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Headquarters, 112th Infantry Regiment, APO 28, U.S. Army, 10 November 1944

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HEADQUARTERS, 112TH INFANTRY REGIMENT
APO 28, U.S. ARMY

10 November 1944

SUBJECT: Report on Medical Evacuation

TO:    Division Surgeon, 28th Infantry Division, APO 28, U.S. Army

1.    The information concerning medical evacuation in the 112th Regimental Combat Team during the attacks on and the defense of the German villages of Vossenack, Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt], and Schmidt is provided below in chronological order.

2.    In reading the following report, several pertinent facts should be borne in mind. First that the majority of the material given here was based on reports and information received at the Regimental Headquarters Medical Detachment from a wide variety of sources and that, since no station log was kept of those reports, they are being repeated from memory of the writer and of those people to whom access is available at present. Third, that accurate information of both past and impending operations was difficult for the writer to obtain subsequent to the removal of Regimental Advanced Headquarters from the pillbox at 015331 to the village of Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt]. Third, that communications between the 1st-3rd Battalion aid stations, the Collecting Company and Regimental Headquarters aid station were completely lacking after 0300 hours 6 November 1944, except for occasional messages carried by Medical Department personnel. Fourth, and most important, that the difficulty of the terrain over which military operations took place made the evacuation of the wounded possible only under conditions of the utmost physical hardship.  Fifth, that the efforts of two reinforced Regimental Combat Teams and at least two task forces flatly failed to secure the Main Supply Route over which evacuation had to be made. No further allusion to these facts will be made herein,

3.    All maps coordinates below refer to Sheet 5304, Nideggen, Germany, scale 1/25,000.

4.    The chronological report follows:

2 November 1944: 0900 hours - 112th White Battalion attacked Vossenack, reaching objective at 1345.  112th had crossed LOD at 1300.  Evacuation was excellent.

3 November 1944: 1450 hours - 112th Blue Battalion reported Schmidt captured. 112th Battalion followed in support of Blue, occupied Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt]. Positions of Battalion Aid Station at 1800 hours: Red in valley at 014307, White in Barracks at 022329 where it remained until 8 November, Blue rear at 018333 and forward in church at 038326.  At this time the lines of evacuation were stretched, but evacuation was quite successful and the Aid Stations counted on moving forward at dawn the following morning.

4 November 1944: 0905 hours - 112th Blue Bn. reported driven out of Schmidt, withdrew to Red positions in Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt].

        1400 hours - Regimental commander requested investigation of medical evacuation from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt]. Assistant Regimental Surgeon visited Red Aid Station at 054308 to determine the tactical situation, the methods of evacuation and needs of the Aid Station, found casualties heavy, the Aid Station under direct fire of enemy artillery, but evacuation continuing successfully.

        1700 hours - Message received from Blue Surgeon requesting additional

SOURCE:  National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407, Records of The Adjutant General, U.S. Army,  Combat Interviews (CI-76), 28th Infantry Division, Hürtgen Forest Campaign, Box 24032.


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Medical Personnel immediately. Four Technicians, Carr, Marinclin, Lopes and Moss, were sent from the Regimental Aid Station to give help. Upon their arrival they found, they were not needed, and upon the suggestion of the Blue Surgeon, continued forward to the Red Aid Station where they might be needed. Carr and Marinclin remained at the Red Aid Station overnight, returning the following afternoon to Regimental Aid Station. Lopes and Moss departed the Red Aid Station with seven casualties in a weasel. They brought a request from the Red Aid Station for food and Medical supplies, arriving at Regimental Aid Station at 0100 Hrs next day.

        1800 hrs. - Location of Aid Stations: White unchanged. Red in house on edge at Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] at 054308, Blue at dug in log cabin at 046316. Ambulance loading point at 045317 at edge at woods on forward slope of hill.  Casualties are being moved by weasels from e Red and Blue Aid Stations to Ambulance Loading Point.

5 November 1944:    0830 hrs. - Rations, Medical supplied and water were sent by weasel from Regimental Aid Station to Red Aid Station in house in Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt]. This was the first food received by the Red Aid Station in two days.  Evacuation continued successfully.

