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The ocean voyage was uneventful, except for the inevitable seasickness.  When England finally presented her coast, everyone was happy at the sight of land after twelve days at sea.  The rail was crowded as the transport steamed into Southampton, and there we had the first glimpse of the strange English trains that were to carry us to our new and temporary installation, near Winchester.

We spent the night on the boat, and early the next morning, debarked and boarded the train.  After several hours traveling, the train halted at a small country station in southern England, where trucks were waiting to carry us into Northington Grange.

We lived in Nissen huts and barracks, training and preparing for combat.  While at the Grange, the technicians were able to acquire valuable firsthand experience by working with casualties flown directly to the 34th General Hospital from the fronts.  Our ambulances also worked with the same hospital.  But on 21 January 1945, all duties ended and preparations for the Channel crossing were begun.

Again there was the chance to see Southampton, where we boarded the LSTs and headed for France.  The Channel was quiet as we sailed all night, and late in the afternoon of 23 January, battered Le Havre, France, was sighted.  The doors of the LST banged open and the men of Company C trudged up the beach, duffle bags dragging in the gravel, to a devastated hotel to await transportation to the interior of France.

The weather was raw with occasional snow flurries, and when the vans arrived, the weather had turned miserably cold.  We rode in the open vehicles approximately six hours and arrived at Forges les Eaux, France, at 0145 on the 24th of January.  A war-scarred casino provided our living quarters, and the time at this little French town was spent in checking equipment and preparing for further moves.

After eight days at Forges les Eaux, we were on the move again, this time in boxcars, known as “forty and eights.”  The weather had improved slightly, and the 24 hours spent in the boxcars were almost enjoyable.  St. Erme, France, was the destination.  We arrived on the morning of 2 February and were billeted in the unused wing of a convent, formerly occupied by the German soldiers.  On 8 February, the order to move was again issued.  The forty and eights were ready once more, this time carrying us through France and into Belgium.  At Pepinster, Belgium, we boarded trucks and rode through Malmedy to the St. Vith area, where we assembled at Montenau, Belgium, on the 9th of February.

While at Montenau, our commanding officer contacted the commander of the 273rd Infantry Regiment and, on 10 February, Company C moved with the Combat Team, which was to be known as “Tryhard.”  Our first stop as part of the Combat Team was Heppenbach, Belgium.  The men of our Regiment were preparing to relieve the men of the 393rd Regiment of the 99th Division, and our station was receiving the first battle casualties.  When the 393rd Regiment had been completely relieved, we followed our 273rd Regiment to Hunningen, Belgium, and during the morning of 12 February, we officially entered combat.

The Regiment hammered the Siegfried Line, measuring the distance in terms of pillboxes taken, and our litter squads were working side by side with the Battalion Aid men, evacuating casualties to the rear.  Our ambulances were constantly running from the front to the Collecting Station and back to the front again.  The men in the station were working 24 hours a day.  The ambulance drivers evacuating from our Company to the clearing Company had a tremendous task – the roads were practically impassable due to the harassing mud.  On 14 February, we lost our first man – an ambulance driver wounded in action by a land mine, while on duty with the 879th Field Artillery.

On the night of 27 February came the call for more litter squads – the 273rd was starting a push.  Our boys went up to the front the same night, and the next morning at 0600, they advanced with the Infantry in the assault on Rescheid and Giescheid, Germany.  About 1000 the same dark and cold morning, an ambulance returned to the Collecting Station bringing news that one of our own men had been killed and the Litter Platoon officer and three other men wounded.  We later learned that the Litter Platoon officer had been leading the squad forward to establish a relay post, and while crawling under enemy machine gun fire, they were caught by an 88 burst.  It was by far the most tragic day the company ever experienced.  The events of that day resulted in five Purple Hearts and four Heroic Achievement Bronze Stars for men participating in the action.

Several days later, the 273rd Regiment completed its mission and moved north to relieve the 110th Regiment of the 28th Division.  We arrived at our new location in a dark pine forest near Schonereiffen, Germany, on 4 March, and immediately started erecting tents in the snow.  We took over the position of Company B of the 28th Division’s Medical Battalion.  After spending four days in the woods, we were on the move again, stopping this time at Oberschombach in the Regimental Assembly Area.  This was a rest period, but our Company maintained a rigorous training and athletic program.  After six days, we moved further into Germany, spending another week at Schlebach while our Regiment was repairing the main supply routes to the Rhine.  Then came Bad Neuenahr and Niederoberweiler.  We departed Niederoberweiler on the night of 27 March, and our convoy crossed the Rhine River at 1955 the same night.  Moving through Bendorf and Coblenz, we passed historic Fort Ehrenbreitstein, taken despite stiff resistance by the 273rd with our ambulances supporting the Regiment throughout the entire battle.

We arrived at Holzappel on the afternoon of the 28th of March.  Several hours earlier, our Commanding Officer, accompanied by the Liaison Sergent, made a reconnaissance and, due to delayed information, drove into Holzappel while the town was still in enemy hands.  Fortunately, they were not fired upon – instead, four Germans rushed out to meet the jeep, insisting on us surrendering.  The Captain’s explanation of his position as a Medical Officer was disregarded by the Nazis, so he could do nothing but march his prisoners back to meet the advancing Infantry.

