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Airborne Surgical Team NO. 1, Third Auxiliary Surgical Group, Attahced to 326 A/B Medical Company, 101st Airborne Division, 29 July 1944

Operation Overlord

AIRBORNE SURGICAL TEAM NO. 1

THIRD AUXILIARY SURGICAL GROUP

ATTACHED TO 326 A/B MED. CO., 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION

29 July 1944

SUBJECT:  Report of Surgical Team.

TO:  Commanding Officer, Third Auxiliary Surgical Group, APO 230, U. S. Army.

Airborne Surgical Team No. 1, consisting of the following personnel, was attached to the 326th Airborne Medical Company, 101st Airborne Division, 29 March 1944 for the :purpose of ' giving general surgical support to the division, during the airborne operations of the assault on Western Europe.

Maj. A. J. Crandall, MC O-308089

Capt. C. O. Van Gorder, MC O-381452

Capt. J. S. Rodda, MC O-391362

Capt. Saul (NMI) Dworkin, MC O-344944

Tec 4 Allen N. Ray, 34036366

Tec 5 Emil K. Natalle, 3742996

Tee 5 Ernest E. Burgess, 31283826

Pvt. Francis J. Muska, 31281735

This team with two officers, Capt. E. C. Yeary, MC, Executive Officer of the Medical Company, and Capt. Charles (NMI) Margulies, of the 326th Airborne Medical Company, was assigned as the advanced echelon of the Medical Company in the first glider assault wave. The equipment consisted of:

1. Two complete basic general surgical instrument sets, supplemented.

2. One complete orthopedic instrument set, supplemented.

3. Sterile debridement sets, separately packed and complete for operation.

4. Surgical Chests, augmente .

5. Anaesthesia Chest.

6. Plaster Chest.

7. Sterile drapes and other linens and goods.

8. Splints, Army Standard types.


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9. Plasma and transfusion set.

10. Two instrument sterilizers.

11. Litters and litter stands.

The equipment was packed in one l/4 ton trailer transported in glider No. 2. One 1/4 ton truck 4 x 4 was alloted to tow the trailer and was transported in glider No. 4.

In addition to the above each man carried one kit, canvas, field, containing sterile debridement instruments, 2% procaine solution, syringes, needles, bandages, dressings, tourniquets, splints, sulfa drugs, premixed plasma, drugs, etc. There was also available medical supplies such as instruments, sterile goods, plaster, splints, plasma, etc., dropped in parachute equipment bundles.

In order to properly treat landing zone casualties and to insure against total losses in any one group the personnel and equipment were dispersed throughout the glider formation as follows:

Glider No. 2.

Capt. C. O. Van Gorder

Tec 4 Allen N. Ray

Tec 5 Ernest E. Burgess

Pvt. Francis J. Muska

Trailer with surgical equipment load.

Glider No. 4.

Capt. E. C. Yeary

Tec 5 Emil K. Natalie

Medical Company Truck 1/4 ton, 4 x 4

Glider No. 10.

Maj. A. J. Crandall

Glider No. 28.

Capt. C. (NMI) Margulies

Glider No. 34.

Capt. Saul (NMI) Dworkin


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Glider No 43.

Capt. J. S. Rodde.

Gliders Nos.  1, 28, 34, and 43 also transported ammunition, explosives, weapons with combatants.

The mission of the advance echelon of medical personnel was:

1. On landing to establish aid stations on the field and adjacent fields of the landing zones not covered by medical aid and to render emergency treatment to all casualties in the vicinity.

2. To establish and operate a surgical installation for major operative procedures as advanced echelon of the 326th Airborne Medical Company.

3. To function as an Auxiliary Surgical Team attached to the 326th Airborne Medical Company.

The first assault wave of gliders including the Surgical Team took off from Aldermaston airdrome, England, at approximately 0119 hours; 6 June 1944. The flight was uneventful until the formation was a few miles off the west coast of the Cotentin Peninsula. At that point enemy fighters attacked. Heavy flak, intense machinegun, and small arms fire was encountered as the coast was reached and continued until all gliders had landed. All the gliders were hit many times, during the 20 minute flight across the peninsula, but no losses or injuries were sustained by the medical personnel from enemy fire.

At approximately H-3 hours, 6 June, the glider group landed. Each glider made a crash landing in the darkness several of which were severe. The darkness, anti-airborne roles, and the terrain consisting of small fields with high surrounding hedge rows and trees produced the severity of the landings. Injuries inflicted to this group by the landing were:

Maj. A. J. Crandall: head injury, minor, with mild concussion.

         Sprain, knee, left.


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Capt. C. O. Van Gorder: Contusion, knee, left, minor.

    Sprain, back.

