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53 MEDICAL BATTALION

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53D MEDICAL BATTALION      


SUBJECT:  Annual Report of Medical Department Activities
 
TO: Surgeon General, War Dept, Washington, DC
         
         
I    EARLY HISTORY
         
    1.  The 53rd Medical Battalion was activated 15 February l941 at Camp Claiborne, La., with a cadre of three Regular Army officers and twenty Regular Army enlisted men.
         
    2.  Under command of Maj G E Horrocks, MC, the battalion completed a thirteen-week basic training period and participated in the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers, servicing V Corps troops of the Third US Army.
         
    3.  The battalion was alerted for overseas duty 30 December 1941 and proceeded to the Fort Dix Staging Area where replacements were received and the unit processed for overseas shipment. On 19 February 1942, the battalion departed from the New York Port of Embarkation.
         
    [4.]  Upon arrival in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 2 March 1942, various units and detachments of the battalion were sent on special duty or detached service. Twenty-seven hospital ships, carrying a total of 11,034 patients were evacuated and/or loaded. 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. Medical service was also supplied to the numerous units scattered throughout Ireland. Training was a continuing process during the time the unit was in the United Kingdom.
         
    5.   Lt Col G E Horrocks was transferred and Lt Col J B Gordon, then Major, assumed command on 10 August 1943.
         
    6.   The battalion was reorganized wider a new T/O&E on 28 November 1943.  In February 1944 the sub-units of the battalion were redesignated as the 382, 383, and 384 Medical Collecting Companies, and the 684 Medical Clearing Company. The units were assigned to the V Corps and attached to the 53rd Medical Battalion for duty.
         
    7.  The 53rd Medical Battalion and attached units landed in Normandy, France between D plus 1 and D plus 7 in support of V Corps troops, remaining  with the Corps until V Corps was redeployed in l945. Personnel amid equipment were attached to various Corps units and divisions during critical periods. Following the Saint Lo break-through arid the cleaning-up of the Falaise-Argentan pocket, the battalion moved on to Paris. At the time of the liberation of the city, personnel amid ambulances of the battalion evacuated over 300 Allied casualties who were held as PW’s in hospitals within the city. The unit then followed the tactical moves across France to the West Wall. At the time of the Ardennes break-through, one-half of the battalion was isolated at Heppenbach, Belgium, but was able to evacuate approximately 180 patients and its own equipment and personnel, and evaded being captured. The battalion continued to service Corps units in the campaign against Germany, and moved with the V Corps into Czechoslovakia.
         
II    OPERATIONS
         
    1.   The battalion was stationed in Eupen, Belgium at the beginning of 1945.  The Clearing Company continued to receive and treat patients and to


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hold sick call for neighboring units. The 382 and 383 Med Coll Co continued  to make scheduled ambulance runs to various units. On l0 January 1945, the 53rd Medical Battalion and attached companies were awarded the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque per General Order No 3, Hq, V Corps, dated 8 January 1945, for “Superior performance of duty in the accomplishment of exceptionally  difficult tasks during the period of 1 September to 31 October 1944". A  total of 719 patents were admitted and treated by the 2nd platoon of the Clearing Company during the month of January, and an average of 38 patients remained in the station at the end of each day. The Collecting Companies serviced 44 units within the corps area, transporting 2617 patients during the month of January.
         
    2.    The battalion and attached companies remained in Eupen, Belgium, during the month of February, On 26 February 1945, Hq and Hq Detachment, 53rd Medical Battalion, 382 and 383 Med Coll Co, and 684 Med Clr Co were relieved from assignment to V Corps and assigned to First US Army and further attached to V Corps. Medical activities continued as in January. A total of 770 patients were admitted and treated by the Clearing Company, and an average of 92 patients remained at the close of each day. 1476 patients were transported by the 383 Med Coil Co, while the 382 Med Coll Co transported 712 patients over the same period. The dental clinic treated 886 dental patients.
         
