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Advance to the Alps
If the second winter in Italy was only an exaggerated repetition of the first, the second spring was a new and exhilarating experience. The months of inching progress through mud and mountains were forgotten when in April 1945 the U.S. Fifth and British Eighth Armies erupted into the Po Valley and brought the war in Italy to a decisive end in three weeks. Both for the combat forces and for the medical units supporting them in the field, the campaign was a triumph of planning and preparation.
Preparations for the Final Drive
Planning and Regrouping
While the ranks were being filled, stores of ammunition accumulated, and equipment refurbished or replaced, plans were being drawn up for the last offensive of the Italian campaign. Clarks strategy as 15th Army Group commander did not differ essentially from that employed by Field Marshal Alexander in the assault on the Gothic Line, save that Fifth Army, now at full strength, rather than Eighth Army, which had been weakened by the withdrawal of four Canadian and British divisions, was to make the main effort.1
The attack was to be staggered along the entire Allied front. The 92d Division, under direct army control, was to lead off on 5 April with an advance up the Ligurian coast toward Massa and La Spezia. Eighth Army, already out of the mountains, was to open its drive four days later, its first objective being to secure a crossing of the Santerno River east of Bologna. IV Corps was to follow after a 3-day interval with a drive west of Highway 64, and II Corps was to launch its attack along the axis of Highway 65 when IV Corps had pulled abreast of the more advanced II Corps positions. The two armies were to converge at the Po River, trapping as many enemy forces as possible south of the river. In the second phase of the campaign, both armies were to cross the Po and exploit to the Adige River, which runs southeastward through Verona to the Adriatic just south of Venice. In the final phase, Fifth Army was to block the Brenner Pass north of Verona and clear northwestern Italy to the Swiss and French borders, while Eighth Army was to swing eastward to the Austrian and Yugoslav frontiers.
As Fifth Army moved into position, the 92d Division, on the left flank, included in addition to its own three regiments the battle-tested 442d Regimental
1 Principal sources for this section are: (1) Fifth Army History, pt. IX, Race to the Alps (Washington ) ; (2) Clark, Calculated Risk, pp.426-29; (3) Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 479-83; (4) Craven and Cate, eds., Europe: ARGUMENT to V-E Day pp. 482-89.
Combat Team, which had just returned from France, and the 473d RCT of converted antiaircraft troops that had been fighting as infantry since August 1944. The 365th and 371st regiments, which had been weakened by the transfer of selected personnel to the 370th, were to screen the front for the attack, then be withdrawn from the division and stationed in the inactive sector west of Mt. Belvedere under IV Corps control. IV Corps lined up with the Brazilian Expeditionary Force on the left, the 10th Mountain Division in the center in the vicinity of Castel d'Aiano, and the 1st Armored on the right along Highway 64 south of Vergato. In the II Corps sector, extending east from the Reno River, the 6th South African Armoured and the 88th Infantry Divisions were on the left between Highways 64 and 65, the 91st was astride Highway 65, the 34th Division was east of the highway, and the Legnano Group on the extreme right, in contact with 13 Corps on the left flank of Eighth Army. The 85th Division was in army reserve. All units were overstrength for the drive, with almost 30,000 additional officers and men available in replacement depots.
When the diversionary attack of the 92d Division in the west and the Eighth Army drive in the east had engaged as many troops as the German command was willing to commit against them, the 10th Mountain Division was to launch the IV Corps assault driving north through the remaining mountain ridges to cut Highway 9 west of Bologna. The Brazilians and the 365th and 371st regiments were to protect the left flank and follow up any enemy withdrawals, while the 1st Armored was to seize Vergato and advance down Highway 64.
The II Corps attack was in effect to be a renewal of the October drive, with all four divisions abreast and the Legnano Group in a defensive role on the right flank. When the important road junction of Praduro on Highway 64 had been reached, the 85th Division was to pass through the 1st Armored, leaving the latter unit and the 6th South African Armoured, which would be pinched out by the 85th and 88th Divisions, available as a mobile striking force to exploit the breakthrough onto the plain.
Although Fifth Army's strength for the final drive was greater by 100,000 men than it had been when the Gothic Line was broken--almost 270,000 on 1 April 1945 compared with 170,000 six months earlier--the resources in men and equipment available to General Martin, Fifth Army surgeon, were only slightly increased over the inadequate facilities with which he had supported the North Apennines Campaign. The 400-bed 170th Evacuation Hospital had been added in November 1944, and the 15th Field Hospital in January 1945. Just before the launching of the spring offensive one additional 400-bed evacuation--the 171st, converted like its sister unit from a station hospital--was acquired.2 That was all. There were no additional medical battalions at corps or army level, no new supply units, no
2 See p.
439, above. The 171st Evacuation Hospital was converted from the 250-bed
54th Station Hospital, which had moved from North Africa to Naples in January
1945. with some additional personnel drawn from the 57th Station Hospital,
which was reduced from 250 to 150 beds at about the same time. See Annual
Rpt, 171st Evac Hosp, 1945, and ETMD for Mar 45.
more supporting ambulance companies; and the increase in beds was less than enough even to keep pace with the increase in troop strength.3
Of the new combat formations acquired by Fifth Army since the stabilization of the lines at the end of October 1944, only the Legnano Group had hospital facilities of its own--four 200-bed field units provided through the Military Mission to the Italian Army, a division of the Allied Control Commission. The 6th South African Armoured Division was also independent of Fifth Army in this respect. To provide hospitalization for the remaining 8 combat divisions, 2 separate regiments, and combat service troops, General Martin had at his disposal 3 field hospitals, 4 400-bed
3 Principal sources for this section are: (1) Annual Rpt, Surg, Fifth Army, 1945; (2) Annual Rpt, Surg, II Corps, 1945; (3) Unit rpts of div surgs, med hog, hosps, and other Fifth Army med installations
evacuation hospitals, 4 750-bed evacuations, and a convalescent hospital.
What it lacked in facilities Fifth Army was thus forced to make up in mobility and efficiency of operation. During March medical units received new equipment, including a total of 90 ambulances and 15 2 1/2-ton trucks, to replace worn-out vehicles. A move to fill personnel vacancies with limited-service men was successfully resisted, on the ground that all personnel would be subjected to severe physical strain, and basic infantrymen were trained instead as medical replacements.
By early April all medical units had been streamlined for rapid movement. All equipment beyond the bare essentials for operation was turned in, and hospitals began reducing their patient censuses to permit closing on a few hours notice. No hospital was to move until the combat troops jumped off, to avoid any possibility of giving away plans to the enemy, but once the mountains were passed, it was imperative that as many beds as possible be shuttled into the Po Valley to eliminate long and difficult ambulance runs over highways that would be clogged with military traffic. It was also imperative that no hospital be closed for longer than the absolute minimum time necessary for movement to a new location.
