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Headquarters, Third Surgical Hospitals, A.P.O. 70, 18 April 1945

Table of Contents

A. P. O. 70
18 April 1945

SUBJECT: Quarterly Medical  History, 1 January 1945 to 31 March 1945

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

1.    The 3rd Portable Surgical Hospital consisting of 3 Officers and 36 Enlisted Men were alerted for movement in December l944. On 29 December we cleared our camp on Noemfoor Island, Netherlands East Indies and boarded an APA LEON, in Narobi Bay. Transportation had been arranged but it failed to come. We do not have organic equipment to move ourselves, the two 3/4 ton weapons carriers, Jeep and trailer had been packed with supplies and loaded earlier. Captain Miller succeeded in commandeering two DWK’s [DUKWs] which moved us to the beach at the designated time.

2.    The APA LEON was one of the most comfortable ships we had ever traveled on. There was no crowding. Each EM and Officer had a canvas bunk in well ventilated compartments. The food was excellent and of great variety with much fresh meat and vegetables. Preparation and sanitation was good. There were no cases of diarrhea. Each night when it was possible there were movies on deck.

3.    On 2 January 1945 the entire task force of 3 APA, 7 LST, 3 AKA, 2 APD, 2 LSD and a convoy of destroyers maneuvered off Japen Island and made a beach landing simulating the actual combat one to come. The entire group of men were landed and back off the beaches aboard ship within two hour.  We left the ship by climbing over the side on landing-nets into LCM’s. The LCM’s from each of the APA’s grouped themselves on one long line and at the command all twenty seven raced for the beach, the troops hidden beneath the sides of the boat, helmeted and ready. On the beach everything was confusion because we had been put ashore about a mile from the  chosen landing point in a stretch of island where the jungle met the sea and there was only a few yards of sand before you were in the mangrove swamps. Several of the men were seasick on the return journey because of the roughness. It increased the hazards of climbing up landing nets, especially for the bottom man.

4.    4 January 1945 saw us start our actual combat journey. We passed the Schouten Islands, left the Halmaharas and Morotai over the horizon and steered with constant air cover toward the Philippines.


5.    One of the men on an APD developed an acute appendicitis. Arrangements were made to transfer him to our APA without slowing the convoy. The converted destroyer pulled alongside and settled to the speed of the LEON. Lines were passed between the two ships. The patient was put in a breeches buoy and pulled across. When he was examined his attack was subsiding and he didn't require an operation. It was the first time each of the ships had performed such a maneuver. Probably for that trouble his appendix should have been removed. However, the poor fellow was passed back again without loss of life or limb before we arrived at our debarkation point.

6.    The journey on the whole was extremely uneventful. There were general quarters each morning at daylight and at dusk. One night it was rumored that thirty enemy planes were off to the east but we didn't see them. One morning a submarine was reported in the vicinity but nothing occurred. When we turned into the China Sea each night we put out smoke pots and blacked out the convoy, making ourselves and the ship very greasy. The only place to escape the greasy smoke was on the prow, where the remarkable effectiveness of a smoke screen could be seen. Being the left corner of the convoy the entire screen was back of us and not a ship could be located. We passed. Mindoro during the day. A-20's were bombing there sinking barges and strafing along the shore. We saw no other evidence of enemy activity during the trip although we learned later that earlier and later convoys had plane attacks and casualties. Our journey was like a pleasure cruise with ice cream, coca cola, and fried chicken.

7.    11 January 1945, D plus 2 for the Lingayen landing, we arrived in the bay. As daylight came, hundred of ships of all types and classes could be seen, even four “baby” carriers. We passed the mast of a sunken destroyer rolling slightly in the waves. The air was full of fighters with occasional flights of A-20's and B-17's overhead. There was a high tension among the naval personnel but my own men seemed to enjoy the prospects of getting on land again and were having pleasure trying to recognize the various planes and ships which they had not seen before. Being the fifth beach landing in a year, they had the attitude of “just another landing”.

8.    And that is what it was. We went over the side nets in full packs and good spirits and got into those damnably rough LCM’s, lined up with the nine from each of the other APA, going in circles around and around till everyone was ready and like horses at a race track, hit a line and at top speed raced for the beach. Being about three miles out the time seemed long and hot and rough, passing over waves of moving ships. Destroyers all along the coast were shelling the land making a great deal of noise and adding to the excitement of going on an enemy shore.


