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180th Medical Battalion, APO 403

Contents

180TH MEDICAL BATTALION
APO 403

2 July 1945
         
SUBJECT: Period Report

TO: The Surgeon General,
            Washington, D.C.
         
THRU: Channels

         
    In compliance with the provisions of par 6, AR 40-1005, dated 19 November 1942, and Cir No 58, Hq ETOUSA, dated 14 May 1945, the following report of activities of the 180th Medical Battalion from 1 January 1945 to 30 June 1945 is hereby submitted.
         
    1.  INTRODUCTION. On 1 January 1945, this Battalion had completed 15 ½  months of operation since its activation on 15 September 1943, 11 months of which had been spent overseas, and 6 months of which had been spent in combat. The first 6 months of 1945 represented the most sustained period of activity in the history of the Battalion, presented the greatest number of operational problems, and ended with the unit in the first stages of readjustment which will lead to its eventual disbandment. In certain respects this six month period resembled closely the preceding six months: the Battalion remained under the control of the 134th Medical Group; there was very little change in the officer personnel of Battalion Headquarters; there was a prolonged period of rapid movement; and the number and identity of attached companies varied constantly. In certain other respects, however, there were significant changes: throughout the period the mission of the Battalion remained relatively constant. In contrast to the varied missions performed in 1944; for the first time since its arrival overseas the unit passed out of the control of First Army; there were numerous changes among the key enlisted personnel of Battalion Headquarters; and for the first time the unit had no mission for the future other than the administrative readjustment required for eventual deactivation.
         
    2.  OPERATIONS.   The Battalion has had two missions during the six month period from 1 January to 30 June: (a) Medical service in rear of XVIII Corps, 1 January to 11 January, and in the rear of V Corps, 12 January to 8 May, (b) Administration of overrun German Army Hospitals in Czechoslovakia, 9 May to 30  June. Each of these missions was performed under the 134th Medical Group and was shared with the 179th Medical Battalion, also part of the Group. From 1 January to 30 April the Battalion and its attached companies were assigned to First United States Army, and from 1 May to 30 June to the Third United States Army.
         
    a.  Medical Service in rear of XVIII and V Corps. Since the first 11 days of January represented a transition period following the initial readjustment of the Ardennes Campaign, and since the mission of the Battalion was identical under both Corps, the period from 1 January to 8 May can be considered  together. Medical support consisted of the following functions: (1) ambulance evacuation of division clearing stations (2) inter-army transfer service for sector field and evacuation hospitals (3) augmentation of division medical battalions with litter bearers (4) augmentation of evacuation Hospitals with Litter Bearers and Collecting Company station platoons. From 1 January to l April all
         


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of these functions were included in the Battalion's mission. From 1 April to 8 May the unit was responsible only for ambulance evacuation of division Clearing stations.
         
    The composition of the Battalion varied according to the type and number of functions performed and according to the number of units serviced. From 1 January to 1 April the Battalion was composed of a minimum of one ambulance company and two collecting companies, although for a brief period in January as many as one ambulance company and four collecting companies were attached. From 1 April to 4 May two ambulance companies were adequate for the accomplishment of the Battalion mission which consisted of clearing station evacuation and inter-army transfer service only. From 4 May to 8 May one ambulance company and one collecting company comprised the battalion but this brief period immediately prior to the surrender should not be considered typical. In general, it was found that a minimum composition of one ambulance and two collecting companies were essential for the performance of the four functions mentioned above with a larger number of ambulances required under certain conditions to be mentioned below.
         
    (1). Ambulance Evacuation of Division Clearing Stations:  The speed and effectiveness of casualty evacuation varied according to the condition of the road net, the proximity of evacuation and field hospitals to division clearing stations, and the speed with which the front moved forward. Experience proved that the most convenient commitment for an infantry division at normal strength was one ambulance platoon of ten ambulances. In one instance, when the 106th Division took up positions south of Schleiden with only one regiment operational, an initial commitment of 5 ambulances was made. Probably the most important factor in determining the need for additional ambulances was the condition of the road net. For example, during February the road net in the southern part of V Corps sector deteriorated rapidly to the point where round trip ambulance hauls from division clearing stations to evacuation hospitals averaged 7 to 8 hours. In spite of the fact that roads and sometimes trails were utilized to avoid the worst roads, the trip became far too lengthy and rough for effective evacuation. The situation was relieved at its most critical point by the establishment of air evacuation from a point adjacent to the clearing stations serviced, but throughout the period each ambulance platoon had to be augmented by as many ambulances as were available. This is the only instance of a serious interruption of ambulance evacuation in the experience of the Battalion. The situation was relieved with the improvement of roads following the swift advance across the Eifel.
         
