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.
…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.