9.    We landed dry on a black sandy beach following the 1st Battalion of the 158 Inf and marched about 300 yards off the beach and sat down in a grassy, well cut coconut grove. There was very little evidence war, the vehicles hadn't gotten on the beach. There was no dust or  ground up fields. Off to the left were some burned out buildings and a tumbled down school house that could have been that way for a year. We had nothing to do for several hours. We ate lunch. More and more troops arrived, and soon the LST's beached. The area grew full of vehicles and men and bulk supplies and confusion.

10.    We searched out Colonel Sandlin, Commanding Officer 158 Inf and learned what he intended doing for the day. Patrols had gone through San Fabian which was opposite the beach landing point and had moved  up the Damortis road as far as Rabon. He established a CP on the hill side of the road. We chose a rice paddy across the road and put up a surgery, ward tent and kitchen and then dug fox-holes around the camp for a perimeter. All afternoon, Jap artillery and mortar fire was landing on the crest of the hills across the road about seven hundred yards away. There being very few trees except where the CP was, the blasts were in clear view, and it was hard to keep the men working for watching and listening to the shelling. One shell fell in the CP area about three hundred yards away. After that, everyone would work until you heard one coming and then get to the ground.

11.    About dusk we received our first casualties, all shell fragment wounds picked up on the crest of the hills above us in clear view of the hospital. There was enough to keep us busy most of the night. A destroyer stood off shore and lobbed shells over our heads all of the night except for a short period when eight Jap planes attempted to go over the ships in the bay. They came down the coast over us and cut out into the bay. The anti-aircraft barrage was so thick that nothing could have crossed the ships. It bent all together first in one direction then the other following the line of flight a the planes. When it was bent in our direction the shell fragments falling in the area were heavy but no one was injured.

12.    By the next morning, the 12th, we were fairly straight. Only the most serious casualties were brought to us. The minor wounds and medical cases were screened out by the 506th Collecting Company and sent to the 637th Clearing Company three miles down the road. There were not many seriously injured, three perforating wounds of the abdomen requiring colostomies, five penetrating wounds of the chest and two fractured femurs, plus a few large muscle wounds.


13.    The country side showed little evidence of shelling. The Nepa huts were not burned and the barren hills and roads showed only an occasional shell hole. We slept in foxholes. Jap artillery ranged over the area from the beach all up the road and they did not fail to let us know we were under their eyes. There were other air raids but they were unimportant to us. They went after the beachhead and ships. The only way we could tell there was one was by the distant anti-aircraft tracers tracking a plane.

14.     The three monthly reports of surgery [only January report with this quarterly history] are included on the back of this history to show the general run of surgical procedures done with the minimum of equipment in the immediate vicinity of the infantry lines.

15.    On 14 January 1945 we drove to the town of Damortis where a Jap ammunition dump had been hit the night before and destroyed by the 147 Field Artillery. General MacNider and General Wing of the 43d Division were inspecting the ruins and Signal Corps photographers were busy. General MacArthur came. A short ceremony was held by the General in which he pinned a DSC on Lt Peterson, the platoon leader who first entered Damortis. In a few more days Lt Peterson was in our hospital with a Jap sniper bullet through his cervical spinal cord and complete paralysis. He died within the week.

16.    On the same day we moved the hospital to Bani a small barrio within sight of Damortis. The area was a sugar can field screened from the road and hill by a row of tall trees. The gulf made second border, a small stream with a high bridge, the third and on the fourth border the 506th Collecting Company was set up. Across the road the 105 mm guns moved in followed by the M-7's which belonged to the 158 Inf Regt. Next to them was the 1st Battalion of the 158.

17.    We received no patients the first night. About eight o'clock the Jap artillery began shelling our side of the river. Shells fell about the bridge, blew up the rail road tracks, fell about the M-7's and in the collecting company area. One man in a foxhole was killed while the other man with him was not even injured. He belonged to the 506 Coll Co. The few pieces of equipment we had above ground were riddled with shell fragments. All of the surgical supplies and tents, a few barracks bags and the lister [Lyster] bags were nearly destroyed. Lying deep in the bottom of a foxhole it seemed as if each shell was intended for you. They fell in the gulf back of us and splashed us with water. They fell in the cane field and powdered dirt on us. Small particles of shells screamed through the area. At about two hours intervals for the entire night and for the next four nights, we received shelling for fifteen to twenty minutes. You would just start working again only to be driven to a foxhole and have to remain there.