    3.    During the month of March, the Battalion moved from Eupen to Neustadt, Germany. During the month the collecting companies transported 2050 patients on scheduled ambulance runs servicing corps arid army units. The clearing company treated 604 patients, and an average of 43 patients remained in the clearing station at the close of each day. Medical care and ambulance service were furnished the over-run PW inclosures near Limburg.
         
    4.    During the month of April, the battalion made several moves, the longest of which was 145 miles from Naumberg to Grafenwohr, Germany, where the battalion was stationed at the end of the month. Medical activities consisted of scheduled ambulance runs by the collecting companies and treatment of minor sick and wounded by the clearing company. A total of 775 patients were transported during the month, many of the hauls being of considerable time  arid distance due to rough roads, and extended lines resulting from rapid movement of tactical units. The clearing company treated a total of 600 patients, and an average of 27 patients remained in the station at the close of each day. During the month, a total of 7 moves covering a distance of 431 miles were made by the battalion, while two additional moves were made by separate units of the command.
         
    5.   On 8 May 1945, the battalion and attached companies moved from Grafenwohr to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, a motor march of 92 miles. Following V-E Day, 9 May 1945, a dispensary was set up at a German DP Camp at Rokycany. Medical service was rendered a large DP Camp at St Plznec. The 382 Coll Co serviced the Corps PW Camp at Pilsen. On 13 May l945, the battalion and attached units were relieved of assignment to First US Army arid assigned to Third US Amy. The 2nd platoon of 684 Clearing Co and the 383 Med Coll Co were set up at Susice, Czechoslovakia, servicing a task force of Field Artillery units. Tentative plans were made for the 53rd Med Bn to operate under the 134 Med Gp. The battalion was to assume responsibility for evacuation, medical supply, and administration of RAMP centers, German military and civilian hospitals, and DP camps in the center of the V Corps area. The clearing company was operating two clearing stations which treated a total of 742 patients during the month. An average of 29 patients remained in the station at the close of each day. Ambulances of the collecting companies, making scheduled and emergency runs, transported a total of 1374 patients. The dental clinic treated 286 dental patients.


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    6.   The battalion remained at Pilsen during June. On 3 June, the 53rd Medical Battalion took over the area previously serviced by the 180th Medical Battalion. The 588 Mtr Amb Co was attached to the battalion on 3 June. The 2nd platoon of the 684 Med Clr Co and the 383 Med Coll Co  rejoined the battalion in Pilsen. Medical service and evacuation was continued for RAMP, PW and DP inclosures and hospitals. On l7 June, units of the battalion were categorized as follows:
                     
53 Med Bn               II
382 Med Coll Co     IV
383 Med Coll Co     IV
684 Med Clr Co       II

    On 18 June 1945, the 595 Mtr Amb Co was attached to the 53rd Medical Battalion. The battalion also engaged in unloading PW hospital trains amid transporting PW patients to various hospitals around Pilsen. During the month, the battalion was attached to XXII Corps for administration, and to the 134 Med Gp for operations. On 27 June, the battalion was attached to the 134 Med Gp for both administration and duty. At the close of the month, the unit was still engaged in the operation and servicing of PW and DP inclosures and hospitals. On 23 June 1945, Maj George W. Porter, MC, assumed command of the battalion.

     7.   Medical activities during the month of July continued as in June. Ambulances of subordinate units of the battalion were used to transport Russian patients and DP’s through the Russian Zone to Prague. During the month, approximately 610 German patients and 725 Russian patients and DP’s were moved. 154 Czech Nationals were received from Germany and distributed among the various hospitals. In addition to operation of hospitals, the battalion, through the 684 Clr Co, also operated dispensaries and pro-stations servicing numerous Corps troops throughout the area. On 27 July, the battalion was instructed to release all hospitals to the Czech Government but to retain the equipment in each. This process eventually covered a period of months, the last hospital being released in October.
         
    8.   During the month of August, the battalion continued to transport Czech Nationals requiring hospitalization into the area. Transportation of these DP’s met with little difficulty and disposition was effected in an efficient manner. The 595 Mtr Amb Co was awarded the Meritorious Unit Plaque for services performed during combat, while the 53 Med Bn, 382 and 383 Med Coll Co, and the 684 Med Clr Co were awarded a Star to the Meritorious Unit Plaque for services rendered over the period 8 January to 8 July 1945 in support of V Corps. Training of all units continued during the month, with special emphasis placed on training within the Category II units.
         
