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Headquarters VIII Corps

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HEADQUARTERS VIII CORPS
Office of the Surgeon

APO 308, U. S. Army,
30 June 1945.

SUBJECT: History of the Medical Section, Headquarters VIII Corps, for the period 1 January 1945 to 1 July 1945.

TO   : The Surgeon General, Washington, 25, D. C. (Through: Technical Channels)

In accordance with the provisions of AR 40-1005 and section I, circular 58, Headquarters European Theater of Operations, United States Army, 14 May 1945, the report of activities of the Medical Section, Headquarters VIII Corps is submitted.

Headquarters and Headquarters Company VIII Corps was activated, as basically now constituted, in January 1943. The Corps participated in Louisiana maneuvers in the fall of 1943, was alerted during the maneuver period, returned to its home station at Brownwood, Texas, prepared for overseas movement and embarked from New York 12 December 1943, 20 December 1943 to 12 June 1944 was occupied receiving troops in the United Kingdom and in preparation for the forthcoming continental operations. 14 June 1944 the Corps became operational on the continent, participated in the Normandy campaign, the conquest of the Brittany Peninsula, the reduction of the fortress of Brest and two and one half months of defensive operations in Belgium and Luxemburg along the Siegfried line.

At the beginning of the period of this report the heaviest casualties of the Ardennes offensive had been suffered, the advance of the German offensive had been halted, a corridor had been opened by the 4 Armored Division under III Corps into encircled Bastogne and the offensive was about to begin that was to carry us into the heart of Germany. Divisions attached to Corps at this time were the 28 and 87 Infantry Divisions, 9 and 11 Armored Divisions and the 17 and 101 Airborne Divisions. In addition to the enemy, the weather also was very much against us. The temperature was constantly below freezing ranging from 5° to 28°, the ground was covered with snow and as a consequence there was a heavy incidence of trench foot and frostbite. (See annex No. 1) The divisions had all suf­fered heavy casualties, particularly the 28 Infantry and 101 Airborne. Although the advance of the Germans had been halted, our lines were very thinly held and very little was in front of us to withhold further thrusts in the event they came. Fortunately they did not.

In addition to the MLR along the easterly outskirts of Bastogne and west for about 25 miles, from slightly north of Bastogne, the Corps also had the Meuse River line to defend from Givet to Sedan. Two divisions were assigned this task for the duration of the emergency, all of the divisions attached to Corps having the task for varied periods of time except the 87 Infantry Division and 101 Airborne Division. From the point of view of medical service, the divisions on the Meuse River defense line could adequately take care of themselves due to the purely defensive nature of their mission and lack of actual contact with the enemy and consequent limited number of casualties.


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The corps medical service at this time, in addition to that which was organic to the various combat units, consisted of Company A, 92 Medical Gas Treatment Battalion, attached to the 101 Airborne Division to replace temporarily their medical company that was captured almost intact in the early part of the offensive, and the usual Corps Medical Battalion consisting of Hq and Hq Det, 169 Medical Battalion, 429 and 465 Medical Collecting Companies and 635 Medical Clearing Company. One collecting company ambulance was routinely stationed with each artillery group and each engineer group for use as indicated among their attached battalions. In addition one ambulance was left with the rear echelon of the Corps Headquarters and one with the 79 Replacement Battalion. Al­though there were times when each artillery and engineer battalion had need for an ambulance, this was out of the question with only 20 ambulances available within the Corps and from an overall point of view the basis of one per group is deemed to be adequate. The two platoons of the clearing company were set up separately in accordance with troop concentrations and the tactical situation, the rear platoon always being in a state of readiness to move as indicated by the situation. The station platoons of the collecting companies established stations generally in forward areas in order to be accessible to forward corps troops. In nearly all situations whether defensive, slow moving offensive, fast moving offensive or a river crossing, collecting company ambulance platoon and litter platoon personnel and to a lesser extent, station platoon personnel, were needed to support the medical service of the division. Accordingly, such personnel were so used to the point that only a minimum reserve was on hand at many times.

During the breakthrough period due to fast action and good fortune only a minimum quantity of personnel and equipment was lost. The 1st platoon of the 42nd Field Hospital supporting the 28 Infantry Division in Wiltz was unable to remove its equipment due to lack of time and transportation, but all personnel were evacuated except eighteen nontransportable patients and two officers and twelve enlisted men of the hospital staff that remained behind to care for the patients. The only other installation that had to leave personnel behind was the medical detachment of the 44 Engineer Combat Battalion. They suffered severe casualties, having lost slightly more than fifty per cent of their total strength and had to leave behind twelve nontransportable patients in the care of one noncommissioned officer of the detachment. All such personnel were reported to have been evacuated into Germany ahead of our later attack.

