Share Your Story

 

As part of constructing the South Dakota World War II Memorial, we want to preserve the stories of South Dakotans during that period. Please share with us a story of your experience during that time.

 

Orville “Dude” Eggebraaten

Orville served in Germany during World War II.  He was a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient.

Submitted 7/27/01

 

Albert Buxcel

Albert served from 1941 to 1945 and was wounded in Okinawa.

Submitted 7/27/01

Russell M. Walseth, Sr. and Russell M. Walseth, Jr.

Both Russell M. Walseth, Jr. and Sr. served in the Navy during World War II.  Russell M. Walseth, Sr. served from 1943 to 1946 as a Lt. Commander.  Russell M. Walseth, Jr. served from July, 1944 to June, 1946.

Submitted 7/27/01

 

Merle E. Blosmo

Merle was drafted and served from the fall of 1941 to the fall of 1945.

Submitted 7/27/01

Russell I. Green

Russell served in World War II from February 10, 1941 to September 9, 1945.

Submitted 7/27/01

Larry Martin Hamblin

Larry served in the 27th Infantry Division in the Pacific.  He also served in Tokyo with General Douglas McArthur’s honor guard.

Submitted 7/27/01

Delmer Kono

Delmer  went into the United States Army on on October 22, 1942, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

From Fort Snelling he was shipped to Pittsburg, California. Delmer was shipped overseas to the Hawaiian Islands and was stationed in Hawaii for two years. After two years he was shipped to the South Pacific island of New Britain. He spent time there until a skin disease forced him to be shipped back to the U.S. He spent time in the hospital in San Francisco and in Palm Springs,

California. From there he was shipped to Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was discharged from the U.S. Army in October, 1945.

Submitted 7/31/01

Arthur Wollman

Arthur Wollmann grew up in a German speaking family near Freeman. When he entered the Army in 1942, he hoped he wouldn't be sent to Europe.  He says, "I really didn't want to go over there because I still have relatives in Germany and so I really didn't want to go over there." Instead, he and the other members of the elite Red Arrow division boarded  ship for the Pacific theater where he'd spend the next three years battling  the Japanese in New Guinea and the Philippines. The division soon established quite a reputation in combat.  Wollmann says, " Yes, I guess we were too good because Macarthur used us quite a bit."  In fact, Wollmann's Red Arrows spent over 600 days in combat..more than any  division in any war.  Wollmann quickly moved up the ranks and became a platoon sergeant. Fighting in the Philippine province of Layte was brutal. A full company of 250 went in. "And we lost 75 in about 15 minutes. Wollmann says, they just cut us to pieces with machine guns.] Layte was bad, and, of course Luzon. Layte, where our company by this the time they pulled us out, there was only 15 men left."  It's hard to imagine enduring constant fire from a well entrenched enemy. It was while trying to take out a machine gun nest that Wollmann was wounded the first time. He and five others were advancing up a hill when he heard the popping grenade pins. "And I hollered,Wollmann says, grenades and we hit the ground and one of them rolled underneath my buddy."  Wollmann's friend was killed, he escaped with shrapnel in the arm and returned to the front lines after a couple weeks but shaken by the experience. "You know if you're a platoon, he says, you can't show your scared..even though you are."  There wasn't time as the fighting was relentless. He and his men managed to take and hold an important road..killing many of the enemy. That operation led to a Bronze Star for heroic action.   Wollmann won the Silver Star for gallantry after he single handedly took out 21 Japanese soldiers.  Alone, he stumbled upon 40 to 50 Japanese down a hill. He got behind a rock and opened fire. After his ammo was gone, he only had one weapon left; an incendiary grenade and I thought well, here goes and I threw that. When I did, the grass started burning. They must have thought I had a secret weapon and they took off.  When I got back to my outfit, I just shook. I never smoked, but I smoked 3 cigarettes in about a half hour.  Wollmann's war came to an end in April of 1945. He was hit 4 times by machine gun fire including a bullet through the liver and this one that wound up in his wrist. His damaged kidney was removed in a field hospital but, by some miracle, he survived.  Like so many other combat veterans from World War Two, Art Wollmann preferred not to talk about his war experiences when it was all over.  But now, at age 80, it's time.  "Maybe we want to get it off our chests since we're getting old. We kept it in our minds and want to release some of the pressure." says Wollmann.  When the state passed a law allowing veterans, who left high school for the war, to receive a diploma, Wollmann decided to take advantage of it and last month joined with the graduating class of Freeman. After his war record was read and his name called, their was applause and a standing ovation. A moment that meant more than his many medals.