    9.   On 8 September 1945, Battalion headquarters moved from Pilsen in the center of the American zone to Lochotin, and on 10 September, the battalion received further orders to move to Marienbad to assume the task of evacuating the Berlin area hospitals located there. Six hospital trains were required to evacuate the German Nationals back to Germany. Upon completion of evacuation, a 250-bed hospital was established to accommodate Sudeten Germans in the area. On 14 September, the battalion was relieved from assignment to 134 Med Gp and assigned to XXII Corps. On the same date, the 452 Med Coll Co, the 590 Mtr Amb Co and 617 Med Clr Co were released from 179 Med Bn and attached to the 53rd Med Bn. The remainder of the month was spent in readjusting personnel and carrying out assigned routine missions.
         
    10.   During the month of October, the battalion disposed of the last of the hospitals and DP camps which had been operated by the battalion. Release was effected to the Czech Government and no difficulties were encountered. On 11 October 1945, the 428 and 429 Med Coll Co, both Category II units were attached to the battalion


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On 15 October, the 588 and 590 Mtr Amb Co were relieved from the battalion and assigned to XXII Corps, and the 1st platoon of the 617 Med Clr Co moved to Susice to operate a holding station servicing the 94th Infantry Division, On 17 October 1945, Hq  and the 2nd platoon of the 617 Med Clr Co moved to Susice to join the 1st platoon in operation of the holding station. For the remainder of the month, the battalion was engaged in normal routine administration, and the operation of dispensaries and pro-stations servicing corps troops. On l7 October, the battalion headquarters was moved from Marienbad to Pilsen.

    11.   On l November, Maj Porter was transferred from the battalion and Lt Col Louis H Jobe, Jr, MC, assumed command. On 3 November, the 617 Med Clr Co rejoined the battalion at Pilsen. On 6 November, Lt Col Jobe departed for temporary duty in the Zone of Interior, and Maj Maurice R. Connolly, Regimental Surgeon of the 302d Infantry Regt assumed command of the battalion. The unit performed no special mission during the month other then evacuation of the 59th Field Hospital to Station Hospitals in Regensburg and Bayreuth. Notice was received that all American troops would leave Czechoslovakia by 30 November and preparations were made to move the battalion. Ambulance service was furnished to evacuate the 59th Field Hospital to Germany. On l2 November the 684 Med Clr Co was assigned to the XV Corps in Germany. As troops left Czechoslovakia during the last week in November, the 428, 429 and 452 Med Coll Co were assigned to the XV Corps in Germany, while the 53rd Med Bn and the 617 Med Clr Co were assigned to the XX Corps in Germany. On 30 November 1945, Hq and Hq Det 53 Med Bn moved to Bad Worishofen in Germany, and were assigned to the 65 Med Gp for administration and operations. No subordinate units were assigned to the battalion, as the 617 Med Clr Co on arrival in XX Corps area, was assigned to the 59 Med Bn.
         
    12.   Primary mission of the battalion during the early part of the month of December consisted of inspection of subordinate units and hospitals under the control of 65 Med Gp. On 10 December 1945, Maj Connolly was released from assignment and 1st Lt Martin J. Becoatti, MAC assumed command. At this time, there were only 5 officers and thirteen enlisted men assigned to the unit, some of whom were on transfer orders for redeployment. Since filler      replacements were not available, and the unit would not have sufficient personnel to carry out any mission, the unit was made non-operational on 18 December 1945 and all personnel were released from the unit. From 18 December to 31 December, administration of the unit was performed by the 59th Medical Battalion.
         
