108th Evacuation HospitalUnit History

"Travelgram" of the 108th Evacuation Hospital showing the unit's movements across Europe.

“Travelgram” of the 108th Evacuation Hospital showing the unit’s movements across Europe.

Foreword:

The following Unit History has been taken from a service narrative of the 108th Evacuation Hospital prepared by its Officers and Enlisted Men. The book, which was printed by Hessische Post, Kassel, Germany, was compiled in June 1945 and contains many facts, figures and illustrations covering the 10 months of operations in the European Theater of Operations by the unit.  The final work was edited by Technician 5th Grade Leo Grosswald and is largely written in first person plural. As a result, the book is presented here largely unedited in the hope that it will represent an interesting transcription of the unit’s service.

Introduction:

This account concerns itself primarily with our service on the continent of Europe beginning with the operation at Rennes, France. A word or two of into France is necessary in order to present a clear picture of our activities in this theater of war.

Colonel James E. Yarbrough, Commanding Officer of the 108th Evacuation Hospital.

The Atlantic had been crossed on the Coast Guard transport “Wakefield”, which was, prior to the war, the United States Line’s SS “Manhattan”. The seven-day voyage was uneventful and we arrived outside the port of Liverpool on 19 May 1944. The docks were so crowded in those pre-invasion days that even in a port as large as this one it was impossible to find a berth for the huge ship. It was not until the following day that a spot was found for the ship to tie up to and it was late afternoon when the organization disembarked. A convoy of trucks was waiting to transport us 35 miles inland to the city of Manchester. Riding through Liverpool we got our first true to life look at something we had often seen in newsreels and papers; the bombed and burned-out buildings and homes. A clear view was unobtainable since on each truck twenty-five pairs of GI hands were trying to point out twenty-five different points of interest all at the same time but we were able to see that bombs can create some nasty scenes.

Almost two months were spent in Wythenshaw, a suburb of Manchester. It was here that we learned a tram was a “trolley”, a “tuppince haypny” (two and a half pence –ed), the English equivalent of our American five cent piece and that a “pub” was a place where you bought “bitter”. Bitters in America are generally associated with pretzels and free lunches. Here too we were besieged by children shouting a phrase that had become common since the American invasion of the British Isles, “Got’n goom, choom?” Good-natured Bobbies, the English Dick Traceys, were kept busy quelling the small riots which occurred every time a Yank passed out part of his PX ration of chewing gum and candy. We began to discover that the English were just like us in many ways.

We were busy. The 26 vehicles, numerous tents and many thousands of dollars worth of equipment and medicines which we needed were requisitioned. The Nurses spent hours sewing wrappers and liners for use in our operating rooms. The trucks were waterproofed, the thousand and one various items packed and crated and the 108th became a part of the Third United States Army.

View of the mansion at White Paris used to house the unit’s Officers and Nurses.

We left Manchester regretfully. We had enjoyed our stay and we were leaving behind many new friendships we had made. A half day’s travel by train brought us to White Paris, a small village in southern England. After the damp misty weather of central England, the south was a pleasure. It was especially beautiful there at that time of the year. The men were housed in pyramidal tents and a few in Quonset huts, Officers and Nurses occupied a thirty room structure located on a knoll overlooking the tents. The building, which looked like Hollywood’s idea of an English estate, had elaborate stairways and curious passageways characteristic of an old English dwelling. Perhaps the main feature of the place though, was no furniture.

Volleyball, softball games, and even long road marches filled our days while we waited. Trips to nearby ancient Salisbury were frequent. Evenings found our Enlisted Men’s band playing on the terrace outside the mansion and we joined them in song. We seemed to be drawing closer to one another knowing that we would soon sail for France. Then came the day and we were Southampton bound.

Members of the unit board HMS “Devonshire” at Southampton ready for the trip across the Channel to Utah Beach, Normandy.

