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Headquarters, V Corps, 3 August 1944, After Action Report

Operation Overlord

HEADQUARTERS V CORPS*
Office of the Surgeon
3 August 1944

AFTER ACTION REPORT
SURGEON’S SECTION, V CORPS

6 June - 30 June 1944 (D Day - D + 24)


Landing Operations on a Hostile Shore (1 June - 3 June 1944, D Day  - D + 3).

    The earliest organized medical effort other than that of aid groups attached to the assault teems and Engineers demolishing obstacles on the beach was by the 60th Medical Battalion (6th Engineer Special Brigade) and the 61st Medical Battalion (6th Engineer Special Brigade). They collected and treated the wounded on the beaches, and began establishing medical supply depots. The casualties which they collected were placed upon small craft usually LCVPs and taken to the LSTs standing offshore. As the assault moved inland, the 60th and 61st Medical Battalions set up their clearing stations at 666905 and 688812, respectively (Map 6E/6 1/50,000), and on the morning of D + 1, the Clearing Company of the 1st Medical Battalion set up its station at 673896 on the hill leading from the beach and the casualties treated in the station were evacuated to the beach by litter bearers of the Engineer Special Brigade Medical Battalion.

    Colonel Brenn made visits to the beach area on foot and found the units functioning despite the beach obstacles and mines. Most units had lost medical equipment in some degree, but they did well with what they had, improvising as they went along, and in some oases utilizing supplies from the flotsam on the beach.

    The first element of the Corps Medical Battalion appeared then part of the 382nd Medical Collecting Company (53rd Medical Battalion) arrived on the evening of D + 1. The Company had only six ambulances with them, but they soon contacted the 104th Medical Battalion of the 29th Infantry Division, and were evacuating casualties during the night.

    On the evening of D + 1, LSTs brought in more medical supplies which the Engineer Special Brigades and the Advance Section, 1st Platoon, 1st Medical Depot Company used to supplement the supply depots they had organized. A hospital carrier arrived with supplies, including a stock of whole blood as well as elements of the 13th and 51st Field Hospitals and medical officers and enlisted men serving as the advance parties of Army medical units. Despite the lack of a full complement of organic medical personnel and equipment ashore, the divisions were collecting and treating their wounded, and with the beach head still very shallow, the 382nd Medical Collecting Company, together with elements of the 60th Medical Battalion was evacuating the division clearing stations.

    As the 13th and 51st Field Hospitals began to receive their personnel and equipment, efforts were made to get them ready to function, since the Corps Surgeon’s plan was to send one platoon of a field hospital with each clearing

SOURCE:  National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407,  The Adjutant General's Office, U.S. Army, World War II Records, V Corps, After Action Reports, 1944-1945, Box 3584.


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station. The casualties requiring major treatment and as a result being non-transportable, would be taken from the clearing station to the field hospital platoon. This would permit the clearing company to retain its mobility, and at its next forward location another platoon of the same field hospital would leap frog its immobilized platoon and join the clearing station’s new set up. The field hospitals would be used in vertical echelon which would make control easier than a horizontal distribution would permit.

    The first call for assistance came from the 29th Infantry Division on D + 2. The Division Surgeon, Lt. Col. Barrow, requested four medical officers to replace battle losses and personnel not yet ashore. They were obtained from the group of officers who were with the advance detachments of Army Medical Units, end sent to Lt. Colonel Barrow’s headquarters in the chateau at Vierville-Sur-Mer.  Four medical officers requested by Colonel Van Valin, Surgeon, 1st Infantry Division, on D + 3 were obtained from the same source as those sent to Lt. Colonel Barrow and were dispatched to the Clearing Station of the 1st Medical Battalion.

    The divisions under Corps’ control required ambulances during the initial period ashore. The 2nd Infantry Division, which had arrived ashore on D + 2, received four ambulances from the 382nd Medical Collecting Company and four from a Collecting Company of the 60th Medical Battalion. The 1st Infantry Division was given five ambulances on a loan basis by the 382nd Collecting Company, which, in turn, borrowed three from the 51st Field Hospital.

    The advance party of personnel and vehicles of the 684th Clearing Company, 53rd Medical (Corps) Battalion came ashore and was bivouaced with the 13th Field Hospital until the entire company was assembled. The 13th Field Hospital which had received much of its equipment and personnel set up a platoon capable of functioning and remained ready for use in its bivouac area. The 51st Field Hospital’s personnel and equipment was assembling at a slower rate, however its technical personnel was working in the 1st Medical Battalion’s Clearing Station which was next to their bivouac area.

    Medical supplies were coming ashore in ample quantities by D + 3, and units needing supplies were receiving them. Due to the presence of unauthorized personnel on the beach, too many decisions were being made for priorities of landing supplies and personnel, therefore a board was appointed by the First United States Army to control the situation. All requests for priorities by V Corps units had to go through G-4, V Corps, or through Colonel Talley, a member of the board representing the Corps Commander.