In the hope of speeding up the evacuation process, experiments were conducted early in April with small planes that could take off, if necessary, from improvised runways. Several patients were flown successfully in L-5's from the 8th Evacuation Hospital at Pietramala to Florence, but the scheme was abandoned as impractical for use in the coming campaign. Space permitted carrying only one patient at a time, without medical attendance, which would greatly restrict the scope of the operation. The unpredictability of the weather at that season was another limiting factor.
In planning medical support for the Po Valley Campaign, there was no alternative to ambulance evacuation, at least during the early stages of the action. Neither could use of the battered and rutted Highways 64 and 65 in the central sector be avoided. Highway 1, which would be the axis of evacuation for the 92d Division along the coast, had suffered little and was in excellent condition. From the II and IV Corps fronts, evacuation by air was to begin as quickly as the Bologna field could be repaired, estimated as five days after the capture of the city.
For the 92d Division, isolated as its front was from the rest of the Fifth Army area, a complete system of medical support had to be provided that would not only take care of all the medical needs of the division but also could be rapidly expanded should the coastal drive develop into a major operation. As one element of this plan, a bleeding section was set up in Pisa by the 6713th Blood Transfusion Unit.
The PO Valley Campaign
During February, March, and the early days of April 1945 the Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force pounded German communications in northern Italy with increasing violence. Favorite targets were the bridges that kept appearing with antlike persistence along the Po, cable crossings, ferry ter-
minals, rail lines, and truck and wagon convoys on the roads. The bombers gave way on 14 April to an umbrella of fighters that would cover the jump-off of IV Corps.4
The flanks by this date were already heavily engaged. The 92d Division opened the attack according to plan on 5April, with the 370th RCT on the coastal plain and the 442d pushing through the mountains that rose steeply a few miles to the east. The assignment was not an easy one. The mountains in this area, known as the Apuan Alps, are characterized by sheer rock cliffs, barren peaks, and deep gorges, while the narrow coastal plain is cut by numerous streams and canals. The plain, moreover, was heavily mined and both axes of advance would soon be within range of the big guns at La Spezia, which could drop their deadly shells as far south as Massa. Before La Spezia itself could be reached, the attacking forces would have to break through heavily fortified positions that took every advantage of the natural barriers offered by the terrain.
By the end of the first day the 442d was approaching the high ground overlooking Massa, but the 370th encountered intense enemy fire and withdrew in the face of strong counterattacks. When the regiment was unable to regroup the next day because of excessive losses in stragglers, it was relieved by the 473d Combat Team, which was brought up from static positions in the Serchio Valley. The 473d took Massa on 10 April and Carrara the next day, while the 442d outflanked both towns against strong opposition in bitter mountain fighting. Both regiments were now up against the German fortified line and both were under fire from the coastal guns, but now had positions from which their own field pieces could reply.
Eighth Army attacked on 9 April, was across the Santerno River in two days of hard fighting, and by 13 April was beyond the Sillaro on the road to Bologna. The launching of the main drive by IV Corps was delayed for 48 hours by weather conditions that prevented the air cover General Truscott deemed essential. On the morning of 14 April, however, the corps jumped off behind intensive air and artillery preparation. On that day the 10th Mountain Division seized and held a series of peaks west of Highway 64; the Brazilians took Montese; and the 1st Armored entered the outskirts of Vergato. All units continued to advance on 15 April. Just before midnight the 88th and 6th South African Armoured Divisions of II Corps joined the battle, followed early on 16 April by the 91st and 34th Divisions. On 17 and 18 April the 85th Division relieved the ist Armored north of Vergato, the latter division shifting to more favorable terrain along the Panaro River on the left of the 10th Mountain. The intercorps boundary was shifted to the west on 19 April as the whole German front began to crumble. The 85th Division took
4 Principal sources for this section are: (1) Fifth Army History, Pt. IX; (2) Rpt of Opns, IV Corps, Apr, May 45; (3) Rpt of Opns, II Corps, Apr-2 May 45; (4) Hist, 92d Div, Apr, May 45; (5) Rpt of Opns, 473d Regt, Apr 45; (6) Narrative of Events, 442d Regt, Apr, May 45; (7) Clark, Calculated Risk; (8) Truscott, Command Missions; (9) Howe, 1st Armored Division, pp. 396-432; (10) Schultz, 85th Division, pp. 197-230; (11) Delaney, Blue Devils, pp. 186-222; (12) Robbins, 91st Infantry Division, pp. 262-332; (13) Goodman, Fragment of Victory, 1952) pp. 121-77; (14) Lockwood, ed., Mountaineers pp. 26-58; (15) Alexander, Italian Campaign pp. 32-49; (16) Starr, ed., From Salerno to the Alps, pp. 387-441.
Casalecchio, where the Reno River enters the plain on 20 April, while forward elements of the 10th Mountain cut Highway 9 west of Bologna and II Corps broke through the last of the high ground in its path. Bologna fell on 21 April, the 34th Division entering the city from the south and elements of the Polish Corps of the Eighth Army from the east.
The main advance had already swept beyond Bologna, with both armies racing to reach the Po before the enemy could withdraw his disorganized forces across the river. The 10th Mountain Division reached the south bank of the Po at San Benedetto west of Ostiglia the night of 22 April, crossing the river in assault boats the next afternoon in the face of heavy enemy fire. By the 24th the 85th Division was also across the river, the 88th and 91st were crossing, and the two armored divisions were only awaiting the placement of bridges by the engineers. The 34th Division, reassigned to IV Corps, was sweeping west along Highway 9, already beyond Parma, while the Brazilian Expeditionary Force kept pace through the foothills south of the highway. Verona, gateway to the Brenner Pass, fell to the 88th Division on 25 April, and the 10th Mountain took Villa-franca airport southwest of that city the same day.
In the final days of the war in Italy, Fifth Army fanned out toward the borders to cut off all avenues of escape. Resistance was sometimes strong, sometimes nonexistent, but always confined to pockets where isolated remnants of the once proud Wehrmacht tried to break out of the trap that was swiftly closing on all sides. The 91st Division pushed east through Vicenza to Treviso where the Eighth Army sector began. The 88th swung northeast from Verona to outflank Bolzano, and the 10th Mountain Division fought its way to the head of Lake Garda. The 1st Armored sent flying columns to the Swiss frontier at Lake Como, and west to Milan.
The 92d Division, meanwhile, after a week of bitter fighting, broke through the mountain defenses of La Spezia, while Italian partisans seized the city itself. The 473d Infantry entered La Spezia on 23 April, and four days later entered Genoa more than a hundred miles up the coast. From there patrols moved west to the French border. The 442d, after driving inland from the La Spezia area, made contact with IV Corps near Pavia and sent patrols west to Turin.
