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53 MEDICAL BATTALION

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HEADQUARTERS
53 MEDICAL BATTALION
 
25 January l945
        
SUBJECT: Annual Report of Medical Department Activities, 1944.  

TO: The Surgeon General, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.                   
                    (Thru: Medical Channels).
         
EARLY HISTORY
         
    The 53 Medical Battalion, consisting of Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment and Companies “A”, “B”, “C” and “D”, was activated 15 February 1941at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. The Battalion completed a thirteen week basic training period and participated in the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers, where the Battalion serviced V Corps troops of the Third United States Army. On 30 December 1941 the Battalion was alerted for overseas duty and proceeded to Fort Dix Staging Area and on 19 February 1942 departed from the New York Port of Embarkation. The unit arrived in Belfast, North Ireland on 2 March 1942 and was stationed in that country until it moved to England at the beginning of 1943. During this period of time various units and detachments were sent off on Detached Service, hospital ships returning from the African invasion were unloaded and members of the Battalion assisted in the organization and operation of the first Medical Depot as well as the first Convalescent Hospital in the United Kingdom.
         
         
PRE-INVASION
 (January 1944 to June 1944)

    The 53 Medical Battalion was located at Higher Barracks, Exeter, Devonshire, on 1 January 1944 and was stationed at that barracks until the Invasion of Europe. In preparation for the coming invasion the Battalion and various combinations of its companies participated in numerous maneuvers throughout the winter and spring of the year. A rigid training schedule which included day and night convoys, tent pitching, field marches, constant litter bearing practice, along with lecture and practice classes on all medical subjects was in operation at all times. During this period (29 February 1944) the Battalion was reorganized and redesignated as Medical Battalion Separate. Former Company “A”was redesignated the 382 Medical Collecting Company; Company “B” was redesignated the 383 Medical Collecting Company and Company “D” was redesignated the 684 Medical Clearing Company. On 9 March l944, Company “C” was redesignated the 384 Medical Collecting Company (Ambulance).                   


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    On the maneuvers “Dunky Duck” in January 1944, Crimson I and Crimson II in February and March, one Collecting Company and one platoon of the Clearing Company operated to evacuate actual casualties. Various combinations of the Battalion and its units were used on those problems so that actual practice in giving medical service to Corps troops could be experienced. Supplemental to these maneuvers the Battalion scheduled its own organizational maneuvers, at which times various methods of evacuation were tried and perfected. The “Jeep Litter” was, also, perfected and tested, as was the multiple litter hauling in (6 X 6) trucks. Use of the “Pack Litter” was investigated and practiced during these problems. Weekly night convoys were held, the convoys being run over secondary roads under blackout conditions as a means of preparing drivers and the unit as a whole for night movements and night evacuation in combat. This training was later found to have been of great value in actual combat conditions. Map reading was emphasized on all maneuvers and marches; every individual becoming proficient in this subject.
         
    A training schedule which included all basic medical department subjects was in operation continuously. Also, a large amount of time was devoted to physical hardening, accomplished by scheduled marches twice weekly, litter bearing practice, scheduled athletics operated on a competitive basis between companies and with daily calisthenics. Classroom instruction was given in bandaging, splinting and plasma injection in conjunction with actual practice of these technics in an attempt to bring these skills to perfection for all individuals. The treatment of gas casualties was acoented along with instructions on gas protection for the individual. Gas masks were carried at sot times weekly and the use of the gas mask testing chamber was scheduled regularly on the training program. Every effort was made to have individuals attend special schools on all subjects and as a result a large percentage of the officer and noncommissioned officer personnel received specialized training which was later passed on to the organization in classroom work.
         
    As a supplement to the fundamental army and medical department subjects, classes, lectures and discussion groups were held on current and world events. For this type instruction all available army issued publications and motion pictures were employed.
         
    During this pro-invasion period from January 1944 to June 1944 the S-4 Section operated with the view of completing all equipment and supply needs and at the same time carried on an active program of supply discipline. The use of Statement of Charges against individuals for all items lost of ruined through neglect was adhered to and regularly weekly inspections of clothing and equipment were made. There were no unusual supply problems faced by the organization during this period.
         
    As was previously stated, the 53 Medical Battalion was garrisoned at Higher Barracks, Exeter at this time. This was a British Regular Army Barracks and hence there was no housing problem. The buildings and space were adequate. The water supply and bathing facilities were on the post, the water was supplied by civilian installations and was United States Army tested. It was sufficient for the organization moods. Laundry was handled weekly by a mobile United States Army laundry unit.


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    The Battalion was operating a consolidated mess for Headquarters Detachment and the four attached companies and an Officers’ Mess for the commissioned personnel. Rations were of good quality and sufficient quantity and were prepared and served in an appetizing manner. The sanitary condition of the mess was good at all times and constant vigilance was maintained over the cleaning of mess gear. No health problems arose at any time from food, food handling or from improperly cleaned mess gear. Conservation of food was accomplished by daily checking of mess lines and by service of food by the kitchen personnel. Waste was disposed of by incineration and swill by removal by a local contractor. Climatic conditions were such that there was no insect problem of any significance; immediate disposal of waste and swill was accomplished and constant policing of the area aided in keeping the insect problem minimized.          

