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Headquarters, 331st Medical Battalion

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HEADQUARTERS, 331st MEDICAL BATTALION
A.P.O. #443, U.S. Army



24 March 1945
HISTORY

12 December-31 December 1944


12 Dec 44:  The 106th Infantry Division relieved the 2nd Infantry Division at 0001 covering a 27 mile front in the SCHNEE EIFEL.  Task Force “X” was attached to the Division and was in position on the left flank.  On the left flank of the Division was the 99th Infantry Division, and on the right flank was the 28th Infantry Division. The Division placed all three regiments on the line as well as Task Force “X”, from North to South being disposed as follows: Task Force “X”, 233d [422d] Infantry Regiment, 423d Infantry Regiment, and 424th Infantry Regiment.  The 2d Battalion of the 423d Infantry Regiment was placed in Division Reserve. All regiments were dug in with patrol action being light when the Division replaced the 2d Infantry Division.

The Medical Battalion opened its Battalion Headquarters and Clearing Station in St. Vith, Belgium.  The Collecting Companies were disposed as follows: Company “A” at ANDLER, BELGIUM; Company “B” at BUCHET, GERMANY; Collecting Company “C” at STEINBRUCK [STEINBRÜCK], GERMANY.

In addition to the three collecting companies, aid stations consisting of collecting company technicians with an AMBULANCE LOADING POST and one ambulance were established by Company “A” at MANDERFELD, BELGIUM for the 14th Cavalry Group of Task Force “X”, and at WINTERSCHEID, GERMANY by Company “B” for the 18th Cavalry Group.

Attached to the 106th Infantry Division were the 14th and 18th  Cavalry Squadrons of the 32d Cavalry Group, the 634th AAA Battalion, the 820th TD Battalion, the 740th Field Artillery Battalion and the 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion.

The 581st Medical Collecting Company provided army evacuation for the Clearing Station to the 67th Evacuation Hospital and the 44th Evacuation Hospital, the 4th Convalescent Hospital, and the 618th Clearing Station.  The Third Hospital Unit of the 42d Field Hospital was at Saint Vith, Belgium for the handling of Non-transportable cases.

13-15 Dec 44: Activity was light in our sector and casualties were light also.  On 15 December, a prisoner of war processed through medical channels, was taken to “A” Collecting Company for treatment, and gave the information that a German offensive was to begin on the 17 December.  This information was relayed to the Battalion S-2, and relayed to the Division.

On this date 151 cases were treated at the Clearing Station, of which a considerable number were trench foot cases.  Most of these men had bean an duty outside, exposed to extreme damp and cold weather for long periods of time.

16 Dec 44:  The enemy opened its battle of the Ardennes Bulge with a tremendous artillery barrage at dawn. Heavy artillery landed in the vicinity of St. Vith, and medium and light artillery fell in the region of the three Battalion collecting Companies. In the Task Force “X” and 422d Infantry Regiment sector the enemy poured tanks and panzer units from the north and West in a push to take, SCHONBERG [SCHÖNBERG], a vital road junction on the road to St. Vith.

In the 423d Infantry Regiment sector, the enemy which had patrols stationed in the vicinity of BRANDSCHEID, sent Tiger tanks and panzer units toward SCHONBERG [SCHÖNBERG], evidently using the BLEIALF-SCHONBERG [SCHÖNBERG] road, commonly called [by] the Division Troops “Sky-Line Drive”.


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In the 424th Regiment sector the enemy pushed up through HABSCHEID toward WINTERSPELT to gain control of the highway from WINTERSPELT TO ST. VITH.

The main objective of the German drive was the town of ST. VITH, a vital communications cog in the motorized warfare which was being employed by the Germans with their tanks and panzer units.