The first organized surrender came on 29 April when the 148th Grenadier and Italia Bersiglieri Divisions surrendered to Maj. Gen. Joao Mascarenhas de Morais, commanding the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. At 1400 on 2 May 1945 all German forces in Italy were surrendered unconditionally to General Clark, and the Italian campaign was over. The number of prisoners taken was more than 250,000, bringing the total for the Italian campaign to over half a million.
Medical Support in the Field
Field medical support of Fifth Army during the final drive in Italy was characterized by an initial period of heavy casualties and slow movement, followed by rapid expansion over hundreds of miles with enemy casualties exceeding our own. In the last few days of combat medical units were not only cut
off from army and corps surgeons, they were also frequently out of communication with their own headquarters. The use of captured vehicles, medical installations, and supplies was both a general practice and a necessary expedient.5
The 92d Division Front- Perhaps the most difficult task was that assigned to the 317th Medical Battalion, organic to the 92d Division, which during the greater part of the drive was required to support five regimental combat teams on three fronts. Casualties suffered by the augmented 92d Division, even though two of its five regiments had little contact with the enemy, were exceeded only by those of the 10th Mountain Division on the IV Corps front. (See Table 33.) One collecting company and one platoon of the clearing company remained with the defensive formations in the Serchio Valley until 25 April, when that sector was closed out. The other two collecting companies, sometimes operating in sections, supported the main drive of the 442d and 473d RCT's, with one platoon of the clearing company backing up both. Neither the terrain nor the location of enemy long-range guns permitted the attached platoon of the 32d Field Hospital to move up from its Viareggio site in tune to give close support during the period of severe fighting, but the relative slowness of the advance to La Spezia kept the hospital within usable distance.
By 20 April communications with the 92d Division had become so tenuous that General Martin designated the division surgeon, Lt. Col. Eldon L. Bolton, to act as his deputy in the coastal sector, with full responsibility for the medical service there.
La Spezia fell on 23 April, and two days later medical units from the Serchio Valley rejoined the 317th Medical Battalion in support of combat elements now fanning out in two directions. Forward hospital facilities were urgently needed, but the Viareggio field unit, with no army evacuation hospital in the vicinity, was unable to move on short notice. To redeem the situation, General Martin sent a unit of the 15th Field Hospital, which was still in bivouac north of Florence, and a platoon of the 601st Clearing Company, 161st Medical Battalion, to the 92d Division front. A 250-bed hospital was set up on 25 April near La Spezia, but the combat units were already far ahead. After three days of operation with only a handful of patients, the clearing platoon moved on 29 April to Genoa, where it was joined the following day by the field hospital unit.
By that date one platoon of the 92d Division clearing station was northwest of Genoa, and the Viareggio unit of the 32d Field Hospital was on its way to Alessandria, on the road to Turin. The field hospital was in the vicinity of Milan en route when hostilities ceased.
Medical Support of IV Corps--First of the IV Corps medical units to go into
5 This section is based primarily on the following documents: (1) Annual Rpt, Surg, Fifth Army, 1945; (2) Annual Rpt, Surg, II Corps, 1945; (3) Opns Rpt, IV Corps, Apr, May 45; (4) Opns Rpt, II Corps, 1 Apr-2 May 45; (5) Hist, 92d Div. Apr, May 45; (6) Annual Rpt, Surg, 10th Mountain Div, 1945; (7) Annual Rpt, Surg, 91st Div, 1 Jun-12 Aug 45; (8) Hist, 47th Armored Med Bn, Apr, May 45; (9) Unit Hists, 10th Mountain Med Bn, Apr, May 45; (10) Hist Rcd, 109th Med Bn, Apr, May 45; (11) Opns Rpts, 310th Med Bn, Apr, May 45; (12) Hist, 313th Med Bn, Apr, May 45; (13) Unit Hist, 316th Med Bn, Apr, May 45; (14) Hist Data, Med Bn 92d Inf Div. Apr, May 45; (15) Annual Rpts, 1945, of 54th, 161st, 162d, 163d Med Bns; (16) Annual Rpts, 1945, of 15th, 32d, 33d, Field Hosps.
action was the 10th Mountain Medical Battalion, whose collecting companies moved out with the mountain infantry on the morning of 14 April. Casualties were heavy from the start, with jeeps and ambulances inadequate to clear the aid stations the first two days. Trucks were used for walking wounded, and one collecting company borrowed additional vehicles from the service company of the infantry regiment it supported. Even when vehicles were available, there were delays in moving casualties to collecting and clearing stations. All roads were operating one way, traffic moving toward the front. Ambulances had to wait, sometimes as long as an hour and a half, to use the roads in the other direction.
By midnight of 14 April the clearing stations of the 10th Mountain Medical Battalion had admitted 415 patients, including injury and illness. The total rose to 427 the next day, then fell off to 327 on 16 April, and 210 on the 17th. The figures are notable only because they were the highest in Fifth Army, in keeping with the spearhead role of the division. (See Table 33.) Admissions remained in the vicinity of 200 for several days, dropping to 132 on 22 April and rising to 254 the following day, when the leading elements of the 10th Mountain crossed the Po River and won a bridgehead on the north shore against heavy opposition. Casualties were negligible thereafter except for the last two days of April, when there was hard fighting along Lake Garda.
The experience of the 10th Mountain Medical Battalion was typical of IV Corps medical units generally. Casualties were heavy for two or three days. Advances were minimal, and clearing stations stayed where they were. Beginning about 19 April, when the descent into the Po Valley began, movements became increasingly frequent and confusion grew. Clearing stations moved daily, collecting stations sometimes twice a day. Collecting companies were so close behind the retreating enemy by 20 April that they passed through still burning villages and ran the gantlet of artillery and sniper fire. Indeed, as the rout developed medical units were not infrequently ahead of the retreat. Armed Germans surrendered with increasing frequency to unarmed medics, and by 25 April German ambulances were bringing German wounded to U.S. installations.
Distances between stations lengthened after the Po was crossed and the race for the frontiers began. On 24 April a clearing platoon and collecting company of the 10th Mountain Medical Battalion
accompanied a task force on a spectacular 70-mile dash from the Po to Lake Garda, where for two days the clearing station constituted the left flank of the division. On 28 April a company of the 47th Armored Medical Battalion traveled 62 miles; and the following day a collecting company of the 109th Medical Battalion, organic to the 34th Division, covered 170 miles in a roundabout journey from the vicinity of Fidenza to the outskirts of Milan. A 30-mile jump was average.
