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After Action Report for the Month of November, 1944, Medical Section, 8th Infantry Division

The Fight for the Hürtgen Forest

AFTER ACTION REPORT FOR MONTH OF NOVEMBER, 1944.

MEDICAL SECTION

[8TH INFANTRY DIVISION]

1 Nov to 18 Nov- During this period, the Division remained in place along the Luxembourg sector of the Siegfried Line. During this phase, there was no type of enemy action of sufficient intensity to produce any stress on the Medical Department of this division. Aid stations continued to operate in billeted area in close proximity to their respective units, maintaining medical service by a combination of individual visits to isolated outposts along the line or centralized sick call, whichever the situation seemed to indicate. A slight trickle of casualties, induced by sporadic and desultory artillery and mortar fire continued during this period, however, an increase in non-battle injuries was experienced. Slippery roads and dangerous curves produced a situation that was amenable to traffic accidents. Reports of investigation for these cases were numerous. Training schedules were continued on a modest scale, and several schools for the improvement of medical records were conducted by the Surgeon's Office. A small number of medical replacements were received and at the close of this phase, the Medical Department was approaching T/O in strength.

18 Nov to 30 Nov- At the beginning of this phase, the logistics for the relief of the 28th Infantry Division in the general area occupying that portion of the Siegfried Line in the vicinity of Rotgen [Rötgen], Germany began. This necessitated a corps transfer from the VIII to the V Corps. The Clearing Station opened two and one half miles south of Rotgen [Rötgen], in what was formerly a German land owner's hunting lodge. Facilities here for sorting and clearing of wounded were very good. However, the collecting companies, who had accompanied their respective Combat Teams into the muddy morass of the Hurtgen Forest found facilities very meager for the operation of their stations. Considerable difficulty due to soft ground and muddy trails was experienced. Battalion aid stations, likewise, found operational conditions very difficult. In most cases, the battalion medical sections were obliged to establish the Battalion Aid stations in abandoned Pill Boxes as a measure for added protection during he administration of first aid. Since the location of the Pill Boxes was dictated rather rigidly, most of the sections found it necessary to operate forward loading posts and man them with a portion of their personnel. Contact with the advancing companies was maintained by long arduous relay by litter squads. The necessity for manual carry became more acute and has been engaged in more extensively than at any other time during the history of the Medical Department of this division during combat. Offensive operations began and it was soon discovered that the deterrent factors already outlined required the augmentation by Corps litter squads and ambulances. After several days of increasing vicissitudes, it was possible to organize an arduous system of evacuation which, to date, has proven effective in the evacuation of the wounded in the forward areas. Tractor jeeps were also employed on a modest scale to supplement other agencies. From a professional standpoint, the duties of the Medical Department have been further complicated by the appearance of increasing amounts of disorders and ailments resulting from continued exposure to cold and moisture, such as trench foot, nasopharyngitis, battle fatigue, etc. The increase of these conditions, at the present time, is not unduly high, but as operations continue under the unfavorable conditions, the prospectus is uncertain, and may incline toward a pessimistic aggregation of non-battle disease.


2

The following is a breakdown of Casualties evacuated during the period 1 November to 30 November 1944 (Incl):

DIVISION UNITS     Div KIA - 49          

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

745

233

1041

2019

Transferred

540

191

895

1626

Died

0

6

5

11

Returned to Duty

194

35

138

367


ATTACHED UNITS     Attchd KIA - 6  

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

44

12

16

72

Transferred

34

10

15

59

Died

0

0

0

0

Returned to Duty

14

2

1

17


CASUALS    

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

72

19

186

277

Transfers

62

17

182

261

Died

0

0

2

2

Returned to Duty

7

2

2

11


 ENEMY, ALLIED, CIVILIAN

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

7

1

54

62

Transfers

5

1

54

60

Died

0

0

0

0

Returned to Duty

2

0

0

2


TOTAL FOR PERIOD                   

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

868

265

1297

2430

Transferred

641

219

1146

2006

Died

0

6

7

13

Returned to Duty

217

39

141

397


TOTAL SINCE ENTERING COMBAT Div KIA -1225, Attchd KIA - 45

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

2909

810

8292

12011

Transfers

1892

580

6983

9455

Died

0

25

97

122

Returned to Duty

973

204

1209

2386


NOTE: 1. Psychiatric cases and battle fatigue are included in "Disease" figures above. A total of 185 such cases were admitted during the period covered by the report, of which 78 had to be evacuated. The remainder, 107, were treated by sedation and retuned to duty within 24 to 72 hours. Of those returned to duty, 21 were subsequently readmitted with the same diagnosis. Of the total evacuated, 23 were battle fatigue and 55 were organic psychiatric cases.

