Medical Detachment


“Medics!  Medics!  Joe just got hit by one of snipers.”  That was the call that would bring the men with the red crosses all over them, right up into the thickest part of the fighting.  The razzing they used to take about the targets painted on their helmets wasn’t funny now.  When the aid men started after a patient – like Tec  5 Edward Sell, who was fatally wounded by a sniper while attending a wounded B Company man – they knew they were subjecting themselves to the ethics of the Germans.  To rely on those ethics didn’t always leave the men with complete satisfaction, particularly after Pfc Leo Downing was machine-gunned one afternoon while attending the wounded.  There were other cases, too.  Pfc Walter S. Wally, who had joined the unit only a few days earlier, was killed in Leipzig by a sniper.  This sniper let the rest of the company go past and then opened up on the unarmed Medics.  In addition, Pvt Michael George, Tec 5 Stanley Karas, Tec 4 Robert L. Shew, Pfcs Taras and Modney, and Pvt Phillip F. Roy, all were seriously wounded.  All the Company aid men – too many to name them all here – put their duty to their fellow soldiers above their own personal safety.  It is no wonder that many of these men are wearing the Silver or Bronze Star Medal for their heroic actions. 

The litter bearers, too, came in for their share of hard work.  Typical of these were the litter bearers of the 3rd Battalion Section, under the leadership of Lt Joseph Ginsberg, who often worked 48-hour shifts or longer.  At times, litter squads were brought forward from Collecting Company B to relieve the exhausted foursomes.  Collecting Co B, although not part of the Regiment, was always in close support of any movements.  We felt them an essential part of it and can rightfully give them much credit for their part in the chain of evacuation. 

Even during periods of comparative relaxation, something new always happened.  For example, on April 13 (it was Friday, too), 2nd Battalion Aid Station moved into a newly occupied town to set up its aid station in the bar room of a large tavern.  An hour after moving in, enemy aircraft were heard overhead, and every .50-caliber opened fire.  One bullet ricocheted; it struck a man from 2nd Battalion Headquarters Company.  With the first call for Medics,  Tec 4 Alvin Bourgeois grabbed his aid kits and took off on a run to render first aid.  A witness to the accident came running into the aid station, and in an excited voice, said, “He’s bleeding like hell – blood’s all over the place!”  That was warning enough, so two technicians prepared the plasma.  When Sgt Bourgeois reached the casualty, he discovered that the man had been carrying two bottles of red wine.  The ricochet had shattered them to bits.  With the red wine dripping, the man had thought he was hit and had called for help.  After a thorough examination, he wasn’t even scratched! 

On the day after the 2nd Battalion entered Leipzig, Asst Surgeon  Lt C.W. Brown was informed that a hospital containing U.S. and Allied PWs was located in the city.  Accompanied by Chaplain Eichler and S Sgt Lesley Findley, he took off in a jeep to the hospital, which was two miles beyond the farthest point of advance.  En route to the hospital, he was detained by a roadblock made of trolley cars jammed across the road and by four German soldiers, whom he took prisoner.  He and his driver were the first invading U.S. soldiers to enter the hospital.  In so doing, they liberated 101 American and British soldiers and 300 soldiers of other Allied countries. 

The hospital was in very poor condition.  The ambulatory patients were crowded in the second floor, while the bed patients were kept in the cellar, supposedly as a precautionary measure against air attacks.  The cellar was damp and cold; that musty odor, signifying poor ventilation, was in evidence.  Many of the patients were lying on the floor.  In the meantime, the men of the aid station, under the supervision of Capt Robert F. Tinkham, 2nd Battalion Surgeon, were gathering a large box of cigars, cigarettes, matches, candy, wine, etc., for the liberated patients, who were overjoyed at receiving a can of C or a box of K rations.  This was proof of their dire need of food.  To see the happiness that reflected in their faces made one know that something great had been accomplished that day. 

