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Headquarters, 580th Ambulance Company, Motor

Table of Contents

HEADQUARTERS

580TH AMBULANCE COMPANY, MOTOR

APO 403

31 DECEMBER 1944

HISTORY

of

ORGANIZATION  

FROM TIME OF ACTIVATION TO THE END OF YEAR 1944


TABLE OF CONTENTS  

Section

 

Page

I

ACTIVATION AND EARLY HISTORY

1

II

COMPANY ASSIGNMENTS AND PERSONNEL

1

III

TRAINING AND PREPARATION FOR SHIPMENT

2

IV

MOVEMENT TO OVERSEAS DESTINATION

3

V

IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

3

VI

MOVEMENT TO CONTINENT

4

VII

CONTINENTAL OPERATIONS

4

VIII

BREST CAMPAIGN

5

IX

GERMAN CAMPAIGN

6

X

RETROGRESSION FOR THE YEAR'S FINALE

7

XI

EQUIPMENT AND TRANSPORTATION

8

XII

MILITARY PERSONNEL

9

 


1

I - ACT1VATION AND EARLY HISTORY

In Salinas Garrison, Fort Ord, California on 15 September l943, Company A, 70th Medical Battalion, was redesignated the 580th Ambulance Company, Motor, under T/O & E 8-317, 20 May 1943, per General Order 82, Hq II Armored Corps, 3 September 1943. The unit was then assigned to Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment, 70th Medical Battalion, Separate. The Company Commander was 1st Lieutenant William G. La Bee, Med. Adm. C.

The barracks at Salinas were nothing but hasty frame buildings that were built for temporary housing for Japanese evacuees. The floors had wide cracks and the buildings were hard to heat, but with the town of Salinas quite near, and passes lenient, morale remained high. As soon as ambulances were issued the company, training in the new functions of the company began. Four new Second Lieutenants joined the company on the 30th of September 1943. Filler replacements joined the company at various tines during the middle of October 1943.  

The training of the company was not limited to riding in vehicles, they were taught the art of walking back from a breakdown. The hikes made by the company were fast. The five mile hike under full pack was made in 14.8 minutes. The longer hikes were likewise made in less time than was considered par by the Army. Motor maintenance was heavily stressed in all the units' training program. For the medical phases the medical officers from the other companies of the battalion handled the instruction,  

On 23 November 1943 Lieutenant La Bee went to the Medical Field Service School at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania , and Lieu­tenant Marzano followed a week later. Second Lieutenant Edward F. Backofen was left in command of the company during this period. On 13 December the unit moved to the Main Garrison at Fort Ord. It was in November that the "pre-sailing" furloughs started. So with a mixture of training and furloughs the year 1943 ended.

II - COMPANY ASSIGNMENTS AND PERSONNEL

On 1 January 1944 the 580th Ambulance Company, Motor was stationed in the Main Garrison, Fort Ord , California . The barracks were the two story frame building common to the new, or enlarged, Army camps. The quarters were very satisfactory except for occasional failures of the plumbing in the latrines. The company was assigned to Fourth United States Army and attached to the 70th Medical Battalion, Separate. The company had a total strength of 111 enlisted men and 6 officers. The overstrength was because the other companies of the battalion were alerted for earlier overseas movement than the 580th, and their excesses (undesirables) were transferred to bring them down to T/O strengths. Many of the men


2

were in the hospital or AWOL at the time of transfer. The company commander now Captain La Bee, and 1st Lieutenant Marzano were attending Medical Field Service School, at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, and returned to duty on 18 January 1944. About the same Fourth United States Army moved and the company was assigned to III United States Corps.

III - TRAINING AND PREPARATION FOR SHIPMENT

The period from the first of the year to the day of departure from Fort Ord on 6 April 1944 was used jointly for com­pletion of training and for fully equipping the company, preparatory to overseas shipment. Because the basic function of the company was different from that of the other units under the 70th Medical Battalion, Separate, the training was left largely to the discretion of the company commander. There was considerable convoy work. The long ones were made to nearby points of interest. Some of the places visited on convoys included Big Sur State Park , the beach at Santa Cruz (where arrangements with the Navy permitted the men to swim in the big indoor, saltwater pool), Pinnacles National Monument , and Black Hawk Canyon . Other shorter convoys were made on .Fort Ord Reservation and on Hunter Liggett Military

Reservation. The closest the company came to actual maneuvers were the two, three, and four day bivouacs on the Ord Reservation. The best remembered spot there for overnight camps was Mud Hen Lake in Picnic Canyon . The drivers were also given training to help them act on their own. Map problems for the individual drivers were held, also compass problems for teams of two men each. With borrowed personnel from one of the collecting companies the men were trained in care and handling of patients en route. Most of the medical subjects were taken care of by Medical Officers assigned by Battalion Headquarters since all company officers are Medical Administrative Corps.