    During the campaign for central Germany no trouble was experienced with road conditions, but ambulance hauls were frequently very long as a result of the speed with which the front moved forward. This was particularly true in the case of the 9th Armored Division which the Battalion evacuated from 1 April to 30 April. For an armored division, one ambulance platoon for each of the combat commands committed proved necessary, while the number required for the combat command in reserve varied widely according to the situation. The length of the ambulance haul in such oases represented no serious interference with evacuation, however, because of two factors: the generally light casualty load attendant upon an armored advance and the use of constantly 1eap-frogging field hospital platoons as evacuation points. An important operational difficulty in the evacuation of an armored division is the problem of effective liaison. By utilizing radio communication within the division end between the division and corps headquarters this difficulty was largely overcome.
         
    The maintenance of a battalion ambulance reserve at all times is of particular importance in order to be able to meet unexpected emergencies without
         


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recourse to higher headquarters. At several points during the winter campaign in Belgium, however, it was necessary to commit 100% of the Battalion ambulance potential. The ambulance reserve is essential also for proper maintenance of vehicles and insures a high state of operational efficiency for all vehicles of the command. Care was exercised at all times to insure that the ambulance potential was not dissipated in the performance of miscellaneous administrative tasks.
         
    Liaison with medical battalions and Group Headquarters in adjacent sectors was maintained to facilitate evacuation arrangements when divisions passed from the control of one Corps or Army to another. Without careful staff work on such occasions, ambulances may be tied up for several days unnecessarily.
         
    (2)  Inter-army Transfer Service for Sector Field and Evacuation Hospitals.   Experience has proved that 2 ambulances are adequate for this type of job in the case of field hospitals, and. that a maximum of 5 ambulances are adequate in the case of evacuation hospitals. By maintaining a close check on patient status at the hospitals serviced, it was found that even this number was often not required. In the case of one field hospital, it was found that organic ambulances were sufficient for all transfers. The chief factors in determining adequate coverage is, of course, the distance involved in hauls to convalescent hospitals, exhaustion centers, etc. Since an evacuation hospital can plan its evacuations in advance in most cases, additional ambulances can be assigned from day to day to meat increased patient loads. Generally speaking, the chief problem encountered in providing inter-army transfer service was the avoidance of excessive ambulance commitment.
         
    (3)  Augmentation of Division Medical Battalions with Litter Bearers.  Since litter bearers were committed by higher headquarters at the request of division surgeons, this Headquarters had no operational responsibility in their disposition field. However, liaison between the parent company and the platoon was emphasized to facilitate matters such as the delivery of mail, etc. By frequent contact with platoon commanders this Headquarters also insured that litter bearers were actually needed and were being used alternately with organic division personnel. The necessity for augmentation arose during the winter months in Belgium where litter hauls through heavy snow were particularly arduous and time consuming, and where consistently low temperatures made swift evacuation of paramount importance. No requests were received after 3 March, when the tempo of the advance together with improved weather conditions made augmentation unnecessary. From an operations viewpoint however, decisions as to the need for litter bearers and in what strength were made by higher headquarters and were outside the scope of this Battalion.
         
    (4)  Augmentation of evacuation Hospitals with Litter Bearers and Collecting Company Station Platoons.  As in the case of division medical battalions, the augmentation of hospitals was the decision of higher headquarters. Except for maintaining liaison, there were no operational problems of any variety which concerned this Battalion.
         
    b.  Administration of Overrun German Hospitals.  Effective 8 May the Battalion was assigned responsibility for overrun German Medical installations in the southern V Corps sector in Czechoslovakia. The area covered included Pilsen and extended southeast along route 20 to the German border, southward to route 14, and westward to the Russian lines. The area was progressively enlarged until it included all the area south of Pilsen to


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the German and Austrian borders and east to the Russian lines. On 6 June the Battalion area was reduced to include all American occupied Czechoslovakia south of a line running roughly from Blovice to a point approximately 8 miles northwest of Spitzberg. The mission included not only the administration of German Army Hospitals within the area but sanitary supervision of all displaced persons camps within the zone.
         
    (1)  Composition of the Battalion.  The composition of the Battalion varied according to three factors: number and location of hospitals, changes in army directives concerning the disposition of patients, and the status of attached units with reference to redeployment. During the period 8 May to 6 June, when the Battalion was located in Pilsen, there were at least two ambulance companies and one collecting company attached to the Battalion at all times. From 6 May to 27 May three ambulances companies were attached, and from 11 May to 24 May an additional two ambulance platoons were loaned to the Battalion. On 16 May the 628th Clearing Company was attached, and remained until 20 June.
         