"There were a few tears, says Wollmann, and I was up there standing just thinking to myself how lucky I am. I knew I must be appreciated as a veteran." 

With Eye on Keloland, I'm Doug Lund. 6/8/2001

James R. Miller

James served in the Air Force from April 8, 1942 to May 31, 1965.

Submitted 7/2/7/01

James V. Keck, Sr.

James served in the Army as part of the 10th Mountain Division.

Submitted 7/27/01

Donald W. Matthews

Donald served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945. 

Submitted 7/27/01

John Peter Pagones

John served in the Army Air Corps from 1941 to October 10, 1945.  He served in the European Theater for four years.

Submitted 7/27/01

Bernard Kampa

Bernard Kampa served in the Army Air Force and was killed in action.

Submitted 7/27/01

Eugene J. Kampa

Eugene served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Submitted 7/27/01

Wilbert Mathiesen

Wilbert was killed in action in Germany in 1944.

Submitted 7/28/01

Delmar Westerman

Delmar was killed in action at Iwo Jima during World War II.

Submitted 7/28/01

Robert Danes

Robert died in Okinawa on April 29, 1945.

Submitted 7/28/01

William R. Stone

William served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater aboard the USS Kingman.

Submitted 7/28/01

John C. Smiley, M.D.

John was a surgeon who served in the Navy in the South Pacific until he received a medical discharge due to a heart problem. He received the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

Submitted 7/28/01

Kenneth J. Larrington

Kenneth served over four years in the Signal Corps in the South Pacific. 

Submitted 7/28/01

Philip A. Ellwein

Philip was a Staff Sergeant with the 77th Division of the 307 Infantry.  It was an Anti-Tank Company.

Submitted 7/28/01

Vern A. Fairfield

Vern served in the Pacific Theatre from October, 1942 to June, 1945.

Submitted 7/31/01

Zane Vincent Kortum

Zane entered the Army in 1944 as a Private and a tank driver.  He saw combat duty in Italy.  He was promoted ot a First Sergeant in 1946 and as a Military Police Corps Lieutenant in November, 1946 in Rome, Italy.  He retired as a Colonel in the US Military Police after 31 years of service.

Submitted 7/31/01

James J. Wermers

James enlisted in the Navy in either Mitchell or Parkston.  He was from Dimock.

Submitted 7/13/01

Roy Anderson

Roy served in the Air Corps and Marines in the Pacific.

Submitted 7/13/01

Truman J. Hedemark

Truman served in the Navy(Pacific).

Submitted 7/13/01

Marvin Engel

Marvin served in the Army(Pacific).

Submitted 7/13/01

Ken Henseler

Ken served in the Navy as a medical corpsman assigned to a Marine unit.

Submitted7/13/01

Clifford Dexter

Clifford enlisted in the Marines in the Pacific.

Submitted 7/13/01

Donald W. Merriman

Donald joined the U.S. Navy on September 17, 1942 at San Diego Naval Training Station, further training schools at Texas A&M College Station Texas, Memphis Tennesee, Yellow Water and Jacksonville Florida.  I went overseas as a Aviation Radioman Gunner 3rd class petty officer from Goat Island receiving station between Oakland and San Francisco aboard the Mormactern, of th McCormack line of San Francisco in September of 1943 after spending fifteen days in the brig for being over liberty, long story.  The ship was greatly overloaded with aviation gas, dynamite and amphibious landing tanks and nearly broke up in a storm at sea.  I kissed the ground at Nomeau, New Caladonia, then was sent north and west through four of the Islands of the Solomon group, Russell Island, Guadalcanal and Munda.  While at Munda I received word that my father had committed suicide and as a result I was given a discharge to go home and help my mother with the farm.  I was intercepted at Alameda and was sent to Salton Sea naval station for a brief time, then on to Fallon Navel Air Station where I was attached to CASU 54 for administrative purposes but spent the rest of my time in service with Fathead detachment #2.  I will never know why I was discharged other than I cursed an officer at Alameda for saying that he had lost my orders for discharge.  Then again maybe they had sent so many radioment with my skills overseas that they thought they needed me.  Thanks to Lt. James Stoner, a former farmer from South Dakota, I was given leave in the spring and fall for planting and harvesting.  The part of my service life experience was that I met my future wife, Frances at Fallon.  I was discharged at Wold Chamberlain Field in Minneapolis Minnesota, November 9, 1945 on France’s birthday.  

