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Headquarters, Third Portable Surgical Hospital, A.P.O. 704

A. P. O. 704

SUBJECT: Medical History, 1 July, 1944 to 30 September, 1944.

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

1.    The Historical Report of 1 July, 1944 to 30 September, 1944 covers the period from 22 June, 1944 to the latter date because it gives the complete history of our activities in the Cyclone Tack Force.

2.    The Cyclone Task Force was organized and put into operation on June 22, 1944. The 3rd Portable Surgical Hospital was attached, at that time to the 6th Division and in operation as a surgical hospital between the Tor-Tirfome [Tirfoam] Area below Sarmi with the 20th Inf. Regt. The 11th Portable Surgical Hospital was attached to the Cyclone Task Force but on this date relieved us and we returned to Toem. Colonel Sandlin, Commanding the 158 Inf. Regt. requested of General Patrick that we be assigned in its place, as we had previously satisfactorily worked together, and as the 11th Portable Surgical Hospital had just been committed to combat which would necessitate another movement of each organization at a time when casualties were heavy in the Tor-Tirfome [Tirfoam] Area. The request was granted by the 6th Army and we were attached to Cyclone Task Force on 24 June, 1944 by Radiogram dated 24 June, 1944.

3.    From June 16 to June 26, 1944 our time was spent packing, re-equipping and preparing for the coming invasion. On June 26th, 1944 the camp was packed into 2 2 ½  ton trucks borrowed from Lt. Col. Rollings, 27th Combat Engr., 2 3/4 ton trucks, a jeep and one ton trailer. The equipment, thus loaded, is the minimum amount required to function as a complete hospital and everything carried is required on the D-day set up. We left no rear echelon and did not bulk load any


equipment because of distressing previous experiences. We carried all equipment necessary for the completion of a campaign.

4.    Our mission on a Task Force is to supply adequate surgical care, functioning as a surgical team and give such medical care until an evacuation chain is established or until a higher echelon field hospital can arrive and safely set up, at which time we fill, the other function prescribed by T/O, i.e. that of a station hospital. We have carried out these functions until the completion of the Cyclone Task Force.

5.    On June 26th, 1944, the equipment and drivers were mobile loaded on LST 467 and the following day, personnel was committed to the open upper deck for a practice run. The LST fleet pulled off the beach and cruised off Wakde Island until daylight of June 27, 1944 when they disgorged alligators [Landing Vehicle, Tracked, LVT] filled with infantry soldiers making a practice beach landing. Once free of their burden the LST returned and beached again at Toem. We had no part in the practice, only in loading and filling our space on deck for the coming invasion. The practice was designed because it was the first time the 158 Inf. Regt. was to land by alligator and invade a coral ringed island.

6.    We remained on board, in the heat and weather for two days, the enlisted men sleeping on the “sun” deck under trucks and becoming exhausted from little rest and two meals a day. A bad situation, but it seemed illogical to unload with the actual run a matter of days away. Everyone settled into that apathy of waiting in which one spend time and does nothing; a maneuver in which the American soldier is well trained from the day of induction. Having made two recent beach landings from LSTs, successfully and without loss, the members of my command showed not the slightest apprehension of another one. They showed little interest even in the new place to be invaded, one place or another making no difference


because of the same walk through water, the same labor of setting up a camp, the same stream of wounded, the same rumor of enemy strength and opposition and the same optimism that nothing could beat us.

7.    On June 29th the LST pulled out at night and proceeded through the Shouten Islands by Biak to anchor off the NW corner of Noemfoor Island at day light, about 1300 yards from the coral reef. With daylight a tremendous aerial and naval bombardment took place along the coast; the bombing and strafing were in full view. The naval shells could be seen striking the shores, trees, and camouflaged defenses. The Infantry departed in alligators and landed along a strip of beach opposite Kamiri Air Strip and fighting could and was followed through field glasses. Each forward move of the Infantry was marked by smoke grenades beyond which the destroyers continued to shell and throw in a strafing fire. Patrols along the sandy beach could be seen to deploy and tire, rise and move forward, and fire again. Answering fire from the Japanese could be seen because of tracers and lines of dust clouds running along the beach where the soldiers were deployed. We saw none of the men on the beach hit. The rifle and machine gun fire was all about them but never right on them and they continued their forward move. Just to our left a destroyer, closer into shore than we were, was fired on by a machine gun from a position on the side of a hill. The gun could be easily spotted during its fire and before the burst had ceased the destroyer laid shells right on it. Trees, coral, gun and men were evaporated in the dust, when it cleared there was only a bare spot on the side of the hill.