In early January when quantities of casualties were still being evacuated from Bastogne, snow and cold became quite a problem. The heavy snowfall and strong winds drifted roads to the extent that they were impassable for ambulances until engineer crews could clear them. With the cold weather frostbite rates continued to run high, one of the contributing factors beingthat it was 23 January before shoe pats were issued in sufficient quantity to supply all front line combat troops. Starting about 10 February a two week period of thaw set in, after which temperatures did not again drop below freezing. With this weather change trench foot became more prevalent than frostbite, a great portion being attributable to shoe pacs and heavy socks and a resultant maceration of the feet. Shoe pacs were withdrawn and regular shoes reissued soon after 1 March.


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The first large coordinated attack that was eventually to carry us across Germany jumped off 13 January to the north and east from a line of departure generally five miles northeast of Bastogne . Due to the rugged terrain and terrific weather, all divisions were in immediate need of litter bearers to assist and relieve organic personnel. An additional reason for the need was that all divisions were under strength in Medical Department personnel from earlier fighting in the bulge and reinforcements had not as yet been received. All available litter bearers were sent to the divisions, the bulk going to 101 Airborne and 11 Armored, who at the time were encountering the heaviest fighting. A balancing factor in regard to Medical Department personnel shortages was that divisions were proportionally short of infantry men. The 90 Division was short 60 Medical Department enlisted men, 2 Medical Corps officers and 3 Medical Administrative Corps officers with other division shortages being only slightly less.

Activity throughout February, as with January, continued to be characterized by small, hard earned gains by strictly infantry fighting. The German policy continued to be to fight for every inch of ground andmake our gains as expensive as possible. Terrain throughout this period until a bridgehead was established over the Prum River was extremely rugged and favorable for defense. Buildings were very scarce throughout this sector and as a result of air and artillery activity, those that did exist were little more than a shambles. However any structure was preferable to tents to an extent that units crowded into and weather­proofed as best possible those buildings that could be found.

Evacuation hospitals had extensive difficulties in finding buildings suitable to their needs and as a consequence were more often than not thirty to forty miles behind the front lines. This together withan early thaw that caused road surfaces to crumble and sink out of sight made the elapsed evacuation time quite long in many instances. Lack of building space also made it necessary for two or sometimes three divi­sions to share a field hospital platoon and then use another division's platoon for "leap frogging."

Skis upon which litters could be mounted and dog teams for front line evacuation were going to be made available to divisions in early February, but after 38 days of continuous snow cover, the thaw came and, left the ground bare for the remainder of the season.

With the thaw came the most extensive sanitation problem in VIII Corps operations on the continent. The Corps having had a very small sector in which enemy and American troops had been extremely crowded, where no sanitary facilities existed and where the weather had been far from conducive to digging "cat holes" or slit trenches in the frozen ground, feces were bared in quantity, particularly in camp site and billet areas. Such circumstances together with the general condition of filth and mud brought about many diarrhea outbreaks. Nearly all attacks were mild, the majority of the cases never appearing for sick call, but nevertheless there were quantities of cases and all echelons were affected. Command action was immediately instituted to police and maintain all areas in a state of cleanliness. Army attached additional Sanitary Corps officers to divisions to advise and assist commanders, and groups of prisoners of war were organized to clean the more filthy areas.


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It was not, however, until we advanced to less heavily contested terrain and encountered better weather and buildings that the epidemic finally subsided.

 

9 February III Corps Headquarters on the VIII Corps right flank was withdrawn for another assignment. VIII Corps took over all III Corps divisions and corps troops. There being included a medical battalion, constituted the same as the usual corps medical battalion, it was left to support corps troops in the previous III Corps sector in accordance with their previous procedures. A liaison officer reported to our office daily and was briefed as to pending activities. Gradually over a period of one month divisions, engineer battalions and artillery battalions were withdrawn, and in proportion, elements of the extra medical battalion were withdrawn until we contracted again to a normal sized corps.

 

The first sign of a let-up in the heavy fighting of the past two monthswas observed shortly after 1 March when the 11 Armored Division broke loose, reaching the Rhine River 9 March. Infantry rapidly mopped up and the preparation of plans for a Rhine River crossing began.

 

In anticipation of the crossing operation and consequent vulnerability to chemical warfare a platoon of a Medical Gas Treatment company was placed in each division sector. These platoons remained under direct control of Army, but were to support divisions as indicated. Fortunately they were not needed and in about three weeks were withdrawn.