From 20 April on, medical units were periodically out of touch with their own headquarters, sometimes for days at a stretch. Fortunately, casualties by this time were light, and could generally be held until clearing stations or field hospitals were located. Prisoner of war patients, who outnumbered Allied casualties, were usually sent to captured German hospitals in captured vehicles.
It was quickly obvious that field hospital platoons could not possibly keep pace with division clearing stations and still perform surgery or hold nontransportable casualties. The corps surgeon tried to keep these units as available as possible in terms of transportation, but inevitably they fell behind, where their functions became more nearly those of evacuation than of forward surgical hospitals.
Of the two platoons of the 32d Field
Hospital attached to IV Corps, the 2d Platoon followed the westward push of the 34th Division along Highway 9 and the BEF south of that route. Moving on 20 April from Valdibura, where it had spent the winter, to Lama about ten miles south of Bologna on Highway 64, the unit was the most forward Fifth Army hospital, but it was already too far behind. At Castelfranco, some fifteen miles west of Bologna on Highway 9, there was no such complaint. The town was being shelled when the hospital arrived on 22 April. Four additional surgical teams were called in, and for seventy-two hours four operating tables were in constant use. On 28 April the unit moved west once more on Highway 9. Parma was passed, but Piacenza was still held by the enemy, so the unit set up in buildings of a civil hospital in Fidenza. Two hours later the platoon was ordered to close and return to Parma, where its own functions could be combined with administration of a large German hospital captured there.
The 3d Platoon of the 32d Field opened in Vergato on 18 April, moved 70 miles on 24 April to a bivouac area in the vicinity of the corps Po crossings, and opened in Mantova two days later. On 1 May the unit moved to the suburbs of Milan. In the final stages of the campaign, sections of the 615th Clearing Company, 163d Medical Battalion, accompanied the field hospital units to care for overflow and to provide holding facilities to enable the hospitals to move forward.
Late in the campaign, on 29-30 April, the 3d Platoon of the 15th Field Hospital was attached to IV Corps and set up in the vicinity of Modena, but aside from receiving the patients of an evacuation hospital about to move, the unit had little to do. There were three other field hospital units and one evacuation hospital closer to the front at that time.
Evacuation of aid and collecting stations in the Po Valley was by ambulance, jeep, truck, and captured vehicles of all kinds. In this flat, well-traveled country, there were no backbreaking litter carries. The extra litter bearers attached at the start of the drive were released when the plains were reached, and most of the regular bearers were sent back for rest. Until clearing stations crossed the Po, boats and Dukws as well as ponton bridges were used for evacuation. On Lake Garda boats were used extensively, partly to bypass stretches of highway blocked by the destruction of tunnels, partly because elements of the 10th Mountain Division were operating on the west side of the lake and casualties could not be reached in any other way.
Medical Support of II Corps- TheII Corps medical service did not differ in any essential from that of IV Corps. Casualties in all divisions were heavy for the first three or four days. After debouchment into the Po Valley, casualties declined sharply while distances covered and speed of movement increased.
The clearing station of the 313th Medical Battalion, serving the 88th Division, for example, was in the vicinity of Loiano on Highway 65 when the drive started. The station moved over to Vergato on 19 April when the intercorps boundary was shifted, but most of its patients there were from the 10th Mountain Division, whose clearing station was temporarily out of contact. The clearing station of the 88th moved to Lama on
20 April, and on the 22d moved up to San Giovanni, some distance beyond the site originally selected. The following day found the station at Mirandola, and on the 26th it was beyond the Po. A series of rapid moves on the last three days of the month brought the station successively to Lonigo, Vicenza, and Bassano, while the division it supported probed into the Alps. The clearing station of the 91st Division--316th Medical Battalion--was in Praduro at the foot of the Apennines on 21 April, but daily moves thereafter brought the unit across the Po and Adige Rivers and east to Treviso, where the Eighth Army zone began. Battle casualties of the 91st Division were less than half those suffered in a comparable time period against the Gothic Line in September 1944.
The medical service of the 34th Division followed a similar pattern before its transfer to the IV Corps at Bologna.
In addition to the divisional medical units, the 383d Clearing Company, 54th Medical Battalion, operated a collecting station for corps troops during the first hectic days in the Po Valley. Elements of the 54th also performed holding chores toward the end of the period to enable the field hospital platoons to move forward.
One of these, the 1st Platoon of the 33d Field Hospital, found itself tied down in Casalecchio on the northern rim of the Apennines from 21 April until after the surrender because its patients could not be moved and the unit was too far in the rear to be relieved. Its place on the II Corps front was taken by the 1st Platoon of the 15th Field, which was attached north of San Giovanni on 24 April and was beyond the Adige at Cologna by the 28th.
The 2d Platoon of the 33d Field Hospital moved quickly through Bologna, San Giovanni, and Mirandola without ever getting close enough to the fighting lines to see more than a few patients. At Isola della Scala, several miles south of Verona, the unit finally caught up with the war on 26 April, handling 110 surgical cases in four days before going on to Bassano. The 3d Platoon of the 33d Field, at Monghidoro on Highway 65, took the nontransportable cases from the 88th and 91st Divisions in the opening days of the campaign and was tied down at its initial site for two weeks. On 29 April the unit made the long jump to Vicenza, but found itself still a rear installation.
Fifth Army battle casualties, based on hospital admissions, are shown by divisions for the period 1 April through 15 May in Table 33.
Hospitalization in the Army Area
Deployment and Use of Army Hospitals
The demands that would be placed upon the Fifth Army medical service by the Po Valley Campaign had been anticipated in the planning stage, and every feasible preparation was made to get hospitals into the forward areas as quickly
as the inadequate highway network and the progress of the fighting allowed. As a preliminary step, the newly organized 171st Evacuation Hospital relieved the 170th on 2 April at Lucca, where it was to support the coastal drive of the 92d Division, while the 170th went into bivouac packed for movement when called upon. Surgical teams from the 170th served with other Fifth Army hospitals during this inactive period. The 15th Evacuation closed at Florence on 10 April two days before the originally scheduled D-day for the IV Corps attack; and the 94th closed its Florence unit on the 12th.6
The 15th Evacuation, which had enjoyed nearly seven months of rear-echelon security in Florence, was selected by General Martin to be the first hospital to move into the new combat lone. A location for the hospital was prepared by the engineers north of Porretta on Highway 64, only five miles from the IV Corps line of departure, but the greatest care was taken to conceal the purpose of the work. Latrines were dug under camouflage nets, and personnel of the advance detail bivouacked with adjacent combat units. The entire hospital was loaded onto 80 trucks by 12 April. Orders were received at 0820 on 14 April lifting the security ban and giving the convoy clearance for 0930. With trucks placed in the order in which they were to be unloaded, the convoy covered the 75-mile distance in three hours. Casualties were already on the way to the site from the clearing stations. The hospital opened at 1815 and had 78 patients, all nontransportables, by midnight. The next day the 1st Platoon of the 602d Clearing Company, 162d Medical Battalion, set up beside the 15th Evacuation to handle the overflow.