        Afternoon - Red Aid Station house received three direct hits by enemy artillery high explosive shells, killing one Medical private, destroying the supplies which had been received. Feeling that the house was no longer tenable, the Red surgeon waited until dark, then withdrew the Aid Station from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] and joined the Blue Aid Station in the log cabin at 046316. Both Aid Station groups continued to occupy this location, operating a joint Red-Blue Aid Station until the evening of 9 November.

        Evening - Casualties were carried from front to Red-Blue Aid Station by weasel, from Aid Station to Ambulance Loading Point by litter carry because of blockage of road by stalled tank.

6 November l944:      0200 hrs. - Lieut. Johnson departed from Red-Blue Aid Station leaving Aid Station free of casualties.

        0300 hrs. - All communications between Advance and Rear Regimental Headquarters were cut off by enemy penetrations from northeast and southwest along valley to bridge at 047313. No further reliable information received from Advance Headquarters.

        0800 hrs. - T/5 Benninger, from Red-Blue Aid Station, arrived at Regimental Aid Station saying that he had been out off from the Red-Blue Aid Station by a German patrol about 2200 hours last night, had taken shelter in an abandoned tank, had finally managed to escape fran the pursuing patrol by following the defile of the woods from the area of the bridge to RJ 446 at 019324. Benninger, one of our most reliable men, reported that the Aid Station was cut off by the enemy both from the Red and Blue Battalions in front and from White Battalion to the rear.  He also reported that the route by which he had escaped was impossible for litter teams to cross with casualties.

        Day -  During this day, and subsequent days, the Red-Blue Aid Station was in German-held territory. Several times each day German Medics and infantrymen visited the Aid station. They permitted walking wounded to cross through their position while returning to the Aid Station from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt], they made no attempt to interfere with the operation of the Aid Station.  They offered to supply the Aid Station personnel with dressings and sulfanilamide, they stated that the Aid Station personnel and wounded would not be molested as long as no American infantrymen tried to bring their weapons into the area. The truth of these statements can not be denied; they have been confirmed by all the Medical


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Officers and men in the Aid Station. However, the Germans did capture all the vehicles belonging to the combined Air Station. Subsequent evacuation from the Aid Station could be made only by litter carry uphill  the Aid Station to whatever point could be reached by ambulances or other evacuation vehicles.

        0804 hrs.- White battalion was forced to withdraw to the center of Vossenack. Although the situation was temporarily restored by a counterattack by Engineers, the status of the control of the eastern half of the village was continually doubtful according to all information reaching the Regimental Aid Station.  As a result, the main road from Vossenack to Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] was denied to Medical Vehicles from Vossenack to the ambulance loading point. This necessitated forward moving vehicles to leave the main street of Vossenack at 033326 turn south to the border of the woods, then follow the defilade of the woods in a most circuitous route to the Ambulance Loading Point.  Further difficulties were added by sharp sideways slope of the path which at places almost caused the weasels and ambulances to fall over on their sides, and by a German battery in the vicinity of 065334 which fired on every vehicle seen to be moving in the field south of Vossenack. Visibility from this battery, or from its observers, apparently permitted the vehicles to be seen but was not sufficient for the Red Crosses to be seen. Hence the battery fired on Medical vehicles as on others. During this day the further evacuation of wounded from the combined Aid Stations was impossible.

7 November 1944:    0100 hrs. - A Regimental Supply Train of weasels departed for Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt], successfully passed through the German-held territory in the valley by the Red-Blue Aid Station, returned with twenty-two casualties from the Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] area.  These the last casualties to be evacuated from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] area other than several walking wounded who made their own way through the enemy lines.   This last train stopped at the combined Aid Station and an officer knocked on the door.  Either the occupants were asleep, or more likely feared a German ruse, and did not answer the knock.  Since the waiting Train was under fire, the knocking was not repeated and the Train continued without having picked up any casualties from the Aid Station. The twenty-two casualties were delivered to the Regimental Aid Station at 0730 hours.

        0500 hrs. - Rain rendered the defilade route previously used by evacuating  weasels too slippery for further use.

        0800 hrs. - Second Lieut. Morrison from Red Aid Station, together with three or four walking wounded arrived at Regimental Aid Station, having followed the valley used by Benninger previously. He requested that wounded be evacuated from Aid Station, but said that the route he had followed could not be used by litter bearers because of the length of the haul and the steepness of the terrain. At noon 2nd Lieut. Morrison returned to the Red-Blue Aid Station afoot using the same route.