    Although the Battalion was stationed in a community of approximately 60,000 inhabitants, and individuals had constant contact with the civil population, the venereal disease rate was exceptionally low. No cases existed in January, February, April or May and only one case of gonorrhoea in March. This was in a  group which had an average roster strength of 480 men during those months. Lectures were given periodically on the subject of venereal disease control, army posters were prominently displayed, contraceptives were on hand at all times and had to be in the possession of the individual when he left the post on pass or furlough. The unit dispensary was open for prophylactics treatment at all times.          

    The 684 Medical Clearing Company operated a dispensary at Higher Barracks,  Exeter primarily for the Battalion. However, with the arrival and stationing of American Army Units In the area the dispensary began servicing outside units and evacuating patients to hospitals in the area. The Battalion also placed on Detached Service medical officers and enlisted men with various organizations to operate aid stations throughout southwestern England. As a result of the adequate and sanitary messing, the good living facilities and the constant vigilance given to health problems, the individuals of the organization remained at a good state of health. At no time during the period were any medical problems of a grave nature encountered. The communicable disease rate was low and no outbreaks of disease occurred.
         
    By the end of this pre-invasion period the Battalion had reached a high state of efficiency and due to the rigid all inclusive training schedule it was well prepared to enter combat. Organized athletics, company competition, unit moving pictures, a large and well stocked library and monthly parties and dances all contributed in keeping morale excellent within the organization. Passes and furloughs were given regularly by roster and contacts with civilian population of a friendly country aided materially in the high state of morale inspite of the long overseas service of a large percentage of the Battalion.          
         

STAGING FOR INVASION
         
    On the 16 April 1944 the Battalion and attached companies were alerted for departure from the United Kingdom. From that date and for some time previous emphasis was placed on preparation for an overseas movement. Supplies were brought to full allowances, individuals were reequipped and all motor vehicles were overhauled. Members of the unit attended waterproofing schools          


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and all vehicles of the Battalion were waterproofed, fifty percent of them underwent trial waddings at Bideford. This phase of the preparation was successful and members of the motor section were sent on Detached Service with other units in Corps to give instruction and to aid and inspect waterproofing work.     
     
    The loading of vehicles was worked out and practiced on numerous occasions during this period. On 14 May 1944 the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the 684 Medical Clearing Company left Higher Barracks for a staging area at Margam, Glamargan, Wales. The 383 Medical Collecting Company later boarded ship at Port Talbot while the 684 Medical Clearing Company embarked from Swansea, Wales. The remainder of the Battalion continued waterproofing work on vehicles and equipment and on 1 June the 382 Medical Collecting Company left for a staging area at Wenvee, Wales. On the 3 June the 384 Medical Collecting Company (Amb) departed from Exeter for a staging area at Plymouth, England. Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion completed the larger percentage of their staging work while at Higher Barracks and left for staging at Plympton, Devon, England on 6 June and embarked from Plymouth, England the following day.  
        
    While In the staging areas the units lived in tents, and met no unusual problems. The equipment of the personnel and the organization had been well prepared and loaded previously and hence the problems of last minute staging were minimized. It was noted, however, that although the Battalion had spent a great deal of time in working and perfecting loading schedules to be used on the loading for the cross channel voyage these plans were not followed at the ports of embarkation. This resulted in vehicles later being unloaded on the Normandy shore in an inefficient sequence and not according to vehicle needs as had been originally planned.
         
    Units of the Battalion crossed the English channel separately, liaison was maintained by an officer and an enlisted man of Eq & Hq Detachment being attached to each separate company. The cross channel voyage was on Liberty ships, living conditions were crowded but due to the short length of the voyage no unusual health problems were involved. Messing during the voyage was with “K” and “10 in 1" rations; facilities for cleaning of mess equipment were poor but the limited time spent under these conditions prevented any major medical or health problem arising.
         
         
INVASION AND COMBAT
         
    The mission of the 53 Medical Battalion and its attached companies was to service V Corps troops and, also, to service Army and Divisional troops located in the Corps area. With this mission in view an advance group of the 382 Medical Collecting Company including the Battalion Headquarters representatives left the troop ship with one ambulance and a one-quarter ton truck for beach  Omaha on 7 June 1944. Although the landing craft attempted landings the party was not put ashore until 0830 hours on the following day. Meanwhile, two other groups of the 382 Medical Collecting Company has landed at opposite ends of the beach at about 2030 and 2230 hours, 7 June; one party bivouaced with the 392 Collecto-Clearing Company, the other proceeding to a site two miles east of St. Laurent sur-mer.


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    Upon landing, the representative of Battalion Headquarters contacted the Corps Surgeon, 0830 hours 8 June, and received orders to allocate groups of the 382 Medical Collecting Company to whatever areas they might be needed. A detachment set up and operated an Aid Station at Vierville sur-mer treating both military and civilian casualties. Another detachment evacuated casualties from the 392 E.S.B. Clearing Company to hospital ships off shore. At 1200 hours 8 June 1944 the main party of the 382 Medical Collecting Company landed and proceeded to the aid station site at Vierville sur-mer where they assisted in the treatment of  the wounded. The rear party landed at 1700 hours on the same day and proceeded to the bivouac area two miles west of St Laurent sur-mer where they were later joined by the detachments.
         
