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Headquarters, V Corps, 2 August 1944, After Action Report

Operation Overlord

Office of the Surgeon

2 August 1944


1 July - 31 July 1944 (D + 25  - D + 55)

    The defensive period continued from 1 July (D + 25) to the beginning of “Cobra” on 25 July (D + 49) during which time the organization of the medical units of the divisions subordinate to Corps was satisfactory. The organization of the Corps Medical Battalion, the 53rd, was unsatisfactory since the loss of the 384th Ambulance Company removed thirty of the fifty ambulances from our use. The Company was relieved from assignment to the 53rd Medical Battalion and assigned to the 68th Medical Group (Army). During the quiescent period, the remaining ambulances were able to make the necessary service visits without strain since the roads over which they travelled were good and there were few additional calls for ambulances. The 53rd Medical Battalion has a total of 20 ambulances remaining, two of which are usually under repair, to service from 30 to as high as 38 Corps units.

    The status of Medical Supply was satisfactory. Corps units and the divisions requisitioned directly from Army Medical Depots. The Medical Supply Officer of this section kept the units informed of depot locations, proposed sites of new depots, types of supplies available and the administrative procedures relative to procuring supplies at an earlier date than Administrative Orders would afford.

    The method employed in requisitioning medical personnel by Corps units and divisions is not satisfactory inasmuch as the requisitions are forwarded to the Adjutant General’s Section and leaves the Surgeon without knowledge of the shortages. When the Adjutant General receives information that the requisitioned medical personnel is available, we are asked for recommendations for their assignments which, only too obviously, can not be given since we did not know which units needed the replacements. The Section solved this problem by constant liaison with the subordinate units to learn the extent of their requirements and by requesting the A.G. Section, V Corps, to furnish US with a memorandum of every requisition on which medical personnel were listed.

    Pending the arrival of medical replacements, it is the practice in this Corps to “loan” personnel to Corps units and to Division Medical Battalions on the condition that such personnel be returned immediately upon receipt of replacements. “Loan” personnel are taken from the 53rd (Corps) Medical Battalion.

    The medical replacements furnished the field units under our control satisfactory with exception of the medical officers. Inasmuch as medical replacements were slow in coming from the United Kingdom, higher authority obtained them from hospitals located in France. Since most of the medical officers would


be sent to battalions, physical fitness was of paramount consideration, but those received initially were in their 40's, one being 46 years of age, none had any field training and all had many minor complaints, such as back aches, difficulties with, their feet etc. As was expected, they proved to be useless and soon were hospitalized or otherwise removed from the units to which they had been assigned. This matter was taken up with Captain Herron, the Hospitalization and Personnel Officer, of the Army Surgeon’s Staff. It is recommended that if the hospitals are going to be used as the depots for obtaining medical officers for field service, a select list of young and physically fit officers should be kept and replacements be taken therefrom. The officers and their records should be inspected to prevent hospitals from making their own selections which in our experience have been older men with specialist training, the very type of officer who should not be sent to the field units. This plan is, of course, an alternate to one in which young medical officers with field training could be pooled in the United Kingdom and be subject to call when required.

    The defensive period ended on 26 July (D + 50) when V Corps attacked in con. junction with “Cobra”. Within a short time, the 2nd Infantry Division Surgeon requested the loan of one complete litter platoon to augment division medical service. This was necessitated by the exceptionally long litter haul over an area south of Hill 192 (58-64) which exhausted the litter bearers of the 2nd Infantry Division. The desired platoon was obtained from the 53rd (Corps) Medical Battalion and sent forward. On the following day, 27th July (D + 51), a similar request was made inasmuch as the recently furnished litter platoon was likewise approaching exhaustion. An additional platoon was sent from the 53rd Medical Battalion which, by that time, had no litter bearers remaining - all had been loaned to the 2nd Infantry Division. Fortunately, the remaining two divisions, the 5th and the 35th, made no requests for additional aid which could have been obtained only from Bandsmen, from the Corps Replacement Battalion, or from First Army. All loaned personnel were returned to the 53rd Medical Battalion on 29th July (D + 53).

    At this time arrangements were made with the 41st Replacement Battalion to obtain medical personnel on a detached service basis and attach them to the 53rd Medical Battalion. This would create a pool of litter bearers which could be used when needed.

    On 30 July, the 2nd Infantry Division made two separate calls for 6 squads of litter bearers and six ambulances and the 35th Infantry Division made one call for twenty-four litter bearers and ten ambulances. The 53rd Medical Battalion furnished two groups of 6 litter bearer squads, and called on the 41st Replacement Battalion for 29 litter bearers, out of which 6 squads were sent to the. 2nd Infantry Division. The ambulances were obtained from the 176th Medical Battalion of the 68th Medical Group. The ten ambulances sent to the 35th Infantry Division’s Clearing Station were dispatched in two groups due to the necessity of gathering them from various points at which they were located.

    The various requests for personnel and vehicular assistance on the 30th July were handled well by all concerned, but refinements in organization would have made the task easier and less cumbersome. The arrangement by which medical personnel was obtained from the 41st Replacement Battalion on a loan basis necessitated multiple phone calls to contact the Replacement Unit and the 53rd Medical


Battalion which had to call for them. The loss of the 384th Ambulance Company was keenly felt when we had to go through six telephone exchanges to contact the 176th Medical Battalion. Prior to losing the ambulance company, it was possible for the Corps Surgeon to honor requests for ambulance assistance in from one to two hours.

    In view of the fact that personnel and ambulances are obtainable, but time is lost in securing and dispatching them, it is recommended, that prior to operations, we obtain personnel and ambulances on a detached service basis and attach them to the 53rd Medical Battalion. This would place all our facilities in one area which would eliminate many telephone calls during a period when phone traffic is heaviest and definitely eliminate the time lag, sometimes a matter of hours, between calls for assistance and time of arrival at the places where it is needed.


                                                                                                                    C. E. BRENN,
                                                                                                                    Colonel, M.C.,