Submitted 7/13/01

Clarence Stanley

Clarence served in the U.S. Air Force from 1940 to 1942.  Clarence was killed while flying the hump in China as the pilot of a bomber.  He along with Warren Olien were some of the first casualties from Perkins County.

Submitted 7/13/01

Milo Nielson

Milo served in the U.S. Army from 1941to 1945 in Europe.  Milo came home so in shock that he could never talk about his experiences, if he did try he would breakdown crying.  Milo died to soon, leaving a wife and at least three sons, those war years took a great toll of his health. 

Submitted 7/13/01

Herman Frerking

Herman served in the U.S. Army in 1940 to 1945 in Africa, Italy and Germany in a Hospital Corp. where they picked up the sick and wounded from the battle field.  Herman never talked must about his active duty experiences.  He worked as a mechanic and barber in Lemmon  until he retired.  He died of cancer in November 2000.

Submitted 7/13/01

Warren Olien

Warren served in the U.S. Navy in 1941.  He died as part of crew of a PBY of the coast of California while on sub patrol.

Submitted 7/13/01

James O’Toole

James served as a pilot in WW II.

Submitted 7/13/01

Arlo Henry Schroeder

Arlo enlisted into the U.S. Army June 25, 1941, at Fort Crook, Nebraska.  He was sent to  Camp Callan, San Diego, CA, for three months basic training.  He was in the first group drafted from Moody County.

Shipped to Dutch Harbor, AL, for one and half years.  All strategic places on Ft. Mears were attacked by Japanese bombers, fighter planes, and Zeroes.  Arlo was not up on Mt. Ballyhoo with the artillery guns at the time, but on the beach  on a special project.  Men dug into fox holes and later returned to Ballyhoo to sleep in their beds, but the others who stayed there slept out in the hills scared to death.  The United States only had slow moving PBY’s and Navy AT6 planes then.

For another year and half, he and his group occupied several of the Aleutian islands, the last one being Attu where the Japanese were finally driven from the area.  He served in the 250th Coast Artillery.

In October 1945 he was sent to Camp Hood, Texas, and furloughed; then was placed in Co. A, 558th Engineers Heavy Pontoon Bn, Camp Swift, Texas, sent to the Dalles, Oregon, to build pontoon bridges on the Columbia River and make a training film so military personnel in Germany could reassemble for crossing the Rhine River in Germany because all the bridges had been blown up.

WW II was over in Germany by them, so Arlo went back to Camp Swift and was furloughed.  He was separated from the U.S. Army on June 17, 1945, at Fort Snelling, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Arlo received the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal with star, Five overseas service bars, Good Conduct Medal.

An interesting sidelight of this story is that, while he was in Camp Hood, his younger brother Roay was too; and they were priviliged to eat Christmas Day dinner together.  Roy was soon on his way to Pacific theater to fight the Japanese where he was wounded in Okinawa.

Submitted 7/13/01

Dorothy Steinbis Davis, R.N.

Dorothy served from February 1944 to February 1946 in the Army Nurse Corps, 57th Field Hospital, providing medical support to the casualties in the European Theater of Operations, including the Central Europe Campaign, Battle of the Bulge, Colmar Pocket, Rhineland Campaign, and prisioner-of-war camps.  The hospital received the Meritorious Unit Citation for its support of combat wounded during the period of the Battle of the Bulge.