III     PROBLEMS OF REDEPLOYMENT
         
    1.  Redeployment of troops of this battalion began on 24 January 1945 when the readjustment of personnel into Category II and IV units was accomplished by intra-battalion transfers. Groups of high point personnel departed for shipment to the Zone of Interior on 2 July, 16 July, and 12 August. This completed readjustment within the battalion until 9 September when the two Category II units, the 382 and 383 Med Coll Co departed for return to the United States. On l7 September, high point colored personnel of the 588 and 590 Mtr Amb Co departed for shipment to the United States, leaving the two companies almost non-operational due to lack of personnel. From that date on, the two ambulance companies did not have sufficient personnel to carry on even routine company administration, and organizational equipment, particularly vehicles, suffered because of lack of personnel to take care of it. Fillers were not available, and numerous requests to turn in the equipment were disapproved because the units were Category I.
         


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During the remainder of the year, high point personnel were transferred out in accordance with quotas from higher headquarters, but the battalion was able to carry out assigned missions as low point replacements were received. Most units operated during the latter quarter of the year with an assigned strength of front 30% to 50% of T/O strength. The arrival of the 428 and 429 Med Coll Co eased the situation to a certain extent, since both units were comprised of low point replacements from France, and both units were at T/O strength. Since neither unit had an assigned mission to perform, their arrival created a ‘pool’ of enlisted men available to plug gaps caused in other units by the departure of high point personnel. The unit had no difficulty closing out installations at any point in its activities, and had no occasion to turn in supplies or equipment as a result of redeployment.
         
IV    RELATIONS WITH ALLIED FORCES AND GOVERNMENTS.
         
    1.   Throughout the year, relations between this battalion and the allied forces and governments with which it came in contact, were amicable and friendly. Minor difficulties which arose were entirely the result of differences in language and customs and were easily ironed out by good judgement and tact on the part of all concerned. From May to the end of November, this headquarters worked closely with the Czech government in  transporting Czech Nationals who were repatriated from Germany, and who required hospitalization. Constant co-operation between the representatives of this battalion and Czech Government officials was maintained during the period when the battalion released to the Czech Government all German and DP hospital which the battalion operated. Evidence of amicable relations was clearly demonstrated on 25 July 1945, when Major Porter, Battalion Commander, Capt Salter, 383 Med Coll Co, Capt Bricker, 382 Med Coll Co, S/Sgt Pero, 383 Med Coll Co, and Pfc D’Olympio, 684 Med Clr Co, were awarded the Czech Military Medal for Merit First Class for services in supervision of supply and evacuation of Allied and German Hospitals in the Pilsen area.
         
V    RELATIONS WITH CIVIL POPULATION
         
    1.   The unit had little contact with civilian population of Belgium and Germany during the period January to April inclusive, due to the close support rendered tactical units and the speed of operations. Over the period May to November inclusive, relations with civilian population were confined to occupation of civilian installations for billets, use of civilian services such as laundry, dry cleaning, etc., and the servicing of repatriated Czech Nationals, such as use of delousing teams, evacuation, and minor medical care, all furnished at the direction of higher medical or command headquarters. Relations, as a whole were amicable, and outside of minor difficulties arising from misunderstanding on the part of an individual, or individuals, operations were carried out with a high degree of efficiency.
         
VI    MILITARY AND CIVILIAN PERSONNEL
         
    1.   There was no military personnel problem within the command until the latter part of 1945, when redeployment began to take its toll of key personnel. Prior to the month of September, highly trained personnel were on hand at all times to enable the unit to perform assigned missions in a superior manner, as is evidenced by the numerous awards and commendations to the unit, and personnel within the unit. Following V-J Day


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2 September 1945, the rapid acceleration of redeployment lowered the strength of the battalion to approximately 35% of authorized strength. Due to the necessity of maintaining scattered detachments at dispensaries and hospitals being serviced by the battalion, efficiency was  somewhat lowered, and difficulty was encountered in keeping the various installations at peak efficiency. This was somewhat overcome by the arrival in the early part of October of two Med Coll Co (428 and 429) which were at T/O strength with low point enlisted personnel. Turn-over of hospitals to the Czech Government also considerably alleviated the situation to a great extent.

