This is the fourth 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.
At this point we would like to note the immense help to our water problem when an engineer company attached to us a driver and 750-gallon water truck. Our three water trailers, one per unit, was far inadequate for our needs. The large water truck solved our problem very satisfactorily.
A few days after Unit B moved on to Hammelburg, Germany, to set up separately, Unit A departed for Weinsburg, Germany.
Unit B Moves to Hammelburg
Four days prior to our arrival, American infantry and tanks had liberated the area and the Germans had fled, taking with them several hundred American prisoners. Our mission was to set up a 2,000-bed hospital for displaced persons.
We had available an administration building, two hospital ward buildings, a large modern apartment building and two smaller ones, a stucco house, and a warehouse. This constituted the hospital compound but there were a great many other buildings and facilities in the surrounding area, the sum total of which had recently housed a large German military officer corps and 10,000 prisoners.
At the time we arrived the buildings were still occupied by German civilians and prisoners. We quickly evacuated the civilians who attempted to take everything but the walls with them. One-hundred German civilians from the town of Hammelburg were utilized for several days to aid in the cleaning of the looted, ransacked buildings. A detail of 15 MP’s arrived to guard us against an expected SS attack. These MP’s were later replaced by a battery of MP’s who took over policing the entire area.
Some of the buildings adjoining the hospital compound which had previously housed the German officers were very lavishly appointed and recreation facilities were luxurious. Much material which they had gathered by looting allied countries were left behind.
Our mess was overloaded with guests, including the British officers who ran the prison compound.
Work was completed for the handling of 112 patients and the quartering of all personnel of the 81st Field Hospital. Near the end of our stay, orders were received to increase our bed capacity first to 150 and then to 500, but this work was shortly interrupted by the news that the Third Army was to take over the area. We moved out without ever having officially admitted a single patient.
Unit A Moves to Weinsburg
When our unit arrived a Weinsburg, we found at our disposal for living quarters five private homes, procured by our advance party through the local AMG. Three houses were utilized for enlisted personnel, one house for officers and one for nurses. We also secured through the AMG three buildings for our hospital. These buildings were located in the DP Center which was adjacent to our hospital. The entire area was part of a German prison camp for allied officers. These had been moved out only a few days before we arrived.