2.  There are remaining figures not included in the statistical analysis as shown in the figures for the month of November. Accurate totals appear in the analysis of accumulative reports (total since entering combat).


3

A study of battle casualties transferred from the clearing station for the period 1 November to 30 November (Incl) has been made, and statistics compiled are as follows: 869 battle casualties during the period sustaining 1195 wounds. Each casualty, therefore, had approximately 1.36 wounds. Wound distribution is as follows:

Head

167 (5 with fracture)

Neck

4 (2 with Perforation of trachea)

Thorax

58 (9 with sucking wounds)

Abdomen

88 (4 with perforation of intestines)

Perineum

43

Upper extremity

537 (55 with fracture)

Lower extremity

 477 (126 with fracture)

 

CAUSATIVE AGENTS

Small Arms

129

HE

452

Land Mines

69

Booby Traps

13

Bomb (Concussion)

22

Gas

0

Burns (BC)

4

Miscellaneous

 183

 

SOURCE: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407, Records of the US Army Adjutant General's Office, World War II Unit Records, Box 7211, 8th Infantry Division, Division Surgeon's After Action Reports.


AFTER ACTION REPORT DECEMBER 1944

Medical Section

[8TH INFANTRY DIVISION]

At the beginning of this period, the Division was engaged in a continuation of the bitter tank-infantry struggle for control of the town of KLEINHAU, the high ground to the north east, the road south and east towards BRANDENBERG, and the territory in and about VOSSENACK, and the network of roads leading to this area. The Medical Department, in developing its service for this action, found itself confronted with an arduous prolongation of the problems encountered with the overcoming of the time and distance factors dictated by the terrain. Many of the roads and much of the territory over which traffic was necessary for the evacuation of casualties was under direct enemy observation, particularly the territory to the south and southwest of KLEINHAU, HÜRTGEN, and the immediate environs of VOSSENACK (which was under almost continuous artillery and mortar fire) and from the high clear ground leading south through GERMETER. The Battalion Aid Stations were operating at greater distances from the front lines than had ever been found necessary in prior engagements. To meet this situation, battalion surgeons, rather uniformly, developed the technique of echeloning of equipment and personnel to a high degree. Forward loading posts were established in some eases as close as company CP areas. There, posts were manned with a minimum number of medical and surgical technicians to provide rudimentary first aid care for casualties whereupon they were quickly transported in litter jeeps to the main aid stations, which were farther to the rear in cellars and other protected places where a more adequate type of treatment could be instituted with a minimum of loss of life and limb from mortar and artillery effect.

The Collecting Stations were, of course, faced with the same problems, although considerably amplified because of the size of the installation. At the beginning of the period, the collecting stations were located in the woods northwest of GERMETER in the grid coordinate square 9933 (Cos B & C) and in the grid square 9530 (Co A) . Ambulance hauls from the aid station were long and travelled roads which were becoming constantly worse with deepening mud and erosion.

Repeated reconnaissance with view to more proximate locations were met with futile results insomuch as all accessible or desirable areas were either occupied by other units or prohibited by the presence of uncleared minefields. Since ambulances were calling directly at battalion aid stations, the collecting company litter bearers were used entirely in forward areas to augment the efforts of the battalion medical sections. In the first six days of the month, is could be expected by conditions previously elaborated upon, losses of medical department personnel were rather high. This placed additional burdens on the remaining personnel to the extent that chronic fatigue, particularly among litter bearers, was rather serious. On the sixth of December, objectives were seized in the BERGSTEIN area which marked the general limit of advance in this sector and the slowing of offensive operations.

On the 8th of December, 42 medical replacements were received which eased the situation somewhat, however, we were still 35 men short. Weather remained cold and wet, and the incidence of true trench foot continued to climb (88 cases through the period 2-8 December; See summary for monthly total). Upper respiratory disease was, also, appearing in greater frequency.


2

On the 10th of December, 21 additional replacements arrived which ended the prevailing shortage. The balance of the month was spent in the prosecution of limited attacks for the purpose of gaining more advantageous positions, and was signalized by frequent and bitter counter attacks on the part of the enemy which produced a modest daily flow of casualties. Throughout the month, evacuation for disease and injury (including trench foot) constituted a considerable percentage of our total admissions.