    2.   Civilian personnel at no time throughout the year presented a problem. They were used to a great extent for menial tasks to permit the release of soldiers for more important duties. Minor thefts were evidenced on several occasions, but with careful supervision, the practice was finally obliterated. Great care had to be exercised at all times in the employment of civilians in order to guard against the more common skin and mouth diseases. Periodic spot physical inspections were the standard operating procedure in this unit.
         
VII    TRAINING
         
    1.   Due to operational demands, little training was carried out in the battalion during the first half of the year. In the latter part of June, when the 53rd Med Bn and the 684 Med Clr Co were made Category II units, training emphasizing particular aspects of Pacific warfare was initiated in the two units. Personnel received training in the use of firearms.

    2.   Training in the entire battalion came almost to a halt in the month of September due to shortage of personnel. In October, a special orientation program dealing with occupational duties and fraternization was initiated in all companies. The program consisted of four one-hour classes weekly, and was carried out on the discussion group basis at platoon level. On the job training was a continuing process in order to supply replacements for redeployed personnel. Shortages were felt keenly in the following positions: (a) Mess personnel, (b) Supply personnel, (c) Clerks, and (d) Drivers and mechanics.

    3.   While there was never a lack of training literature or training aids, the subordinate units of the battalion were sometimes handicapped by lack of qualified instructors. Operations, to a certain extent, interfered with the establishment of a well-balanced training program throughout the battalion, and at times, the unit was hard pressed to meet the demands of higher headquarters in this respect. However, training schedules were strictly adhered to by a majority of personnel whenever operational necessity permitted.

VIII    EQUIPMENT, SUPPLIES AND TRANSPORTATION
         
    1.   The unit experienced little difficulty in obtaining supplies and equipment, with the exception of gasoline. The latter, of course, as lines of supply were rapidly lengthened, presented a problem common to most units.

    2.   Motor vehicle equipment of the battalion stood up rather well under the constant use during combat conditions, and in post-war evacuation. Towards the end of the year, the strain began to tell on the vehicles which had been in use since D-Day. The battalion, at all times, maintained a wrecker and maintenance truck to service subordinate units, and effect repairs not within the immediate capabilities of the company. Maintenance personnel within subordinate units are largely responsible for the long life of vehicles used by the battalion.


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IX    IMPROVISATIONS
         
    1.   There were no improvisations of techniques, procedures or equipment, worthy of note.
        
X    CONSERVATION OF MATERIEL AND MANPOWER
         
    1.   Conservation of manpower was effected largely by the employment of civilian personnel for menial tasks over those periods when the unit was in a static position. Inasmuch as most of the units of the battalion operated at less than T/O strength during most of the year, conservation of military personnel by any other means was out of the question.

    2.   Conservation of various critical supplies such as gasoline, solid fuel, and rations, were carried out under theater wide programs. Officers in battalion headquarters were delegated the responsibility for supervision of these programs in subordinate unite, and such program were made the subject of frequent inspections. No opportunity was lost to impress on subordinate elements the necessity for proper care of organizational equipment.
         
XI    HOUSING, WATER SUPPLY, BATHING FACILITIES, LAUNDRY.
         
    1.   Housing facilities, for the most part were adequate throughout the year. Over the period 8 May to 8 September when the battalion, was located in Pilsen, tents were the only housing facilities available. During the summer months, this presented no problems.
         
    2.   Water supply for the most part consisted solely of those supplies obtained from Engineer water points, or from the use of lister [Lyster] bags. Troops were constantly cautioned to use water from such sources, and if such was not available, to utilize halazone tablets, of which a sufficient supply was always available. There were no cases of illness or disease in the battalion which could be directly attributed to contaminated water.

    3.   Bathing facilities in the early part of the year were not adequate but this is attributed to the proximity of the unit to combat areas, and the large numbers of troops relying on Quartermaster showers for bathing facilities. When the unit settled down after V-E Day, civilian
billets provided adequate bathing facilities.

    4.   Laundry service was provided for the most part by civilian agencies. Largely a matter which each individual was prone to assume for himself, this never presented a problem, except at those times when the battalion was moving rapidly in the spring of the year.
         