 

16 March an attack was launched by the 87 Infantry Division to capture the city of Coblenz, it having been placed in our sector by a boundary shift. This operation took only three days and casualties were extremely light, especially considering the river crossings of the Moselle River that were involved.

 

The first bridgehead across the Rhine River in the VIII Corps Sector was established by the 87 Infantry Division, starting at 0001, 25 March. The following day the 89 Infantry Division crossed at three different points. Initially all units encountered heavy opposition that soon be­came only moderate. Litter bearers from the corps collecting companies were attached to each division to assist in the crossing.

 

By 28 March the "pursuit" east of the Rhine had begun, the first three of the many German military hospitals to be eventually overrun had been encountered and the confusion of such fast movingaction was with us.

 

Third United States Army policy in regard to overrun German hospitals was to leave the patients in place and under the care of German doctors with or without guards depending upon the situation and avail­ability of personnel. Initial surveys of the hospitals as to personnel present as patients and staff, available food supplies and available medical supplies were made by the overrunning division, or if indicated, by the corps medical battalion. It was intended that Army representatives would take charge immediately, but often a three to four day delay occurred during which time the division would have to maintain supervi­sion or if movement was too fast, corps would have to take charge. For a complete list and census of such overrun hospitals see Annex No. 2 attached.


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Fortunately, and typically, our own casualties were very light as was the case with all rapid advances. The infantry was motorized at this time in order to keep up with the enemy, and as a consequence all available transportation was being utilized. This resulted in the field hospital platoons supporting divisions falling hopelessly behind, in some instances fifty to seventy five miles.

The first of the large German prisoner of war camps was overrun at Diez, wherein 3000 inmates were located including Americans, English, Russians and Italians. Eleven cases of typhus were present in this camp and malnutrition was prevalent among all inmates. Evacuation was instituted immediately under Army jurisdiction.

In early April as the surge forward continued and more and more German prisoners of war and displaced person camps were overrun, Army withdrew all sanitary corps personnel attached and assigned to divisions including ex-division medical inspectors, in order that they might super­vise and improve the deplorable conditions existent in the many camps.

From the time the crossing of the Rhine was accomplished on 25 March until the corps restraining line was reached and we stopped 19 April to wait for the Russians, there was little rest and questions were numerous as to overrun hospitals and displaced person camps concerning problems in sanitation, food shortages and malnutrition, and cases of typhoid and typhus among foreign personnel. Whereas army installations assumed responsibilities in almost all cases directly from divisions as far as overrun installations were concerned, there was little to be done except in those cases where unforeseen difficulties arose. Our own casualties continued tobe extremely light throughout this period, therefore presenting no problem.

Third U. S. Army, under which VIII Corps functioned throughout the period up to 22 April, had the policy of one medical group handling all evacuation of our own troops and another medical group handling all overrun installations. Within each corps one battalion operating under the group maintained close contact with the corps surgeon in locating, checking and reporting overrun installations. A provisional medical battalion formed from the 65 Field Hospital worked in the VIII Corps sector and very efficiently handled its responsibilities.

First U. S. Army, to which the Corps was assigned 22 April had a medical group supporting each corps, or in some instances two corps, and furnishing all medical support to the corps concerned.

In the changeover of armies all field hospital platoons were withdrawn by Third Army, necessitating four holding units until all non-transportable patients could be moved. The companies of 169 medical Battalion furnished all four units on six hours notice and very efficiently executed their mission, as they had done on all previous occasions whenever called upon.

Outstanding problems during this period included the dusting with DDT of displaced persons, prisoners of war, recovered allied military personnel and in some cases civilians. Most difficult were the thou­sands of displaced persons that insisted upon further displacing themselves just a little faster than they could be accumulated in any one


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place. The problem of supply and labor can be more clearly presented on the basis that one man could dust only 40 people in an hour and that one pound of DDT would dust 16 people. Depending on the availability of supply, policy varied from dusting all recovered personnel to dusting just those suspected of being louse infested.

Reports of typhus fever were a continual source of confusion because the Germans called typhoid, typhus. Fleckfieber was the German equivalent of typhus. Each case had to be investigated and in nine out of ten cases typhoid was what actually existed.

3 May, there being very few casualties of our own and a great need for ambulances to move foreign patients, all army ambulances were withdrawn and corps and divisions became responsible for evacuating their own casualties from clearing stations to evacuation hospitals.