    At about 1730 hours on the 8 June the advance party of the 684 Medical Clearing Company landed with the company’s vehicles and equipment and proceeded to an area one mile west of Colleville sur-mer. The main party landed at about 1030 hours 9 June and proceeded to the same area. During the day vehicles of the 684 Medical Clearing Company were used to assist the 33 Field Hospital in transporting their equipment from the beaches. The 382 Medical Collecting Company had attached ambulances and drivers to both the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions to assist in the evacuation of casualties. They were also rotating medical and surgical technicians with the 393 E.S.B. Clearing Company to assist in caring for the wounded. On Saturday morning, 10 June,. the ambulances of the 382 Medical Collecting Company were still busy evacuating casualties while the 684 Medical Clearing Company was in the process of drying their equipment which had been soaked while landing. At 1215 hours the Battalion Commander and a detachment of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment landed and joined the 382 Medical Collecting Company.
         
    The remaining men and vehicles of the 383 Medical Collecting Company arrived and joined the 382 Medical Collecting Company at 1115 hours on 11 June. Five additional ambulances were dispatched to the 2d Infantry Division to evacuate casualties. At about 1900 hours the 684 Medical Clearing Company, the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the advance section of Battalion Headquarters moved to a new battalion assembly area one mile west of La Porterie, thirty-six litter bearers were then attached to the 38 Infantry Regiment. The advance group of the 384 Medical Collecting Company (Amb) landed at 2030 hours and moved into Transit Area Number 4.
         
    On the 12 June 1944 the remainder of the 384 Medical Collecting Company (Amb) landed and joined their advance group in Transit Area Number 4. The 383 Medical Collecting Company began contacting Corps units to assist in evacuation while the 684 Medical Clearing Company set up one platoon and sent vehicles and men to assist in the moving of the 13th and 51st Field Hospitals. The 382 Medical Collecting Company continued evacuation and sent ambulances to the 29 Infantry Division and the 384 Medical Collecting Company (Amb) joined the Battalion in the assembly area. The remainder of the Battalion was in reserve on call. Part of Hq & Hq Detachment personnel and vehicles landed at 2315 hours and proceeded to Transit Area Number 4, the remainder were unable to land until about 0400 hours the next morning.

    The remaining personnel and vehicles of Hq & Hq Det, 53 Medical Battalion joined the Battalion in assembly area thereby completing the assembly of the 53 Medical Battalion on the Continent on 13 July 1944, leaving a number of ambulances on duty with the various infantry divisions. The 383 Medical Collecting Company’s litter bearers were still with the 38 Infantry Regiment and their ambulances


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were still calling on units in the area for evacuation of casualties, three more ambulances were sent to duty with the 2 Armored Division. The 384 Medical Collecting Company (Amb) detached their three platoons to the 1st, 2nd and 29th Infantry Divisions respectively, thereby relieving ambulances of the 382 Medical Collecting Company. The First Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company continued to treat minor wounded and sick.

    On the 15 June 1944 the Ambulance Platoons with the 2nd and 29th Infantry Divisions were relieved by ambulances of a First U.S. Army Medical Group, and one Medical Officer went on Detached Service to assist in a Battalion Aid Station of the 2 Infantry Division.

    Ambulances of a First U.S. Army Medical Group relieved the platoon of the 384 Medical Collecting Company (Amb) servicing the 1 Infantry Division on the 16 June 1944. On the same day six ambulances were sent to work forward from the 2 Infantry Division Clearing Station and the litter bearers of the 383 Medical Collecting Company returned from the 38 Infantry Regiment. Scheduled and on call evacuation of Corps troops continued.

    On 17 June the Battalion Psychiatrist was attached to the 2 Infantry Division Clearing Station, three Medical Officers to the 1 Infantry Division and one Medical Officer to the 2 Infantry Division to replace casualties in Battalion Aid Stations. The Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company was attached to the 24 Evacuation Hospital in the vicinity of Isigny to care for battle exhaustion cases.

    The Second Platoon of 684 Medical Clearing. Company returned to the assembly area 22 June 1944 and relieved the First Platoon at the Clearing Station. On 24 June the First Platoon’s kitchen personnel and truck of the 684 Medical Clearing Company were attached to Headquarters, V Corps, rear echelon, to feed the personnel there until their equipment came ashore.                   

    The officers on Detached Service with division battalion aid stations returned to their respective companies on 25 June. The six ambulances of the 384 Medical Collecting Company (Amb) remained on Detached Service with the 2 Infantry Division and were rotated weekly. The following day a directive was received from the Corps Surgeon’s office to set up and operate prophylactic stations at La Mine and Balleroy.

    The period during the early part of the invasion and the buildup on the beachhead presented unusual situations for the Battalion in its methods of operations. Considerable work was done directly with the divisions in Corps while service to Corps troops was continued in a normal manner. Due to the situation at this period, the Battalion was handling parts of what would usually be Army evacuation and continued to do so until the arrival of the Army units. During this period of invasion and buildup the Battalion serviced fifty separate units and evacuated three hundred and three (303) casualties from these units and in addition evacuated one thousand two hundred and eighty-seven (1287) casualties in assisting the division evacuation.

