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Headquarters 103rd Medical Battalion, A.P.O. 28

The Fight for the Hürtgen Forest

HEADQUARTERS 103RD MEDICAL BATTALION
A. P. O. 28
UNITED STATES ARMY

12 June 1945

SUBJECT: Operations of the103rd Medical Battalion during the period 1 November 1944 to 30 April 1945.

TO: Division Surgeon, 28th Infantry Division

1. The following report of operations of this Battalion for the period 1 November 1944 to 30 April 1945 is submitted by the former Division Surgeon:

During this period the medical battalion continued to carry out its normal function of supporting the 28th Infantry Division by evacuating, treating, and disposing of the casualties suffered by the division and its attached units.

In the first half of November 1944, the division was engaged in the very difficult and costly operations of the Hurtgen Forest area. Similarly, the lack of adequate roads, the intense cold, rain, sleet, snow and ever-present mud made medical service to the division most difficult. The action took place mainly in hilly, dense forests. Our collecting stations, were regularly subjected to enemy artillery shellfire and this resulted in the death of one collecting company commander and four enlisted men.

Because of the adverse conditions which prohibited the usual use of ambulances and jeep-ambulances at some of the aid stations, long litter hauls were necessary in the evacuation to the collecting companies' advance collecting points. In one sector it was necessary to carry casualties by litter approximately four miles through the tangles of a pine forest which was shattered by artillery fire. Litter bearers of this battalion were continuously used forward of infantry battalion aid stations, helping the battalion medical sections to clear the forests of the the wounded. At one time it was found necessary to use all available personnel of one of the collecting companies as litter bearers in the forward areas. This included cooks, mechanics and station technicians, all of whom were needed to relieve the exhausted litter bearers. The lengthy litter haul was further hindered by the lack of a definite evacuation route to the aid stations and collecting points. During the hours of darkness evacuation through this area was accomplished only by following a telephone wire strung as a guide for the litter teams.

At one time two infantry Battalion aid stations were isolated by the enemy for a three- day period. The only available motor road leading to the stations under direct enemy observation and small arms fire. Largely due to the efforts and courage of one of our collecting company officers, a four (4) hour truce as arranged with the enemy to allow for the evacuation of casualties from the aid stations by our ambulances.

Throughout this trying period, the general conduct and tireless efforts of the men of this command were beyond reproach. Despite the physical obstacles encountered and the increased casualty rate, the evacuation and treatment of division casualties was carried out in a highly efficient and commendable manner, and showed evidence of the sincere and unselfish devotion to duty of ll concerned, as well as a high state of discipline and morale. In the month of November 1944 17 Bronze Star Medals were awarded to members of this unit.


2

Report of Operations of the 103rd Medical Battalion (Cont'd)

During the 1st half of December 1944, the width of the division front and concurrent wide separation of our collecting companies necessitated the split of the clearing company into 3 provisional sections each so located to best support one collecting station. Ambulances evacuated directly to the nearest evacuation hospital. This resulted in an economy of time and supplies, and served to maintain an efficient evacuation system. Had one central clearing station been utilized, it would have been necessary to transport patients a minimum of 15-20 miles from the outlying collecting stations to any such centrally located unit.

Our units were put to a severe test during the enemy Ardennes counter-offensive in the latter part of the month. The collecting and clearing stations were constantly subjected to shellfire and sometimes small-arms fire. They were continually forced out of their positions by the fluid tactical situation, and were kept on the move endeavoring to best continue the support of the tactical units and simultaneously avoid enemy capture. In spite of such a hazardous situation, the men of this Battalion demonstrated outstanding devotion to duty by remaining close to the tactical units throughout the period and carrying on their duties despite the difficulties of evacuation and supply involved. Medical service in these rapidly changing situations was maintained by the formation of provisional medical detachments to serve the hastily organized defense units, utilizing medical personnel and equipment from available medical installations and Medical Department stragglers. The continuation of performance of duty throughout this critical period efficiently and with total disregard towards the danger involved demonstrated noticeably high standards of discipline and training existing in the battalion. In the attempt to maintain the usual high degree of efficiency of this unit, twenty-one members of this command were captured by the enemy during this period. Despite the added handicap of limited available transportation, the personnel of this Battalion demonstrated a high state of supply discipline by managing to save all but an unavoidable small amount of equipment from enemy capture.

As a result of this action, 11 Bronze Star Medicals were awarded to members of this organization.

During the month of January 1945, units of this Battalion were again put to a severe test in the attempt to maintain an efficient evacuation system. In a new zone of operations the infantry was committed in very mountainous terrain with the few evacuation routes continually subjected to becoming impassable by snow drifts. By the improvisation of sleds and the aid of mule teams, the litter bearers of this Battalion performed their task of evacuating the wounded from the aid stations when the normal means of jeep or ambulance evacuation were impossible. In this manner an efficient casualty evacuation rate of the division was maintained and accomplished with a minimum of delay, in spite of the adverse weather conditions and difficult transportation problems.

Advancing with the division through the Colmar Pocket, units of this Battalion operated in close support of the regimental combat teams. When in the middle of February, the division moved into a new position in First Army sector, one platoon of clearing company established an advance station under canvas. Because of the bad condition of the roads in this area, this advance station acted primarily as a triage station, evacuating the seriously wounded cases to a nearby field hospital for further evacuation by air, and the slightly wounded back to the rear platoon of clearing company, which was set up in suitable buildings and could "hold" patients in a comfortable place. This system proved to be instrumental in maintaining a normal evacuation rate inspite of road difficulties involved.


3

Report of Operations of the 103d Medica1 Battalion (Cont'd)

Early in April, ambulances of this Battalion were furnished to the artillery medical detachments to provide evacuation service to the Division Artillery which was the only division element actively engaged against the enemy ? . In emergencies, casualties were evacuated directly to a nearby evacuation hospital in a minimum of delay to the patients.

Throughout the month, clearing company furnished personnel for the operation of a provision al aid station at division headquarters. One medical officer, 3 enlisted technicians, and one ambulance were dispatched for this purpose. This unit serves as an emergency aid station and dispensary for Div. Hq. personnel.

Another aid station was established at the Division Rest Center in France, by personnel of the clearing company, with an ambulance of our collecting companies stationed there for evacuation.

On the 9th of May, in a special ceremony with representatives of each company present, the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque was presented to the battalion by the Division Commander, Majr General Norman D. Cota.

Upon cessation of hostilities and in conjunction with the division's military government mission in the present area, medical officers and personnel of this organization are being utilized for the supervision of public health measures in the numerous displaced-persons camps in the area. Likewise, the procurement and distribution of military government medical supplies for these camps became the responsibility of our medical supply section.

Personnel and ambulances of this Battalion were also called on to assist in the medical care and evacuation of displaced French Nationals passing through this area.

In the entire 6-month period, this Battalion evacuated, treated, and disposed of the following numbers of patients:

    Co. A. 3672

    Co. B. 3128

    Co. C. 3419

    Co. D. 11643

In the same period, 44 Bronze Star Awards and one award of an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Bronze Star were made to members of this organization.

Other pertinent data:

    No. of AWOL during period - none.

    No. of convictions by courts-martial - none.

    No. of men reported as V. D. - 3

    No. of punishments under AW 104 - 2.

FOR THE COMMANDING OFFICER:

 

               PAUL L.KAUFMAN
                     Captain, MAC,
                                                                                                                                S-3

SOURCE:  National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 112, Records of the US Army Surgeon General, World War II Records, Entry 1044D, Box 3, Records of the 103d Medical Battalion, 28th Infantry Division, After Actions Reports.