18.    We dug a deep trench through the field to place patients in on litters and as soon as they could be moved, they were sent five miles to the clearing company. One night it rained, they said “unusual weather in Luzon”, unseasonable, and flooded the trench higher than the level of the  cots, all in the space of a few minutes. The whole field drained into the trench. But by then the Jap artillery was firing on Damortis and leaving us alone so we moved above ground.

19.    On the 16th of January we were assigned to the 135th Medical Group. We made the journey to Dagupan only to learn it was the 6th Portable Surgical Hospital and not us. The country we traveled through was solid with American troops, dumps and equipment. The Lingayen air strip was in use and had been bombed repeatedly by Jap raiders. Most of the bridges were out and each stream had to be forded. The whole area was jammed with civilians on foot, on carabao and in caratellos.

20.    The wounds that we had were almost entirely artillery shell fragments, usually massive with great loss of tissue and bone. One case in particular was extremely extensive. A large mass of shell fragment had cleaned off all the back muscles from the scapula to the buttocks shearing off seven spinous processes exposing the eleventh and twelfth ribs and the perinephrial fascia and sacrum. The patient lived after repeated transfusion and was placed in a cast and after six days evacuated.

21.    On the 24th in the afternoon we received eight wounds of the abdomen within the space of two hours. They kept us working steadily for 24 hours. Two were perforating wounds of the stomach, almost identical with holes in the anterior and posterior walls, the shell fragment stopping in the back muscles. One was in a great deal of pain pre-operatively like a ruptured. gastric ulcer, the other complained of none at all. Both had board-like rigidity. The operative procedure followed that of a ruptured ulcer. Post-operatively each had a normal uneventful convalescence until the eighth day. The painful one continued so and was evacuated. The quiet one gradually within 24 hours fell into a profound shock and died. Autopsy showed an acute yellow atrophy of the liver. The abdomen was free of peritonitis or abscesses, the sutures were intact and healing. It was very distressing.

22.    The other six were various wounds of one or more organs. All required small bowel resections and colostomy complicated by wounds of the pancreas, liver, bladder or kidney. One of the worst required resection of eight inches of small bowel, a colostomy of the descending colon and a left nephrectomy.  He lived six days. One had a subdural sub arachnoid hemorrhage and brain destruction complicating a belly wound or visa versa. He did well for eight days, developed a massive pneumonia and died.


23.    Only two of the eight survived to be evacuated. We were able to overcome the initial shock, support the patients through such massive surgery and maintain their fluids and nutrition from six to eight days but one complication or another took them away. We were very discouraged. Of the total of belly wounds treated in this area, the majority artillery shell fragment wounds, our mortality was 90%.

24.     There were a number of fractured femurs received and treated. Several were in the most profound shock of any patients seen. Two of them died in spite of active thorough shock therapy before their wounds could be treated. They had been hand littered over the hills for several hours before they could reach an ambulance which brought them the mile and. a half to us over good roads. We had developed, long ago, exquisite gentleness in handling any fracture particularly of the femur because of increasing the shock simply by rough handling beyond a point where it could hot be overcome. But nothing we did saved these two.

25.     Our sanitation was as good as we could make it. We had a wall for showers and well chlorinated water for drinking and cooking. The flies increased at an alarming rate when ever an outfit rested close to our area using straddle trenches instead of latrine boxes, which the infantry had to do by necessity. Fly traps were placed all over the area and would be packed solid with big green, blue-bottle flies in a few hours. We encountered few mosquitoes but kept up the malaria. discipline. Moat of our men have had clinical malaria at one time or another, none since the latter part of 1943 however.

26.    Two Japs, loaded with dynamite about their waist, passed by the perimeter driving a head of carabao and were killed. One of the carabao had a leg blown off by a grenade and had to be killed the next day. We had no other problems of infiltration. Several attempts were made on the 155 mm Field Artillery across the road by the Japs which made our area “hot”. But no casualties!

27.    The 158 RCT had, during this time, been harassed by many small pieces of artillery and, several eight to 14 inch guns. In our area the shells sounded as if they were coming to us but they fell a good mile away all over the Regimental Headquarters. One Filipino was injured. These days were our first in nearly three years of combat experience in which we were under nightly artillery fire.

28.    On 12 February we received orders to go to Tarlac with the158 RCT. We loaded and closed up and on the 13th we received orders to the l12 RCT at Santa Maria. Not having organic vehicles to move ourselves we borrowed trucks from the 55th Field Artillery Battalion promising to send them back at night fall. We returned them two days later. By night fall we were in San Fernando and had to spend the night as the 135 Medical Group was not sure exactly where we were going and thought it better to wait till daylight to reach the infantry


lines. We arrived opposite the town of Santa Maria about 1000 hours and put up a camp in a rice paddy which was the only available area and certainly not to be recommended for a camp site, always being either too hot or too wet.