    From 6 June to 30 June the minimum composition of the Battalion at all times was one ambulance company and one collecting company. From 6 June to 18 June, there were two collecting companies attached (the 482d Collecting Company moved to an assembly area on 13 June), and from 6 June to 20 June one clearing company (the 628th Clearing Company moved to an assembly area on 20 June). On June 30 the Battalion consisted of the Headquarters Detachment, 464th Medical Collecting Company, and the 575th Motor ambulance Company.
         
    (2)  Administrative Organization.  Hospitals were immediately placed under the control of administrative detachments formed by this Headquarters. Each Detachment consisted of one officer and four enlisted men, with an ambulance and two drivers attached. Normally each Detachment administered all overrun hospitals within one town or urban area, except in the case of Pilsen where the size of the operation required two full detachments. In certain other cases one detachment handled two adjacent towns. The number of hospitals, the location, and the need for communication with the Headquarters governed the discussion as to the number of Detachments required to cover a given area. During the period when the Battalion administered all hospitals from Pilsen to the German and Austrian borders, twelve Detachments were in operation, six of them administered from an advance Battalion CP established in Prachatice.
         
    Each Detachment assumed full responsibility for the administration of the hospitals. Frequent inspections insured that high standards of cleanliness were maintained in spite of the patient overload on some hospitals. supplies were requisitioned through this Headquarters which consolidated all requisitions and drew from designated captured German dumps. Daily statistical reports were provided by each Headquarters including current figures as to the number of patients ready for discharge and transfer, number of vacant beds, and any other pertinent information. In the city of Pilsen, one hospital was designated as a clearing point for all German patients in the area. For a period of approximately three weeks there was a constant flow of patients through this clearing point, including hundreds of patients removed from German hospitals trains. As reflected in the large number of ambulances assigned the Battalion at this time, large scale evacuation occurred on an almost daily basis to hospitals in Germany. Convoys of more than 500 patients continued to be sent to Germany whenever bed space became available until all such evacuations were stopped at the end of May.
         


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    On the 6th of June the Pilsen area southward as far as Klattau was turned over to the 53rd Medical Battalion on and this Battalion moved to Prachatice, Czechoslovakia, The 16 hospitals in the southern Corps sector presented a different sort of problem. Unlike Pilsen, there were practically no new patients arriving in the area - it was not until 26 June that a train load of over 800 patients arrived. As a result, recovered patients were discharged as rapidly as possible, leaving an available bed capacity of some 2000 beds throughout the area. However each hospital was crowded with excess German medical personnel who had became separated from their units during the confusion of the surrender. In addition, numerous medical units without patients were held in special prisoner of war enclosures awaiting disposition orders from the Army Surgeon. On 19 June, orders were received allowing the disposition of these personnel through PW channels. By the end of the month all hospital staffs were reduced to normal and the area as a whole contained 3000 patients and over 1700 vacant beds.
         
    (3)  Supply of German Hospitals.   Since the chief German medical supply dump available to this area is located at FURTH, Germany, an area supply dump was organized by this Battalion upon its arrival in Prachatice. The initial stock for the dump was obtained from excess medical supplies uncovered at various German hospital within the area. At the present time an efficient medical supply is obtained by a system under which each hospital requisitions from the area dump which in turn maintains its stock through requisitions on the large dump in Furth.
         
    Food is available from three sources: captured German army ration dumps, some stocks available in overrun hospitals, and to a limited extent, local procurement. The chief problem has been and continues to be the need for supplementary rations on the part of some patients.
         
    3.  CONCLUSION.  On 17 June, Hq Det, 180th Medical Battalion, the 464th Medical Collecting Company, and the 575th Ambulance Company received notification that they had been placed in Category IV. The process of readjusting personnel prior to deactivation thus began just 21 months after the Battalion's activation. Activated on 15 Sept 43 as part of the reorganization of the former 134th Medical regiment, the Battalion has been part of the 134th Medical Group for the entire period with the exception of one week, when it was attached to the 31st Medical Group. Of the original complement of 7 Officers and 21 men in Battalion Headquarters one Officer and ten men were still assigned on 30 June 1945.
         
    The Battalion was authorized the following campaign stars: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. Of its 21 months of operation, approximately 4 months were spent in the United States, 6 months in England and 11 months on the continent. While in operation, the Battalion has performed all phases of 3rd echelon medical service, and has directed the operations of collecting, clearing and ambulance companies and two field hospitals.
         
    At the present time the Battalion is planning a complete Information and Education program to start as soon as its current mission is completed.
         
         
         
         
JOHN E. DOYLE
Major, MC
Commanding        
                                                         

Source:  National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407, 324th Medical Battalion, 99th Infantry Division, Box 14212