        1500 hrs. - First Lieut. Page, of Collecting Company, left White Aid Station with three litter squads to evacuate wounded from Red-Blue Aid Station to Ambulance  Loading Point. Arrived at Aid Station, evacuated seven walking wounded and three litter cases, during which two litter bearers were shot by the enemy.  Lt. Page and the litter bearers remained at the Aid Station overnight.

        1530 hrs. - Lt. Johnson departed White Aid Station with weasel, followed slippery mud track at edge of woods, arrived at 045316 where the wounded brought by Page were loaded on the weasel and a1/4 ton trailer found nearby.  He returned, leaving only seven casualties in the Aid Station, by the route along the woods, almost overturning on the slope at 041318, arriving at White Aid Station at 1800 hours.

        1900 hrs. -  In view of the impossibility of the evacuation of wounded from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] hill, I suggested to S-2 and S-4 of Regiment that a truce be arranged with the enemy for a period of several hours in order to


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sweep the Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] area and evacuate our dead and wounded. The suggestion was declined.   Instead, a second attempt to run a Supply Train through under cover of darkness was ordered.  I suggested that supplies be dropped to Red and Blue Battalions and to the Aid Station by air. This, too, was declined.

8 November 1944:       0100 hrs.   The Regimental Supply Train, including two Medical Technicians from Regimental Headquarters Aid Station,  attempted to penetrate the enemy lines, was fired upon somewhere south of Vossenack and was ordered to return by the commanding officer.  Regimental S-4 spent most of night exploring, unsuccessfully, for an alternate route of approach to Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt]. No supplies got through, no casualties were evacuated either from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] or from the Aid Station.

            Morning - Lt. Johnson reported five attempts by himself to get a weasel down to the ambulance loading point.  Fired upon each time by the enemy battery at 065334, he was forced ti withdraw and abandon the attempt.

            1300 hrs. - I recommended to the Division Surgeon that a truce be arranged to permit removal of casualties from inaccessible Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] and the Aid Station area.  Together we went to make the suggestion to Brigadier General Davis at the Regimental Rear CP.  General Davis was not there. The Division Surgeon departed for Division Headquarters with the statement that he would make the suggestion to Commanding General.

            1500 hrs. - All other methods of evacuation having failed, Lieut. Johnson reported that he was taking five ambulances and eight litter teams to establish a new Ambulance Loading Point at 029313 from which he proposed to travel to 033314, 037316, and across the nose of the hill to the Red-Blue Aid Station. This route, a last resort, would have required an airline litter carry of one mile with extremely difficult descent and ascent of two high hills.

            1700 hrs. - Lieut. Johnson reported that attempt had failed. Having reached 037316 he was informed that “L” Company had been forced back to that point and that further progress down the valley would lead into enemy lines.  Johnson continued despite this warning, encountered heavy mortar fire at 039318, was forced to withdraw.

            1800 hrs. - All remaining troops of Red and Blue Battalions withdrew from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] Hill by breaking up into small groups and making individual escapes through enemy lines.
Red-Blue Aid Station remained at same location.

            2000 hrs. - Lieuts. Johnson and Page returned to Collecting Company for the night.

            2300 hrs. - Division Surgeon called via telephone, said that Division G-4 had ordered 13 weasels with armed guard to proceed immediately to Red-Blue Aid Station to evacuate fifty casualties known to be there. Regimental S-4 was contacted, agreed with me that arming of convoy as dangerous.  S-4 wanted  Lieut. Johnson to accompany the convoy and had sent a message to him. I sent another by courier, in case the S-4 message were lost. I arranged for ambulances to meet the returning convoy at the White Aid Station, now taken over by 109th White.  Lieut. Johnson received message too late to catch convoy.

9 November 1944:   0245 hrs. - Weasel convoy reached original Ambulance Loading Point vicinity but overshot road in darkness, could not find Air Station. At 045321 the convoy was fired upon and Pfc. Shumacher, of the Medical Detachment, who had volunteered to accompany the convoy as a guide, was killed.  One weasel was disabled. The remaining vehicles withdrew, having failed to reach the Aid Station or to evacuate any wounded.