Motion pictures were a great help in instructional work. The company had three projectionists, one in each of the ambulance platoons so that platoons could have a private showing of their on should they miss the one given by the comp. This was necessary since the guards, kitchen police, trash, and other details all came from a single platoon on a given day, the designated platoon being known as the "Duty Platoon" for the day. Foot marches were taken three times weekly. Two of these short "speed" marches of 5 to 7 miles, while the third was longer, usually 8 to 16 miles. Once each month a 25 mile march was made. At least one each of the long and short marches was made at night. Weather conditions were not considered, and the marches were made on schedule, rain or shine.

On 11 February 1944, 1st Lieutenant Marzano was trans­ferred to the 11th Armored Division. Two other of the original


3

company officers had previously been transferred. Lieutenant Backefon to the 637th Clearing Company and Lieutenant Kuhns to the 70th Medical Battalion Headquarters. First Sergeant Eric Jones became a warrant officer and left the company in January to join a combat engineer outfit. The new First Sergeant was Samuel Clark.  

On 20 March 1944, twelve enlisted men were sent out on an Ambulance Company Cadre to Camp Breckenridge , Kentucky per Special Order Number 54, 1st Headquarters Special Troops, III Corps, Fort Ord , California . April first, just seven days before departure from Fort Ord , 1st Lieutenant Smith was transferred to 430th Medical Battalion, leaving one Captain and three 2nd Lieu­tenants.

IV - MOVEMENT TO OVERSEAS DESTINATION

At 4130 hours on 8 April 1944 the unit departed from Fort Ord enroute to Camp Kilmer , New Jersey in conjunction with the 580th Signal Depot Company. Unit arrived at Camp Kilmer at 0800 the morning of 13 April 1944. Travel was by rail, and was directed by Letter, File No. 370.5 GNNTA, 1st Headquarters Special Troops, III Corps, Fort Ord , California , dated 3 April 1944. The processing took 54 hours from the time it was started until the unit was completely ready for shipment. On 19 April 1944 the company moved by train to the New York Port of Embarkation and embarked on UST # NY 515, which was better known as the "Queen Elizabeth". Port of Debarkation was reached on 26 April 1944 and turned out to be Greenock , Scotland on the Firth of Clyde. From Greenock, on 28 Aril, the unit proceeded by train to Wolverhampton , England , arriving the same day. Unit assignment was to Third United States Army, APO No. 403, U. S. Army.

V - IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

While in Wolverhampton the company was billeted in Trinity Hall, a large barnlike structure that was very hard to dry out, much less heat. The mess was prepared and served at Saint Andrew's School located about a mile away. The facilities were poor. The kitchen floor was made of loose flagging under which water gathered. The coal ranges were dirty almost beyond any hope of getting them halfway clean. It was necessary to keep one of the three torn down in order to clean them sufficiently so that they would draw. Field ranges were only allowed to be used once every ten days. The motor pool was a mile away in another direction. The company vehicles were picked up during the short stay in Wolverhampton with the exception of two 1/4 ton trucks and the 3/4 ton weapons carrier.


4

On 18 May 1944 the company left Trinity Hall and proceeded by motor convoy to Churston Ferrers, Devonshire . This was in one of the Marshalling Areas for the Invasion of the Con­tinent, and the company ambulances serviced the "Sausages" as the groups of unit camps were called. Further they traveled the established road net, learning the routes from the "hards" to the Field and Station Hospitals where expected casualties would be evacuated.

On 17 July 1944 the company traveled by motor to Raglan Barracks, Plymouth , Devonshire , arriving at 1200 hours. Two platoons remained at Raglan Barracks and the third platoon, under Lieutenant Dowell, went to Truro , Cornwall . While there, they were commended in a letter by the Commanding Officer, 314th Station hospital for the excellence and speed of their performance in the evacuation of a hospital train. The third platoon returned to the company area and the final touches were put on company and personal equipment preparatory to the "Channel Crossing".