France:

Normandy:

Once at Southampton, we boarded the English troop transport “Devonshire”, and sailed for Utah Beach on the Normandy coast. We landed on 31 July 1944 (D+55), the next day the Third Army officially went into action. We first had to transfer to landing craft, the men clambering down the steel ladder into the tossing crafts waiting alongside our transport.

Once ashore, we began a seven-mile march inland to the large assembly area where we spent our first night on the continent. Walking along the beach we saw the shattered hulks of the invasion crafts, pillboxes and coastal fortifications torn apart by the hail of shell fire that the Navy had poured in. Everywhere there were torn strands of barbed wire, remnants of foxholes, shell holes and general destruction. We walked on paths carefully marked off by lines of white tape. No one wandered outside these strips, for on both sides of the lane, signs in big red letters merely read “Mines”.

Personnel are climbing down the ship’s hull to board the landing craft that will take them ashore.

Reaching our camp site, we pitched our shelter tents and prepared to pull out in the morning. The day had been hectic, and unable to smoke or light fires because of the stringent blackout regulations, we went to sleep early.  The sounds of gun fire not too far off did not deter us from slumber. Even the uneasy ones slept, and most of us were uneasy. The morning found us moving through the narrow rutted roads of Normandy. The dust that filled the air, caused by thousands of heavy tanks and vehicles which had traveled there, settled on the hedgerows and the fields. Everything seemed to be covered with this yellow dust. At noon, we pulled into a field a mile outside of the coastal resort town of Carteret, about eighteen miles south of Cherbourg. Here we were to remain until ordered into operation. The tents were quickly set up and with nothing else to do except keep ourselves and living quarters in order, we looked around for ways to spend our time.

As we drove into the camp site a group of peasants gathered offering “Cognac, Cognac!” This was our initiation into the exorbitant costs of French merchandise, for naturally, there were many customers. Cognac, however was but an alias, a disguise for “Calvados”, the essence of hard cider. To the unfamiliar it is best described as an ingredient which, if added to straight grain alcohol, makes the liquor really intoxicating. This commodity was available in varying amounts until we left France but it never was very popular.

Patients are brought to the 108th Evacuation Hospital by WC54 Ambulances.

The succeeding days found us tormenting the civilians with our school-boy French or trying to carry on a conversation with the aid of a GI French-English phrase book. Masters of the art of pantomime were put to shame when the average GI tried to trade a package of cigarettes for a couple of fresh eggs. Unwary bystanders had their eyes poked out by flying hands drawing a picture in the air of what was supposed to be a chicken. Other Joes flapped their arms and crowed. Little wonder that the French were amazed. Eggs were a delicacy for us since fresh eggs were seldom shipped overseas because the powdered variety took up far less precious shipping space. We spent some of our time swimming off the beach at Carteret and consuming huge amounts of donuts and coffee at the Red Cross Club which had begun to function there.

Six days passed in this fashion when we received the orders sending us into operation for the first time. It was Sunday morning, 6 August 1944. “This is it” ran through our minds as our vehicles wheeled into line at dawn. The members of the organization paused and knelt beside the road while a short service was held by the Chaplain. Most of us felt fortified spiritually when we climbed aboard the trucks and started southwards to Rennes…

An American Red Cross worker lights a cigarette for a wounded French soldier on the Receiving Ward.

Rennes:

Most of us will not forget the ride down the Cotentin peninsula to our first setup at Rennes. We were excited, naturally, at the prospect of putting into practice the training we had received in the class room and on maneuvers in Tennessee. The sun was brilliant that Sunday morning and the road was lined with happy cheering people. It was just two days since the Third Army’s tanks had swept through this territory and the peasants dressed in their few remaining bits of Sunday finery were out in strength to celebrate their first ‘free’ Sabbath in four years. The women and girls were laughing, waving, offering pretty bouquets of flowers. At every point that the convoy slowed down the men rushed out to offer bottles of cider and cognac. We dubbed it “The Glory Road” and most of us were beginning to think that Sherman had been wrong. This business of war didn’t seem too bad. We soon found how wrong we were.