The first town to fall to the Germans was AUW, GERMANY, a small community situated on a hill overlooking the road to SCHONBERG [SCHÖNBERG].  In the southern sector of the Division front, HABSCHEID and HECKHUSCHEID fell. In an effort to stem the Nazi push, the Division committed its reserve, the Second Battalion of the 423d Infantry Regiment, which moved from BORN to the 422d in the fight for SCHONBERG [SCHÖNBERG].  The 424th Regiment committed its reserve, the First Battalion which was located at STEINBRUCK [STEINBRÜCK] in the hope of stopping the enemy in the WINTERSPELT

Collecting Company “A”, located at ANDLER fell back to HEUEM, BELGIUM when the Germans captured AUW, and continued to provide medical support for its combat team and Task Force “X” until the enemy surrounded the 422th Combat Team. The ambulance assigned to the 1st Battalion, 422th Infantry, having carried casualties  to the Collecting Station during the night, was prevented from returning to the Battalion Aid Station by an enemy patrol which had infiltrated through the night cutting the road. Pfc Andrew Gollin and Pvt Thomas Fox were driving an ambulance carrying casualties from the 2d Battalion Aid Station, when stopped and taken prisoner by the same patrol that prevented the other ambulance from returning to the 1st Battalion Aid Station. This was one half miles east of AUW, GERMANY. Gollin and Fox were later released after the Germans had loaded several other casualties in their ambulance.

Collecting Company “B” remained with the 423th Combat Team and was out off with the regiment in the vicinity of BUCHET.

Collecting Company “C” remained at its position at STEINBRUCK [STEINBRÜCK], but was mobile and was prepared to move to a site northward at BREITFELD.

The last word the Battalion heard from Company “B” was a message signed for Sergeant Murphy. It read:  

    “Casualties being received from Anti-tank and Service Companies. Enemy using 88's, mortars and small arms. Casualties show a slight increase over previous days. Situation remaining  the same as reported on previous messages.”

NOTE: See attached sketch for disposition of troops on this date, and attached German order for the attack.

17 Dec 44:   The attack continued, with the Germans exerting pressure on the left and right flanks. The 422d and 423d Combat Teams were completely surrounded and remained as islands of resistance. “A” Company was unable to reestablish communications with CT 422 despite repeated efforts. “B” Company was cut off with its Combat Team. Evacuation from the 422d Combat Team and the 423d Combat Team was to “B” Company, which was last seen still operating at the site it occupied the previous day.   Elements of the 9th and 7th Armored Divisions were moving East to smash the German attack.

The mission of the 106th Infantry Division was to defend in place until the Armored Divisions set up defenses. “C” Company withdrew to BREITFELD, BELGIUM. The Clearing Station displaced to VIELSALM on DIVISION order, and at 1430 set up a station at a Catholic Boarding School. The First platoon of the Clearing Company departed from St. Vith at 1630, but due to heavy traffic on the ST VITH-VIELSALM road, they did not arrive at VIELSALM until 180615. On this date, “D” Company processed 130 cases of which 64 were battle casualties. The 66 non battle casualties were made up of foot cases, nasopharyngitis infections, and exhaustion. The Army evacuation was still functioning, but Battalion Headquarters supplemented it with ambulances from “B” Company


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The 3d Hospital Unit of the 42d Field Hospital moved their personnel into VIELSALM with the Clearing Station, but due to lack of transportation, was forced to leave behind all equipment. This left the Division Medical Service in a serious plight, for the non-transportable cases, normally treated by a Field Hospital, were now to be treated at the Clearing Station which does not carry the special equipment necessary for this type of case.

“A” Company moved into St. Vith at 1600, and established a collecting station at the site vacated by “D” Company. An aid station was established one mile East of ST VITH to service the 81st and 168th Engineer Battalions which took up a defensive position on a ridge 1½ miles East of ST VITH. At this time “A” Company provided aid men, litter bearers, and operated an aid station exactly like a Battalion Medical Section. The organic medical personnel of the Engineers were insufficient to handle the numerous casualties being sustained. BALANTYNE, BUCKLEY, BALARZS and PAWASARAT of “A” Company distinguished themselves here by gallantry in action and were awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

“B” Company was still not heard from. Ambulances repeatedly tried to make contact again, but were prevented from doing so by enemy action.

