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.
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.