29.    The 112 RCT was spread out over an area of 60 miles holding road blocks. We were at the lower end of their chain toward Manila. About eight miles away was a road block known as the “hot corner”. Our first night in this area we received fifteen seriously wounded from this area. and it kept up each night we were with this outfit. The schedule was Philippine Civilians wounded during the day, American infantry and artillery men during the night. We became a little disgusted with each. There were many old wounds, many a month old, among the civilians which were untreated yet we had seventeen well-fed, energetic Filipino doctors hanging over our shoulders learning “the latest treatment” in surgery, the sort that had been done for centuries during a war. We tried to get them to establish a hospital in Santa Maria for civilians and even got them supplies through PCAU but they could not hang together. One doctor we learned was selling sulfthiazole tablets at a peso a tablet. They preferred to have us treat them and send them on our evacuation chain, Many we could not refuse. They tried to bring their whole family of wives, sisters, and dozens of children with them. It took a constant guard to keep them out of the area. He would turn his back for a minute and the tents would be over run. From daylight till dusk the area was surrounded by all ages of Filipinos. We built a fence. By the weight of a mob, they broke it down. Always there were two or three hundred leaning against the fence. If a truck or ambulance drove into the area, they followed it in and had to be driven out. Once the guards had to fire over their heads to get a mob moving out of the area when we got in a large number of casualties. We augmented ourselves with twenty guerrillas with arms but it made matters worse. They had brothers or cousins they let in to see what we were doing. At meal times, it was like being in a zoo. They stood and watched each mouth full go in. When the scraps were collected there was a mad scramble and fight to pick up a few pieces. It wasn't that they were hungry. We didn't see a starved native in the area. They simply wanted to try something different than fresh fish, eggs, chicken, pork or vegetables, which seemed absurd to us after living in cans for over a year. Eggs and chickens were abundant. A can of bully beef would buy two dozen eggs.

30.    The company of infantry which was with us moved out and left us with a collecting company. The RCT Headquarters was about three miles back of us closer to Manila road. We woke up one daylight being fired upon by the machine gun of their perimeter. Running across the field in the clear were two scraggly Japs who had tried to infiltrate the bumps of the 148 Field Artillery. They ran through our area, by


the collecting company, where two of their men pinned them down and killed them, all in view from our cots. We received several (sic) criticism from the infantry particularly so the collecting company, for firing their guns. COMBAT MEDICS!

31.    The first casualties we received at Santa Maria were very severe. One in particular we laid aside to die while we worked on the remainder. His name was Blue Eye, an Indian from New Mexico. He had a four inch hole in his right chest wall, lacerated lung, split diaphragm and deep laceration of the liver, all across its dome. He failed to respond to shock therapy. His sucking wound was packed. Each breath seemed his last. After the other fourteen were operated upon, Blue Eye was still in a semi-comotosed condition. Without anesthesia the liver packing was removed and capule (sic) sutured, the diaphragm was closed, and the defect in the chest wall was closed with silver wire looped over the adjacent unfractured ribs. He was given five pints of blood before the operation and three more after. His color began to return slightly but he remained comotosed. I expected to learn of his death during the night. In the morning when I passed the ward, Blue Eye was sitting on his cot shaving. He refused to remain in bed, never complained of pain, ran no fever under penicillin therapy and was evacuated on his 6th post-operative day.

32.    On March 4th, we received orders to join the 158 RCT at Balayan. We evacuated our patients and departed on the fifth in 2 ½ ton trucks borrowed. from the 148 FA Bn. The road was first to Manila which required hours longer than necessary because the road was filled solid with civilians, going and coming, in small two wheeled, horse drawn, carts, in carabao pulled carts, in push carts or walking coolie fashion loaded down with bags of belongings balanced on poles over the shoulder.

33.    Manila itself was crowded as we passed through, particularly the north side bawdyhouse districts and cheap shops district. Toward the center of the city and. across the river by the walled city, the buildings were completely demolished, burned out, still smoking, and malodorous. The Army was busy with bull-dozers clearing the streets and putting in permanent communication lines. We passed through the south side by the race track and polo field and residential districts and found destruction and waste everywhere – but happy civilians. We had never seen anything comparable to that burned out, destroyed city.