    The situation produced by the landing was one which was foreseen but could not be prevented in that some units landed later than scheduled and on sections of the beach other than those indicated in the plans, and many units lost medical equipment or had to wait for it to arrive. These factors in addition to the failure of the assault to get inland as far as planned produced circumstances described by the Corps Surgeon to the Division Surgeons who visited the Section for instructions: Inasmuch as the rear boundary of every unit ashore at that time was the sea, the likelihood of echelon control or echelon evacuation was out of the question. The area occupied bordered the sea, covered a wide front with a shallow depth, and as a result, had very short lines of evacuation.


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Therefore the basis of medical service devolved upon reporting news immediately so we could plug each gap — personnel, equipment, medical supplies and ambulances, as it occurred. In other words, until our area acquired sufficient depth to work on an echelon basis, we would aim at “targets of opportunity” to borrow a phrase from the Field Artillery. This plan proved entirely satisfactory.

Limited Objective Attack — 10 June - 18 June 1944 (D + 4 - D + 12)

    The attack made by V Corps continued. The advance of our troops had been rapid as there was little resistance at some points and as a result casualties were not heavy. The 1st Medical Battalion Clearing Station moved from 673896 to 698863 (Map: 6E/6 1/50,000) near Hau Gros and one platoon of the 61st Medical Battalion’s Clearing Company moved in the site vacated by them. The collecting company of the 104th Medical Battalion on the right flank moved south-west towards Isigny in the wake of the 29th Infantry Division, but the clearing company was not functioning since only small portions of its personnel and equipment had arrived. There was, however, no delay in treatment of the 29th’s casualties since the collecting companies of the 104th supplemented by ambulances of the 382nd Medical Collecting Company evacuated them to the Clearing Station of the 60th Medical Battalion which had moved from 666905 to 665895 (Map, 6E/6 1/50,000) the night before. The 2nd Infantry Division’s need for medical personnel was the greatest since the Medical Detachment of the 38th Infantry Regiment (2nd Infantry Division) and the clearing company of the 2nd Medical Battalion had not gotten ashore. Two medical officers and six (6) litter squads (24 E.M.) from the Army medical units ashore was sent to the Division Surgeon, Lt. Col. Cook, at Formigny.

    The 13th and 51st Field Hospitals were ready to function on D +  4. The Corps Surgeon obtained two surgical teams from Army (attached to the 61st Medical Battalion) and attached them to the 13th Field Hospital, one platoon of which was functioning in its bivouac area at 679883. One platoon of the 51st Field Hospital was working in conjunction with the Clearing Station of the 60th Medical Battalion.

    Medical evacuation was functioning smoothly and patients were being sent to the U.K. by LSTs which had almost emptied the clearing stations of casualties ready for removal. Three (3) C-47 aircraft were on the ai-strip near St. Laurent-Sur-Mer and were available for air evacuation of casualties.

    Equipment was coming ashore at a rapid rate. Lt. Col. Cook, Surgeon, 2nd Infantry Division was able to return the ambulances borrowed from the 60th Medical Battalion and 382nd Medical Collecting Company. Co. A, 48th Armored Medical Battalion (2nd Armored Division) came ashore with twelve ambulances, but they were not utilized since the need for these vehicles was no longer acute.

D + 5

    Lt. Col. Gordon, Commanding Officer, 53rd Medical (Corps) Battalion arrived with part of his headquarters. The remainder of the 684th Clearing Company and the 383rd Medical Collecting Company, both units of the Corps Medical Battalion,


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reported in and were bivouaced until the battalion moved to 634795 (Map: 6E/2 1/50,000), 1 mile west of la Poterie.

    The Surgeon, 2nd Armored Division, Colonel Zehm, reported to the Corps Surgeon that only a small portion of his division had landed and Company A, 48th Armored Medical Battalion, would handle the necessary medical evacuation.

    Orders were given to the commanding officers of the 13th and 51st Field Hospitals to have one platoon of each unit alerted and ready for movement. One platoon of the former would be located with the clearing company of the 1st Medical Battalion (1st Infantry Division) and one platoon of the latter would set-up with the Clearing Station of the 2nd Medical Battalion (2nd Infantry Division). Since neither field hospital had sufficient transportation with which to move, the 53rd Medical Battalion was instructed to move to its new location near la Poterie during the evening, unload the vehicles and send six (6) 2 ½ ton trucks to each hospital at 0800 B hrs., D + 6.

    The Surgeon, 2nd Infantry Division, called for two medical officers, thirty-six litter bearers and five (5) ambulances which were obtained from the 383rd Medical collecting Company. It was learned that the 38th Infantry Regiment (2nd Infantry Division) had suffered casualties and required additional aid in evacuating them.
    