    Although no equipment was lost during the landings it soon became apparent that tentage allowance was insufficient for operation under all weather conditions.

    The site for the Battalion and attached companies was within one mile of Corps Forward CP during the beachhead and early buildup, the Battalion remaining centrally located while Corps troops were concentrated due to the tactical situation. This concentration of troops made it unavoidable that medical installations were in close proximity with combat units on occasions and at the battalion site on the beach the unit by necessity, was closer to neighbor units then allowed by Geneva Convention standards. This was the only time this circumstance arose.         


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JULY . . . .  During the first week of July the 684 Medical Clearing Company was admitting and holding recurrent malaria eases, this being the first instance where patients were held for an extended period of time. On 4 July the 383 Medical Collecting Company moved to an area one and one-half miles south of Balleroy, France.
         
    On 16 July the 384 Medical Collecting Company (Amb) was dropped from attachment to the 53 Medical Battalion and assigned to First United States Army. The Battalion following this change consisted of two Medical Collecting Companies, a Medical Clearing Company and a Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment. As a method of following the tactical situation and in order to give constant service to all Corps troops the Battalion operated with a “Leap-frog” system. One Collecting Company and one platoon of the Clearing Company operated forward while a similar group would move to a new advanced position, leaping the more forward section. The evacuation of the troops by the collecting companies was coordinated by Headquarters; boundary lines being established for the areas to be serviced by each company and no distinctive evacuation problems arose. For a limited period of time, rearward evacuation from the 684 Medical Clearing Company was not functioning with the greatest efficiency but as the campaign progressed this situation was rectified.
         
    On 20 July the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion and the First Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company moved to a bivouac area one and one-half miles south of Balleroy, France and on the following day the rear echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion, the 382 Medical Collecting Company and the Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company moved to this site, thereby completing the move of the Battalion and attached units.
         
    26 July 1944, two platoons of litter bearers were attached to 2 Infantry Division where they remained for three days and on 30 July, six litter squads were attached to the 2 Infantry Division and five litter squads were attached to Company “A”, 110 Medical Battalion, 35 Infantry Division. On the following day two Medical Officers were also attached to the 2 Infantry Division.          

    On 30 July 1944 the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion, 382 and 383 Medical Collecting Companies, and the First Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company moved to a site one mile west of Cerisy la Foret, France. The rear echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion and the Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company joined the Battalion at the new area at a later hour.
         
    During the month, previous to the ‘St Lo’ breakthrough, the Battalion was situated for some time on the left flank of the Corps area, adjacent to British units. As a consequence of this position the Clearing Station serviced the Allied Units in the vicinity. Living was under tents during this and the proceeding month. Sanitary measures were taken in regards to latrines, garbage pits and messing and no difficult problems arose. The health of the individuals of the organization remained good. During the month of July, seven hundred and fifty-four (754) patients were evacuated and one hundred and seventy (170) patients were treated.


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AUGUST . . .  On 1 August 1944 the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion, the First Platoon of 684 Medical Clearing Company and the 383 Medical Collecting Company moved by infiltration to a new area one mile southwest of Vidouville, France. The 382 and 383 Medical Collecting Companies continued to make scheduled ambulance runs to Corps unite. On the following date the remainder of the Battalion moved to the location at Vidouville, One Medical Officer of the Clearing Company was sent to the 2 Infantry Division on Detached Service; twenty-one litter bearers on Detached Service with the 35 Infantry Division returned to the Battalion. On the 3 August the Medical Officer on Detached Service with the 2 Medical Battalion returned to duty while one officer and nine enlisted men of the 382 Medical Collecting Company, nine enlisted men from the 383 Medical Collecting Company and five enlisted men from the 684 Medical Clearing Company went on Detached Service as litter bearers to the 2 Infantry Division. On the numerous occasions when litter bearers were attached to the various divisions they received commendations for their work and individuals were recipients of awards    for heroic service.
         
    On 4 August, eight enlisted men on Detached Service with the 2 Medical Battalion and twenty-one enlisted men on Detached Service with the 35 Infantry Division returned to the Battalion to be followed on the 6 August by twenty-three men who had been with the 2 Infantry Division. On the same day the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion, Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company and the 382 and 383 Medical Collecting Companies moved to a new station three-quarters of a mile west of Guilberville, a distance of nine miles. On the 7 August the rear echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion and   the First Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company joined the Battalion west of Guilberville. The 2 Infantry Division was again sent medical personnel by the Battalion; one officer and thirteen enlisted men on the 10 August, four Medical Officers on 11 August, and one officer and twenty-six enlisted men on 12 August. The forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion, the Collecting Companies and the First Platoon of the Clearing Company moved by infiltration to a new station site one mile southwest of La Graverie on 14 August and were joined by the remainder of the Battalion on the following day. Also, on the 15th of August, one officer and forty-three enlisted men were sent to the 29 Infantry Division. Moves were being made by the Battalion to keep up with the tactical situation; the Battalion continuing to give regular scheduled service to Corps troops, keeping in touch with the units through reconnaissance. On all moves the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment and one platoon of the Clearing Station were located within three miles of the Corps Forward CP. This permitted liaison and also placed the units in a position where telephonic communication could be made and maintained at all times.
         