Dorothy is a charter member of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, has held organizational and executive positions in that organization, and is presently it Corresponding Secretary.  She is the past president of the Battle of the Bulge

 Historical Foundation and now serves as its Executive Officer, providing administrative assistance in collecting and preserving the history of the Battle of the Bulge and the development and dedication of the Battle of the Bulge Memorial Conference Room at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.  She has served in American Red Cross leadership assignments and is the National Volunteer Consultant for Armed Forces Emergency Services, Director of the Medical Volunteers Program, and is National Chairman of the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee.  Dorothy Was the first woman to hold the position as Commander of the General George S. Meade Maryland Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars.  Under her tenure, the chapter won the prestigious Memphis Cup Award.

Among the honors Dorothy has received is the Edith Cavell Nurses Medal from the Belgian Red Cross for her participation in the care of the wounded of the Battle of the Bulge.  She was also selected as an Honorary Fellow and Curator by the U.S. Army Military History Institute, has twice been presented with the Clara Barton Hornors Award by the American Red Cross for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership, and was recently awarded the Patrick Henry Gold Medallion for Patriotic Achievement by the National Commander, Military Order of the World Wars.  In 1995, HRH King Albert II of Belgium awarded to her the decree of the KNIGHT OF THE ORDER OF THE CROWN for her service in the Battle of the Bulge, December 19, 1944 – January 25, 1945.  In 2001 the American Red Cross Honored Dorothy by naming a nurse’s award for her, to be known as the “Dorothy Davis Spirit Of Nursing Award” to be presented to a Red Cross Nurse each year.

Dorothy was married to the late Colonel William V. Davis and accompanied him on assignments in the United States as well as Japan, France, and Germany.  She has three daughters and two granddaughters, and lives in Rockville, Maryland.

The 57th Field hospital began operating with combat units on November 21, 1944, supporting various Infantry Divisions.  One of the greatest of moves, made necessary by the rapid advances of the divisions supported.  Many difficulties were experienced, especially the short time alloted for the movement, the lack of adequate transportation, the necessity of leaving holding units to care for nontransportable patients and the distances from one point of operation to the next.  All moves were completed under strict blackout conditions, and in practically every instance, the unit moved, set up for operation, and commenced the admission of patients within a maximum period of twenty-four hours.  Buildings utilized during these operations were generally full of debris and refuse, caused by heavy shelling and former occupation by combat units; because of the close proximity to the front lines, it was necessary to maintain complete blackout, requiring considerable ingenuity in preparing the building for the operation of the hospital.  This phase occurred during the winter months, when constant rain and snow hampered operations.  The total number of moves accomplished by this unit from November 21, 1944 to February 22, 1945 was twenty eight.

The second phase of the 57th  Field Hospital’s operation with the Seventh Army was air evacuation of combat wounded and recovered Allied Military Personnel.  This was under the supervision and control of the Operations Section, Surgeon’s Office, Seventh Army.  During the period of March 27, 1945 to May 21, 1945 units of this organization operated as far East as Munich and evacuated a total of 12, 864 patients.

This unit achieved and maintained a high standard of discipline and military courtesy.  As nearly as possible under field conditions, a neat, clean and soldierly appearance of all personnel was maintained through efficient use of the organizations shower unit, washing machines, and continued use of the  unit tailor and barbers.  Appearance of installations and equipment brought favorable comment from supported units and inspecting officers.  Serviceablility of equipment was assured by daily periodic inspections. 

Dorothy Davis spent 19 months in a field hospital caring for those wounded in World War II.  Two weeks ago , she returned to Europe for a much more joyous reason to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.

Ms. Davis, junior vice commander of the Fort George G. Meade Chapter of the Military Order of World Wars, was one of seven veterans from around the country selected to join the U.S. Secretary of the  Army in London; Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic; and Moscow.

In Moscow, the delegation met with President Clinton and accompanied him to Red Square where he laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

Being in Europe on the golden anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, May 8th, was “just a marvelous experience,” said Ms. Davis, who served two years with the Army Nurse Corps, 57th Field Hospital.

The seven veterans selected to participate in the European commemorations represented all branches of the service including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army Air Corps, Coast Guard and Army Nurse Corps.