    In the morning of D + 6, the 384th Ambulance Company arrived intact together with the remainder of the 53rd Medical Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment.

    Late in the evening of D + 6, Lt. Col. Barrow, Surgeon, 29th Infantry Division informed us he was getting casualties from the 101st Airborne Infantry Division, a unit of the U.S. VII Corps, which was operating on the right flank of the 29th. The Surgeon, V Corps, instructed the 53rd Medical Battalion to send three (3) ambulances to help evacuate these casualties. Thus, the Corps Medical Battalion not only served V Corps troops and evacuated the divisions under Corps, but was relieving the pressure in an adjoining Corps.

    The field hospital platoons functioning with the 1st and 2nd Medical Battalions Clearing Stations lightened the burden of the latter and decreased the number of casualties requiring immediate evacuation to the rear, end as a result, five (5) ambulances of the 382nd Medical collecting company were relieved from duty with the 1st Medical Battalion’s Clearing Station. After the arrival of the Ambulance Company of the 53rd Medical Battalion on D + 6, that unit began to make service calls on the Corps troops, and enabled the Battalion Commander to rest the 382nd Medical Collecting Company which had been active since D +  1.
    
    On D + 8, the 41st Evacuation Hospital Commander reported that his unit would be located at 650784 (Map 6F/2 1/50,000)flear le Molay and he was given instructions relative to reports, supplies, and the plan of evacuation now in effect.

    At 1800 B hrs., D + 8, Army assumed supply and evacuation control behind Corps, but requested that Corps continue evacuation of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions and. the 2nd Armored Division. The 68th Medical Group began to evacuate


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the 29th Infantry Division and part of the 101st Airborne Division, and the ambulances of the 384th Ambulance Company (53rd Medical Battalion) were released and returned to their home station. Another section of the 53rd’s ambulances began servicing CCA of the 2nd Armored Division on the Corps’ right flank.

    The 68th Medical Group began evacuating the Clearing Station of the 1st Medical Battalion on D + 10, and the 2nd Armored Division on D + 11 and completed the Army control over the evacuation of the divisions of the V Corps.

    Lt. Col. Cook, Surgeon, 2nd Infantry Division, made a request for fifty (50) enlisted medical personnel which were obtained train the 53rd Medical Battalion upon the Corps Surgeon’s approval, but the Corps was delayed in receiving a similar number from Axiny due to changes in administration which obviated an agreement which the Army and Corps Surgeons had made in England prior to the invasion. The fifty (50) men furnished constituted the 53rd’s over strength plus replacements previously estimated and requisitioned for in the Neptune plan. All men were transferred outright.

    In order to prevent further occurrences of this type, the Corps Surgeon visited the First Army Headquarters for a conference on the replacement situation. Colonel Brenn spoke to Colonel Snyder acting for and in the absence of the Army Surgeon, Colonel Rogers. The following points were agreed upon: (1) Division Surgeons will replace losses in attached medical personnel from their respective medical battalions end at once initiate a requisition for replacements through normal G-1 channels. (2) The divisions will call upon the Corps Surgeon for loan personnel to temporarily replace losses pending the arrival of normal replacements. Upon receipt of the latter, all loan personnel, less such combat and/or other losses as may have been incurred, will be returned immediately to the Corps Surgeon. Corps will, initiate requisitions through G-1 for such replacements as may be required for Corps personnel only. (3) The Corps Surgeon, if the need is sufficiently great, will call upon the Army Surgeon for loan personnel under the same arrangements as prescribed in (2) above.

    The phase between D + 9 - D + 12, during which Corps was engaged in. limited objective attacks, illustrated the dependence of the divisions upon Corps Medical Service when casualties increased in number, or the circumstances involved difficulties in evacuations, and the rapidity with which Corps furnished the desired assistance when personnel and ambulances were available.

Defensive Period 19 June - 30 June 1944 (D + 13 - D + 24)

During this period, there was a lull on the V Corps front due to the necessity of waiting for the completion of the Cherbourg campaign. The storm which struck Normandy on 19 June made it difficult to bring in. supplies off the beach until 22 June (D + 16), however ample medical supplies were available ashore and no inconvenience was suffered. When certain items for hospital use were required, they were flown in by air carriers. The activities of the Surgeon’s Section during the defensive period were administrative and supervisory and


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consisted of checking the status of medical supplies in. the units, the character of the ambulance service offered, the evacuation of casualties, the procurement of replacement personnel and the preparation of reports.

                                                                                                                    [signed]

                                                                                                                    C. E. BRENN,
                                                                                                                    Colonel, M.C.,
                                                                                                                    Surgeon.