    From the date of the invasion until this stage of the campaign living had been in the field and up to and including this date in August all personnel  not on duty at night were ordered to and slept in deep slit trenches with wood and earth covering as protection from artillery, strafing and anti-aircraft shell fragments. This underground sleeping was discontinued at this time due to the change in the character of the campaign. During the entire campaign, however, the battalion never used camouflage but displayed all Geneva Red Cross signs prominently. In all field bivouacs the units were placed in one large group, local dispersion of vehicles and men and equipment was made within the area, however.


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    On the 16 August the men on Detached Service with the 2 Infantry Division returned to duty and on the 17th all men on Detached Service were returned to the Battalion. On this latter date the Battalion and attached units were alerted for a long move in conjunction with a Corps advancement. At the same time, one officer anti four enlisted men were sent to Corps Headquarters on Detached Service to operate an aid station. On the 20 August the Battalion and attached units made a motor march of seventy miles by convoy to a new area one-half mile northeast of Sees, France. The march was made during both night and daylight hours over crowded roads. On 21 August evacuation of German Prisoners of War wounded from the Corps’ Stockade began; these prisoners having been taken in the Falaise Gap. Evacuation was made by trucks to hospitals forty miles to the rear. This multiple litter hauling by truck was perfected and practiced during the pre-invasion maneuvers. The evacuation continued for three days.          
         
    At this period of the campaign the 684 Medical Clearing Company began holding Corps patients for extended periods of time to eliminate loss of the personnel to their units through evacuation and becoming lost in replacement channels.          

    On the 24 August the Battalion again prepared for a long motor  march by convoy. The 383 Medical Collecting Company left on convoy, attached to V Corps Artillery, for Cernay la Ville, on the road to Paris. On the 25 August the Battalion and its attached units made a motor march of 10 miles to a bivouac area three miles northwest of Limours, France where they bivouaced over-night upon notice of enemy activity in the Paris vicinity, the original destination. On the following day, one officer with ambulance and six enlisted men as aid station personnel were sent on Detached Service with Corps Forward. Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion, one platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company and the 382 Medical Collecting Company moved by infiltration to a new area eight miles from Paris, the city having just been liberated and the station was set up at a position two miles north of Longjumeau. The 383 Medical Collecting Company and one platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company remained. In the area northwest of Limours to support the troops in that area, a distance of 23 miles to the rear of the advance groups.
         
    Upon arriving at Paris notification was received that a large number of wounded American and Allied soldiers were in various hospitals in the city. These patients were formerly held as Prisoners of War by the Germans, many of the patients had been captured prior to and during the invasion. On the 27th the 382 and 383 Medical Collecting Companies ambulances as well as trucks of the Battalion Headquarters and the 684 Medical Clearing Company were used to evacuate these patients from the city to the Clearing Station. This evacuation continued during the following three days. Reconnaissance was made to all the institutions in the city for patients and liaison was maintained with the French hospital authorities. On the 29 August a Medical Officer and ambulance were stationed at the American Hospital in Paris for emergency calls within the city and to coordinate the evacuation of the Allied patients. During this time some German casualties were also evacuated from the numerous hospitals. On the same day the Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company left their station area northwest of Limours to join the Battalion at Longjumeau to assist in the handling of the patients being evacuated from Paris. During this short period of time approximately three hundred and fifty (350) patients


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were evacuated from the hospitals in the city, were eared for in the Clearing Station and evacuated rearward. Despite the tremendous problem involved in the contacting and evacuating of these wounded while the city was in the turmoil of liberation the Battalion continued to make scheduled runs to the Corps units.    
      
    The 383 Medical Collecting Company closed its station northwest of Limours on the 30th of August and moved to St Dents, a town north of Paris. The move was made by skirting the city. On the 31st the remainder of the Battalion moved by infiltration to a new station one and one-half miles east of Gonesse, a distance of 23 miles and in a northeastern direction from Paris, On the same day the 383 Medical Collecting Company left St Dents and joined the remainder of    the organization at Gonesse. During the month of August the 684 Medical Clearing Company treated seven hundred and sixty-three (763) patients and eight hundred and thirty-four (834) casualties were evacuated by the Collecting Companies. An advance of two hundred and forty-seven (247) miles was made in eight moves. No serious damage to any of the vehicles occurred in spite of the great amount of travel and the congested roads. There was heavy rainfall throughout the month and although living was under tents the health of the command remained excellent. Friendly civilians were met throughout the marches to and around Paris and civilian contacts were of greater number than at any other time in the campaign. No cases of venereal disease were contracted by the personnel. Certain supply items were unavailable during this time, a result of the great lengthening of the supply lines in a short period of time. The Battalion, however, suffered no serious consequences nor were its services curtailed as a result of this condition.          
         