Capt. J. S. Rodda: Head injury, minor, with mild concussion.

      Chest, crush injury, left, costochondral separation, moderately severe.

      Sprain, back.

      Lacerations, lip and chin.

Capt. Saul (NMI) Dworkin: Contusions, multiple, minor.

Capt. E. C. Yeary: Uninjured.

Cant C. (NMI) Margulies: Head injury, minor with mild concussion.

       Laceration, scalp.

Tee 4 Allen N. Ray: Contusions, multiple, minor.

Tee 5 Emil K. Natalie: Uninjured.

Tee 5 Ernest E. Burgess: Contusions, multiple, minor.

Pvt. Francis J. Muska: Uninjured.

None of the men was disabled to the extent that it was impossible to perform his assigned duties.

The gliders landed in the following areas in France:

Glider No. 2: Southwest of Hiesville approximately 1000 yards.

Glider No. 4: South of Vierville approximately 1100 yards.

Glider No. l0: South of Hiesville approximately 1500 yards.

Glider No. 28: Vicinity of Vierville.

Glider No. 34: Southwest of Hiesville approximately 800 yards.

Glider No. 43: South of Vierville approximately 1000 yards and East of the road to Carentan approximately 500 yards.

The landings were made in darkness and every field was under enemy fire.

Aid stations were established on the respective landing zones for the treatment of crash and other casualties. Rendezvouz was established at approximately H-1 hours as planned in previously designated fields as near as possible.

Maj. A. J. Crandall, Capt. C. O. Van Gorder, and. Capt. S. Dworkin assembled at the glider carrying the major surgical equipment. The trailer


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was then unloaded from the glider. At this time enemy mortar fire was directed on the group, one shell striking directly under the glider but causing no loss of personnel or equipment.

With a borrowed vehicle three members of this group proceeded to a recently captured chateau just North of Hiesville. This chateau had been previously selected by study of aerial photographs as the site of choice for establishment of the surgical installation. The surgical unit was set up by 0930 hours. The vehicle returned to the field and brought forward the remaining three members with casualties and established contact with combat units of the Division.

Immediately two major operative tables and one minor surgical table were set up and were in operation by 0915 hours. These were in continuous operation until the arrival of other airborne and seaborne elements of the Medical Company.

Capt. J. S. Rodda, Capt E. C. Yeary, and Capt. Charles Margulies had also established contact at approximately H-1 hours although they had landed some distance from one another. Two aid stations were established in that area at which casualties were collected and emergency treatment rendered. The gliders and one Aid station were ground strafed by enemy planes in the early morning hours. Although they were located about three miles southeast of the former group and had to traverse territory still infiltrated by the enemy, they arrived at the station at approximately 1200 hours.

Enemy fire by snipers and small arms was present throughout the day in the vicinity of the chateau but was neutralized by our troops. Casualties were transported to the chateau by the use of glider borne vehicles, captured vehicles, French vehicles and wagons and improvised litters. The location and facilities of the chateau proved to be very good and liaison easily established with Regimental and Battalion aid Stations so that there was a steady flow of casualties.


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The second glider borne echelon of the Medical Company and the sea borne element arrived at approximately 2000 hours, 6 June 1944, at which time four major surgical tables and three minor surgical tables were set up. The personnel of one complete glider load was lost due to enemy action.

A German Medical Unit, consisting of two medical officers and twenty-five enlisted men, had been captured and was brought to the station in the afternoon of D 1. They were given tentage with additional equipment and set up outside the chateau in the enclosed courtyard. This unit was able to treat enemy minor wounded casualties, to give shock and preoperative treatment before transfer of their major surgical cases to the operating theaters in the chateau.

The station operated continuously, handling all non-transportable casualties, until approximately 2345 hours, 9 June 1944, at which time the chateau was bombed by enemy aircraft. While in operation it suffered one direct bomb hit and one near hit with large caliber bombs, completely destroying the building and station. Considerable equipment and many records were lost. Casualties in the Medical Company personnel were: ? killed and ? wounded. Tec 4 Allen Ray received a hand laceration and Tec 5 Emil Natalie received a back contusion and fractured rib due to the bombing. Neither injury was serious enough to warrant evacuation and both remained with the group. Other casualties occurred among U. S. troops and German prisoners in the area and vicinity.

On 10 June 1944, the Medical Company and Surgical Team with replaced equipment and personnel moved to field site in the vicinity North of Carentan and located under tentage. It continued to operate handling non-transportable surgical cases until relieved on 11 July 1944.