Before sundown we pulled into a large green meadow shielded by a thick wood near one end. The trucks lined the field but the order to unload was not given. We saw the Commanding Officer (Col. James E. Yarbrough –ed) conferring with an excited Infantry Lieutenant. Soon, we got back into the trucks and drove off. The Infantry Officer had carefully prepared camouflaged machine gun nests around the edge of the field to trap a squad of Germans expected to escape from the woods that night. The proposed hospital site was in his line of fire.

Personnel hard at work in the unit’s laboratory.

Our eventual site was a race track. There was the grandstand, the turf and the barriers for the steeplechase events. We pitched the ward tents on the greensward inside the track. Some of us from habit started straight for the betting windows but we found that they had been converted into a supply room! Seems that the only thing running that day was us. We ran all over the place, dragging tents, poles and ropes while others dug foxholes.  These came in handy on the first night and almost every night in our stay here. Every evening at 11 o’clock, one lone German plane would fly over the area. It was always assured of a warm welcome from the many anti-aircraft guns ringing the field, but large chunks of flak kept falling onto the racetrack too. The roar of his motor, the chattering of the guns and the flak dropping around us, sent us racing for the holes. Never did so many travel so far so fast. We called him “Bed Check Charlie” because of his nightly punctuality in tucking us in.

When we opened the hospital we were swamped. The wounded poured in on us in great amounts and we began to realize that war was terrifically hard work. Doctors, Nurses and Enlisted Men worked and grew weary. No-one thought of himself. The unspoken slogan was “take care of the boys”. And as they worked, eyes and hearts alike cried. Torn bodies, mangled bones and burnt flesh were all seen during this time. It didn’t matter if the flesh was white, black, American, French or even German –we didn’t stop. Many of the patients during this stay were from the spearheading 4th Armored Division and the veterans of D-Day from the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. We did all that we could. If those few moments before we slept were disturbed by the pitiful sights we had seen, there was also satisfaction for having helped to repair the damage.

The unit Chaplain conducts a service in the Hospital grounds. Photograph taken in Normandy. Note the ANC member playing the portable field organ in the background.

We stayed at Rennes for two weeks. When the tides of war rolled swiftly on leaving us too far behind the lines of battle, we had to move. But we moved surely, confidently. For now we were a team, we had proved ourselves. We were ready for the next job, certain of our ability to help.

Brest:

We left Rennes on 22 August 1944. We remained in Brittany so long supporting the siege of the fortress, Brest, that the rapidly moving Third Army left us far behind. We were accordingly transferred into the new Ninth United States Army and remained under its jurisdiction to the war’s end.

We set up our tents on a beautiful spot of land overlooking a river, just outside of the town of Lanillis, nine miles from Brest. Here too, the wounded came rolling in upon us. The 108th Evacuation Hospital was several miles closer to the northern battle lines than other similar units, so a large number of seriously wounded were brought to us to spare them the rigors of a long ambulance ride. We worked at top speed and past our usual twelve duty hours. We were swamped…

We could hear the thundering of our artillery as it pounded the city of Brest. We could also see our bombers dropping their loads on the defenders below. The enemy was entered in forts and pillboxes, a great number of which were carved out of the mountainsides. Living quarters, supply rooms, and several large German hospitals were tunnelled inside the hills.

The band entertains staff and patients during the 108th’s stay in Brest.

The port fell on 22 September 1944 after a siege of weeks. We stayed in the area for a fortnight following and had several opportunities to enter Brest and see the remains of the once thriving city. Its 175,000 inhabitants were homeless; their dwellings were not merely knocked down but were now formless heaps of dust and rocks. Skilful enemy demolitions added to the chaos of the port which was filled with scuttled ships and wrecked cranes. As a harbor it was to be useless for months. We visited the U-boat base and repair shops. We toured the underground installations, amazed at their complexity and at the tremendous stores of food, ammunition and equipment.