The course of events of 1st Battalion Aid Station was as routine as those of any other aid station.  The usual casualties, movements, tiredness, and strange-but-welcome billets were the overall picture of any similar group.  However, the unusual is bound to pop up, occasionally humorous, serious, or trivial.  Such an event occurred in Landwehrhagen, Germany.  For most of the men, it was their first experience in combat.  The American casualties had been light, but the Jerries had suffered heavy losses from the action.  The wounded Krauts came in so fast that the ambulances couldn’t evacuate them quickly enough.  After the sixth trip, the ambulance was held up in Kassel at 2 o’clock in the morning.  With the transportation gone, the remaining Jerry wounded had to bed down with the exhausted aid station group.  As Cpl Cal Weiner remarked, “The feeling of sleeping with Jerries by your side wasn’t pleasant,” but the situation didn’t seen unusual. 

The Battalion Aid is only as good as its surgeon.  “He was the first up front to supervise and treat the wounded; there wasn’t a thing we wouldn’t do for him.”  That was the compliment paid to Capt Charles C. Dahlberg, 1st Battalion Surgeon, by the men of his section.  That they meant it was proved by Tec 3 John J. Salazar, who made three trips, under intense enemy small-arms fire, in one day between the aid station and Capt Dahlberg, who was in a forward position.  His jeep driver, Pfc Vernal Matheney, evacuated patients from minefields and battlegrounds day and night.  Every Technician, Company aid man, and litter bearer did his part to make the medical support in the 1st Battalion the best that was possible. 

Tec 4 James Laverty described an exciting day in the 3rd Battalion Section.  “The order to ‘roll out’ came early on the 8th of April.  Another day of footslogging, most of us thought, as the usual preparations were made for the grinding march ahead.  Soon after hitting the road, the word was passed down that the day’s objective was to establish a new bridge over the Werra River, now in our line of march.  The day started bright and sunny, but upon approaching the site of the bridge, we found it obscured by a thick fog.  The events that followed that day soon proved the value of this artificial fog, for upon reaching the far shore, we were faced by towering cliffs from which Kraut snipers and prepared gun positions could have had a field day.  Our objective reached, together with the uneventful crossing, gave us an uneasy feeling.  Capt Frank B. Hill, 3rd Battalion Surgeon, soon returned from an inspection of the building assigned for an aid station and gave crisp orders to get the equipment in.  While in this process, the inevitable occurred.  While ascending the steep concrete stairs, which spiraled up to our aid station, Tec 3 Frank Bozelka and Tec 5 Harry Watkins, carrying up some of the heavier equipment, gave vent to a warning that was hardly needed.  Even though a dud, the first shell gave its own traditional screeching warning.  Many mumbled a prayer of thanks under their breath.  Thereafter, business was conducted on the double. 

“As the next incoming shells were very much alive, all were ordered to safety – some in the cellar and some lying flat behind the house.  The haven of safety wasn’t for long, however.  The call for litter bearers was soon passed up, and No. 1 litter squad picked its way on the double toward the call of distress.  It wasn’t long before the call was repeated, this time answered by squad No. 2.   Meanwhile, tension mounted, as one of the Heinie shells found the aid station and took off our front porch with one loud explosion.  The lull that followed enabled us to shuttle the first two casualties across the river to a rear echelon aid station and safety.  The Jerries were bent on continuing their work on the aid station.  It was now getting too hot for comfort in this building, so another site was quickly chosen.  The station was moved in with just enough first-aid equipment for emergency treatment.  While sweating it out here, the relieving cry came of, ‘Our TDs (Tank Destroyers) and tanks are coming.  Watch those so-and-so Krauts run now.’” 

The outstanding achievements of the Detachment are due in part to the unceasing vigilance and guidance of the Commanding Officer, Major Vernon Hutton.  Due to the instruction program and close checks initiated by him, this Regiment suffered fewer trench foot and frostbite casualties than any other.  With the exception of the area in Belgium, which had been previously occupied by other troops and left in a deplorably unsanitary condition, mess inspections kept the amount of GIs (anxiety diarrhea, he called it) at an absolute minimum.  The personal cleanliness of the troops of this Regiment is a great compliment to the training and personal pride of each soldier.  Regular physicals and immunizations were conducted whenever the situation permitted, to ensure that each man was in the best possible health.  The Medical and Administrative work was often in great volume, but has been handled with efficiency and speed.  The Detachment is proud of its record.