There are many problems peculiar to an airborne operation. This team, being - the first used by the American Forces and the only one with the


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initial glider assault wave, was confronted with many interesting and often difficult situations. Some of the general problems that one must consider are:

1. Supply and equipment must take up a minimum amount of space in transportation. Weight must be minimized as well.

2. There must be duplication and dispersal of equipment to insure against losses.

3. Personnel must be dispersed to cover all landing areas originally and also to avoid losses.

4. An early rendezvous of personnel and equipment must be made with establishment of the major surgical installation at the earliest possible hour.

5. Each member of the group must be thoroughly familiar with the detailed plan of the operation. He must have a complete mental picture of the terrain, location of friendly and enemy forces as far as possible and a map of the territory.

Landing in enemy territory and in darkness the medica1 soldier and officer is surrounded by enemy at this time and is "on his own". He can not depend upon a definite landing in the planned zone or upon protection by his forces. Such was the case with this group in many instances. All were under direct fire at the time of landing, on the fields and until established in the chateau. The entire area was infiltrated with enemy. Recognition by friendly troops was carried out with password and signals. In some instances considerable distances were traversed through territory not yet secure in order to establish contact and installation.

Because of limited space and weight, tentage, X-ray, operating tables, special anesthesia, equipment, cots, and blankets were not available to the unit. An attempt was made to utilize all possible space by carrying necessary instruments, sterilization equipment, sterile goods, antiseptics, ether, sodium pentothal, plasma, plaster, splints, and essential drugs.


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A very satisfactory surgical installation was established in a captured French chateau a few hundred yards north of Hiesville; a few beds were available, litters were used as cots and as operating tables on chests and stands. Silk parachutes which are always plentiful in an airborne operation are ideal in replacing blankets.

The flow of casualties was great and a definite attempt at classification was made with treatment of non-transportable cases and evacuation of transportable cases when possible. The principle of conservation of fighting strength as well, as saying life was at all times adhered to by the surgical team and company.

During the first hours, while working in darkness and under constant enemy fire, it was impossible to keep records. In this group records were made thereafter, but unfortunately were destroyed at the time of enemy bombing of the chateau. Others were lost during a move of the station. However, by use of the station blotter and individual notes a fairly accurate thought not complete list of wounded has been compiled. One must remember that X-Ray was not available. Therefore, the following is of chief value only as a classification of regional injuries.


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GENERAL CLASSIFICATION

 

DATE

TOTAL PATIENTS

MULTIPLE WOUNDS

TOTAL WOUNDS

6 June

125 field casualties received emergency treatment

6 June

85

7

126

7 June

235

58

303

8 June

407

88

627

9 June

146

52

203

10 June

day following bombing of station, no records available.       

11 June

224

79

393

12 June

137

48

251

13 June

180

48

272

14 June

52

19

88

15 June

56

16

84

16 June

37

7

68

17 June

94

29

151

18 June

55

20

93

19 June

28

1

29

20 June

26

2

31

21 June

28

3

34

22 June

22

4

31

23 June

45

12

72

24 June

16

4

24

25 June

22

5

29

26 June

18

8

32

27 June

22

1

24

TOTAL

2070


The above 22 days covered the major portion of the work encountered. During the subsequent period this station operated, the cases became few and sporadic. Evacuation to other complete hospitals was done in most instances.


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REGIONAL CLASSIFICATION

 

A. HEAD INJURIES:

1. Gun shot wounds              37

2. Shell fragment wounds       39

3. Compound fractures           5 (not due to sun shot or shell fragment)

4. Concussion                       39       

5. Scalp lacerations               14

6. Burns                                   1

B. MAXILO-FACIAL INJURIES:

1. Eye injuries                       25

2. Ear injuries                       6

(Auricle)                      5

3. Nose injuries          

a. --fractures                7

b. --laceration              1

4. Lip

a. --lacerations             3

5. Jaw injuries

a. Fractured mandible (Missile)         11

(1) Gun shot                                       6

(2) Shell fragment                              5

b. Fractured mandible (Trauma)        12

6.   Face injuries        

a. Gunshot wounds                        24

b. Shell fragment wounds                  39

c. Contusions                                      2

d. Burns                                              4

C. NECK INJURIES:

1. Gun shot wounds                                      19

2. Shell fragment wounds                         27

3. Lacerations                                                 1

4. Fractured cervical spine                        2

5. Burns                                                           3

           (Phosphortus)                                      1

CHEST INJURIES:

1. Gun shot wounds                                        59

2. Shell fragment wounds                            115

3. Contusion                                             23

E. ABDOMINAL INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                                         27

2. Shell fragment wounds                            15

3. Contusion                                                    2

4. Lacerated wounds                                      3

F. BACK INJURII.S:

1. Gunshot wounds                                  52

2. Shell fragment wounds                            88

3. Fractured spine                                 14

4. Contusions                                           11

5. Sprains                    19

6. Lacerated wounds                               1


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G. BUTTOCK INJURIES:

1. Gun shot wounds                                        21

2. Shell fragment wounds                            44

3. Lacerations                                                  1

H. SHOULDER REGION INJURIES:

1. Gun shot wounds                                     105

2. Shell fragment wounds                           209

3. Lacerations                                                  3

4. Compound fractures                               74

5. Simple fractures                                          11

6. Dislocations                                                11

7. Contusions, simple                                      10

8. Sprains                                                       5

9. Burns                                                           1

I. ARM INJURIES:

1. Gun shot wounds                                        131

2. Shell fragment wounds                              108

3. Lacerations                                                  13

4. Compound fractures                                 68

5. Simple fractures                                          36

6. Simple contusions                                       8

7. Burns                                                           3

J. ELBOW JOINT INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                                         15

2. Shell fragment wounds                              17

3. Lacerations                                                 2

4. Compound fractures                                12

5. Simple fractures                                          77

K. FOREARM INJURIES

1. Gunshot wounds                                         26

2. Shell fragment wounds                             19

3. Lacerations                                                 2

4. Compound fractures                               37

5. Simple fractures                                          18

L. WRIST JOINT INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                                         6

2. Shell fragment wounds                           10

3. Lacerations                                                  3

4. Compound fractures                                 8

5. Simple fractures                                          14

6. Burns                                                           1


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M. HAND INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                                         53

2. Shell fragment wounds                             51      

3. Lacerations                                                 17

4. Compound fractures                                 41

5. Simple fractures                                         47

6. Contusions, simple                              3

7. Burns                                                           10

N. HIP JOINT INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                                 14

2. Shell fragment wounds                           14

3. Lacerations                                                  1

4. Dislocations                                     1

O. THIGH INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                              62

2. Shell fragment wounds                               47

3. Lacerations                                                  6

4. Compound fractures                                   37

5. Simple fractures                                          20

6. Contusions, simple                                 4

P. KNEE JOINT INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                                     13

2. Shell fragment wounds                             33

3. Lacerations                                           5

4. Dislocations                                           1

5. Sprains                                                 25

6. Contusions                                           9

Q. LEG INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                                         117

2. Shell fragment wounds                               184

3. Lacerations                                           10

4. Compound fractures                                 88

5. Simple fractures                               36

6. Contusions, simple                                 11

R. ANKLE JOINT INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                                         21

2. Shell fragment wounds                            24

3. Lacerations                                           6

4. Dislocations                                     1

5. Fracture dislocations                                 71

6. Compound fractures                                 37

7. Sprains                                                        33

S. FOOT INJURIES:

1. Gunshot wounds                              51

2. Shell fragment wounds                             38

3. Lacerations                                                 7

4. Simple fractures                               2

5. Compound fractures                                26

b. Contusions                                           6


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Although no specific conclusions can be reached as yet the surgical probe on any one type of injury, certainly from the great volume of surgical work performed by this group during this early period the mission was successful. As was demonstrated in this operation it is not possible to bring early adequate surgery to the wounded airborne soldier or the soldier to surgery by other than airborne forces.

Modern war surgery has proved beyond any doubt that good results are directly in proportion to early and adequate surgery. The time factor between infliction of the wound and surgery is of cardinal importance.

Therefore, it is safe to assume that airborne surgical teams or similar specialized groups can and should accompany airborne troops.

In this operation it will be noted that although the seaborne element of the Medical Company advanced surgical installation approximately 18 hours after the combat troops went into action, it was not until about 30 hours had elapsed that the equipment of the company could be brought into the operational area. During this period not only valuable surgery was being done but liaison was also well established with combat troops.

In addition it must be noted that approximately 72 hours elapsed before Army support could begin evacuation of patients this far inland to beach head hospitals and medical battalions.

During this period of the first three days, approximately 40% of the casualties treated had occurred.

In conclusion we believe that the first airborne surgical team to accompany the assault wave of an airborne operation was a success and fulfilled the assigned mission in that:


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1. Emergency treatment was adequate on the glider landing zones. Minor casualties were treated and returned to combat.

2. Liaison was established with combat elements at an early hour.

3. An installation for major surgery was established in a location central to the combat area.

4. Major surgery was performed at the earliest possible hour, thus reducing "time lag" to a minimum.

5. Surgery was done on both non-transportable and normally transportable casualties until the chain of evacuation to field, evacuation and beach head hospitals could be established.

6. The duties of an Auxiliary Surgical Team attached to the 326 A/B Medical Company of the were performed throughout the operation.

[signed]

Albert J. Crandall, Maj. M.C.

Charles O. van Gorder, Capt. M.C.

John S. Rodda, Capt. M.C.

Saul Dworkin, Capt. M.C.