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CASUALTY EVACUATION REPORT
1st Lt. Loyd Johnson

The main function of an ambulance platoon is the evacuation of casualties between the Battalion Aid Stations through Collecting Company to Clearing Company. The information contained herein will be concerned chiefly with this activity.

Usually evacuation is a routine process with one ambulance remaining at each Aid Station and difficulty is encountered only when a road network is impassable, or incomplete from the forward to the rear evacuation points. A difficult situation of this type was encountered on the 4th of Nov. when the Red Aid Station, located at Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] could not evacuate in the routine manner. The customary evacuation ceased at an A. L. P. at 045138 because the narrow and very precipitous road leading into the valley between Vossenach [Vossenack] and Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] could not be negotiated by ambulance. This situation necessitated setting up a system of evacuation beginning thusly:

1.    Collecting Company at Zweifall with an A. R. P. at the White Aid Station located at the old German Barracks at 022329.

2.    An ambulance shuttle from 022329 to the A. L. P. at the top of the hill at 045318.

3.    Blue Aid Station located approximately four hundred yards down the hill evacuated by Weasel & Jeep to the A.L.P. at the top of the hill, and Red Aid Station, until forced to withdraw his Aid Station from Kommerscheid [Kommerscheidt] where he combined his Aid Station with Blues, evacuated in a similar manner.

Evacuation would hats been quite routine had it not have been for the German Gun Battery located somewhere on the high ground NE of Vossenach [Vossenack] which fired on my ambulances whenever they came into view approaching the A.L.P. Realizing the forward observer on the gun battery was too far distant to see the Red Crosses on the ambulances steps had to be taken to avoid being shelled.  This was done by turning off the road leading into Vossenach [Vossenack] at a point approximately 100 yards from the church, proceeding across the defilade slope along the trees leading South, and about parallel Vossenach [Vossenack].  All went well until heavy rain on the night of the 6th-7th Nov. made this route impassable to ambulances. Weasels, in anticipation of this emergency, were decided upon and at 1400 on Nov. 7th after properly identifying them with Red Crosses I set out with one weasel and one driver to try the vehicle.  * Adequate supplies were taken for both aid stations.

We reached a point approximately four hundred yards South of the A.L.P, via the defilade slope quite uneventfully and parked here, instead of at the old A. L. P. because something in that vicinity was drawing fire. I descended the slope on foot but misjudged the location of the Aid Station and ran into six Germans a short distance from the Aid Station. I concealed myself, the Germans passed and I was soon at the Aid Station.

There were about sixteen casualties and litter evacuation of the most serious cases was begun to the awaiting weasel and one trailer found at the top of the hill. In the trailer were placed two walking wounded and one litter case— in the Weasel two litter and four walking wounded. As the first litter cases were being loaded we evidently attracted the attention of the enemy because he began firing mortar and small arms fire. Two men were wounded in the loading process—one receiving a wound in the arm, the other was wounded in the abdomen.

The Ambulance Relay Post was reached but not without mishap. The main difficulty being the artillery fire the dispersed tanks on the defilade elope were drawing and the numerous shell holes the driver had to thread his way through. On one slope the driver was unable to shift quickly enough and the motor stalled, the brakes failed to hold and only after the vehicle rolled backwards and jackknifed did the vehicle come to a halt. More trouble was encountered in Vossenach [Vossenack]  when a Sherman Tank sideswiped us and dragged us backward until the treads the two vehicles became disentangled. Again the trailer jackknife, this time into the path of  the tank but luckily was pushed over to the side of the road instead of being run over. Little wonder the litter patient in the trailer was hysterical when we reached our objective.

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.


2

I made my report to the Reg. Surg. assuring him that weasel evacuation under the circumstances was the only alternative. The only other choice being a long litter haul which would probably have been too grueling to make
.
The next day, Nov. 8th, from early morning until about 1430 five attempts were made to approach the defilade slope and each time artillery fire made further progress impossible. Losing hope of litter evacuation I took five ambulances and seven litter squads to the road leading SE from RJ 019323 and proceeded to the goose neck in the road at 033324.  All went until we walked into L Co. of the 109 Inf. which was digging in at approximately 037316.  The Lt. commanding the company informed me that he had bean pushed back from the vicinity of the bridge at 047312 and that the enemy held the ground to the S. and SE of his area. We walked on but encountered heavy mortar fire. Also, a view of the ravine at 037317 convinced me that a litter haul would be impossible, in all about one and one-half miles, plus a hill at the Aid Station and one ravine to cross before reaching the ambulances at the goose neck.