8.   Soon after the infantry was ashore LCMs began to remove mobile equipment from the LST to the edge of the reef where they were driven ashore through two to four feet of water. The feeding of LCMs by LST is an interesting phenomena and looks like some prehistoric monster nourishing its young. There was some difficulty in joining the mouthful of an LCM to the “mouth” of an LST because of the


sea becoming rougher as the day advanced. When we were transferring ourselves from one to the other several attempts had to be made before they were connected, all of which was time consuming. Lines of troops wading over the coral, with equipment held high, were fired on by enemy mortars located about the hill beyond the airstrip. The water spouts from the shells hardly deflected the moving soldiers in their forward move. Trucks and trailers, jeeps, engineer and artillery equipment began moving across to shore under their own power with an occasional one getting drowned out, or getting stuck between cracks in the coral. An alligator full of ammunition was hit and began to blaze furiously igniting a 2 ½ ton truck sitting next to it on the beach. Both rapidly became completely destroyed.

9.    We joined the parade ashore getting onto an LCM in a heavy rain that blotted out the reef, the shore, and the island. The LCMs beached and the first truck drove off into water over the engine and drowned out. The ship pulled off and found another place along the coral. We stepped off into neck deep water. The water-proofed vehicles drove off. It was a laughable sight to see a jeep completely under water with only the drivers head and the top out and see it continue to the dry lend. We collected on the beach without casualties, with no loss, but thoroughly wet equipment and proceeded to a previously designated area on the far side of the air strip about in its middle, next to the 158 Inf. Regt. C.P., to be met by a stream of casualties before we could unload. The established D-day routine is to send all casualties to the LST which carries a surgical team and 120 hospital beds. We diverted them out in that manner to be treated on the ship and immediately evacuated. By 3:30 PM we were set up and doing surgical proceedings.

10.    Our first few patients were badly wounded Japanese, Formosans and Javanese with a few shell fragment wounds among Americans. Surgical work was


light and gave us a chance to clear and clean up the area which was full of blasted trees and coral lumps.

11.    The 158th Headquarters perimeter was about us on the hill above and we were not required to protect ourselves by manning fox-holes. On our right were components of the 158 Inf. Regt supply and on our left was the 158th C. P. At our back was a coral hill and in front of us the 637 Medical Clearing Co. The whole area from one end to the other end of the strip was packed tightly with troops. One camp's ending was the next camp's beginning. Straddle trenches and kitchens were adjoining. Trucks and equipment lined the strip from the beach to the depth of the perimeter on the first day. Along each side of the strip were bombed and wrecked Japanese planes. Through our area ran a narrow gauge rail line which was probably used for push carts to load coral for the strip and move bombs to the strip. In all this rubbish and confusion the wounded arrived. The operating room consisted of two C. P. tents set together, these were put up first. One end of the tent held a light and a stretcher, the other for surgical supplies and scrub basins. Just along the top of the hill four P 38s were strafing and each time they made a circle and dived it was questionable whether they would begin their shooting a little too soon as they passed over us. A fly was put up just to the front of the C. P. tents to hold the surplus wounded. Shock therapy was given here and debridement and casts applied under Pentothol anesthesia. Where all the spectators came from, and there was always a crowd, is still a puzzle to me. There is so much to be done on a first day simply in protecting oneself that it seemed impossible that there could be a leisure class even on an invasion. But there always is. We put them to work along with our own men, moving patients, taking off clothes, putting up ward tents and digging fox-holes. Most spectators like to do some little thing for a wounded man even if it is taking off his shoes. It


makes them “belong”. By nightfall the camp was complete, kitchen, ward tents, supply tent, latrine and even small wall, tents for the officers. We put up about sixteen visiting officers who had no place to go. Some were observers from higher headquarters and some were simply lost and didn't quite know how to begin, hoping to have some one come along and tell them where to go and what to do. That night we had a bombing. Three planes came down the strip and separated to make a second run. We were doing surgery at the time, most people got near or in fox-holes. The planes overshot their mark and dropped bombs from the end of the strip out across the coral feet. No casualties.

12.    On D-plus-l the 503 Paratroop Infantry Regiment arrived overhead in Douglas transports and commenced to jump. The first two planes dropped their soldiers at a very low altitude. We, at the middle of the strip, could see men land just as the chutes opened. It looked impossible that forty men were not killed. Men all over the strip rushed to the paratroopers to help them up or put them on stretchers. Those who followed dropped from a greater altitude along the entire length of the strip. The strip was more or less cleared in the center but troops, vehicles, tents, and heavy equipment lined the sides as deep as the hill, against which was our camp. Paratroopers landed on trucks, stumps, tents, ammunition, bombed Jap planes, and even caught in the two or three remaining tall fig trees. Chutes were opening just as a few hit the ground. Helmets, knives and other equipment were jerked off when the chutes opened and rained on the troops below. One man was seen swinging in his straps, hit the broad side of an alligator and failed to rise. Another with his foot caught in the risers landed butt end on a stump. One landed on a tent and brought it down with him. Another had his chute caught by a limb of a tree, about fifty feet in the air. The signal corps climbed and got him without mishap.