Leaving Holzappel, we moved to Seelbach, where orders were received from the Regimental Commander to prepare for long, fast moves.  Soon after the order was received, we left Seelbach and moved more than 100 miles to Naumberg.  Next was Neiderelsungen, where we were strafed twice by the Germans, but our Anti-Aircraft Artillery was so effective that we weren’t bothered again.  Our next move took us to Obervellmar near Kassel.  We arrived late in the afternoon on 4 April, and soon after our arrival, a German nurse came to the Station, asking for a doctor to treat some wounded soldiers.  One of our Medical Officers went with the nurse to a tunnel where he found a large number of SS troopers, some severely wounded.  The Medical Officer and his assisting technician were a trifle anxious in the midst of a group of notorious SS men, but the prisoners were quite agreeable during the emergency treatment and evacuation.

Lutterberg was the next location, where we were very busy while the 273rd was taking Hann Munden.  Two of our litter squads were with the Infantry, and the enemy had cut off various units of the Regiment including our litter bearers.  A great part of their time was spent in eluding the Germans, and when everything was again organized, our men utilized the captured Germans to carry the wounded men.

While at Lutterberg, our ambulance traveled from the front via the Autobahn.  During the night of 8 April, the Germans infiltrated across the Autobahn, and our drivers were actually working through enemy territory.  Several times while evacuating to our Collecting Station, the drivers were fired upon, and they were also forced to make their way through hastily erected roadblocks.  Two of our drivers were awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Heroic Achievement as a result of their outstanding performance in this action.

>From Lutterberg, we advanced through Kassel to Hedemunden, arriving late on the night of 8 April, soon after the town had been taken.  This was one of the most forward positions we had yet assumed, and shortly after we were installed in our billets, we saw the Cannon Company of the 273rd move to the rear.  With the exception of the Service Company, we were the only organization in town.  It was common knowledge that there were still German soldiers at large in the town, so we were extremely cautious all during the night.  We later learned that the Cannon Company had been ordered back to Hann Munden to act as a security guard for the forward elements of the V Corps moving into the town.  About 2330 the same night, our station was overflowing with casualties resulting from an accident in which a 2-1/2-ton truck, loaded with our soldiers, had overturned.

While we were at Hedemunden, the Regiment organized two Combat Commands: A and R, supported by the 777th and 661st Tank Destroyer Battalions.  We attached ambulances to both of these commands which were preparing to drive on Leipzig.  The drivers who worked during this operation were on duty all hours of the day and night and, upon completion of the mission, were commended by several Surgeons for their excellent performance of duties, and again two of our drivers were awarded Bronze Star Medals for Heroic Achievement.

Our convoy departed Hedemunden on the afternoon of 10 April and moved via Heiligenstadt approximately 60 miles to Schlotheim.  En route to Schlotheim, our kitchen truck collided with an abandoned German ammunition trailer, filled with artillery shells.  This was the only vehicle accident we had during our entire combat period.

We followed the 273rd Regiment in their drive for Leizpig, through Gundstedt, Kahlwinkle, Teuchern, Borna, and Pommsen, stopping momentarily in each town.  From Pommsen, we went to Grossposna, the last town before Leipzig.  We remained in this town while the Infantry made the initial attacks on Germany’s fifth largest city.

Our ambulances were in direct support, as Task Force Zebra, composed of a Company of the 273rd, tanks, and tank destroyers, plunged to the City Hall of Leipzig.  On the 19th of April we moved into the city while the Regiment and the Artillery were pounding the Battle of Nations Monument.  During the afternoon, our men watched the fierce battle from the roof of the partially destroyed school building in which we had set up our station.  That same evening about 1900, the Germans agreed to a 30-minute truce, so that both German and American casualties could be evacuated from the battered monument.  All of our available ambulances were pressed into service, and our station was flooded with casualties, of which the greater majority were German.  After the allotted time for evacuation had elapsed, the fighting raged again and continued until 0200 of 20 April, when the Germans decided to surrender.  The surrender was not anticipated and, when the Nazis came swarming from the monument, the only soldiers in the immediate area were several of our ambulance drivers.  Our drivers were extremely happy when the Infantrymen came rushing up and took the crowd of prisoners off their hands.

The Battle of Leipzig was a dramatic climax for our combat career, but the most exciting event was yet to come.  We left Leipzig on the morning of 20 April, and moved to the little town of Altenhain.  We were treating and evacuating an occasional casualty, but otherwise there was little activity.  Then on the 25th of April came the news that our 273rd Regiment had been the first to make the long-awaited linkup with the Russian Army.  Although we did not actually participate in the meeting, it still gave us great satisfaction to know that the organization we supported all through combat should be the one to make the historic contact.

On 12 May, while still in Altenhain, we were rewarded for our outstanding services when we were awarded the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque. 

This is the history we have made so far; perhaps we shall make more.

Last updated November 25, 2009.

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