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Headquarters, Third Portable Surgical Hospial, 9 July 1945

Table of Contents

HEADQUARTERS
THIRD PORTABLE SURGICAL HOSPITAL

9 July 1945

SUBJECT: Quarterly Medical History,  1 April 1945 thru 30 June 1945.

TO: Surgeon, Sixth Army, APO 442. (Thru Channels)

1.    On 1 April 1945 at 1100 hours, the Third Portable Surgical Hospital disembarked from the USS LSM 203 onto the beach at Legaspi Port in support of the 158th Regimental Combat Team assaulting the port. The unit had been completely mobile loaded on its own vehicles (one 3/4 ton 4x4 truck, and two 3/4 ton weapons carriers and a 250 gallon water trailer) and three 2 ½ ton trucks belonging to the 3769th Quartermaster Truck Company. The landing was made uneventfully except for the fact that the sand of the beach was very deep and loose so that almost all the vehicles bogged down immediately after leaving the landing craft and had to be pulled by bulldozers and tractors for a hundred feet or more up the beach before proceeding under their own power. This caused a little more than the usual amount of crowding on the beach during the early phases of the landing. Another factor hindering the clearing of the beach was the almost complete destruction of Legaspi Port by the pre-invasion bombardment. This made clearing the highway difficult because for every foot of the way, rubble and the crumbled walls of buildings had to be cleared from the street. However, the job of clearing the beach and roads went on very well in the hands of the 592d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment and within forty five minutes of our landing on the beach we were able to reach the Legaspi Port Railroad Station in which the command post of the RCT had been temporarily set up. We reported there for orders and instructions. On instruction from the Chief of Staff, Major Garlick and Captain William C. Bolt, at that time commanding Officer of the 506 Collecting Company, set out to make a joint reconnaissance and choose a place for setting up the respective stations. After a brief reconnaissance of the area already taken by the 158th Infantry, it was decided to establish both installations on the grounds of St Agnes Academy, on the north side of Route #1 about half way between Legaspi Port and Legaspi. The rest of the trucks were brought up and by 1530 hours we had our hospital in operation, ready to receive patients. The ease and speed with which this part of our mission was accomplished again emphasized the importance of having all the equipment of units such as this completely mobile loaded for D-Day. This was a lesson we had learned by costly experience at Aitape, New Guinea, where we landed, with only one 3/4 ton weapons carrier and carried the heavy packs and pack frames of the old Buna days ashore with us. Aside from being unnecessarily and unreasonably arduous, that procedure handicapped us severely in equipment and capabilities. Since that time on, four successive beach landings, we have been able to mobile load more


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or less completely by loading our equipment onto trucks belonging to other units. There are a number of types of units, such as Quartermaster Truck Companies and Engineer Battalions present on every landing mission which have to take empty or very lightly loaded trucks with them. It is amazing how difficult it is at times to get permission to mobile load these vehicles with necessary hospital equipment.  We have found that a minimum of two 2 ½ ton trucks is necessary for this purpose and that three should be regarded as the correct number.  With three trucks all equipment can be mobile loaded and it is unnecessary to leave a rear echelon, we do not have enough personnel to divide into two echelons and in our experience, leaving equipment in a rear echelon is practically tantamount to throwing it away.  The only substitute for the lack of organic transportation to make us self-transportable is the use of unloaded vehicles of other organizations to mobile load our equipment.  If I am reminded that this is a far cry from the original purposes and operations of the portable hospital, I submit that we have come a long way from Buna and that where infantrymen ride to the front lines in trucks, it is ridiculous to ask medical men to follow them on foot carrying eighty pound packs.

By 1530 hours on D-Day or 1 April our hospital was in operation. We received six patients during the afternoon, all of them medical patients since there were no battle casualties until that night or early the next morning. This was the first time in our combat history that we had an opportunity to make use of a building in setting up our hospital. The main building of St Agnes Academy had been left with only the charred walls standing after the bombing and strafing attack the day before our landing. Three of the nuns had bean burned to a crisp and the charred bodies could be seen in the main hall of the building. However, a two story residential building of the Academy, just to the west of the main building was very slightly damaged and could be adapted to our needs. There were two large rooms and a. small, verandah on the ground floor. We used the verandah as a receiving and shock treatment pavilion, the smaller of the rooms as a surgery and the larger as a ward for the most seriously wounded casualties. The second story of the building consisted of three rooms, one of which we used as a laboratory. The other two were used to store the civilian possessions, furniture and so forth, which had been scattered throughout the house. The remainder of the hospital was set up in tents on the Academy grounds. Three ward tents for the patients were pitched in front of the ruins of the main building. Three squad tents for the enlisted personnel, one squad tent for supply, a large wall fly for the kitchen and two small wall tents for the officers were pitched to the right of the ward tents, in front of the building and we were  using as surgery and ward. There were two heavy long wood tables in the house and these served very well as operating tables. The 506th Medical Collecting Company (less detachment) was set up on the Academy grounds adjoining us on the East. As soon


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as the hospital was established everyone turned to digging a foxhole for use that night. The night proved to be an unpleasant one. Before dark the Japs began shelling the troops in Legaspi, only a few hundred yards from where we were, with artillery, rockets and heavy antiaircraft guns. This was our first introduction to Japanese rockets and it was somewhat demoralizing. There is a weird, almost unearthly “whoop”when they are launched, followed by a variable period of silence before the contact explosion which is like the heaviest of artillery. Most of the men never did get used to the whoop and the suspense of the silence following it as they had become used to the sound of conventional artillery. We had not encountered the use of heavy antiaircraft guns as artillery previously either. This also, because of the rapid rate of fire, was disturbing and we could see quite plainly the effect of both these “new” weapons on the state of mind of the patients returned from the front.