VI - MOVEMENT TO CONTINENT

On 4 August 1944, the unit left Raglan Barracks and traveled by motor convoy to Marshalling Area C-17 at Southampton , arriving at 1700 hours. After a brief fourteen hour stay the unit left the area at 0730 and drove to the docks where it was loaded aboard MT 337, nee John L. Elliott, Jr. The ship arrived at Utah Beach , Normandy on 6 August 1944 at 2130 hours. Due to suppressive union regulation the ship's captain couldn't get enough of the crew to work on unloading the ship so it was necessary to get soldier volunteers from the company to unload unit vehicles and equipment. The soldiers' love for unions was not enhanced by the episode. On the night of 7 August 1944 unloading operations which were still in progress, because of inexperienced soldier help, had to be suspended because of enemy planes overhead. Debarkation was completed 8 August 1944. On the beach the unit bivouaced at ADSEC Transit Area "B", and left on the morning of 9 August 1944 enroute to Medical Staging Area at Barneville, France.

VII - CONTINENTAL OPERATIONS

Unit was attached to 64th Medical Group and further attached to 240th Medical Battalion (Separate), effective 6 August 1944. The company joined the 240th Medical Battalion Headquarters at Rennes , France , where it was promptly assigned the job of supporting the 3 Combat Commands of the 4th Armored Division. Lieutenant Dowell and the third platoon serviced Combat Command "A", in the vicinity of Lorient , France . Lieutenant McCloud and the first platoon with five ambulances from the second platoon serviced Combat Command "A", at Nantes , France . Lieutenant Cain with the rest of the second platoon was with Combat Command reserve at Vannes , France . When the 4th Armored Division pulled stakes and


5  

headed east they were still serviced by the 580th ambulances until they reached the vicinity of Orleans . Upon their relief the three platoons returned to company headquarters at Rennes , France .

VIII - BREST   CAMPAIGN

On 20 August the company left on a 160 mile trip to the Brest Peninsula and arrived at bivouac area in the vicinity of Lanhouarneau at 1400 hours. The first assignment of ambulances was made to the 2nd Infantry Division. Lieutenant Cain took six ambulances of his second platoon to the 2nd Infantry Division Clearing Station in the vicinity of Ploudaniel. On 22 August 1944 the other two platoons were committed, the first platoon with S/Sgt Proctor in charge went to the 2nd Hospital Unit, 53rd Field Hospital in the vicinity of St Urbain, and the third platoon with Lieutenant Dowell went to Plouquin to service the 29th Infantry Division Clearing Station. On 25 August the remaining four ambulances of the second platoon joined their platoon.

There were four Evacuation Hospitals servicing the troops at the "battle for Brest " and constant supervision was necessary to prevent the overcrowding of any one hospital while another remained practically without patients. On 29 August 1944 Captain La Bee took nine enlisted men from the headquarters platoon to the third platoon to be relief drivers. The third platoon had been working some 36 hours without sleep. This same date three ambulances from the second platoon were released to the 2nd Infantry Division for use at their Collecting Stations "A" and "B".

5 September 1944 this unit was relieved from assignment to Third United States Army and reassigned to the Ninth United States Army, APO No. 339.

On 9 September 1944 the first platoon was reassigned to the 623rd Clearing Station at site 2 miles west of Chateaulin.

On 19 September 1944 the Brest Garrison surrendered and on the same day the second platoon started the evacuation of German casualties from the hospitals in Brest . A few of the amb­ulances also evacuated the prostitutes from these same hospitals where they had served as nurses, cooks, and seamstresses its addition to their other duties. Later on the same day the third platoon began their evacuation of' the Brest hospitals. On 21 September, following the fall of the Crozon Peninsula the first platoon began the evacuation of German casualties from La Fret. On 23 September the last casualties were cleared from Brest . The third platoon received written commendation from the Commanding Officer, 104th Medical Battalion (29th Infantry Division) and the first and second platoons were given verbal commendation by the units they had serviced.


6

The third platoon returned to duty with the company on 23 September 1944 and the first platoon returned on 24 September. Five ambulances from the second platoon returned on the 24th also, while the other five furnished ambulance service to the departing divisions on 25 September all ambulances had returned to duty with the company.

IX - GERMAN CAMPAIGN

On 26 September 1944 the first and second platoons left to transport the 107th Evacuation Hospital to the Western Front in Luxembourg . The headquarters and third platoons moved from Lanhouarneau on 27 September enroute to Luxembourg . The first night's bivouac was in St Aubin, a distance of 149 miles. The second night was spent at La Loupe, a distance of 164. miles. After passing (rapidly) thru Versailles and Paris the unit arrived at the stopping place for the third night, St Quentin, a distance of 177 miles. After crossing the Belgian border near Eptinne the company arrived in Houffalize, Belgium, a distance of 170 miles, where a lovely, rain soaked, and well fertilized field was used for a bivouac area. The second night at Houffalize, however was spent in an unoccupied farm house. This was the first time any of the company slept in a building since leaving England .  