The whirlwind European tour started May 5 with a flight from Andrews Air Force Base on the Secretary of the Army’s plane.  Among the activities in which the group participated were a ceremony at the Cambridge American Cemetary, which was presided over by Vice President Al Gore; an “unforgettable service” at St. Paul’s Cathedral; a meeting with Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel; two parades; several receptions; and a visit to a new war museum that recently opened in Moscow, Ms. Davis said.  “Everything was really well-organized down to the minute,” she added.

Prague is beautiful, and travelers enjoyed walking through the capital city and over a bridge in the evening while the buildings were lit up, Ms. Davis said.  Highlights of the visit to Prague included signing autographs in a square and watching a parade from a balcony of the National Theater there, she said.

Wherever the delegation went, they had an opportunity to meet with veterans of that country.  The foreign veterans were cordial and many had fond memories of meeting Americans during the war, the former Army nurse said.  “Soldiers are soldiers no matter what nationality,” she said.

The Rockville resident received a particularly war welcome when translators told the foreign veterans that she had been a nurse.  “So many were injured and needed nursing care.  When they learned I had been a nurse, they’d take my hand and kiss it,” she said.

In the Army Nurse Corps, Ms. Davis was one of the 15 nurses assigned to the 57th Field Hospital.  The hospital was close to the front lines and its staff cared for the msot seriously wounded soldiers who could not handle a trip to a hospital further away from the fighting.

Because the hospital was so close to the front lines, the staff frequently heard artillery and were bombed at times, Ms. Davis said.  The facility also moved frequenlty, about every four or five days to keep up with the troops.

On V-E Day itself, Ms. Davis recalled she was outside Dachau, Germany, where prisoners of the Nazi concentration camp were evacuated by air.

Originally from South Dakota, Ms. Davis was recruited for military service by the Red Cross shortly after she graduated from the University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing and served in the Army Nurse Corps for two years. 

Today, Ms. Davis is the National Volunteer Consultant for Armed Forces Emergency Services for the American Red Cross.  She is also the executive officer of the Battle of the Bulge Historical Foundation, providing administrative assistance in collecting and preserving the history of the battle and developing a memorial conference room at Fort George G. Meade.

Based on her service, she was selected for the trip by Secretary of the Army Togo D. West Jr. upon the recommendation of Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter, executive director of the Department of Defense 50th Anniversary of World War II Commemoration Committee.

Caring for the sick and wounded during the hostilities in the ETO during 1944-1945 proved to be a demanding and exhausting task, and frequently placed the hospitals and staff in close proximity of enemy fire.  There were not only the wounded from the outgoing battle situations, but also casualties from trench foot, frostbite, and other cold-related injuries caused by the intense cold and snow.  During only 40 days of the Battle of the Bulge, there were 81,000 casualties, including 19,000 killed.

I shall share with you some of the experiences of the 57th Field Hospital, in which I served as an Army Nurse.  In preparing this paper, I studied the histories of other hospitals in the ETO.  Several similar experiences were noted:  Everyone complained about the never-ending mud—be it in France, Belgium, or Luxembourg.  Also mentioned in each history was the firm belief that the extensive training received in the States enabled the units to meet their responsibilities in the most adverse and grueling of conditions.  Third, the sense of camaraderie and family that developed within the units provided emotional and physical support to the hospital personnel tasked with the responsibility of caring for the battlefield casualties.

As some of you may know, the Field Hospitals were small mobile units that included 13 physicians, 3 dental officers, 5 medical administrative officers, 18 nurses, 183 enlisted men, a chaplain, and 2 Red Cross workers.  This number was then divided into a headquarters and three smaller units.  These units were known as platoons or detachments.  Each unit was equipped to serve as a separate and complete hospital.  Most of the patients were those who were too severely wounded to withstand an ambulance ride further to the rear.  Small teams of specialized surgeons, nurses, and enlisted technicians would be assigned to the units to provide the surgical skills needed.