While the battle continued, Special Services units came to entertain our recuperating patients. U.S.O. shows and open air movies became a part of the recreational program and many a GI felt like tossing his crutches aside when the bands blew hot or sweet. The time spent here also afforded us opportunities to explore the Brittany peninsula. Its rugged, hilly country, rocky coastline and picturesque natives were a source of pleasure to us. In nearby town we bought wooden shoes, perfumes and other souvenir items.

On 9 October 1944 we packed our equipment and began to move eastwards. We did not know that almost two months’ time and five hundred miles of Europe were between us and our next scene of operations.

Coutençon:

It was two months between the time we closed the hospital at Brest until we reopened it again. It was a period of change, inactivity, anxiety, balanced here and there with light moments when we had a great many laughs and enjoyed ourselves visiting world-famous places. But at the start the mood was one of disappointment. The summer success of the Allies had filled us with hope that the war in Europe would end in the autumn, but the extended supply lines, stretched almost to the breaking point when the armies reached the borders of Germany, prevented the deliverance of a knock-out punch. To us, as we retraced our route down the Brittany peninsula, facing an unknown future, it was disheartening.

Our first day of travel ended at Rennes. We camped there for the night and bivouacked the following night at Le Mans. The third day brought us to the tiny village of Coutençon, twenty miles south of Paris. Here we set up tents for a stay and we waited for orders. Constant rain mired us deeply making our daily lives miserable. “General Mud” had defeated many an army and our unit was susceptible. Due to the fact that we were in transit, little or no mail was reaching us. We were not alone in our misery. Other units of the Ninth Army were mudding across France, soon to form together before the Siegfried Line to become one of the freshest, strongest fighting forces on the Western Front.

A 2 ½-ton Truck and personnel from the Motor Pool of the unit caught in the mud.

In the meantime, trips to nearby Fontainebleau, a beautiful town which had once been the summer home of the French Emperor Napoléon were arranged. We visited the exquisitely beautiful Palace of Fontainebleau, our muddy boots treading the rich inlaid wood floors once walked upon by Joséphine’s dainty slippers. When we apologized for the condition of our shoes to the English speaking guide who conducted the palace tours, he answered us with the neatly turned phrase so characteristic of the gallant Frenchman. He replied: “I would rather see the muddy boots of the Americans standing here than the polished ones of the Germans.”

And then there were trips to Paris. The passes and transportation given to us by our command bolstered morale during this period. After two weeks it was time to leave the “Mudhole”. We looked forward to some dry ground, perhaps even billets!

Belgium:

Our convoy pointed eastward. The winding roads led us past Verdun, historic battleground of World War 1. Many of its trenches and battlements were untouched, left just as they were twenty-six years ago. Skirting Luxembourg we entered Belgium and the first night of this journey found us camping in a pine forest near Bastogne. The following day at noon we arrived at Borgloon, just outside of Tongres, the oldest city in Belgium. This was to be a rest area for us after the months of work at Rennes and Brest and after the long weary trip we had just made. Only a short time was to elapse before we were wishing we had picked some other region to “rest” in.

108th personnel clear mud and prepare the area for vehicle access during the unit’s time in Belgium.

We settled in an apple orchard which soon became muddier than the now famous “Mudhole”. But that was the least of our worries for on the second day we saw something which was to haunt us for the six weeks we remained here. It was the V1 “Buzz-Bomb”. For six weeks these weapons were a familiar sight. To see them outspeed the fighter planes and anti-aircraft fire which vainly tried to shoot them down was awesome, but when they started to fall around us we weren’t awed, we were scared. The Germans were trying to knock out nearby Liège but faulty calculations caused the bombs to miss the city and drop all too close to us.

The foxholes reappeared in our area once again and few were too fussy about jumping into one even though the mud and water had seeped in. Though it must be admitted that it is difficult to decide which would do more damage; a buzz-bomb falling close or a jump into a water-logged foxhole at night while still in your underwear. We learned that the stopping of the buzz-bomb’s motor overhead meant that it was coming down, but that it would glide far enough away so as not to hurt us. When we heard the motor cut out we just waited four or five minutes until we heard the explosion which announced the end of flight.