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        0800 hrs. - I phoned Division G-4, volunteered to go under a flag of truce to the German lines to arrange a truce to enable us to evacuate wounded from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] Hill, now free of American combat troops. I requested authority be given me by Division Commanding General to make definite arrangements with the enemy for the truce.  My request was denied. G-4 suggested that I merely determine the attitude of the enemy toward a truce, leaving the details and official confirmation to be made later.

        0950 hrs. - With T/4 Wheeler W. Wolters acting as flagbearer and interpreter, I departed from Vossenack on foot across brow of hill toward Aid Station. Arrived at Aid Station without being fired upon, found Aid Station personnel loading forty-four casualties into two 2 ½  ton trucks and one weasel which had been abandoned along road at Aid Station area by Services Company.  Ten litter cases remained in the Aid Station. All Medical personnel there, including two MO, two MAC, two Chaplains and six enlisted men, together with thirty infantrymen, tankers and engineers enlisted men who were acting as emergency litter bearers, were in good shape.

        Wolters and I continued past the Aid Station down the hill to the bridge at 046313 which we found blown out.  After a short delay a German Lieutenant with five men came out to join us on the road. They were most courteous, made no attempt to search or harm us. I stated my intentions.  The German Lieutenant said that all American wounded had been evacuated from the Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] Hill by the German Army Medical Department and that the German Medical Officer and enlisted men had completed the evacuation and had withdrawn only twenty minutes before my arrival.

        Since there appeared to be no further need of arranging a truce for evacuation from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt], I stated that we were going to remove three truckloads of wounded from our Aid Station and that two of the trucks would return for the remaining wounded and medical personnel. The German Lieutenant offered to evacuate our wounded, but I declined in order to give him no opportunity or excuse to capture our Medical Department personnel. He agreed to permit the vehicles to pass out without interference by his men, but added that he had no communications with his superior officer to inform him of my request.  He said that he expected a telephone line to be completed shortly and that he would inform both his superior officer and the German artillery to permit the vehicles to get out unmolested.  He said and repeated that the German Army scrupulously observed the Red Cross and would not fire upon anyone or any vehicle which clearly displayed the Red Cross. Following an exchange of salutes, I returned to the Red-Blue Aid Station.

        There I found that the loaded trucks had tried to get up the hill toward Vossenack but were completely blocked by two medium tanks. I  returned to Holland White Aid Station, reported to Division G-4, outlined the situation to Lieutenant Johnson who took numerous litter bearers and ambulances to the ambulance landing point at the stalled tanks and evacuated all the wounded, all medical personnel, some of the assistant litter bearers, the MAC officers and all members of his own party. German soldiers who helped with the ambulance loading restrained the Medical Officers and Chaplains from leaving. Lack of further information from these officers indicates that they were captured and held.

SUMMARY    5.  Evacuation of casualties during the Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt]-Schmidt operation was impeded by the most difficult type of terrain, by a wretched road network which was worsened by daily rain, by a shortage of vehicles at the beginning, and by the early loss by capture of the Red and Blue Battalions’ Medical vehicles, by


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frequent blockage of the single road by knocked-out tanks, by lack of communications, and by being in the position of operating a two-battalion [Aid Station] for three days behind the German lines. Despite these handicaps, evacuation was continued intermittently until the American infantry failed to regain the valley in which the Aid Station was located. Then it stopped.  Negotiations carried out under a flag of truce enabled every casualty at the Aid Station and most medical personnel to be removed safely.

6.    To the credit of the Medical Department, let it be well noted that the Red-Blue Aid Station personnel remained in their Air Station behind the German lines, taking can of their wounded and making every humanly possible effort to evacuate the wounded themselves, for a period of more than twenty hours after every other member of the 112th Regimental Combat Team had withdrawn to positions in the rear of the original Line of Departure of the Vossenack attack.

7.    Let it also be made a matter of  record that only one method of total evacuation proved feasible: under the flag of truce; that this method was suggested to the Regimental Staff and later to the Division General Staff in plenty of time to permit the evacuation of all American wounded from the Schmidt-Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] area; that these suggestions were declined until it was too late to reach this area and these wounded were left by the withdrawing Infantry to be picked up by the enemy; and that, had the suggestion of a truce been adopted when first made, evacuation would have been completed with no detriment to the eventual tactical outcome of the operation.
                                                                                                                        ALBERT L. BERNDT,
                                                                                                                        Major, Medical Corps,
                                                                                                                        Regimental Surgeon.