The latter part of the month the weather changed to frigid temperatures accompanied by irregular snow-fall. All medical department installations were finally permitted to move to more advanced positions, and cross country traffic became considerably easier because of the frozen terrain and roads.

The close of the period found the medical installations of the Division located in forward areas in the HÜRTGEN-GERMETER-BRANDENBERG triangle. The Clearing Station had moved with other divisional supply and service agencies to the area of ZWEIFALL.

POINTS OF INTEREST

The Field Dental Clinic, the first of its type serving an Infantry Division, has continued to treat those cases requiring dental treatment or prosthetic repair during this month with approximately 1,000 fillings and 89 prosthetic cases accomplished during the month. The unavailability of certain prosthetic supplies made it necessary to close the prosthetic section for all but 10 days of the month. During the month of November, 139 prosthetic cases were completed (both repair and manufacture) by the prosthetic section. These vital supplies having been obtained, it is expected that an increase in productive dentistry will be seen during the month of January.

The organization of the Field Dental Clinic was made after careful analysis of the dental needs for the Division, and with the full cooperation of the Commanding General, was activated during the month of November. After details of the operation of the clinic were completed, the dental officers and their assistants from all units of the Division were placed on special duty with the 8th Medical Battalion. Dentistry during the first months of combat was limited due to unfavorable condition prevailing at the Regimental and Battalion aid stations, indicating the need for such a clinic.

Organized into two sections, equal in equipment and person el, one section continually operates at the Clearing Station, while the other is available on call for service to regiments in reserve. Since the organization of this clinic, signal results have been obtained, and the place of such a unit with the division has been proved by its record of productive dentistry.


3

The following is a breakdown of casualties evacuated during the period 1 Dec to 31 December 1944 (Incl):

DIVISION UNITS      Div KIA - 282          

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

1124

731

1654

3509

Transferred

890

705

1331

2926

Died

0

0

10

10

Returned to Duty

257

24

316

597


ATTACHED UNITS     Attchd KIA - 16

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

53

38

45

134

Transferred

44

36

42

122

Died

0

0

2

2

Returned to Duty

8

0

1

9


CASUALS

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

160

171

371

702

Transferred

142

159

362

663

Died

0

0

2

2

Returned to Duty

12

21

7

40


ENEMY, ALLIED, CIVILIAN

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

1

1

109

111

Transferred

0

1

109

110

Died

0

0

0

0

Returned to Duty

1

0

0

1


TOTAL FOR PERIOD

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

1338

939

2179

4456

Transferred

1076

901

1844

3821

Died

0

0

14

14

Returned to Duty

287

36

324

647


TOTAL SINCE ENTERING COMBAT   Div KIA - 1507  Attchd KIA - 61

 

Disease

Injury

Battle Casualties

Total  

Admissions

4247

1749

10471

16469

Transferred

2968

1481

8827

13278

Died

0

25

111

136

Returned to Duty

1260

240

1533

3033


NOTE: 1. Psychiatric cases and battle fatigue are included in "Disease" figures above. A total of 265 such cases were admitted during the period covered by the report of which 108 had to be evacuated. The remainder, 157, were treated by sedation and returned to duty within 24 to 72 hours. Of the total evacuated, 197 were battle fatigue and 68 were organic psychiatric cases.

2. There are remaining figures not included in the statistic analysis as shown in the figures for the month of December. Accurate totals appear in the analysis of accumulative reports (total since entering combat).

3. Total cases of Trench Foot cases admitted for this period 445.


4

A study of battle casualties transferred from the clearing station for the period 1 December to 31 December (Incl) has been made, and statistics compiled are as follows: 1249 casualties were incurred during the period, sustaining 1676 wounds. Each casualty, therefore, had approximately 1.34 wounds.

Head

212 (13 with fracture)

Neck

36 (None with Perforation of trachea)

Thorax

105 (None with sucking wounds)

Abdomen

67 (3 with perforation of intestines)

Perineum

73

Upper extremity

540 (95 with fracture)

Lower extremity

643 (116 with fracture)

 

CAUSATIVE AGENTS

Small Arms

331

HE

1134

Land Mines

84

Booby Traps

3

Bomb (Concussion)

28

Gas

0

Burns (BC)

7

Miscellaneous

187

 

SOURCE: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407, Records of the US Army Adjutant General's Office, World War II Unit Records, Box 7211, 8th Infantry Division, Division Surgeon's After Action Reports.