XII    FOOD & MESSING; SEWAGE & WASTE DISPOSAL: INSECT CONTROL

    1.   Battalion headquarters during the entire year, was attached to adjacent units for rations. Rations, as a whole were adequate. Shortages of staples such as butter, sugar, and coffee, occurred on occasion, but were no more than to be expected considering the lines of supply. Lack of qualified mess personnel handicapped some wits in the preparation of meals, particularly after redeployment was accelerated. The messes of subordinate units were frequently inspected, especially in view of the necessity for some units to employ civilians as food handlers.


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    2.   Sewage and waste disposal presented no outstanding problems. Under field conditions, the basic principles of field sanitation were rigidly enforced. Permanent billets occasionally required some adjustment prior to occupancy.

    3.   The frequent and continually emphasized use of DDT powder minimized any problems incident to insect control as far as personal infestation was concerned. Personnel engaged in delousing activities at PW cages and DP camps were constantly warned against the dangers of personal infestation.
         
XIII     PREVENTIVE MEDICINE MEASURES
         
    1.   There were no preventive medicine measures initiated within the battalion other than:

    a.    Instruction to all personnel concerning prevention of respiratory infection, and venereal disease;
    
    b.   Periodic foot inspections during cold weather to avoid trench foot;
    
    c.   Immunizations as prescribed by current regulations, and regular monthly physical inspections;

    d.   Use of sulfadiazine as prophylaxis following sexual exposure as a deterrent to venereal disease.
         
XIV    PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL AND SURGICAL SERVICES.
         
    1.   Professional services within the battalion were confined to those incident to the assigned mission of the various subordinate units. Care of battle casualties followed the prescribed policy of emergency treatment and rapid evacuation of those patients requiring such treatment, and expeditious return to their unit of those requiring only minor treatment.

    2.   Following V-E Day, when this unit was engaged in the operation of many German and Czech Hospitals, and dispensaries in PW and DP inclosures, medical personnel of this unit were involved in supervisory capacities only. German medical personnel were utilized in the actual care of their own nationals, and DP medical personnel were utilized in the DP hospitals and camp dispensaries. Close supervision of such installations was maintained to the extent that they would approximate American standards of cleanliness and efficiency in treatment of the sick and wounded.

XV    DENTAL SERVICE
       
    1.   Dental service was rendered by the Dental personnel assigned to the Clearing Companies under this battalion. During the year, the battalion was at various times rendering medical support to XXII and V Corps troops, Dental service was furnished the same elements. Cases beyond the capabilities of the battalion were evacuated to supporting units. No difficulties were encountered in this respect.

    2.   For a short time during the month of November, a dental prosthetic team was attached to this unit to care for cases which originally required evacuation to the hospitals in Germany.
         
XVI    EVACUATION
         
    1.   Evacuation of patients by subordinate Collecting Companies of the battalion was of a calibre to receive consideration from Corps troops which were supported. Difficulty was encountered during the months of March and


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April due to rapid movement of tactical units and consequent lengthening of lines of evacuation. This, of course, was an unforeseen obstacle, and only extraordinary efforts on the part of subordinate elements were required to complete all evacuation in an expeditious manner.

    2.   From May to October inclusive, all ambulances of the battalion were engaged in evacuating patients from the RAMP, German and DP hospitals in Czechoslovakia, and in transporting repatriated Czech nationals to Czech hospitals. This work entailed no great difficulty, and was carried out as a routine process. (See Sec II, par 6 to 9 incl)
         
XVII    WELFARE, SOCIAL SERVICE AND RECREATION
         
    1.   Recreation during the early part of the year, due combat conditions was largely a matter of individual initiative. The Battalion Special Services Officer supplied as much material and recreation to subordinate elements as he could obtain. Special Service motion pictures were usually available throughout the year, and games and athletic equipment always on hand within the battalion, although the opportunity to use them was not always present.

    2.   Liberal pass and furlough quotas granted by higher headquarters were utilized to the fullest extent consistent with operations. In Czechoslovakia, there was an abundance of recreational facilities sponsored by XX Corps.

    3.    Close support by American Red Cross units provided adequate social service and welfare service for personnel desiring to take advantage of the facilities.
        

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