The 57th Field Hospital was activated in February 1944 at Camp Crowder, Missouri, and by the end of May it was fully staffed, including the 18 nurses—I was a brand new Second Lieutenant who found it a great adventure!  Many of the members of the 57th were from the Midwest, giving us some common roots, such as having gone through the Great Depression and the dust storms of the ‘30s.  Must of the strength came from the experienced leadership of the hospital staff.  The Commanding Officer was a physician from Iowa and had served as a medical officer in the CCC Camps, and the Chief Nurse had held a responsible health care position with telephone company in Omaha, Nebraska.  The Adjutant was from Illinois and had been in the Army since 1938—having survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he therefore had experiences in combat situations.  (And, as a personal note, after the war he became my husband and we had 30 adventuresome years together in the Army.)  The SGT/Major of the Hospital had served as an 18 year old doughboy in France in World War I, had much wisdom, a great sense of humor, and had the distinction at age 44 to be the oldest member of the hospital.  After the war he wrote the history of the 57th Field Hospital from the morning reports and other records.

On July 24, 1944, the hospital left the USA for Scotland.  We staffed a holding hospital at the airport in Prestwick, Scotland.  Many of the patients were those who had been wounded during the invasion of France and were now, at last, being air evacuated back to the States or to England for further treatment.  Our task was to provide needed medical and surgical care to these patients who were waiting to be evacuated.  Depending on the weather and the availability of airplanes, their stay at the tent hospital would be from 6 to 72 hours.  During the period of this assignment, August 12 to September 15, we cared for 5,934 patients.  Another duty of the hospital at that time was to operate a blood bank.  This blood bank received blood  coming from the United States by air and would reship it by air to the Continent.  During the war, the American Red Cross collected, from volunteer donors, 13.4 million pints of blood to be shipped to the military services all over the world.

With the completion of the assignment in Prestwick, the hospital was sent to a staging area in England, where equipment and supplies for service on the Continent were received.  On October 5, 1944, we began the trip across the English Channel in an LCI in what the Frenchmen described as the worst storm of the century.  Three day later, on October 8, with all of us horribly seasick, we were finally able to land at a broken down dock at Isigny, France.

The 57th first assignment on the Continent was in support of U.S. Seventh Army Armored and Infantry Divisions in the  vicinity of Baccarat, France.  We set up a hospital in a badly shelled building that was within sight and sound of gunfire and fighting aircraft overhead.  From that time, October 1944, until we departed French soil for Darmstadt, Germany, on April 1, 1945, the 57th operated continuously as three separate units, frequently within close proximity of enemy fire, as we crisscrossed the icy and snowy Voges mountains and Alsace area.  The hopital units moved 40 times within that period.  Usually, these moves took place during the night in blackout conditions so that the roads would be available for use by the tanks, infantry, and the Red Ball Express during the day.  Our patients were those who were critically wounded and needed extensive nursing care. 

Much time was also spent in moving.  Patients had to be prepared for arduous travel conditions to a hospital in the rear, equipment packed and loaded, and then preparations made for the journey to a new location.  If possible, a schoolhouse or a large building would be selected for the hospital by Army headquarters.  These sites had served for either German or Amercian troop billets and were often in deplorable conditions, so energy had to be spent just cleaning the area so that patients could be care for.  Trying to heat the patient care areas during the bitter cold was always a major challenge.  Frequently, patients on litters would be waiting when we arrived at a new location, so the nurses and doctors were busy preparing patients for surgery (which included cutting off all of their clothing to better examine them for injuries) while enlisted men were setting up the generator for electricity and assembling an x-ray unit, operating rooms, and post-op ward areas.

Although we were not assigned to the specific Battle of the Bulge Area, we were on the “French rim” of it and many of the wounded from that battle were cared for in the 57th Field Hospital.  During these winter months, the 57th detachments were assigned to the 3rd, 45th, 75th, 100th, and 103rd Infantry Divisions, the 12th and 14th Armored Divisions, and the 2nd French Armored Division.  However, we cared for any military wounded in the area (Some wer 87th Gls. Ed.).  In early January 1945, Detachment “B” moved to Saurrebourg, France, where we were immediately overwhelmed with the critically wounded.  Later, our Commanding Officer informed us that, at that time, our small detachment had been supporting 24 battalions of troops!

