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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