Upon receiving word of the location of Headquarters 240th Medical Battalion, the unit moved to its new area in the vicinity of Wincrange , Luxembourg , a distance of 23 miles. The new divisions to be serviced by the company were found to be the 2nd and 8th Infantry Divisions. The second platoon returned to duty with the 2nd Infan­try Division at St Vith, Luxembourg [ Belgium ], while the first platoon covered the 8th Infantry Division. The third platoon remained in reserve at the company area except for two ambulances that were assigned to the 635th Clearing Company at Hachiville , Luxembourg , on 6 October 1944.

Unit assignment was changed from the Ninth to First United States Army, 22 October 1944. Unit attachments remained unchanged.

The 64th Medical Group with the 240th Medical Battalion, the 580th and 581st Ambulance Companies moved to new quarters, the "Kloister" in the vicinity of Trois Vierges , Luxembourg , on 23 October 1944. The '"Kloister" lived up to its name until the fifth of November rolled around. On the morning of the fifth a train hit a nine in the tunnel whose mouth was only fifty yards from the Kloister. Shortly after noon two enlisted men from the company were wandering around taking pictures of the surrounding country. About 200 yards from the building they stumbled onto a German patrol in American uniforms. The patrol opened fire and wounded both men. Private Sherwood was seriously wounded and Private Portlock was slightly wounded. Both men had on their Red Cross Brassards. That evening a sergeant, from the engineer platoon that as clearing the mines from the tunnel, was


7

demonstrating the disarming of a mine. He had an interested group of officers and enlisted men watching him, but unfortunately the mine was booby trapped and the resultant explosion killed three and wounded fifteen personnel. None of the medical personnel in the mine explosion were from the 580th Ambulance Company.

On 7 November the 580th and 581st Ambulance Companies traded assignments. The second platoon of this unit was relieved from the 2nd Division and returned to the company area. Five amb­ulances from the third platoon were attached to the 1st hospital Unit, 42nd Field Hospital at Wiltz , Luxembourg .

The first reinforcements since arrival on the continent arrived at the company on 6 November 1944.

Lieutenant Cain took his second platoon to Mamer , Belgium on 10 November, reporting to the Commanding Officer, 170th Medical Battalion. The following day a robot bomb crashed in the side of a hill adjacent to the hilltop occupied by the motor pool. The bomb just cleared the tents atop the motor pool hill and burst on the next higher hill, breaking some windows in the Kloister, but doing no other damage.

During the period from 12 November to 16 December one ambulance was added to the two then servicing the 635th Clearing Company at Trois Vierges, Luxembourg, and the second platoon per­formed several missions such as moving the 102nd Evacuation Hospital from Chateau Raumont, Belgium to Ettelbruck, Luxembourg, and two emergency evacuations of the 107th Evacuation Hospital for the purpose of clearing away an overflow. After filling last minute requests for ambulances from the 106th and 28th Infantry Divisions, on 16 December 1944, the disposition of the company ambulances were, as follows:

First Plat.

4 Amb

Clerf, Lux. (28th Inf Div Clr Sta)

 

3 Amb

Ettelbruck, Lux. (28th Inf Div Clr Sta)

 

3 Amb

Wiltz, Lux. (28th Inf Div Clr Sta)

 

 

 

Second Plat.

5 Amb

St Vith, Bel. (106 Inf Div Clr Sta)

 

3 Amb

Clerf, Lux. (28th Inf Div Clr Sta)

 

2 Amb

at CP (Kloister)

 

 

 

Third Plat.

3 Amb

Trois Vierges, Lux. (635th Clr Sta VIII Corps)

 

2 Amb

Wiltz, Lux. (42nd Field Hosp, 1st HU)

 

2 Amb

Clerf, Lux. (28th Inf Div Clr Sta)

 

3 Amb

Wiltz, Lux. (28th Inf Div Clr Sta)

X - RETROGRESSION FOR THE YEAR'S FINALE

The 16th of December was the day the entry started the drive that made the famous "Bulge" on the Western Front. The com­pany was only about four or five miles from the enemy lines, in


8

their billets at "Kloister". Before dawn on 17 December 1944 all units there were alerted, and moved out about daybreak. A temporary camp was made in a snowy field one mile south of Bastogne , while a reconnaissance party went out in search of a place to spend the night. Billets for that night were found in Martelange , Luxembourg [ Belgium ]. But the enemy continued to advance and so another strategic withdrawal was executed, the night of 18 December 1944. From Martelange, the unit moved to two miles north of Ochanps , Belgium into the Chateau Raumont where the 107th Evacuation Hosp­ital was set up. On 19 December the unit moved to Biourge , Belgium . The night of arrival at the 107th Evacuation Hospital , the company commander was placed on special duty with the 64th Medical Group as Evacuation Officer. To First Sergeant Clark fell the job of running the company, and he did a good job of it.