“C” Company was under artillery fire through the night of 16-17 December. At 0200, only a small force was left between “C” Company and the enemy. At STEINBRUCK [STEINBRÜCK], the only bridge over which retreat was possible, was under shell fire, and so Capt Blanchard ordered the company to move back under blackout conditions to the vicinity of BREITFELD, BELGIUM. At the time of the move, 6 ambulances were being employed in the support of Battalion Aid Stations, and in transportation of casualties. By the time the new Station opened at BREITFELD, a battle was in progress at the bridge at STEINBRUCK [STEINBRÜCK]. Ambulance evacuation of the 2d and 3d Battalion Aid stations and the Regimental Aid Stations was over roads under artillery fire, and direct observation by the enemy. Later in the day, with Combat Team 424 falling back to the South, “C” Company was out of the 424th Combat Team Sector, and so moved back to ST. VITH into the building vacated by the Clearing Station at the Town Hall, and set up a Collecting Station. Evacuation to the Clearing Station at VIELSALM was via Highway N-28. During the entire day, liaison was maintained by “C” Company with all units of Combat Team 424 and operated well. In addition, C Company was ordered to establish an aid station at the Division Command Post in St. Vith to service the elements in that vicinity.

The enemy continued his fierce attacks, exploiting the SCHONBERG [SCHÖNBERG] and WINTERSPELT thrusts in the direction of ST VITH. ST. VITH was attacked from the East, Northeast and Southeast. These attacks were all stopped about two miles from the town. During the day, Combat Command “B” of the 9th Armored Division and Combat Team 424 fell back on order to the line of the AUR RIVER, and held there till the close of the period. Elements of the First Panzer Division, however, had pushed through the 7th Armored Division sector North of ST VITH and advanced West of ST VITH to POTEAUX but were pushed back, until at the end of the period, our forces ware advancing on RECHT. Units in contact with the Division ware from north to South:

1st PANZER DIVISION
18th VOLKSGRENADIER DIVISION
62d VOLKSGRENADIER DIVISION
and elements of the 116 PANZER DIVISION.

18 Dec 44:  The full significance of the German drive was still not understood. The Medical Battalion was ordered to reconnoiter for Clearing Station sites in the rear at BARACQUE de FRAITURE, SAMREE, LaROCHE, and HOUFFALIZE. The enemy assaulted ST VITH, employing the major portion of the 164th Regiment of the 62d VG Division reinforced with armor. Combat Command “B” of the 9th Armored Division, was hit on the flanks and


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within their lines by small groups, and frontally by an estimated 2 battalions of Infantry supported    by tanks. Combat Team 112 of the 28th Infantry Division, on the South flank withdrew under enemy pressure. During the day, HOUFFALIZE was entered by enemy elements which were repulsed later.

At 0430, the 1st platoon of the Clearing Company arrived at VIELSALM, but knowing the road conditions from ST VITH to VIELSALM, a new route of evacuation was necessary. At 0600 Captain LaManche, Battalion S-2, volunteered to take four ambulances back to ST VITH over a new Southern route if it was usable.  It was, luckily, and became the evacuation route out of ST VITH.  Before Captain LaManche arrived at St. Vith, “C” Company ambulances were fired upon by hostile machine guns West of ST VITH on Highway N-28, and were finally forced to abandon the use of the road.  One ambulance did get through, with bullet hole in the ambulance. Route N-28 was under small arms, machine gun and mortar fire at this time.

At the end of a heavy artillery and mortar barrage in ST. VITH, a convoy of ambulances was formed, and was directed to VIELSALM via the new Southern route through BEHO. This relieved the congestion of patients at ST VITH.

Company “A” continued to operate at ST VITH until ordered to withdraw at 1900, at which time the company withdrew to VIELSALM. This company provided excellent medical support and ambulance reinforcement at ST VITH. When ordered to withdraw to VIELSALM, Company “A” immediately made available technicians, litter bearers, and medical officers to assist the 2d Platoon of “D” Company.

Company “B” was still missing in action.

Company “C” moved back to BEHO when Combat Team 424 fell back to the vicinity of BRACHT, BERG REULAND, and LASCHEID in order to be in a better position to service them. Here at BEHO, 5 ambulances were attached from Company “A” to assist in the evacuation
of casualties.  At this time, two litter squads which had been requested by the Surgeon of the 424th Infantry Regiment were released to “C” Company.