That night I suggested to the Regimental surgeon that we try to make a truce with the enemy and get the wounded out because one of the men at the stranded Aid Station had made his way back during the day and reported that a German medical officer at the Aid Station had expressed hope that we would come over and get the casualties.  The Germans, as I later learned, had visited the Aid Station regularly.  Maj Glider suggested to me that I take a P.W.A. and go over and make a truce but no prisoners were available at the time. The next morning the Regimental Surgeon and one of his German speaking personnel decided to go over to accomplish the truce and departed from the White Aid Station at the German barracks at 0930.  This was Nov. 9th.

They returned with a partial truce to the effect that the German line troops would not fire on my ambulances, but that the gun battery was out of signal communications and could not be informed.  In short the truce accomplished nothing because I don't believe any soldier, enemy or Allied, will intentionally fire on the Red Cross.

After hasty deliberation of the matter I realized that it had begun to snow heavily and that visibility was almost nil which erased saw question of fire from the distant gun battery on which the problem hinged.  Ambulance evacuation, over as direct a route as possible, was the only solution. A volunteer driver was asked for and we immediately left to see if we would draw fire. As we came into view of the hill on which the gun battery was located I knew our mission would succeed because the hill was shrouded in a haze of snow. The Ambulance was parked at the old A. L. P. at 0453l8, there were about a dozen enemy soldiers waiting with the wounded who had been loaded on two 2 ½  ton trucks when the station became too overcrowded.  It had rained and snowed during the day and night before and the Germans, in an attempt to make the wounded more comfortable, had covered them with their rain coats and extra blankets.

The ambulance was soon loaded and we returned to the A. R. P.  022329 to get sufficient ambulances to get the remaining casualties in one trip. The rest of  the evacuation was simple, the return trip, the loading, and return to the A. R. P. was made without mishap.

The two medical officers of the combined Red and Blue Aid Station were kept by the enemy and the German First Sergeant conducting the sorting of casualties said this was being done because we had men surrounded whom he thought might need medical attention.  He said the two Chaplains were being kept because the American troops would need them also.  In view of the military situation the medical officers of the 103 Medical Battalion and D.S.O. are of the opinion that the Germans were justified in keeping the officers because medical officers in the German Army are scarce.

Following are a few queries and answers that might be of interest in this matter:

1.    I was told the gun battery that had fired on my ambulance could not distinguish between vehicles and did not realize he was firing on an ambulance.

2.    That the four weasels fired on the night before were thought to be tanks

and the proof of this statement is that the Germans did cease firing as soon as they were told of the mission of the convoy.  At this time they warned us to come during the day and not at night.  

3.  When I arrived with the ambulances they even offered to fight off our men in case an attack began and protect us in any way possible during the loading.

4.    During the time the combined Aid Stations were half way between the lines the Germans repeatedly offered their services.  They offered drugs, water, food, in fact Captain DeMarco told me they were extremely courteous.

5.    They promised to always respect the Geneva Cross and in view of the cooperation shown in the medical operations I believe them to be sincere.

In conclusion I should like to say that if there still exists in this war certain inalienable ethics in respect to the wounded then this consideration and compassion should be exercised openly, and because openly, efficiently. To send an armed convoy to rescue wounded men is a direct violation of the Geneva convention and would have ended in total disaster, at least this is my belief.


1st Lt. Loyd C. Johnson
Co C. 103 Med. Bn.
 
*Supplies: water, Five-in-one rations, D rations, eighty blankets, thirty litters, sixty units of plasma, two hundred and twenty small Carlisle dressings, fifty large Carlisle dressings, adhesive tape, bandages, morphine, aspirin, ammonium chloride, splint sets, wire ladder splints and other incidental supplies. The weasel was loaded as fully as possible and all the equipment reached the Aid Station.