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Medical Detachment, 112th Infantry Regiment, APO 28, U.S. Army, 15 November 1944

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MEDICAL DETACHMENT, 112TH INFANTRY REGIMENT
APO 28, U.S. ARMY

15 November 1944

SUBJECT: Evacuation of Wounded from Vossenack Kommerscheidt and Schmidt Areas, 2-11 November 1944

TO: Regimental Surgeon, 112th Infantry Regiment, APO 28, U.S. Army

1. Evacuation of the wounded was fairly well accomplished until the 1st and 3rd Bns were committed to occupy and block off the town of Schmidt . At incipiency of this operations (sic), 1st Bn Aid Stations was located in woods west of Vossenack. An early move took 1st Bn Aid Station to Kommerscheidt where it was set up in a building. The 3rd Bn aid station was established in church at cross roads of Vossenack. This was on the night of 3rd November. On the 4th of November, the 3rd. Bn Aid Station moved into a log bunker on a wooded mountain alongside of the MSR trail from Vossenack to Kommerscheidt (046316). Evacuation of the wounded at this time was accomplished though with some difficulty. All of the wounded from units committed at the front were collected at the aforementioned bunker. From there they were transported by Weasel to Vossenack where they were picked up by ambulances. On the next day this advance ambulance collecting point was changed to a site close to the 2nd Bn 112th Aid Station at the old German Camp (Germeter).

2. On the 5th of November 1944 the 1st Bn Aid Station was directly and repeatedly struck by artillery fire which killed some medical personnel and rendered the site useless as an aid station. It was decided to move this 1st Bn aid station to join the 3rd Bn aid station at the aforementioned bunker. A combined forward aid station collecting point consisting of 8 litter bearers from the 1st Bn and 1 jeep and drivers from the third Bn was left at the building in Kommerscheidt. During one of the jeep trips from Kommerscheidt that night, our medical personnel was attacked by Germans and two of our men wounded. Later the Germans apologized for this saying that they had not noticed the displayed red Cross armbands. Later that night the MSR was shelled then attacked by German soldiers. It was controlled, mined and apparently blocked. They made no attempt to molest the aid station not [nor] did they inquire as to the occupants of the bunker. Soon after this attack another medical jeep returning from the advanced collecting point at Kommerscheidt was stopped by the Germans who told the driver to abandon the jeep since the road from there on was mined. They allowed our man to return to us.

3. Later in the morning (6 November) an attempt to continue evacuation as previously was made. However the route of evacuation was controlled by the enemy. 4 of our medical personnel were captured and the rest were allowed to return to the aid station with the wounded. From then on our evacuation system broke down. Walking wounded were organized into parties and guided out through the woods by our medical personnel. No contact with us was made by the 103rd Med. Coll. Co. C., throughout this interval. Also we have no idea whatsoever of the military situation around us. A number of unsuccessful attempts to evacuate the litter patients were made and each time we had to take the wounded back. That afternoon another American engineer unit infiltrated to the MSR before us; and that night the Germans repeated their attack and again gained complete control of the supply route. This time they inquired at the aid station, told us that we were prisoners of war. Asked whether we had enough rations and promised that the next day the German medics would bring rations and take over.

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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4. On 8th November the situation became more acute since our wounded were accumulating. Lt. Morrison and Sgt. Shedio decided to lead out one of the walking wounded parties and to contact the 103rd Medics or organize any other possible method of evacuation. They returned about three hours later with the promise of four weasels. Later on we were told that they had arrived in the woods behind the ridge line. Upon taking up our wounded we discovered only one weasel and a trailer. This was inadequate and obviously only a token attempt at evacuation. The vehicle took off hurriedly and did not return. We disappointedly had to carry wounded back to our aid station. That night was a real nightmare. Wounded came to us in great numbers. We had no facilities for them. We accumulated about 65 litter patients. About 25 of which were crowded into the bunker and the rest had to be left along the roadside. German medics guided and in some cases carried our wounded to us. Even German riflemen threw aside their rifles to give us a hand. We have only an indicatory knowledge of the number of walking wounded since we were unable to treat them and just urged them to keep on walking and follow organized walking wounded parties. And sometime during this confusing night, Gen. Davis visited us. The situation was explained to him. He made no comments. The night was miserable. It snowed and rained. We had no blankets and few litters though medical supplies and rations were adequate. The remaining had to work harder. Artillery shells, from both sides, fell all over the place but none hit any of our party. I am certain that the Germans took special precautions to avoid hitting us. It is felt that practically all movable wounded had been carried to our aid station; others had been collected in shelter by our aid men and our aid men remained with them to be captured and evacuated by the Germans. We know of at least two such groups.