SEPTEMBER . . . The forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 382 Medical Collecting Company and the Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company left Gonesse, France on the 1st of September by motor march for a new bivouac area one-half mile southwest of Nanteuil-le Haudouin, a march of 20 miles. On the following day the rear echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the First Platoon of the Clearing Company left Gonesse and made a motor march of 40  miles to Villers-Cotterets, 20 miles forward of the other units of the Battalion where they were joined by the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment. On the 3rd of September the 382 Medical Collecting Company and the Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company joined the forward elements at Villers-Cotterets. All moves were now being made by infiltration. On the 4th of the month the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 382 Medical Collecting Company and the Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company again made a forward move, a motor march of 41 miles to Athies Sous Laon and set up the station. Upon reconnaissance it was learned that Corps was moving further forward and so the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment and the 382 Medical Collecting Company left Athies Sous Laon to a bivouac area one mile west of Rozoy, a move of 22 miles additional. The rear echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the First Platoon of the Clearing Company left Villers-Cotterets later in the day and traveled 63 miles to join the forward elements at Rozoy. The Second Platoon of the Clearing Company remained in operation at Athies Sous Laon.          

    The tactical situation was such that the Battalion was forced to constantly change stations in order to give service to the Corps troops. The forward echelons of the Battalion continued to set up in the new vicinity of Corps Forward CP after these moves. The Collecting Companies made scheduled ambulance runs to the units, overcoming the difficulties in maintaining contact with them during the numerous moves of all of the Corps organizations.                   


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    On September the 6th the Hq & Hq Detachment, the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the First Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company made a  motor march of 27 miles, from Rozoy to a site one-quarter mile south of Tournes and on the following day they were joined by the 382 Medical Collecting Company. The Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company which had been operating at Athies Sous Laon, a distance of 58 miles to the rear transferred its patients to the First Platoon and then moved to Tournes where the remainder of the Battalion was operating. On the 9th of the month the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 382 Medical Collecting Company and the Second Platoon of the Clearing Company left Tournes, France, for a bivouac area one-quarter mile east of Paliseul, Belgium, a distance of 52 miles. The Second Platoon of the Clearing Company opened station and patients were transferred by collecting company ambulances from the First Platoon at Tournes to the Second Platoon now located at Paliseul. On the following day the rear echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the First Platoon of the Clearing Company joined the remainder of the Battalion at Paliseul. On the same day, seventy-five of  the enlisted men sorted equipment and supplies at a captured German hospital at Carlsburg. The advance echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the First Platoon of the Clearing Company moved a distance of 36 miles to a position one mile northeast of Bastogne, Belgium, on 11 September. The civilian population in the towns on route were in a festive mood, the territory having very recently been liberated. Once again the patients were transferred from platoon to platoon of the Clearing Company and on the 12th the rear echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 382 Medical Collecting Company and the Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company joined the advance groups of the Battalion. On the 14th of September one Medical Officer and six enlisted men with an ambulance went on Detached Service with V Corps Provisional Military Government Group in preparation for the invasion of Germany.
         
    September the 15th the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 382 Medical Collecting Company and the Second Platoon of the Clearing Company moved a distance of 24 miles to a site one mile northeast of Holdingen, Luxembourg, and on the following day the patients were transferred from the rear platoon of the Clearing Company to the Second Platoon at this site. On the same day Corps requested the 3ù4 Section of the Battalion to obtain 1500 blankets for emergency needs, the request was filled promptly. Four days later one officer and twenty aid men and 1it~er bearers of the 383 Medical Collecting Company went on Detached Service with the 4 Infantry Division while on the 21st of the month the rear echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the First Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company joined the Battalion at Holdingen, Luxembourg. On the 23rd, 24th and 25th of the month the men returned from Detached Service with the 4 Infantry Division.
         
    The Clearing Company continued to treat minor sick and wounded, holding Corps troops and Divisional troops in all cases which could be returned to a duty status within a reasonable period of time. While completing seven marches during this month of September and traveling a distance of 242 miles the Clearing Company handled three hundred and ninety-four (394) patients and the Collecting Companies evacuated three hundred and eighty-two (382) casualties.   


12

OCTOBER . . .  On 2 October 1914 the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment, the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the First Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company moved to German barracks one mile north of Heppenbach, Belgium. This was the first instance in the campaign when the billeting was in buildings, the structure used had been a former camp for the German Youth Movement. Water facilities were on the post, showers and baths were available and a large building containing kitchen equipment was used for the mess. During the stay at Heppenbach the Battalion again operated a consolidated mess as a means of conservation of food and effort. On the 3rd of October the rear echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment moved to Heppenbach and patients in the Clearing Station at Holdingen, Belgium, were transferred to the First Platoon at Heppenbach. On the following day the Second Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company moved by infiltration to the new station at Heppenbach while the 382 Medical Collecting Company continued the evacuation of casualties from units in the vicinity of Holdingen and the 383 Medical Collecting Company evacuated casualties from the units in the area surrounding Heppenbach. On the 5th of October the 382 Medical Collecting Company joined the remainder of the Battalion at Heppenbach.
         