We remained in this initial location from 1 April to 28 April, an unprecedented length of time for us to retain one position in combat. The reason for this was not that the advance of the infantry moved slowly but rather that it moved fast and in many directions, radiating from Legaspi as a center. Since the roads in all directions were good, our initial location remained easily accessible to all the troops. The 71st evacuation Hospital, the only other hospital installation with the combat team, did not set up to receive patients until 4 April. Until then, therefore, we had to act as a combination clearing and holding station for all patients, medical and surgical. There was no evacuation either by air or sea. By the evening of 3 April we had. on our hands eighty medical patients and fifty-two battle casualties, in a hospital with a normal capacity of twenty-five and a maximum of fifty beds. We had had this same experience on so many previous occasions that we had almost come to accept it as normal. The 71st Evac Hosp had loaned us cots and blankets to care for some of the overflow. Most of the medical patients we handled during these first few days were suffering from diarrhea (acquired on the boat trip?) and mild fevers, though there were a significant number of cases of venereal disease and several of acute infectious hepatitis. All these patients were transferred to the 71st Evac Hosp of 4, 5 and 6 April. On 4 April one officer and five  enlisted men of the 804 Air Evacuation Section were attached to us for rations and  quarters and a day later one officer and seven enlisted men of the 160th Air Liaison Group were attached for rations. Shortly thereafter the evacuation problem was solved completely by air evacuation from the captured Legaspi strip. The officer, Lieutenant Johnson, and men of the 160th Air Liaison Group not only gave us excellent evacuation for serious cases by L-5 planes, but also did us an invaluable service in bringing emergency supplies, including whole blood, by return trip.


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From 1 April to 28 April we operated on one hundred fifteen major battle casualties. Of these there were five deaths and two severely wounded patients did not live to be operated upon, dying during transfusion for treatment of shock. The wounds in this campaign were about of average seriousness according to our previous experience. Seventy of them were due to shell and grenade fragments and forty-five to gunshot rounds; there were not bayonet rounds in this group. There were thirteen abdominal wounds with visceral injury; eight of these lived to be evacuated in good general condition after from eight to twenty days hospitalization. There were twenty six major compound fractures, all of whom were evacuated in good condition. Only two patients required major (mid-thigh) amputations and two minor (finger) amputations. One of the patients who died had a mid-thigh amputation, compound fracture of the opposite femur and lacerations of the ileum and transverse colon; he lived for six days post operatively. There were six wounds of the chest, two of them sucking wounds; only one of these died and that one had an associated severe abdominal wound. The largest number operated on in one day was thirty two on 4 April. We had only two officers at this time but we continued to work as two operative teams, with Capt Bolt, at that time of the 506th Collection company, helping us part time and enlisted technicians acting as assistants and at times as anesthetist.

On the morning of 28 April we evacuated all remaining patients to the 71st Evacuation Hospital, struck camp and at 1000 hours departed for Camalig, Albay where we arrived at 1200 Hours. We set up temporarily in the walled-in church yard beside the church and convent in which the headquarters of the 158th Infantry Regiment was established. All day and during the night there was desultory machine gun and mortar fire in the hills a few hundred yards south of the road where the infantry was wiping out the last strong packet of Jap resistance in this area. We received only one battle casualty during our brief stay at Camalig, an infantryman who had been bayoneted in chest and abdomen while on patrol. He war dead on arrival at the hospital. However, we saw numbers of a sick and bedraggled Jap prisoners as they trooped by on their way to headquarters and from there in trucks to Legaspi.

On 29 April at 1200 hours we were again on the road, this time to Baao, Carmarines Sur, where we arrived at 1500 hours. We set up in a high coconut grove on the south side of Route #1, just on the eastern outskirts of Baao. Again the 506th Collecting company set up immediately adjacent to us, in the same coconut grove. The headguarters of the 158th Infantry Regiment was about half a mile forward of us in Baao and the headquarters of the 15th RCT was several miles to our rear in Iniga. During our eight day stay in this location we received only eleven casualties, but handled a number of medical patients before evacuating them to the 71st Evac Hosp. Of the eleven casualties two were Filipino Civilians,  two Formosan and one Japanese who had a compound fracture of the