Company “D” worked hard and well at VIELSALM. The First platoon which finally arrived at VIELSALM after 12 hours on the road from ST VITH never realized how close they came to being ambushed on the road, because it was not many hours later that the ST VITH-VIELSALM highway was cut by elements of the 1st SS Panzer Division. At noon, again, the First Platoon was directed out of VIELSALM to LaROCHE – a place of supposed safety, far from the enemy.  There the clearing company was ordered to establish a holding station for such minor casualties as trench foot and upper respiratory infections, which could be returned to duty quickly.

Had it been known what the extent of the enemy attack was, the Clearing Station First Platoon would not have been at LaROCHE. And no reconnaissance would have been made at HOUFFALIZE. At any rate, all personal and equipment not needed at VIELSALM was sent to LaROCHE, and then all transportation (except a 1½ ton kitchen truck) was returned to VIELSALM in order to expedite a move if one became necessary for the platoon in operation at VIELSALM.

Casualties arrived in large numbers at VIELSALM, many of them very badly hurt. These casualties were from many different units; 7th Armored, Ninth Armored Division, 168th Engineers, numerous artillery units, and from Combat Team 112 of the 28th Infantry Division and from our own Division. The horrible effect at Armored Piercing projectiles on Tankmen was evident from the injuries sustained by the tankers. Traumatic amputations were numerous, and a few were multiple. Deep shook, hemorrhage, sucking wounds, were frequent. And with everybody concentrating on the job at hand casualties still continued to pile up. Ambulance evacuation to the rear was augmented by attachment of another ambulance platoon, but this, too was not enough. The evacuation


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Hospitals were far back, the roads uncertain, ambulances going out of the station with patients never returned, and supplies were running low. Large amounts of plasma were needed, morphine, penicillin, etc.  Much ingenuity was displayed. For example, when patients in deep shock, with collapsed veins into which it was impossible to pour plasma, needed quick infusion, the Femoral Vein was used. The process was quick, easy, but required skill in technique.  Whole blood was needed, and none was available. And so from the men in the station who were less seriously injured, and from some of this medical soldiers, many volunteered to give blood for the badly hurt patients. It was collected in improvised containers, and used to great advantage in cases of deep shock and hemorrhage.

On this date, 175 casualties were evacuated, there were two deaths, both chest wounds with additional wounds of the extremities.

19 Dec 44:   The tactical situation of this date in our sector did not change markedly, although the enemy pressure was maintained. All medical installations remained in their previous locations. Only 92 cases were evacuated to the rear out of the Clearing Station. Plans for withdrawal were made, and even a little optimism appeared for G-3 announced that the First Infantry and Tenth Armored Divisions were on their way to help us out.

ST VITH was still held by the Engineers. Combat Team 112 of the 28th Infantry Division was attached to the 106th Infantry Division, and the Medical Collecting Company of this Combat Team, “C” Company of the 103d Medical Battalion, was attached to the 331st Medical Battalion, and incorporated into the Medical Service of the unit.

Captain Grosh, Commander of the Clearing Company, with key technicians returned from LaROCHE to be with the active station. 52 casualties were present at the station at LaROCHE. Plans were made to send patients directly to LaROCHE from the station at VIELSALM in order to keep the Second Platoon mobile.

The Battalion S-4 left for LaRoche early in the morning because gsa, rations, and medical supplies were urgently needed. Supplies at LaROCHE were hauled back to VIELSALM where they were more urgently needed. Mr. ECKWERTH, the Battalion Medical Supply Officer left with a truck to get supplies at LIEGE. About 1700, arrangements were made with the Seventh Armored Division Quartermaster to draw gas and rations, and at 2300 the convoy arrived at VIELSALM with 1200 rationS and 1000 gallons of gasoline. The 106th Division Quartermaster had also provided 400 blankets by drawing one from each man in the Rear Echelon of Division Headquarters, and also 500 rations. So the problem of supply was settled for the time being.

Ambulances sent to the 107th Evacuation Hospital with patients never returned from LIBIN, and no accurate records could be kept as to just where these patients finally arrived. This also added to our supply problem because we lost blankets, litters, splints, etc.