Lt Col Reed D. Shupe, the Corps Medical Inspector, was assigned to 2nd Evacuation Hospital 5 May and a few days later to Headquarters First U. S. Army as operation officer in the medical section. Lt Col Andrew F. Scheele, who replaced Lt Col Shupe, previously commanded the Corps Medical Battalion.

With the cessation of hostilities 7 May a mass exodus of German military and civilian personnel from the Russian lines to our lines began. Included were patients with all kinds of wounds in all stages of treatment. As a matter of policy all forward area German hospitals were kept as clear of patients as possible and the personnel coming through our lines in need of hospitalization were admitted to these hospitals.

With the termination of hostilities the problem of DPs, RAMPs, PWs and civilians occupied practically all of the time of the medical section. Disposition of "duty type" patients to prisoner of war cages was of prime importance along with the consolidation of hospitals, in order to eliminate the many small ones. Also public health problems, previously a function of G-5 now became a responsibility of the Surgeon.

To handle the overall problem of occupation Thuringia , a sector about one hundred twenty miles deep and fiftymiles wide was assigned the corps. Within corps this responsibility was subdivided about equally among four divisions, corps artillery and 6 Cavalry Group, each being assigned a sector. The 64 Medical Group, operationally attached to corps, was assigned responsibility for all PW and RAMP hospitals within the entire corps sector. This responsibility was equally subdivided geographically between two battalions. Divisions were responsible for DP hospitals and public health within their respective sectors.

VIII Corps was reassigned from First U. S. Army to Ninth U. S. Army 12 May. Ninth Army delegated all medical operational functions to corps, but retained administrative and supply responsibilities for all medical units.

Something that "couldn't happen any place but here" happened when on both 19 and 20 May trains formed somewhere in Czechoslovakia, made up of box cars, flat cars and anything else that would roll appeared in the middle of our sector as if from nowhere with 750 patients on one train and 878 on the other. All types of patients were included, with wounds in all stages of treatment. The trains had been rolling


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for fourteen and sixteen days respectively before locating tracks that eventually led into our sector. If blocked on some other corps front they continued to travel until an unguarded track leading through American lines could be found. There was no alternative but to locate bed space in German hospitals and admit the patients. A few days later another trainload of one thousand patients slipped through and was reported in the forward part of the corps sector. Less seriously wounded patients were removed in forward areas and the balance sent on the same train to a more adequate hospital in the rear. Someplace along the line tracks were out and the train was reported to have been rerouted. To this day the train has not been heard of by either corps adjoining us, nor did it ever arrive at its destination. C'est la Guerre!

By 20 May a policy for discharging to civilian life German military personnel had been established. This included hospital patients when their condition permitted and amputees and blind if they had a place to go and someone to take care of them. With the establishment of this policy and the rapid removal of displaced persons that was taking place, the quantitative burden was rapidly decreasing. (See annex No. 3 attached) Displaced persons within the corps sector were estimated at about 310,000at the time hostilities ceased.

German hospitals were found to be overstaffed in all except very rare instances. Medical Department personnel found in German military hospitals totaled originally 8753. Of this total there were 826 doctors, 4257 nurses, 3273 sanitary personnel, 86 dentists, 268 administrative personnel, 19 sanitary engineers, 22 pharmacists and 2 midwives. These personnel were treating, in hospitals, a total of about 50,000 patients, the bulk of whom were convalescent. At first no Medical Department personnel were discharged, all being shifted about in accordance with needs, but as the patient census declined they too were released to civilian status.

The coordination of all activities in relation to the DP, PW, RAMP and civilian hospitals in the sector constituted the big proportion of the work of the medical section for the balance of the period of the report.

VIII Corps was assigned to Seventh U. S. Army 15 June, but policies were so much the same as Ninth Army's that no radical changes in procedure were necessary.

27 June corps was relieved by XXI Corps of all troops and operational duties in anticipation of orders for redeployment to the United States. As of this date, 30 June, the word to move is being awaited.

GENERAL COMMENTS

1. Health of the command.

a. Infectious Hepatitis was first reported 6 March by the 735 Tank Battalion, attached to the 87 Infantry Division. Subsequently a moderate number of cases were reported in many elements of the command until finally in mid May cases reported dropped to almost nil. No information or conclusions as to the etiology or specific preventive measures is available.