13.    Before the last paratroopers of this battalion had jumped we began getting patients. Within half an hour there were fifty-four men with broken or sprained legs, backs arms or cerebral concussions and fractured skulls, or deep lacerations. There was more work to be done in the treatment of shock alone, doing no definitive surgical work, then four men could do immediately. Captain Stevens, Regt. Paratroop Surgeon, joined our team and was enthusiastic and diligent in working with us through that day and night. We stopped work only during the first air alert. Fractures were reduced and casts applied, wounds were debrided and sulfathiazole and vaseline gauze dressing put on. Plasma, glucose or whole blood was given as needed.

14.    No minor cases were treated in our hospital. They were transferred to the 637th Med. Clearing Co., which set up adjacent to us. By the end of D-plus-3 every available cot was filled by a patient and the EM of my command were sleeping in jungle hammocks.

15.    The accidents of the jumps occurred to the paratroopers again on D-plus-2. The second jump delivered thirty-five patients to us with similar injuries as of the day before and required that we work most of the third night on the island.

16.    We had a black-out and bombing raid while in the middle of an abdominal operation which Captain Fernbach was doing. The patient wounded was Pvt Malone of the 158 Inf. Regt., shot in the belly by Jap sniper fire. Bombs were dropped in the vicinity of the far end of the air-strip. The operation continued to its completion as though it was of everyday occurrence and I commend him for it.

17.    Each day as patients recovered from shook, when plaster was dry, wounds clean and the patient more or less fever free, they were evacuated. We make it a practice to evacuate patients when they are in such good shape that they require no expert attention for at least 48 hours. It has occurred in the past that patients


evacuated when seriously ill get overlooked in the rush of large numbers of patients on the LST or in a new hospital in the rear, with possible disastrous results. We prefer to hold all patients until they are out of serious danger.

18.    Surprisingly few members of the 158 Inf. Regt. came to the hospital wounded but most of them that did were some of the most profound we have seen in combat...large shell-fragment wounds of the thigh, back and arm muscles with much loss of substance, complete destruction of the lower jaw, several abdominal wounds with multiple lacerations of smell and large bowel, penetrating wounds of the groin and penis, and one patient with his face completely removed by machine gun fire, nose, cheeks, upper and lower jaw, and part of the tongue, who persisted in living and was eventually evacuated.

19.  On D-plus-6 we received orders from the Task Force Surgeon to move our hospital to an area between the two airstrips and proceeded to do so carrying all patients. We built the hospital around a centrally placed operating room and kitchen, lined the wards up on one side of the supply, office and housing quarters on the other, making a very workable camp and continued to function.

20.    Patients were received from various directions, from the 158th Inf. Regt. and the 503rd Prcht. Inf. Regt. Those patients wounded about Namber were given shock therapy in the 263rd Med. Clearing Co. and evacuated to us by LSMs for debridement and repair.

21.    No. of Patients and break-down:

22.  The 3rd Portable Surgical Hospital is composed of 4 Officers and 30 Enlisted Men. The officers are two surgeons and two specialists in internal medicine and tropical diseases.

WILLIAM L. GARLICK, Major, M. C.     
Commanding Officer and Surgeon.

Paul A. Fernbach, Captain, M. C.   
Surgeon and Intelligence Officer.

James R. Karns, Captain, M. C.     
Medical Officer, Personnel Officer and Adjutant

Stephen E. Muller, Captain, M. C.     
Medical Officer and Supply Officer.


23.    We are particularly fortunate in having been created out of the 42nd General Hospital with which unit we came overseas and had known each other for a number of years in civil practice.

24.    On July 16, 1944, the 71st Evacuation Hospital began taking patients and the battle casualties soon ceased as the enemy was more or lees annihilated and only “mopping-up” patrols have continued, hunting small parties of Japanese until the present date. Our work gradually ceased to be surgical and settled down to the steady flow of Station Hospital work, i.e., tinea and ulcers, infections and tonsillitis, malaria and dengue, chronic back aches and goldbricks.

25.    Food has been excellent in this campaign. We have had some fresh meat and fresh eggs and vegetables. Even the tin rations have been good. Sanitation has been good with no cases of diarrhea. There are very few insects and flies.

26.    On September 23, 1944 we ceased to function as a Station Hospital and have since been sitting, re-equipping ourselves and keeping the area clean. We also take sick call for various organizations in our near vicinity.

Major, M. C.,

SOURCE:  National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 112, The Army Surgeon General, Entry 54A, 3d Portable Surgical Hospital History, Box 611.