5. The next morning, 9 November, and still no news from the rear. Two 2 ½ ton trucks in good condition were found and it was decided to risk evacuation by their use. Just as this hospital train was about to take off, Major Berndt, Regimental Surgeon of the 112th Infantry came to us under a flag of truce so as to effect evacuation of our wounded. He left to return later with the information that this truce had been accomplished through his discussion with a German Infantry officer. Meanwhile the trucks had already taken off. However it later developed that the road was blocked by knocked out tanks and that the trucks were unable to proceed. These trucks, laden with wounded were left on the top of the mountain and it was decided by Lt. Morrison and Sgt. Shedio to go ahead by weasel and get ambulances at all cost. Major Berndt found out of this failure when he came across the blocked trucks on his way back to the rear. No Germans were around at the time. About 1 hour later one of our medics came to the bunker with the story that the vehicles were surrounded by German soldiers and they wanted to see the doctor in charge. Capt. DeMarco went to see them. Evidently this was a new group and knew of no previous contacts nor transaction. After much talk they agreed to allow evacuation of only our seriously wounded and of all our medical personnel. Slightly wounded and non-medical personnel would be "Kaput". About 4 hours later after much anxiety and prayer, the ambulances (8) did show up. All the wounded were loaded. The Germans checked as to the seriousness of the wounded and validity of Red Cross cards of the medics. No one was molested or harmed. The German officer in charge commanded to retain all the officers, i.e., Chaplains Madden and Mainess, and Doctors DeMarco and Linguiti. After some talking by Father Madden the officer in charge agreed to have an ambulance call for us the next day between twelve and one and that they would let us go at the time. This information was given to a German speaking MAC Lt. of the 103rd Medics (Co. A.). We returned to our bunker with the understanding we were to go back to the [?] the next day at twelve o'clock. Once back to our aid station we again started to get wounded. At this time we discovered that the 3rd Bn 109th Infantry had infiltrated behind us.


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We accumulated about 12 to 15 wounded and the problem of evacuating them again presented itself.

6. Next day, 10 November, we returned to the top of the hill to the Germans. They insisted that they would not let us go unless all the Americans in the area would surrender and that we would return to them all the slightly wounded Germans that we had evacuated. These conditions were impossible. During the meeting we were shelled and the Germans took to their foxholes. We started after them but it is suppose, that in order not to show us their installation, they ordered us to return to our bunker. Once there we continued operating our station. Our primary purpose was to evacuate the accumulated wounded. The unit behind us was requested to get their aid station to get some means of evacuation started. We already had been advised that it was too dangerous to attempt a litter haul or walking wounded trek through the woods.

7. 11 November, litter bearers got though to us in some way. We were told that a weasel could come part of the way. We evacuated the wounded we had by this route and we escaped with the walking wounded following a roundabout trail through the woods and behind the ridge line. This however was accomplished only after another truce was made with the German medical officer on the bottom of the hill. The request was first made by the enemy for them to pick up their dead; and we were to evacuate our wounded at the same time. This proved to be only a truce amongst medics since for some reason our artillery refused to recognize a lull and opened fire. This was countered by the enemy shelling of Vossenack. But we had already started our evacuation and we decided to [go] through with it at all risks. Incidentally, the German medical officer at the bottom of the hill had no contact with the German soldiers on the top of the hill (whose prisoners we had been.)

8. Impression, observation and recommendations.

A. German personnel respected the Geneva Convention and cooperated with our medical personel.

B. American medical personnel is in dire need of larger and more visible Red Cross markings.

C. The Germans repeatedly told us that our markings were inadequate and any shooting up of our boys was due to the invisibility of the armband. We had practical observation of this shortcoming. Our litter teams should carry a Red Cross Flag.

D. No evacuation of wounded should be attempted at night across enemy lines or patrols. The Germans said they shoot at everything at night, but would let the Red Cross go during the day. Our men who were shot by Germans were hit during the night.

E. German medical personnel should be granted the privileges outlined by the Geneva Convention. They carry pistols it is true but evidently they are not used except for personal protection and psychological security. (Col. Seetz placed several ??? after this statement.)[Lt. Col. Seetz was the Division Surgeon, 28th Infantry Division-ed.]

F. The problem of medical evacuation is synonymous with the maintenance of a supply route. The failure of one makes the other almost impossible.

G. Tactical units should make some attempt to inform the aid station of the military situation. For example we had no knowledge as to whether our troops had withdrawn from Schmidt, Kommerscheidt or Vossenack, and had to take chances on the route suggested to the walking wounded parties.

H. The Coll. Co. should accept their responsibility of evacuating the aid station and not leave the entire problem to the forward installation. If it could not get through, it should at least let us know of its failure and not just abandon the aid station.


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I. Battalion commanders should be reminded that the Ft. Benning school solutions in the handling of the Bn Aid Station is impractical and its maintenance and establishment should closely follow the advice of the Battalion Surgeon.

J. The present practice of having Chaplains with the aid stations is a helpful one. The medical Administrative Officers more than proved their worth. They were a strong peg in the maintenance of a sound and robust system of treatment and evacuation.

s/Paschal Linguiti s/Michael DeMarco

PASCHAL LINGUITI MICHAEL DEMARCO
Surgeon, 1st Bn., 112th Inf Surg., 3rd Bn., 112th Inf.