    Half of Company Headquarters, half of the Station Section and the Ambulance Section of the 382 Medical Collecting Company went to Elsenborn, Belgium, on Detached Service with the 102 Cavalry Group on the 8th of October. The remainder of the Battalion was operating at Heppenbach and on the 17th of the month a training schedule for those members of the command who were not actively engaged in furnishing medical service was initiated. The schedule covered basic medical subjects with a large percentage of time being spent on current events and educational topics. This program continued for a period of three weeks, The elements of the 382 Medical Collecting Company on Detached Service with the 102 Cavalry Group returned to duty with the parent organization on the 23rd of October. Three days later, this Collecting Company and the forward echelon of Hq & Hq Detachment moved a distance of 32 miles to Eupen into a building called “The Kindergarden”. On the 30th of the month one officer and thirty-one enlisted men of the litter bearer section of the 382 Medical Collecting Company went on Detached Service with the 103 Medical Battalion of the 28 Infantry Division. At the same time a prophylactic station was set up and operated in Eupen at the Corps Recreation Center.          

    During the month of October a total of eight hundred and eight (808) patients were received by the Clearing Company and an average of one hundred and twenty-two (122) patients remained in the Clearing Station at the end of each day. In the same period of time the Collecting Companies serviced thirty-eight units within the Corps area arid they evacuated one thousand, three hundred and nine (1309) patients.
         
 NOVEMBER . . . Five litter squads, one officer and one noncommissioned officer from the litter platoon of the 383 Medical Collecting Company were sent to the forward elements at Eupen, Belgium, on the 8th of November, alerting them for Detached Service with divisional troops but on the following day they returned to their parent unit. The same group was again alerted for duty with the 28 Infantry Division on the 10th. On the 12th of November the litter bearers of the 382 Medical Collecting Company returned from the 28 Infantry Division.


13

    On the 21st of November one  officer and twenty-six men from the litter platoon of the 383 Medical Collecting Company went an Detached Service with the 8 Infantry Division, to be followed on the 25th of November by two litter squads and two aid men. Also, during this month medical officers from the Battalion were being sent on Detached Service to various Corps units for short periods of time. On the 28th of November one of the dental officers from the Clearing Company was attached to the Collecting Company at Eupen, Belgium, as a means of giving dental care to those installations in that area. This was the beginning of an enlarged program of dental service. Since the landing on the continent the demands on the dental department of the organization had been extremely heavy and the small staff had found it extremely difficult to meet these demands because of its size and its limited facilities.  A great amount of time was also involved in the handling of the patients. Ambulances would bring the patients requiring prosthetics in addition to operative dentistry to the Clearing Company, then transportating them to a dental laboratory for an appointment, a trip of considerable distance, returning them to the Clearing Station which would then have to keep them over-night and then return them to their units the following day. In order to eliminate these delays for the patients and in order to keep the ambulances of the Battalion more available for normal needs a MD 61 and 62 Chest were secured as an aid in doing more work at the Battalion's own installation. Dentists from near by units who could afford the time were invited to work at the battalion dental clinic with its additional facilities. This developed into a four chair dental clinic offering prosthetic service. As a result of this enlarged program the trips and milage of the ambulances were greatly reduced, more complete dental service was given and patients were returned to duty with a minimum loss of time.          
                   
    On the 29th of November all ambulances and available personnel stationed at Heppenbach went to the aid of two neighborhood units who had been hit by P.A.C. [Pilotless Aircraft, German V-1], giving medical treatment and evacuating patients from the sites.
         
    During the month the 382 Medical Collecting Company located at Eupen received and treated seven hundred and fourteen (714) patients in their Station Section while the Clearing Station of the Battalion, located at Heppenbach, received a total of one thousand and twenty-nine (1029) patients. The Clearing Station was holding Corps patients and patients for the 8th, 9th and 99th Infantry Divisions, an average of one hundred and forty-five (145) patients remaining in the Clearing Station at the end of each day. The Collecting Companies had evacuated one thousand, eight hundred and seventy-two (1872) patients in addition to furnishing litter bearers to divisions within the Corps. As a  result of weather conditions many of the personnel in the area were becoming patients with Trench Foot. The Clearing Station began a program of holding  those cases when it appeared that they would be in condition to return to duty within ten days. At the same time an officer was designated to study the condition, keep statistics on its occurrance, treatment, and length of time to hold the patients before returning them to duty. This study continued throughout the remainder of the year.
         
    As a means of recreation members of the Battalion presented a camp show for the patients and later for the V Corps Recreation Center. A small percentage of passes were also given to nearby towns and personnel remained in good spirit.


14

DECEMBER . . .  All available Medical Officers and ambulances from the rear units at Heppenbach treated casualties from a P.A.C. when it burst in the midst of several army units in the near vicinity on the 2nd of December. On the following day one officer and thirty-six litter bearers of the 382 Medical Collecting Company relieved the men from the 383 Medical Collecting Company who were on Detached Service with the 8 Infantry Division and on the 11th of December this latter group returned to the Battalion. Two days later one medical officer of the Battalion was placed on Detached Service for an unlimited time with the 1121 Engineer Group. On the 34th of December one officer and the litter platoon of the 383 Medical Collecting Company were placed on Detached Service with the 2 Infantry Division but returned the following day.
         