20 Dec 44:  G-3 reports that the Germans were sending patrols north toward the highway between LaROCHE and BARAQUE [DE] FRAITURE. Enemy plans an obvious pincers attack on LaROCHE. The Medical Battalion sent Lt. Wanderman, The S-1 to LaROCHE to alert the station for a move. Just West of BARAQUE Fraiture, he was fired upon, and wounded, but was able to escape the ambush. Upon his return, he told the story of the German road block, and now the situation looked critical, our ambulance evacuation to the rear being cut. New routes had to be found. More ambulances and supplies were needed. Patients were piling into the station from the various units then engaged around ST VITH and VIELSALM. “C” Company reported that artillery was falling around the 424th Infantry Regimental Aid Station.

The Division ordered that the ground would be held in the event that pincers move


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developed to envelop LaROCHE.

Reconnaissance showed that evacuation to LIEGE was practicable, using the road through JOUBIEVAL and WERBOMONT, and ambulances were routed that way but never returned.

Lt. Col. Boland, Commanding the 77th Medical Battalion of the Seventh Armored Division discussed evacuation with Lt. Col. Neigus, Commanding the 331st Medical Battalion. Due to the fact that our station contained many patients from the Seventh Armored Division it was requested that we be given as much assistance as possible particularly plasma, penicillin, dressings, adhesive plaster, tetanus toxoid, morphine, blankets, and litters. Lt. Colonel Boland informed us that all but combat troops were being evacuated from LaRoche. No word had come in from the platoon stationed there.

“A” Company was still busily engaged reinforcing the Second Platoon of “D” Company at VIELSALM, and assisting “C” Company in evacuation. In addition “A” Company assisted with evacuation to the rear of the Clearing Station,

“C” Company remained at its site at BEHO, servicing Combat Team 424, and assisted in the evacuation of Combat Command “C” of the 7th Armored Division which had a Collecting Station at BEHO. Combat Command “B” of the Ninth Armored Division had a Collecto-Clearing Station at BEHO, but due to a shortage of Army Ambulances, brought patients to our “C” Company which set up an Ambulance Control Point at BEHO. Companies “A” and “C” each sent 5 ambulances to this control point.

Orders were issued for “C” Company to pull back to SALMCHATEAU when the Combat Team moved back.

“D” Company treated 188 cases this date, and evacuated to the rear 88 cases of which 64 were taken at night by the Battalion Adjutant in 2 ½  ton trucks obtained from the Division Quartermaster. These 64 patients went in 4 trucks in convoy over unfamiliar roads, but they all arrived safely after a long tiring rough trip to LIEGE.

By 1600 the need for supplies was pressing, and so Captain Rinck, the Battalion S-4 and Technical Sergeant Weiss, Battalion Supply Sergeant left with 6 ambulances and 2 ½  ton trucks loaded with patients for LIEGE via the only road left open.  The patients were unloaded at 1930 at the 56th General Hospital. Medical Supplies consisting of whole blood, plasma, blankets, litters, bandages, and blood transfusion apparatus were obtained from the 409th Medical Depot. The convoy left LIEGE at 2330, and arrived at VIELSALM at 0430 on the 21st. A second convoy left later, as described above, under command of Lt. Wanderman.

The First Platoon of D Company at LaROCHE had an exciting experience. With the town under shellfire, and with only a 1 ½  ton truck for transportation, and with large quantities of supplies, both from Battalion Headquarters and “D” Company, the Platoon Leader, Captain Lewis, was in a difficult position. He obtained trucks from the 7th Armored Division, and loading personnel and organizational equipment, he had to leave behind much valuable equipment, including both organizational and personal. In the meantime he had evacuated all his patients to LIEGE by requisitioning the 2½  ton truck which Mr. Eckwerth brought in loaded with supplies. Mr. Eckwerth knew he could not get back by the LaROCHE-VIELSALM highway, and could not get any information on any other route available.