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femur. On 2 May Captain William C.  Holt was relieved from duty with the 506th Medical Collecting Company and assigned to the 3rd Portable Surgical Hospital, bringing our officer total to three. On 4 May we had several interesting experiences. In the morning some of our men returning from Legaspi with a load of ration, captured a Korean who walked onto the road at Camalig with his hands in the air and gave himself up to them.  They turned him over to G-2 at RCT headquarters. That same afternoon a small band of Filipino guerrillas ran into our camp, driving before them a half naked Japanese soldier with his hands tied behind him and bleeding from the nose, face and back where he had beam beaten and slashed. They said they had found him in a coconut grove about two hundred yards from our position and captured him. They added that there was another Jap still at large in the same grove. Several of our men armed themselves and want to investigate. As they approached the grove they heard an explosion and on reaching it found doaat the second Jap had blown his head off with his last grenadee

On 6 May we left Baao at 0945 hours and arrived at Anayon, Camarines Sur at 1130 hours. Here we set up camp in a coconut grove just to the west of Anayon airstrip. This grove had previously been used by the Japanese as an airplane dispersal area and there were a number of wood floored, banked revetments in the area, as well as a bamboo corduroy road leading to it from the south end of the strip, near highway #1. The entire area, however, was pretty well grown over with weeds and underbrush and required a good deal of clearing before we were finally well established. Filipino laborers did most of the clearing for us and we used the wood from the revetments for flooring for some of our tents. The 158 Infantry regiment was patrolling Mount Isorog for evidence of the J5p force which was supposed to be there. Our position had been chosen to support them since there was a good road running from highway #1 at the south end of Anayon airstrip toward the mountain and around its base to Tobacco. This road would serve well for transporting casualties to us and the airstrip would serve for evacuation from us.  However, there proved to be very few Japs on Mount Isorog and the total number of casualties we cared for in this area was only fifteen. We again handled a large number of medical patients from the infantry, evacuating most of them to the 7lst Evac Hosp. Of the fifteen casualties, three were Filipino Civilians, two Japanese prisoners of war. The serious cases consisted of Formosan with arrow wounds of the back and left kidney requiring nephrectomy, a Japanese with a compound fracture of the right femur, and a Korean with an abdominal wound and several jejunal perforations. All recovered uneventfully. On 10 May, Major Williuam L. Garlick, commanding officer of the unit since its formation, was relieved of assignment and transferred to Rotation Detachment, Base X for return to the states on the rotation program. This left Captain Paul A. Fernbach in command and again left us with only two officers. On 3 June lst Lieutenant Gilbert Blum joined as a replacement from the 112th General Hospital.


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Toward the end of May we received instructions to select a site and build a camp for the rainy season, since the 158th RCT was to garrison the area between Legaspi and Naga.  Oas, Albay was selected for our camp since it is approximately half way between Pili, Camarines Sur where  the 71st Evacuation Hospital was now set up and Legaspi, where the 33rd Portable Surgical Hospital was operating a small station hospital. We were to operate a 25 bed hospital.  We secure the use of twenty Filipino laborers and set about building a garrison-type camp with framed and floored tents, graveled drives and walks, screened in surgery, etc, in the church yard and a part of the adjacent village square of Oas. By 6 June this camp was ready to be occupied and we moved into it, leaving Anayon at 11:30 hours and arriving at Oas at 1400 hours. The remainder of the period until 30 June war spent in improving the camp area and in the beginning of a training and rehabilitation program, which we began on 11 June as a proposed 16 week program. On 18 June we were relieved from attachment to XIV Corps and attached to XI Corps for further attachment to the 158th RCT. On 30 June the end of the Luzon campaign for troops in this area was announced.

Our sanitation was routine and good during the period.  Due to the fact that we moved comparatively little, sanitation facilities were better than is usually the case in combat. There were no special problems. We had no contagious disease and no diarrhea in the command during the period.

Rations were better both qualitatively and quantitatively than we had ever before had in combat and toward the end of the period, better than we had ever had overseas.

A dental survey of the command was made by Major Carl of the 71st Evac Hosp and all necessary dental work was done by his staff from 21 June to 27 June.

At the beginning of the period covered by this report the personnel present for duty consisted of two officers and thirty one enlisted men; one enlisted man was on temporary duty in the United States. The T/O strength is four officers and thirty-three enlisted men. On 17 April we lost two men on rotation, one of them was our mess sergeant. On 2 May Capt William C. Bolt was assigned by transfer from the 506th Collecting Company of which he had been CO. On 10 May our commanding officer, Major William L. Garlick, and one enlisted man departed for the United States on rotation. On 11 May we lost our first sergeant due to an illness which has caused his evacuation to the states. On 3 June, 1st Lt Gilbert Blum joined as a replacement from the 112th General Hospital; on 22 June Lt Blum suffered a dislocated hip and fracture of the acetabulum in a truck accident and he has since been evacuated. On 12 June one enlisted man left on rotation to


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to the states. On 29 June we received one enlisted replacement. At the close of the period our strength is two officers anal twenty six enlisted men present for duty; one enlisted man on temporary duty in the United States.

Supply was excellent during the period. In the early period of combat  the L-5 planes, returning from evacuating patients, gave us prompt end excellent delivery.

Signed
PAUL A. FERNBACH
Captain MC
Commanding

SOURCE:  National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 112, The Army Surgeon General, Entry 31, Portable Surgical Hospitals - 3d, Box 234.