The hospital units were bombed several times in January 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge, and on several occasions units were in grave danger overrun by the Germans.  Rapid retreats were necessary, requiring us to hasitly prepare the wounded for travel.  Adequate transportation in these situations was always a grave problem.

On several occasions, we moved into a building that was still being used by a German Army Hospital.  The German medical staff were allowed to care for their wounded and evacuate their patients as quickly as possible.

After the Battle of the Bulge, the 57th was assigned to the 75th Infantry Division to provide medical support for its activity in the Colmar  Pocket in France.

In early March, the entire 57th Field Hospital was assigned to Toul, France, to care for 355 Allied national patients, mostly Russian, along with a few Yugoslavian, Serbian, and Polish nationals who had been liberated from the Germans six weeks earlier.  These few were the remainder of 20,000 prison laborers who had been forced by the Germans to work in the lime mines near Metz, France.  They suffered from tuberculosis, osteomyelitis, mine injuries, and all sorts of nutritional diseases.  Our task was to improve their health status sufficiently so as to make it possible for them to withstand the trip back to Russia.  The hospital and our living quarters were in the old French Caserne Known as the Quartier Fabvier.  Also quartered in this Caserne were Navy and Engineer personnel enroute to the Rhine to Assist the spearheads of the Third Army across the Rhine River.  When the 57th was preparing to move to a new assignment, the Russian staff ( a warrant officer and a few enlisted men) decided to throw a party for us in appreciation for the care they had been given.  They went through the town of Toul and procured chickens, eggs, and fresh food and did, indeed, make a feast for us, complete with a three-piece “band” to play dance music!

On March 27, 1945, we began the move from Toul through Saarbruken and on into Germany.  The devastation and destruction, particularly of German vehicles and implements of war, were such as could scarcely be imagined.  Most of the vehicles were abandoned due to mechanical difficulties from warfare use or from lack of available fuel.  The roads and mountainsides, in many places, were littered continuously for miles with these evidences of destruction and of headlong flight.  The crumbled ruins of the cities of Ludwigsshafen and Mannheim were brought particularly to our attention, since it was at this point that we made all our crossing of the Rhine River on the bridges made by General Patton’s Third Army Engineers.

Once inside Germany, we were stationed at a number of airstrips to again serve as air holding hospitals as the wounded were air evacuated back to the States as soon as they were physically able.  At one point, we were stationed only a few miles from Dashau Concentration Camp when it was liberated.  Even from a few miles away, the stench was overwhelming.  One of our doctors, who was Jewish, and several other doctors went to the camp.  They found a woman who was in labor and brought her back to the 57th to have the baby.  That was a unique experience for us!  On Easter Sunday of 1945, we received some of the first American POWs to be freed.  The Commanding General who had greeted them told them they would have clean sheets, all the food they could eat, and nurses for Easter.  I don’t know where we obtained the sheets (we had been using only G.I. blankets), but we stayed up part of the night getting sheets on the cots.  The cooks were up early and by the time the former POWs arrived, we were ready to give them a great welcome.  They were so very thin and malnourished.  They gorged themselves on the pancakes and syrup prepared by the cooks, would go outside the tent and throw up, and then line up in the chow line again for more pancakes!  Many of the patients commented that the American Red Cross POW food packages had helped them survive their imprisonment.  During the war, 27 million food packages were assembled by volunteers and shipped by the American Red Cross to the International Red Cross Storage centers in Geneva, Switzerland, for disbursement to U.S. and Allied prisoners of war.

The entire hospital continued with the air evacuation assignment until early June, and then moved to Schloss Horneg, and old castle/sanitarium on the banks of the beautiful Neckar River in Gundelsheim, Germany, where it staffed a Station Hospital for the remainder of 1945.  In October 1945, the hospital was awarded the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque for superior performance of duty in the accomplishment of exceptionally difficult tasks from 21 November 1944 to 22 February 1945 in France, “by command of Leiutenant General Keyes.

By mid-December 1945, most of the original staff and nurses of the 57th Field Hospital were returned to the States—with memories and friendships that would last a lifetime.

Submitted 7/19/2001