived at New York POE, boarded troop transport HMT Vollendam and were quartered aboard ship, awaiting sailing orders.

At dawn on the 26th of December, the transport hoisted anchor and sailed from New York.

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On to Page 2.

Military Monday: Billy Hayes

I recently discovered that I have another relative buried at Arlington National Cemetery. My great-uncle Billy G. Hayes was interred there in 2002. He served in the Army. I’m still trying to flesh out the details of his service. A note on his FindaGrave record reads “CSM US ARMY; WORLD WAR II; KOREA; VIETNAM.” CSM apparently stands for Command Sergeant Major. On my next trip to Arlington, I plan to seek out his grave. My father and my maternal grandparents are all buried at Arlington as well.

In 2009, Billy’s brother, my great-uncle Ben Hayes, mentioned to me that he had purchased a brick in Billy’s honor for a war memorial in Elizabethton, Tennessee, where they grew up. Ben drove my sister and I by the memorial at the time, though we didn’t get a chance to see the brick itself.

Tombstone Tuesday: Major Thomas Seward

This stone is another that can be found in Copps Hill Burying Ground in the North End of Boston, Mass. It reads:

Reader
Beneath this Stone is deposited
the Remains of
MAJOR THOMAS SEWARD
who gallantly fought
in our late revolutionary War
and through
its various scenes behaved
with Patriotic fortitude
& died in the calms
of domestic felicity as becomes
a Universal-Christian
Novr. 27th 1800 AEtat 60
The lovely turf where silence lays her head
The mound where pity sighs for hond. dead*
Such is the grief where sorrow now doth sigh
To learn to live is but to learn to die

Note the use of ‘f’ in place of ‘s’ in words like deposited and domestic. AEtat is of Latin derivation and means aged.

“Universal-Christian” is a term I haven’t seen before. A quick web search seemed to relate it to Methodism, but don’t quote me on that.

*I had to look up the words to complete this verse since I had trouble reading it at this point. I found the words here.

New Find, New Location to Search

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

Not too long ago, I requested my paternal grandfather’s military service record from NARA. This may seem silly to those who know where I live and work, but I’m an impatient soul and wasn’t willing to wait for records that I wouldn’t have had the time to search out myself for months and months.

My grandfather served during the Spanish-American War in the Iowa Infantry. The CD containing his records arrived from College Park today and revealed new details about my grandfather as a young man.

The image above is from my grandfather’s military service record (his name has been cropped out for privacy/security purposes). Several things are revealed here.  I knew my grandfather was a physician later in his life, but this card shows that he was working in insurance when he was 24.

This card also gives his residence as Grinnell, Iowa, in 1898. The name of this town is new to me and apparently his father also lived there at the time. In 1890, they were living in Morning Sun, Iowa, about 120 miles away. By the 1900 census, my grandfather is in Philadelphia (at medical school) and my great-grandparents also had moved to still another town in Iowa.

So now I have a new area in which to search for records of my Corley ancestors out in the Midwest. It looks like the Grinnell Public Library will be a good place to start.

Other details revealed elsewhere in the service record include the fact that my grandfather spent a lot of time working in the recruitment office. He eventually was promoted to the rank of corporal. One discrepancy I noticed is that his place of birth is not what I have found documented elsewhere.

Next steps include resolving that birthplace discrepancy and accessing the pension application my eventually widowed grandmother filed. Interestingly enough, it was filed under the Civil War pension system.

A Real Treasure Chest for Treasure Chest Thursday

The Bartlett Pear Inn at 28 South Harrison Street in Easton, Md., as it looks today. The building dates back to 1790.

Okay, so it’s not mine, nor do I have a photo of it, but I wanted to expand on a part of the Hambleton House story that involves an actual treasure chest! As I mentioned in my blog post about the Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton (formerly the Hambleton House), a small chest was discovered under one of the staircases* in the home after the passing of Nannie Hambleton, the last of the Hambletons to occupy the building. Nannie Hambleton passed away in 1962, 117 years after her father purchased the property.

*The innkeeper took me on a tour of the Bartlett Pear Inn when I started working on this project and there are several staircases in the building under which the chest may have been kept. There’s even a staircase to nowhere that was partially walled off during one of the building’s many renovations. You can still see part of it by looking in one of the closets off the main staircase.

The chest that was discovered once belonged to her great-uncle, War of 1812 Purser Samuel Hambleton (not to be confused with Col. Samuel Hambleton (Nannie’s father) or Samuel Hambleton III (her brother)).

The elder Samuel Hambleton made a name for himself at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 by crafting a banner that read “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” The chest found under the staircase at 28 South Harrison Street in Easton contained his personal papers and his medal for bravery.

Purser Hambleton later built Perry Cabin in St. Michael’s, Md., which is also now an inn. Perry Cabin is named after Commodore Oliver H. Perry, with whom Hambleton served during the Battle of Lake Erie.

Memorial Monday: Ancestors Who Served

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

In honor of Memorial Day, here’s a quick run-down of my military ancestors:

My dad — US Army Reserves; Korean War, WWII (pictured left with his brother, Edmund, who served in the Navy)

Grandpa Wild — U.S. Army

Grandpa Corley — Iowa Infantry; Spanish-American War

Obediah Basham (my 4Ggrandfather) — Revolutionary War (I haven’t submitted a DAR application yet because I’m still collecting the necessary documentation, but others have)

I’m betting that I also had ancestors on one or both sides of the Civil War, but I haven’t collected/found proof of this yet.