For three days the 15th Evacuation was the most forward Fifth Army hospital in the IV Corps sector. All nontransportable casualties were routed to this unit from an army control point farther up the road, transportable and slightly wounded cases going back to Pistoia and Montecatini. The hospital staff was augmented during this period by eleven auxiliary surgical teams. After four days nine of these teams were withdrawn, but two Brazilian teams were attached.7 The Brazilian staff of 26 officers, 21 nurses, and 68 enlisted men who had been with the 16th Evacuation in Pistoia since November were also attached to the 15th Evacuation on 23 April, but remained only three days.
The 170th Evacuation Hospital opened on 18 April near Silla, somewhat forward of the 15th at the same time that a unit of the 32d Field moved into Vergato. Thereafter the 15th received mostly lightly wounded and transportable cases, the serious casualties going to the more forward units, but the total number of admissions rose. The shift of Fifth Army strength to the west of the Reno River had the effect of funneling the wounded from two more divisions down Highway 64. There was no room to back up the medical units already there, and all of
sources for this section are: (1) Annual Rpt, Surg, Fifth Army, 1945;
(2) Annual Rpt, Surg, II Corps, 1945; (3) Unit rpts of the hosps
and other med units mentioned in text; (4) ETMD's of hosps mentioned
in text, for Apr 45.
them worked around the clock until the combat troops began to debouch into the valley. By that time, enough ground had been secured to permit leapfrogging another hospital ahead of those in the Porretta-Vergato area. The 750-bed 38th Evacuation Hospital was brought up on 20 April to Marzabotto, where Highway 64 begins to level off. The Brazilian personnel from the 15th Evacuation were shifted to the 38th, to which they had originally been attached, about 26 April.8(Map 39)
On the II Corps front, meanwhile, the 94th Evacuation reopened at its old Monghidoro site on 17 April, about thirty hours after the corps jump-off. For the next few days the 94th shared the load of casualties in the Highway 65 sector with the 8th Evacuation at Pietramala. The 56th, at Scarperia, was already closed to admissions, and on 20 April began dismantling and loading for a quick dash to Bologna whenever that city should be captured.
During this period of heavy pressure on forward evacuation hospitals, the presence of base units in the army area proved invaluable. The 24th General Hospital in Florence and the 70th General in Pistoia were able to take enough movable casualties from the army units to permit the evacuation hospitals to keep up with demands made upon them.
The 56th Evacuation was to set up in tents in a large stadium, located by air reconnaissance. Other hospitals were to be brought into Bologna as rapidly as buildings could be found to house them. General Martin awaited word of the fall of Bologna at the 94th Evacuation, and was one of the early arrivals after the city was captured on 21 April. Martins personal survey revealed no buildings suitable for hospital sites without extensive and time-consuming repairs, which were precluded by the unexpectedly swift advance of Fifth Army. Only the 56th was ordered forward, arriving on 22 April and taking patients at the predetermined stadium site at noon on the 23d.
The same speed of advance that left Bologna too far behind for the forward medical service almost as soon as it was captured, increased the difficulties of the Fifth Army surgeon. Rations, fuel, ammunition, assault boats, and bridging materials, all had to be brought by truck across the mountains from supply depots in the Florence area, and there were no trucks left over to move the hospitals. General Martin solved the problem by pooling all the organic transportation of his semimobile evacuations. Operating on a 24-hour basis and alternating drivers, these vehicles moved the bulk of the Fifth Army hospitals into the Po Valley on a schedule so expertly managed that no hospital was out of action for more than twenty-four hours.
At 0900 on 23 April, while the 56th Evacuation was still setting up its equipment in Bologna, the 94th was ordered to close at Monghidoro. All patients were evacuated by 2100 and the first convoy of trucks was on the road before dawn of 24 April. The destination was Carpi, a village about ten miles north of Modena. Using buildings of a civilian hospital, the 94th was taking patients at its new site by 2000. Even more rapid was the move of the 750-bed 16th Evacuation, which closed at Pistoia on 23 April, moved during the night to San Giovanni, a road junction fifteen miles
8 See p. 440, above
northwest of Bologna, and was functioning as a hospital once more by 1800 on 24 April. (Map40)
On the same day, the neuropsychiatric and venereal disease hospitals, operated respectively by the 601st and 602d Clearing Companies, also moved to San Giovanni, the former from Cafaggiolo and the latter from Florence. In each case the move was made by organic transportation of the medical battalion to which the unit belonged. The venereal disease hospital carried 30 patients with it in ambulances borrowed from one of the battalions collecting companies. Penicillin treatment of these patients was continued en route without interruption.
On 25 April the 1st Platoon of the 601st Clearing Company from Montecatini and the 2d Platoon of the 15th Field Hospital from the Cafaggiolo area were moved to La Spezia to act as a provisional evacuation hospital for the 92d Division.
The 170th Evacuation, after a week of hectic operation on Highway 64, evacuated its transportable patients to the 70th General in Pistoia on the night of 25 April. Leaving one ward behind to care for 27 patients who could not be moved, the 170th pulled out the morning of 26 April and reopened the same day at Mirandola, about eighteen miles south of Ostiglia where combat units were still crossing the Po. Only the 171st Evacuation at Lucca, the 8th at Pietramala, and the 15th at Porretta were still in the mountains, and all three of these were alerted for movement.
The 15th went first, leaving a holding detachment of 2 officers, 2 nurses, and 15 enlisted men to care for 17 nontransportable patients. Moving the hospital tentage and equipment on 10-ton trailers, packing was accomplished in three hours. The 15th arrived in Mantova north of the Po the afternoon of 28 April, where it took over a large sanatorium and more than 300 patients from a unit of the 32d Field. Until 25 April the buildings had housed a German hospital.
The 8th Evacuation, after several days of waiting for transportation, received its vehicles in the late afternoon of 29 April, moved out over the battle-scarred remains of Highway 65 during the night, and admitted its first patients at the new site just south of Verona before the end of the day, 30 April. The 171st also moved out the night of 29 April, but because its new site was Vicenza, 200 miles away, with the whole width of the Apennines to cross, it did not open until 1 May. In the meantime, the 38th Evacuation had dismantled, packed, moved 90 miles to Fidenza west of Parma on Highway 9, and reopened on 30 April. (Map 41)
The last hospital moves before the German surrender put the 92d Division's provisional evacuation in Genoa by 1 May; the venereal disease hospital in Verona and the neuropsychiatric hospital at Villafranca on 2 May. Since there were no longer enough neuropsychiatric casualties to justify the existence of a hospital for that purpose alone, the 2d Platoon of the 602d Clearing Company reverted to air evacuation holding duties at Villafranca airport. The 170th Evacuation was in process of moving from Mirandola to Treviso, and the 1st Platoon of the 602d Clearing Company was en route from Porretta to Modena when the war in Italy came to an end.