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b. The venereal disease rate remained constant and low until the cessation of hostilities when it rapidly began a climb to a peak of 141.8 cases per thousand per annum for the week ending 8 June 1945. In addition to the many obvious reasons for the abrupt rise, the lack of an early, definitely established and publicized policy that men would not have prophylactic station records used against them as evidence of fraternization is considered to be a contributing factor.

c. It is considered significant that only one case of typhoid fever and no cases of typhus fever were reported among American military personnel, despite the prevalence of both diseases among all other per­sonnel in the areas occupied.

d. Emergency rations (C, D, K and 10 in 1) were utilized al­most exclusively by all troops for the two month period of March and April. No ill effects were observed.

e. All water was declared nonpotable including that treated by municipalities. Engineer water points were well located in quantity. Water discipline among all troops was very good.

f. Considering war conditions, the lack of any serious out­break of disease is considered to be remarkable, and a tribute to the prophylactic and preventative measures and general sanitary control maintained in all commands.

2. Medical Supply.

a. Up to the time of the crossing of the Rhine River the availability and quantity of medical supplies were adequate to supply all needs. Subsequently the advance was so rapid that distance to de­pots presented quite an obstacle to maintaining adequate quantities of medical supplies on hand, especially in separate units. Class V items were the only ones continuously in short supply. Dentists very often had to stop certain types of work for periods of time due to a lack of availability of essential items.

b. Nearly all overrun hospitals had adequate quantities of essential medical supplies on hand to cover their basic needs for two or three weeks. Two large medical supply dumps were overrun in our sector. One, at Treuen, was reported to have been moved there recently from Berlin and was supposed to have been the main supply of medical equipment for the German Army. All such equipment and supplies when located were either utilized from the place they were found or evacuated to more desirable locations. Such supplies were exclusively used in the treatment of other than American personnel.

c. A shortage of insulin to meet civilian needs presented quite a problem. It had to be finally obtained through American channels.

3.  Personnel.

a. By reason of rotation to the United States and approved request for discharge under the provisions of various War Department directives, by 20 May there was a shortage of 8 doctors in corps


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troop units. They had not been replaced up to the time troops were relieved from corps, 27 June. Leaves and passes meant an additional shortage of three officers most of the time. By almost stripping the corps medical battalion of medical officers and having neighboring battalions "double up" for medical service, it was possible to get by, but not without quite a burden on those doctors remaining. Redeployment and physical profiling requirements added to their burden.  

b. It is felt that if at all possible, junior Medical corps officers with three years of continuous field service should be given the opportunity of hospital assignment. They tend to become restive, dissatisfied, and apprehensive regarding their professional qualifications.

4.  Throughout the period of this report a Mobile Prosthetic Dental Unit was attached to the corps and further attached to the corps clearing company. It functioned with the advance platoon of the clearing company. This was a tremendous benefit to the corps and army troops and is favored as standard procedure in future operations.

5.  After the expected initial resistance to the idea, the Medical Administrative Corps officers placed in infantry battalions, coast artillery anti-aircraft battalions, tank battalions and tank destroyer battalions were given credit for the fine work they were capable of doing and were generally considered valuable members of their commands.

6.  Dental officers substituted for medical officers, in practically all units at times, and in many instances were the acting surgeons of their units over prolonged periods. Corps dental officers have done a very creditable job. There is a disproportion in the chances for advancement (promotion) for the Dental Corps that is obvious. In the division, as now organized, eleven out of forty-five Medical Corps officers are field-grade, whereas only one out of ten dental officers is field grade. In corps troops the disproportion is greater; there are no field-grade dental officers, and there is little opportunity for transfer to the few field-grade position vacancies that may exist from time to time in army units because the corps dental personnel are not, as a rule, personally known to surgeons and dental surgeons of higher commands.

7.  No field-grade vacancies exist in the division for Medical Administrative Corps officers, of whom there are 22 in the division.

8.  Personnel of this section have been awarded decorations as indicated by orders in annex No. 4, attached.

R. H. ECKHARDT

Colonel, M.C.

Surgeon.


HEADQUARTERS VIII CORPS
Office of the Surgeon

ANNEX ''1"    Trench Foot and Frostbite Gases.

ANNEX ''2"   Overrun German Hospitals.

ANNEX "3"    Total Patients in German Military Hospitals.

ANNEX "4"    True Copies of General Orders for awards to Personnel of this Section.

ANNEX "5"    Personnel Assigned to the Medical Section.

ANNEX "6"    Divisions Attached to VIII Corps.

ANNEX "7"    Total Casualties Sustained by Units while Attached to VIII Corps.

ANNEX "8"    Patients Admitted to Corps and Division Clearing Stations.

ANNEX "9"    Summary of Combat Operations of VIII Corps Medical Service, 14 June 1945.

ANNEX "10"  Weekly Venereal Disease Rates.

ANNEX "11"  VIII Corps in European Theater of Operations, 1943 to 1945.[Missing]