34.    Soon we had gone way south to the hill road above Lake Taal which was beautiful and cool and appeared out of the war and continued down hill until we arrived in the town of Balayan and reported to General MacNider.


35.    We chose a camp site on the side of a hill overlooking the town and bay on one side, and a 1000 foot air strip where L-5 planes were to arrive to remove our patients. One other means of evacuation was possible—by ambulance to Nasugbu, a two and a half hour trip. The choice of an area was bad. The wind began to blow the next morning and continued as long as we were in the area—three days. All of the dust from the dry fields and air strip blew through our tents, covering everything, making surgery almost impossible. When the planes landed or took off again the patients in the wards were covered with dust so thick they had to be washed again and redressed.

36.    As much of our evacuation as possible was by L-5 light planes. All litter cases left us in this manner. The sitters, fever, diarrhea, walking wounded, were put on ambulances and sent each morning to Nasugbu. In our immediate task force, there was no other medical installation. We functioned as a collecting company, clearing company, portable surgical hospital, and evacuation hospital. Four ambulances of the 409th Coll Co under the 263 Medical Battalion were assigned to us for evacuation from us to the rear.

37.    The 8th of March saw us moving again, this time to Lemery. We set up in an excellent area, grass covered and shadowed by coconut trees on the edge of the town. The night before our arrival the town had received heavy shelling from the Japs across the river in Taal. We were advised by the General to set up on the edge of town, which had been destroyed by the burning and shelling.

38.    The problems of sanitation, surgery, civilians and artillery were the same as elsewhere. We were shelled each of several nights. Only two or three shells fell in our immediate area, as the Japs got the range of the town.

39.    Evacuation continued by L-5 planes, first back to Balayan and then forward to the 1st Battalion 158 Inf perimeter at Alitagtag where the field artillery had a cub strip which, with a little lengthening, was excellent for the L-5 planes. It was the first time in our experience that patients were evacuated back to the point where they had fallen to be flown away.

40.    Medical supplies were brought to us in the same way. Sitters were put in ambulances, and when the number became too great, into 2 ½  ton trucks and sent to Nasugbu.


41.    We began at Limery to see great number of Jap atrocities against civilians. Women and children and old men cut or stabbed with bayonet or sabre were the usual civilian wounds. One particular type of wound we saw in five patients—sabre cuts through both eyes into the crania vault followed by a deep cut across the back of the neck, and shoulders in an attempt at decapitation. All five lived but with total blindness. Several of the wounds were interesting as such. The sabre or bayonet had passed through the upper abdomen and out the back with very little damage. One had only a severance of the right gastric artery with massive hemorrhage and no other serious injury to viscus or large vessel. Through and through chest wounds were common, the point of the blade passing beneath the scapula. The majority of them lived but with frightful scars or with loss of sight or limb.

42.    About this time we received eight survivors of 240 Filipino Civilians who had been herded into a church; sealed up and dynamited. They had various degrees of extensive burns about the body, face and extremities. With the usual therapy, they lived to be evacuated.

43.     On the 16th, General MacNider moved us to Mojon, a small barrio centrally located in the perimeter of fighting. Our main problem was one of evacuation. Casualties among American troops were light but civilian casualties and medical cases were great. We treated five hundred and thirty seven patients in this camp in eight days, probably our heaviest total of patients for any given week in our history. We had only three officers and had the fortunate and unfortunate occurrence of one of the three leaving on rotation to the states, after 33 months overseas. That very day we closed to reequip ourselves for another beach landing which put us on the beach with the first battalion to land at Legaspi.

44.    L-5 evacuation worked very well from the Alitagtag strip. Twenty six was the greatest number we were able to fly out in one day. The remainder went by 2 ½  ton truck and ambulance. The greatest number to be evacuated in one day was seventy one.

45.    About the 22d of March, medical units of the 11th Airborne Division arrived along with that division and we were able to shift the burden of medical, civilians and evacuation problems to their shoulders in order to close by the 24th.

46.    The dental health of the command was excellent during this period. All personnel had been checked in November at Noemfoor by the 71st Evacuation Hospital.


47.    Supply was the best it had been in our three years overseas. Whatever was needed was promptly sent to us. There was no delay ever encountered in any essential items in this period.

48.     On the 28th we moved to the beach, mobile loaded entirely, leaving no rear echelon, and put ourselves on an LSM, steamed in convoy around the tip of Luzon up the bay of Legaspi Port, by Mt Mayon to land at H plus 20 minutes at Legaspi Port.

Major, MC