For all Army hospitals supporting the Po Valley Campaign, the pattern of admissions was similar. Heavy casualties,
with a preponderance of severe wounds, characterized the start of the drive, giving way in the later phases to relatively few American casualties, mostly lightly wounded, and a growing volume of prisoner patients.
The 171st Evacuation--the only evacuation hospital supporting the 92d Divisions coastal attack--admitted 2,416 patients between 2 April and the end of the month, of whom 1,128 were battle casualties. Italian partisans made up the greater portion of the 364 Allied patients treated.
The 15th Evacuation admitted 1,592 patients, 1,173 of them surgical cases; during its two weeks at Porretta, with most of the serious cases coming in the first four days. The 170th, in the course of a week spent in the same area, admitted 528, of whom 372 were battle casualties. The 94th Evacuation admitted 496 surgical cases at Monghidoro and Carpi. The 8th Evacuation, which was for two days the only hospital backing up the II Corps attack, took 72 priority cases on 16 April and 97 more in the next twenty-four hours, "as serious and severe" as any previously seen in Italy. The 8th had a backlog of 80 operative cases by the morning of 18 April, and received another 85 that day. With the 94th set up ahead of them and the corps breaking out of the mountains, the load then dropped abruptly. By 20 April the 8th Evacuation was receiving only rear echelon cases.
The 16th Evacuation had 1,016 admissions at San Giovanni by the end of April, 542 of them battle casualties, but the bulk of these were transferred from more forward units. Battle casualties also made up the larger group of patients at the 38th and 56th Evacuations, but almost half were prisoners of war at the 38th and more than half at the 56th.
The medical service in the Po Valley Campaign, like the military operations, falls into two distinct phases. Before the breakout from the mountains the use of field and evacuation hospitals and corps clearing Companies followed normal lines, but with activity intensified by the heavy influx of casualties and by long and difficult evacuation lines. In the valley itself the whole hospitalization picture was confused, with poor communications and inadequate transportation forcing hospitals to assume unorthodox roles. Field hospital platoons, with or without assistance from clearing companies, operated as evacuation hospitals, and evacuation ran the gamut from first priority surgery to station hospital duties.
Hospitalization of Prisoners of War
Until the Po River was reached, enemy casualties were routinely evacuated to Fifth Army hospitals, where they were cared for in the same manner as U.S. and Allied patients. Only a trickle of wounded Germans reached the 171st Evacuation Hospital, owing to the lengthening evacuation lines on the 92d Division front. The total was no more than 100 out of 2,000 patients treated by that unit during its stay at Lucca. On the IV Corps front, however, the 15th, 170th, and 38th Evacuations on Highway 64 admitted a considerable number of German casualties after the first week of combat. The 8th and 94th Evacuations supporting II Corps also began taking enemy casualties before leaving the mountains.9
9 This section is based primarily on the follow-
The number of enemy casualties became so large as to constitute a major problem after the fighting turned into a battle of pursuit in the Po Valley. The hulk of the German medical facilities had by that time been withdrawn north of the Po, and German medical corpsmen south of the river had no alternative but to bring their casualties to Allied clearing stations or hospitals. The 56th Evacuation at Bologna, the 38th at Marzabotto and Fidenza, the 16th at San Giovanni, the 94th at Carpi, and the 170th at Mirandola all received German casualties by the hundreds in the closing days of the war in Italy. The 38th treated close to 500, the 56th more than 800 before the end of April. At the 56th, two German surgical teams were organized and kept busy operating on prisoners. In many cases German ambulance drivers who brought their wounded to American hospitals were allowed to return unguarded for further loads.
The first German hospital to be cap-
ing: (1) Annual Rpt, Surg, Fifth Army, 1945; (2) Annual Rpt, Surg, II Corps, 1945; (3) Unit rpts of the hosps and med battalions mentioned in text; (4) ETMD's of the named hosps for Apr and May 45.
tured intact was taken by the ioth Mountain Division on the south bank of the Po on 23 April. The unit was fully equipped, with its full complement of doctors, nurses, and corpsmen, but its supplies were virtually gone. In this case, the patients were evacuated to U.S. units, and the dismantled hospital was sent to the rear. It was soon clear, however, that the Allies could not afford to waste facilities in this fashion. A directive from Allied Force Headquarters required Fifth Army thereafter to use German hospitals and personnel to care for German wounded under supervision of American medical personnel.
In the IV Corps sector, the field hospital units were ordered to set up their own establishments in connection with captured German hospitals, combining administration of the prisoner units with their own. In the II Corps area the task of administering enemy medical units devolved upon the 54th Medical Battalion. The number of German hospitals taken in the final days, however, was too great for either technique to be used exclusively. Divisional medical units and
evacuation hospitals also participated when occasion required.
For example, the 3d Platoon of the 32d Field Hospital, coming up from Vergato, crossed the Po on a ponton bridge early in the afternoon of 26 April, entered Mantova on the heels of the retiring enemy, and proceeded immediately to a large civilian hospital and sanatorium known to have been used by the Germans. Until the preceding day the establishment had served the enemy as a base hospital. Since that time it had been administered by 5 British enlisted men who had been prisoners. There were 54 Allied patients, including a few Americans, and 140 German patients. The staff consisted of 3 German medical officers, 5 volunteer Italian doctors, 3 Italian medical students, 13 volunteer Italian nurses, a dozen or more nuns from a nearby convent, 30 German medical corpsmen, 18 Italian medical soldiers who had been interned by the Fascists, a German Army chaplain, and some 15 Italian partisans acting as guards.
Most of the Allied patients were in fair condition, despite short supplies of both food and drugs, but infected wounds calling for surgery were common among the Germans. The field hospital unit operated the prisoner of war hospital as well as its own for two days, then turned both over to the 15th Evacuation, which was operating as a POW hospital almost exclusively by the end of the war.
The field hospital unit, meanwhile, moved on to Garbagnate near Milan, where another German hospital was taken over. The Garbagnate establishment had close to 600 German patients in charge of a minimum staff, a supply depot, and a laboratory. Here again there was little food and no fuel for essential services such as running sterilizing equipment and cooking.
At Parma, where the 2d Platoon of the 32d Field took over a German hospital on 28 April, 220 German patients were being cared for by 15 German medical officers, 120 corpsmen, and 3 Italian Red Cross nurses. The establishment had to be put under immediate guard to protect its patients from attacks by partisans. On 2 May the same platoon of the 32d Field added administration of a second German hospital, located ten miles away at Brescello, to its duties. The Brescello unit had 83 patients. Its existence was reported by a German medical officer who came to the Parma unit under Partisan guard.