    A message was received from the Corps Surgeon at 0530 hours on the 17th of December by the forward elements of the Battalion at Eupen, Belgium, to the effect that enemy airborne troops were dropped in the area and that all personnel were to be kept in the companies’ area and that only emergency calls for ambulance service were to be answered. An attempt was made to contact the rear group at Heppenbach, but all lines of telephonic communication had been cut. At about 0830 hours the buildings housing the troops in the Heppenbach area were subjected  to enemy machinegun fire and one of the ambulance drivers was turned back from his scheduled run by American troops who had warned him that enemy troops and armor were in the area. Following this an infantryman brought a casualty into the Clearing Station and stated that his convoy had been ambushed by a German patrol and requested ambulances to service the wounded. One officer and three ambulances were dispatched to the scene. It later developed that these men never returned and were reported Missing in Action. At 9000 hours an enemy armored patrol was seen passing along a main road three hundred yards from the rear of the area and an attempt was made to obtain information from surrounding units as to the extent of the breakthrough. Preparations were then made to evacuate the patients, of which there were one hundred and eighty. The patients were loaded into Army ambulances, 383 Medical Collecting Company ambulances and all available trucks and evacuated to medical installations at Waimes and Malmedy. The vehicles then returned to the area and personnel and equipment was then loaded and dispatched to Malmedy and later to Eupen over roads under enemy observation and being patrolled by the enemy. In the meantime the Battalion Commander had arrived from the forward units at Eupen to warn the group of the breakthrough. One hundred and eighty patients, an personnel, all transportation, and approximately ninety-five percent of organizational equipment were finally evacuated from the area inspite of the complete enemy breakthrough. Although the route used to evacuate the organization was under constant German observation, no attempt was made to interfere with the movement except on one occasion when an ambulance was fired upon, this apparently being an attempt to halt the vehicle and not to hit it. One officer and twenty-four enlisted men of the 383 Medical Collecting Company were transported to Waimes by Army ambulances, were stranded there due to lack of transportation and remained overnight. On the following morning this group, along with another medical installation in the same town were taken prisoners by the enemy but were later freed by United States troops and returned to the remainder of the Battalion now at Eupen.          

    Upon arrival in an assembly area near Eupen the units made an immediate inventory of property and submitted an emergency requisition for shortages. On the following day the units continued checking and reloading equipment in preparation for movement at short notice, if the tactical situation would necessitate a move.


15
                  
    From the 19th of December to the 24th the 383 Medical Collecting Company and the 684 Medical Clearing Company remained in tents near Eupon while the 382 Medical Collecting Company acted in the capacity of a clearing station, their personnel being reinforced with personnel of the 684 Medical Clearing Company. On the 25th the 383 Medical Collecting Company moved to 89 Aachen Strasse and the Second Platoon of the Clearing Company moved to Heidberg Strasse within the city of Eupen and the Clearing Company prepared to receive and hold patients. On the  following day the First Platoon of the 684 Medical Clearing Company also moved from tents to 89 Aachen Strasse, Eupen. The Battalion was then within the city but in three separate buildings.
         
    During the month a total of one thousand, eight hundred and twenty (1820) patients were received by the Clearing Station and an average of ninety-nine (99) patients remained in the station at the end of each day. The Collecting Companies evacuated two thousand, two hundred and ninety-nine (2299) patients during the same period.
         
    The Battalion and its attached companies had been in combat from the beginning of the invasion in June and in the ensuing time, until the end of the year, the Clearing Station had handled five thousand and thirty-six (5036) patients, with an additional seven hundred and fourteen (714) patients being handled by the Station Section of the 382 Medical Collecting Company who operated in a similar capacity for a period of time when the units were separated. The Collecting Companies evacuated a total of nine thousand and forty (9040) patients during this same period of combat. Although the unit had undergone all types of shelling, bombing and P.A.C. bombardment the morale of the personnel remained good.  
        
    Individual members of the Battalion had been awarded decorations by both Corps and Divisional to which they were attached throughout the campaign. Twenty-six (26) Bronze Star Medals, including Clusters; three (3) Silver Star Medals and fourteen (14) Purple Heart Medals were awarded various members of the units. A total of one officer and eight enlisted men were reported Missing In Action and  one enlisted man was Killed In Action.
         
    The Venereal Disease rate remained exceptionally low, no cases occurred to any member during the entire period from June 1944 to January 1945. Only three cases of trench foot occurred to personnel of the Battalion.          

    Hq & Hq Detachment, 53 Medical Battalion, the 382 and 383 Medical Collecting Companies and the 684 Medical Clearing Company were awarded the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque for superior performance of duty in the accomplishment of exceptionally difficult tasks during the period 1 September 1944 to 31 October 1944; while the same units were awarded Bronze Service Stars for the Normandy Campaign and the Northern France Campaign and at the year’s end were also eligible for the Germany Campaign Bronze Service Star.
         
         
JOSEPH B. GORDON,
Lt. Col., Medical Corps,
Commanding.         

Source:  National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 112, Entry 54A, 53d Medical Battalion, History, 1941-45, Box 240