While loading the station to leave LaROCHE, an artillery shell fall in the courtyard, and killed Technician 5th Grade Quinlan who had volunteered to load up the kitchen under fire. Also killed was Technician 5th Grade Lawlor, Chaplain Day’s assistant. In the operating room where the surgeons were working on patients, Sergeant Buriak was seriously mounded by a shell fragment. The patient was knocked to the floor from the operating table, but ha was put back upon the table and took more treatment. This


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First Platoon furnished volunteers in response to a request from the Surgeon of the Seventh Armored Division. These men went out on the Samree-Vielsalm Road, and treated wounded under direct fire, evacuating them to the Station at LaROCHE. The only medical installations at LaROCHE were a rest center operated by the 7th Armored Division, and our Clearing Station. The former installation was busily engaged in getting ready to move, and so our station was the only one in active operation. When our station did finally move, Capt. Lewis, the platoon leader, with Mr. Eckwerth and several enlisted men volunteered to remain behind and operate a station. At 1700 the whole platoon finally left LaRoche, happy to leave, but saddened by the thought that one of their old friends had been killed and another wounded.

Hope for relief was when it became known that the 82d Airborne, Third Armored and 101st Airborne Divisions were moving into the sector.

21 Dec 44:  The position of the Division was still the same, with no change in the position of the medical installations. The 82d Airborne Division moved into position North and West of VIELSALM.

Units in contact with the 106th Infantry Division were the 62d and 560 VG Divisions and the 116 Panzer Division. ST VITH was still under heavy attack with fighting in the streets by 2100.

Elements of the 589th Field Artillery Battalion under Major Parker made a gallant and determined stand at BARAQUE [DE] FRAITURE cross roads.

On this date “D” Company cleared 96 patients.

22 Dec 44:  The Division's mission was to make a perimeter defense from Recht to St. Vith to Beho to Vielsalm and keep the road leading North from Vielsalm open for evacuation. Company “C” was to locate in the center of this area and “D” Company was to reconnoiter a new area for Clearing Northwest of Vielsalm.

In the afternoon, the Clearing Station moved from Vielsalm to Werbomont, and “C” Company moved into Vielsalm Building. The Clearing Station set up in tents for the first time in the ETO, with the weather very cold, but clearing. The move was completed by 2130. Practically all patients were now evacuated.

St. Vith fell to the Germans at 1300, and our troops fell back to Vielsalm.

23 Dec 44: On this date the entire Division moved back to an area Northwest of Werbomont and the entire Battalion assembled in the fields in the vicinity of Werbomont. The 1st Platoon of B Company arrived, and now the Battalion was together again, except
for “B” Company which was missing in action.

24 Dec 44: CT 424 and CT 112 were attached to the 7th Armored Division and placed in Corps reserve. The remainder of the Division was ordered to assemble in the vicinity of Louveigne. Headquarters and D Company moved to Banneux, Companies A and C to vicinity Florze, and Co C, 112th Med Bn, the vicinity Remouchamps.

“D” Company transferred 117 cases today.

The Battalion was treated to a beautiful sight today when hundreds of heavy bombers were seen flying toward the German lines. It was the first clear day since the 15th, and the American Air Force displayed its might.

On the night before Christmas Chaplain Fleming and Day held services which were attended by all for the first time in a long while. “D” Company and Hq Det at Banneux heard the sweat voices of little children lifted in song, and the men sang Silent Night with deep feeling.

25 Dec 44: While the rest of the Battalion rested, C Company moved to the vicinity FAWEUX, to support CT 424, which was committed in the vicinity of HARRE. That evening CT 424 attacked and took Manhay, the first town retaken from the Germans in the present offensive.

26-28 Dec 44: The units maintained their position until 28 Dec 44 when Division was ordered to move to a bivouac area in the vicinity of Anthisnis.

D Company and Battalion Headquarters moved to Esneux, Belgium.

A Company moved to Hody into comfortable billets.

29 Dec 44:  The Medical Battalion rested and regrouped. C Company and 424 CT pulled back with the remainder of the Division.

30-31 Dec 44:     Medical Battalion continued to rest and regroup.



Map 1, 331st Medical Battalion, 12-16 December 1944

Map 2, 331st Medical Battalion, 17 December 1944