In the II Corps sector, the 54th Medical Battalion took over its first German hospital on 27 April, when the 380th Collecting Company assumed administration of the 29th Panzer Division hospital southeast of Verona. Enemy units at Citadella and Caldogno were taken over on 30 April, one at Galliera on May, and another at Paderno on 2 May. All of these hospital sites were in the Viceuza-Treviso area, where the 171st Evacuation in the opening days of May also took more German than Allied patients.
The condition of these captured hospitals varied markedly, both as to equipment and in terms of staff, but a unit captured at Bergamo by the 1st Armored Division, which had 14 doctors to care for 1,180 patients, was more typical than the Parma hospital with its 15 doctors and 220 patients.
The process of rounding up and concentrating the 23,000 prisoner casualties taken by Fifth Army was only beginning
when the war ended. The main medical story for prisoners of war belongs to the postwar period.10
Evacuation From Fifth Army
Evacuation from the battlefields and from division clearing stations in the Po Valley Campaign followed the normal pattern, with the 54th Medical Battalion evacuating from II Corps and the 163d Medical Battalion from IV Corps and the 92d Division. Both corps medical battalions were reinforced when necessary by the attachment of collecting companies or ambulance platoons from one of the two Fifth Army medical battalions. Evacuation during the mountain phases of the fighting was by hand litter, jeep, and ambulance. On the 92d Division front the pack mules that brought in supplies were sometimes used to carry out the wounded from otherwise inaccessible positions. In the Po Valley, evacuation was predominantly by ambulance, trucks being used for wounded prisoners and ambulatory cases when ambulances were not available. Dukws and assault boats
10 See pp. 534-43, below.
were used to ferry the wounded across the Po, and to bypass roadblocks along Lake Garda. The problem of evacuation within the army area was primarily one of distance and transportation, which was accentuated but not altered by the presence of large numbers of enemy wounded in the later stages of the campaign and by the tendency of combat units to outrun their medical support.11
Evacuation from Fifth Army hospitals to base installations, however, posed difficulties not previously encountered by the medical service in Italy. Until the Po Valley itself was occupied, fixed hospitals could not be brought closer than they were in the Florence-Pistoia-Leghorn area. Between these hospitals and the battle front lay mountain ranges 50 to 100 miles in depth. All rail lines had long since been knocked out, leaving only highways gutted by six months of war to supply the army as well as to evacuate the wounded. Air evacuation could not be used until capttired airfields in the Po Valley could he made operational, and even then might be too hazardous since the slow C-47's would be highly vulnerable while they gained altitude for the mountain crossing.
Since the eastern end of the Apennine chain would be easiest to cross, two station hospitals, the 60th and the 225th, both assigned to the Adriatic Base Command, were moved into the Ancona area before the beginning of the campaign, but no other shifts were practical until sites for fixed hospitals were available north of the mountains.
Until the closing days of the war, all evacuation from Fifth Army to base hospitals was thus by ambulance, the bulk of it over the battered Highways 64 and 65, with distances stretching out to a hundred miles and more as the evacuation hospitals moved into the Po Valley. The process was constant. The heavy casualties of the first week forced continuous clearing of forward units to make way for the newly wounded, and as the casualties diminished, the distances increased to keep ambulances unremittingly on the road. Patients were carried to the nearest base hospital--the 24th General in Florence and the 7oth General at Pistoia for the most part--where bed space was kept open by the daily transfer of older cases to Leghorn and Naples by rail and air.
The airfield at Bologna was operational by 25 April, and a detachment of the 802d Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron set up a station there on that day.12 A second air evacuation station was established at Villa-franca south of Verona on 2 May, where the 2d Platoon of the 601st Clearing Company combined the functions of air evacuation holding unit with those of Fifth Army neuropsychiatric hospital. The only fixed hospital to open north
is based primarily on the following: (1) Annual Rpt, Surg, Fifth Army,
1945; (2) Final Rpt, Plans and Opns Off, MTOUSA, 1945; (3) Unit rpts, 54th,
161st, 162d, 163d Med Bns; (4) Unit rpts of hosps and other med installations
mentioned in text; (5) G-4 Rpt in Hist, 92d Div, Apr 45.
of the Apennines before the German surrender was the 74th Station, which began taking patients in Bologna on 27 April. There were 600 cases by 1 May, and another 400 less serious cases had been housed, fed, treated, and passed on to the rear. The 6th General had meanwhile arrived in Bologna and was setting up, while the 37th General was en route to Mantova. With the establishment of 3,000 fixed beds so near at hand, evacuation hospitals were holding as many patients as was physically possible when the war ended.
Medical Supplies and Equipment
In preparation for the Po Valley Campaign, the 2d Storage and Issue Platoon of the 12th Medical Depot Company sent an advance section up Highway 64 on 7 April. Consisting of five enlisted men and ten tons of medical supplies, the section set up a dump at Valdibura, adjacent to 32d Field Hospital. On 16 April the platoon joined its advance section, moving up to Porretta where an issue point with 40 tons of supplies was established. A small detachment was left
behind at Lucca, where it served the 92d division and medical units still in the immediate vicinity. Its personnel were attached for rations and quarters to the 171st Evacuation Hospital. The Lucca section functioned independently of the parent platoon, forwarding any requisitions it could not fill directly to the main depot in Florence.13
The 3d Storage and Issue Platoon, which had supported II Corps throughout the winter from its dump near Monghidoro, moved forward to Bologna on 24 April with 50 tons of medical supplies. The following day the Porretta dump displaced forward to Mirandola, transferring again to Verona on 30 April. The depot headquarters, maintenance section, and ist Storage and Issue Platoon moved on 1 May from Florence to Modena, where the base dump was established with 150 tons of supplies.
The 92d Division, remote as it was from the issue points supplying II and IV Corps, drew its medical supplies through its own organization. The divisional medical supply dump moved from Viareggio to Massa on 16 April, was in Riva just south of Sestri ten days later, and opened in Genoa on the 29th.14
On the 92d Division front, transportation difficulties were constant, with mule pack trains being used in the mountainous areas. On the II and IV Corps fronts, no difficulties were experienced in keeping forward dumps supplied until 25 April. Up to that time both corps installations could be reached from Florence in no more than a day for the round trip. For the rest of the month, however, until the base depot itself could be moved into the Po Valley, both distance and the rapid consumption of supplies to care for prisoners of war made resupply difficult. Maximum use of captured German medical supplies and equipment was made during this period.
