History of the 81st Field Hospital, Page 8

This is the eighth 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 8]

…help with the Russian patients was a welcome addition. Our patients came from various DP Centers and were returned to their points of origin after treatment and care.

A 200-bed hospital was made ready for use. Our patients were almost exclusively Displaced Persons with the exception of a comparatively few GI’s who were admitted for injuries received in accidents and other ways; however, many more soldiers and DP’s were treated by our dispensary. As a matter of fact, our Receiving Office looked like a waiting list in a free clinic.

Extensive surgery was performed in our modern operating room. Sometimes we averaged four and five operations a day, working far into the night. Several Russian DP’s were brought to us as a result of attempting to kill fish and celebrating May Day with hand grenades, and had it not been for the skill and hard work of our surgeon and his able assistants, they would most likely have expired. The operating staff worked hard for three and a half continuous hours repairing a shattered body of one case.

May 8th news of the termination of hostilities in Europe. Everyone was very happy that half our mission had been accomplished and with renewed vigor turned back to their task of seeing the war through.

Unit A Joins Unit C at Heilbronn

On 12 May Unit A moved from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to join Unit C at Heilbronn. The work had been too heavy for one unit and the addition of a second was a great help.

With two units working together at Heilbronn, the work load was considerably eased. Two surgical services were maintained. The patients continued to be displaced persons from the same sources and the census was usually close to 200 patients. The dispensary treated many American GI’s daily.

On 9 June the hospital was turned over to a German medical staff by Unit A. Unit C had moved out several days earlier.

Unit B Moves to Allach

Meanwhile Unit B at Bad Mergentheim had received orders on 31 April to  move to Heidenheim but this was changed to Dachau before the move had been effected. While enroute to Dachau, orders were again changed and the new destination was Allach. The unit arrived at Allach which is 8 miles from Dachau on 4th May. The Allach camp was very similar to other extermination camps and there were 9400 inmates still present when the unit arrived.

Nearly all were suffering from typhus, tuberculosis, malnutrition, various skin diseases, and probably many allied diseases. Most of the prisoners, both men and women, were German, Hungarian and Polish Jews, brought there for the sole purpose of extermination at Dachau’s gas chamber and crematorium. Many of them never lived to be sent to Dachau. Starvation, disease and mistreatment took their toll before it was their turn to feed the fiery furnaces of the crematorium.

[Continue to Page 9]

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]

History of the 81st Field Hospital, Page 6

This is the sixth 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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[Page 6]

Unit A officially closed operation of its DP hospital at 2400 27 April when 33 patients were sent to Unit C which had left Bad Mergontheim and established a DP hospital at Heilbronn, Germany. Six other patients were discharged to duty.

Transfer of patients to Unit C was accomplished by six ambulances and one truck, pooling vehicles of the entire 81st.

All our equipment was packed and such things as tentage, tent poles, stoves, latrine equipment and other essential things which obviously would have to be part of any advance party were loaded on our van. In this way we could move at a moment’s notice by loading the equipment, and an advance party could move out immediately with the van which already had been loaded. It was found advisable to keep one night ward man on duty for each ward as a protection for equipment stored there.

When our function as a hospital at Weinsburg had ceased and with Unit C nearby in Heilbronn, it was agreed to have our reports and mail sent to Unit C at night and have them deliver both ours and their reports by their courier. Also any information or mail could be picked up by Unit C courier and delivered to us the following morning when he returned from headquarters. In this way, drivers, vehicles and gas could be conserved.

Unit C Move to Bad Mergentheim

Unit C departed from Dieberg for Bad Mergentheim and set up tents one-half mile east of the city. Personnel, mess, and supply tents were set up and we then awaited orders which did not come until we had been there almost a week. No hospital had been set up and no patients treated.

Unit B Moves to Bad Mergentheim

Advance party of Unit B left Hammelburg 19 April for Bad Mergentheim, south of Wurzburg. The remainder of the unit followed Saturday, 21 April, leaving five enlisted men and one officer in charge of Camp Hammelburg area until arrival of the Third Army. Bad Mergentheim was found to be a health resort town with fine sanitoriums and hotels. The unit moved into a previous sanitorium recently used for German soldiers. Taking over management of this hotel, Unit B permitted the staff of 14 girls (12 German and 2 Russian) and one civilian man to remain and work for their keep in the kitchen, dining room, laundry, etc. This staff efficiently operated the establishment without cost, being extremely grateful for a place to live and good food to eat.

On 29 April, we received our first patients — 9 displaced persons of various nationalities — from the 93d Evac Hospital and set up a 20-bed ward on the third floor. The following day orders came to dispose of them and we did so by transfer to Unit A.

From then on the unit was officially “at rest” awaiting further orders. Daily we played host to weary ambulance drivers, transporting patients (displaced persons and liberated PWX’s) from one hospital unit to another, in a vain effort to dispose of them. It became quite evident that the “PWX” and “Displaced Persons” hospital program of the army was in the throws of birth pains. With no set program yet established, there was much confusion, duplication and ineptitude. Patients were getting a merry-go-round, being shunted from one hospital to another, with whatever medical treatment they received hardly enough to compensate for the arduors and risks of the constant travelling.

On to Page 7

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.

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.

Wordy Wednesday: Remembrance Day/Veterans Day Memories of My Dad

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My Dad

My father passed away when I was young. He served in both WWII and the Korean War as a doctor in the Army Reserves. I didn’t get to hear many stories from him personally, and I continue to be amazed by what I find through my research.

Earlier this year, while searching for my surname online, I discovered the book The World of Surgery 1945-1985 — Memoirs of One Participant by James D. Hardy had several mentions of my dad’s name in it. I was even more surprised to learn that the book was in the stacks of the University of Maryland, College Park, main library (I work on this campus).

dadwxraysA portion of the book covers the author’s time with the Army during World War II and that’s where my dad’s name appears — my dad was the author’s unit commander at Camp Lee Regional Hospital (p. 85). I was delighted to find passages mentioning my dad, such as:

“7 Apr 45. Miraculously, we were ready today to recieve flocks of patients. Headquarters  (Lt. Hurand), registrar (Lt. Elliott), and Maj. Corley have done a bang-up job…” (p. 98).

And this amazing excerpt:

“11 Jul 45. Lt. Col. Banks, CO, was wounded seriously… by a bullet accidentally discharged by a Luger being cleaned some distance away. Struck and dazed while sitting on his bunk, he staggered out of his tent calling for Major Corley. The bullet itself had passed through the tent wall and lodged in Corley’s bedroll.” (p. 110).

My father was on the medical team that helped to treat surviving concentration camp prisoners from Dachau and surrounding locations after the Germans surrendered in the spring of 1945. I have a copy of “The History of the 81st Field Hospital,” which spares no detail in describing some of the horrors witnessed there.

Dad also served in a M*A*S*H unit in Korea. I have fond memories of watching the TV show of the same name while sitting on his lap when I was about five years old. He absolutely loved that show.

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Dad in his high school R.O.T.C. days.

After Dad retired from the Army (rank: Lieutenant Colonel), he went on to become chief of radiology at Kimbrough Army Hospital at Fort Meade, Md.

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James D. Hardy, The World of Surgery 1945-1985 — Memoirs of One Participant, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986.