Unit was attached to the Third United States Army for supply and evacuation on 19 December 1944. Unit was assigned to the Third United States Army on 22 December 1914.  

On 21 December the company moved to Carlsbourg , Belgium and on 22 December moved on still farther back to Sedan , France . On Christmas Day came the final move of the year, still run by First Sergeant Clark, to Gerouville , Belgium . This last move, though, was forward again, the retrograde movement was over.

XI - EQUIPMENT AND TRANSPORTATION

A few changes were made in the methods of employment of unit transportation: The kitchen was set up on the one ton trailer. Across the front of the trailer was built a cabinet for food storage. The two field ranges just fit, side by side, facing backward across the rear of the trailer. The mess laundry and miscellaneous items are stored in between the stoves and the cupboards, and the

gasoline is carried in rack built across the front of the trailer. A hinged work table folds up against each side of the trailer. The method of employment is to dig two holes into which the trailer wheels are driven, thus lowering the trailer to a point where it is accessible to cooks on the ground. The maintenance truck (3/4 ton weapons carrier) had cabinets built along the seats on each side in such a way that the compartments under the seats remain accessible.

It was found in operations on the continent that the com­pany headquarters platoon is practically immobilized when all the ambulances are out on assignments. Instead of the 2˝  ton truck, it is thought that two 1- ton trucks, each with a one ton trailer would make company headquarters mobile. A 1/4 ton trailer would assist materially also, since it would just about carry all the office files, desks, mapboard, etc. The lack of transportation was felt very keenly during the time of the "Bulge" when the company


9

was on the run everyday and all the ambulances were committed elsewhere. Much equipment was left behind for the advancing enemy because of this.

In less than five months of continental operations the unit ambulances carried a total of 16,592 patients, only 1,720 of which were prisoners of war. The patient miles traveled total the grand sum of 275,968 miles, while the actual miles traveled in evacuation including both the loaded and the empty part of the trip total to 114, 658 miles.

With all the hazards that beset the drivers, such as blackout driving (without even "cat-eyes" at times), fog, ice, and snow, and fatigue, there were only twelve accidents with company vehicles. Four of these were classified as major accidents, but all were repairable. There were no injuries suffered in any of these accidents. The mean total of vehicle miles since their issue in England is, in round figures, 12,550 miles.

XII - MILITARY PERSONNEL

The only official hero of the company is Technician Fifth Grade Clayton R. Clough, who distinguished himself in Clerf (Clervaux), Luxembourg , on 17 December 1944 when the Germans attacked the town. He was recommended for the Silver Star award. He was given the Purple Heart for wounds received at that time.

Four other men, Missing in Action, were Technician Fifth Grade Lawrence L. Dotolo, Private First Class Cecil Allen and Pri­vates James S. Byers and L. Gordon DeBoe. They were the crews on two ambulances that were captured when Wiltz , Luxembourg , fell into energy hands. They were dropped from the rolls, 26 December 1944.

On or about 22 August 1944 charges were preferred against Lieutenant xxxxxx by the company commander. In the face of these charges the Lieutenant requested discharge without honor, but it was not until 25 December 1944 that orders (paragraph 22, Special Order 343, Headquarters, Third United States, dated 14 Decem­ber 1944) were received transferring him to a Replacement Depot for return to the United States . Another of the original officers, Lieutenant Cain, was transferred to Headquarters 64th Medical Group. His replacement, Lieutenant Johnson was with the company only six days when he was hospitalized for arthritis and sent to a General Hospital . The officer who took his place was First Lieutenant Shumaker who was still present at the end of the year. On 22 Decem­ber 19141. Lieutenant Dowell was promoted to First Lieutenant (Battlefield Promotion) per paragraph 2, Special Order 351, Headquarters First United States Army, dated 22 December 194!4.. On 31 December 1944 the company was understrength one officer and two enlisted men.


10

The company was lucky when it received replacements. Some of the men were right from school, others were from the deactivated Army Specialized Training Program. The sprinkling of older men were ones who had considerable driving experience. The average age of the men is 25 years and their average Adjutant General Classification test score is 99.

The company Venereal Disease record was marred only once during the year when one of the men became infected with gonorrhea, during a pass to Paris .

 

[signed]

 

WILLIAM G. LA BEE

Captain, M.A.C.

Commanding

  

SOURCE: National  Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 112, Records of the US Army Surgeon General, World War II, 580th Ambulance Company, Box 370 .