Despite the speed of the campaign, the dispersion of installations, and the shortages of transportation, there is no record that any Fifth Army medical unit failed to obtain adequate supplies or replace equipment through regular channels. The success of the 12th Medical Depot Company was achieved, moreover, while supplying close to 300,000 troops instead of the 75,000 normally served by such a unit.
The optical and dental services of the 12th Medical Depot Company continued to function without interruption through the Po Valley Campaign.
Professional Services in the Army Area
Medicine and Surgery
While the total number of hospital admissions during the brief period of the Po Valley Campaign was large--6,151 cases of disease, 1,533 cases of injury, and 5,092 battle casualties, or 12,776 admissions not counting prisoners of war-- there were no outstanding developments in combat medicine or surgery. Evacuation hospitals, especially the 15th and 170th on Highway 64 and the 8th and 94th on Highway 65, handled a larger proportion of the priority surgical cases than had been true in earlier campaigns,
section is based primarily on the following: (1) Annual Rpt, Surg, Fifth
Army, 1945; (2) Annual Rpt, 12th Med Depot Co, 1945; (3) Davidson. Med
Supply in the MTOUSA, pp. 140-42; (4) Unit rpts of Fifth Army hosps and
but this was because the majority of battle wounds occurred in the opening days of the offensive while the evacuation hospitals were still close to the action. The field hospital platoon with attached surgical teams continued to be the preferred installation for forward surgery. Whole blood flown up from the Naples blood bank and from bleeding sections in Florence and Pisa was used extensively, and was again delivered to forward areas by cub plane.15
The medical problems were the normal ones, predominantly respiratory and intestinal diseases attributable to exposure or to inadequate sanitation in newly conquered areas. An outbreak of hepatitis in the 1st Battalion on the 86th Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, during the first two weeks of April suggested drinking water as the source of infection. The 3d Battalion of the 362d Infantry, 91st Division, suffered an outbreak of atypical pneumonia in the second and third weeks of April, with evidence indicating a barn used for showing films and an adjacent straw pile as the point of origin. The incidence of venereal disease declined in April, as was to be expected in combat.
Psychiatric disturbances increased markedly over the static winter months, with a total of 1,430 cases in April, of which 668 were returned to full duty from the division clearing stations or rehabilitation centers and 266 from hospitals, which also returned 293 to limited duty. Only 203 were evacuated out of the army area, or 14.2 percent--lower than the percentage for any other combat month in Fifth Army history. The number of psychiatric casualties declined sharply during the battle of pursuit in the Po Valley, and by the end of hostilities was no longer enough to justify the separate existence of a neuropsychiatric hospital at the army level.
While both medical and surgical services of Fifth Army units were pushed to the limit of their capacities in the three weeks of active combat, the problem was always one of applying familiar techniques on the required scale rather than the development of new methods to cope with unforeseen crises.
Dental work during the weeks of actual combat was largely confined to emergency cases, with many dental officers, particularly those on the staffs of evacuation hospitals, performing a variety of other functions. Complete dental service was nevertheless available in the army area throughout the campaign.16
The IV Corps dental clinic ceased operation in mid-April when the 32d Field Hospital platoon to which it was attached closed at Valdibura, and operations were not resumed until after the end of hostilities. The II Corps clinic, however, continued to operate throughout the campaign, moving forward with the clearing company of the 54th Medical Battalion. The Fifth Army dental clinic, conducted by the 2d Platoon of the 602d Clearing Company, 162d Medical Battal-
sources for this section are: (1) Annual Rpt, Surg, Fifth Army, 1945; (2)
ETMD's for Apr. May and Jun 45; (3) Unil rpts of Fifth Army hosps
and of 2d Aux Surg Gp.
ion, also functioned in its normal capacity, moving with the platoon, which also operated the army venereal disease center, to San Giovanni on 24 April and to Verona on 2 May. Mobile prosthetic and operative trucks and the mobile dental dispensaries of the divisions were in service as far forward as circumstances permitted.17
The ratio of dental officers to army strength for April 1945 was 1:924, a slight improvement over the preceding month but higher than the average ratio for the North Apennines Campaign. The total number of dental operations performed in Fifth Army in April was less than for any month since September 1944. The length of time available for getting the troops into shape before the beginning of the offensive was a factor in reducing the need for dental work once the drive was under way.
Animal transportation was as essential to Fifth Army in the Po Valley Campaign as it had been throughout the earher fighting in Italy. The only noteworthy changes were in the direction of better organization and more complete veterinary support. By the launching of the final drive, Fifth Army had 17 Italian pack mule companies, grouped into 5 battalions under the 2695 Technical Supervision Regiment. Each company had 269 animals and 379 men, including an Italian veterinarian. Three U.S. veterinary officers functioned at the battalion level. In addition to these units, the 92d Division had its own provisional pack mule battalion. Shortly before the start of the campaign, the 10th Mountain Division received 180 horses for its cavalry reconnaissance troop from the Fifth Army Remount Depot, and 525 mules direct from the United States. The divisions animal strength ultimately reached 822, not counting attached Italian pack mule companies. There were approximately 4,500 horses and mules and 125 scout dogs in Fifth Army during this period.18
Veterinary service was supplied by division and corps veterinary personnel, which in the case of the 10th Mountain Division was substantial.19 Fifth Armys four Italian-staffed and U.S.-equipped veterinary hospitals were supplemented by the late arrival on 17 April of the 36th Veterinary Company, whose 5 officers and 59 enlisted men took over the bulk of the animal evacuation thereafter. The three semitrailers with which the company was equipped proved less satisfactory for negotiating the difficult Italian roads than the trucks previously used.
The 212th Veterinary Station Hospital, serving IV Corps, was the first to enter the Po Valley. The unit closed at Lucca on 20 April and opened at Palazzo Beccadelhi, on the edge of the plain about ten miles west of Bologna, on the 22d. The 211th Veterinary Evacuation, also a IV Corps unit, closed at Riola in the 10th Mountain Division sector on 24
April, opening two days later at Ghisione just south of the Po in the vicinity of Ostiglia. The two veterinary evacuation hospitals attached to II Corps were somewhat later in getting across the mountains, both moving into the Verona area in the closing days of the campaign. The 110th opened at Polvrifitto southeast of the city on 28 April, while the 130th opened in Verona itself on the 30th. The Fifth Army Remount Depot moved to San Martino, close to the site of the 211th Veterinary Evacuation Hospital, about 1 May. (See Maps 39, 40, 41.)
While animal casualties were fewer than in the North Apennines Campaign, the veterinary problem was complicated by the capture of thousands of German animals north of the Po, many of which were in need of immediate attention.20
Veterinary food inspection detachments continued to operate with Fifth Army throughout the Po Valley Campaign, but their work was of a routine nature.
20 See p. 517, below, for a discussion of the care and disposition of these animals.