Members of the unit, not having a hospital to operate, found time to visit the cities of  Liège and Tongres, twelve and three miles away respectively. We must include here some mention of Maria. She was a middle-aged Belgian who owned a small beer hall whose back yard faced the area in which we were camped. We beat a muddy path through a wire fence to her back door. Her little shop in which she spent long hours every day sweeping, washing and cleaning was nightly tracked with great clods of mud which dropped from our Arctic overshoes. No matter how weary Maria was from her chores, which included caring for a few head of livestock the enemy had failed to confiscate upon their flight out of Belgium, she was never too tired to smile and joke as she peeled pound after pound of potatoes, French-frying them for us to eat as we sipped the weak wartime beer. Her husband, silent Peter, his eyes twinkling, would go out to the potato patch on the damp cold nights to bring in ‘spuds’ for the never-ending American appetite. Maria’s was a combined USO, Red Cross and social club. In addition, we rated her as an unofficial ambassador from the Belgian government to the men of the 108th.

Holland:

Terwinselen:

Leaving “Buzz-Bomb Boulevard” on 1 December 1944 we moved about 30 miles away, crossing the Belgian-Dutch border near Maastricht. This was the route of the invading Germans in 1940. Here for the first time we operated indoors. The hospital occupied a school house, while Officers and Nurses were billeted in the homes of the friendly Dutch locals. The Enlisted Men set up neat rows of ward tents on the school’s athletics field for their living quarters.

It felt good to be back to work again for many of the unit’s personnel. The volume of patients was far below what had been encountered at Brest or Rennes. Not being too busy, we had the opportunity of meeting the kindly Dutch people. They were close to starvation yet they invited us to visit their homes and insisted we partake of their meagre supply of food. They were clean, hard-working people most of whom were employed in the Queen Wilhelmina coal mines located at the edge of town. Some of us visited the mines and most of us used the showers and baths they had there, a courtesy tendered to Allied troops by the mine management.

It was here in Terwinselen that we spent the Christmas holiday. Christmas Eve was observed with services by the Chaplain and the singing of carols. The next evening the mess section outdid themselves with a huge Christmas dinner, complete with all the fixings. This was followed by a party in which Officers and Enlisted Men participated together. We enjoyed ourselves in spite of the fact that all our hearts that night were thousands of miles away from this little Dutch town. The Red Cross girls spent a great deal of time buying a little gift for every member of the organization. After painstakingly wrapping each one, they prevailed on one of our stockier Officers to play the part of Santa Claus. Appropriately costumed, he made us sit on his lap and tell him what we’d like for Christmas. Requests ranged from a bottle of Scotch to Honorable Discharges. Cheery Christmas greetings were exchanged as, at the end of the evening, some turned to quarters for the night while others returned to their all-night duties which they had left for just a few moments.

We were operating three and a half weeks when it became imperative for us to move as a result of the German counter-attack infamously known as the Battle of the Bulge. Heavy casualties from the battle, the necessity of being closer to the battlefields and the need for larger quarters sent us on our way once more. We rumbled at having to leave this place, not realizing that we were to move to a location that will be remembered when most of the others are long forgotten. We were to move south to Vaals.

Vaals:

The little town of Vaals was situated 20 miles from Terwinselen and about one mile from the city of Aachen. The town’s eastern edge was the Dutch-German border. We opened our Hospital in Blumenthal which had been, up to the time of the American advance, a convent and girls’ school. This was indeed progress from a race track in France to a convent in Germany! We liked the place immediately. We were welcomed by the staff of nuns that managed the dwellings and civilian help, who did everything to make us comfortable. The main convent building housed the hospital and sleeping quarters of the Officers. A nearby dormitory once occupied by the students was used as the Enlisted Men’s quarters.

A large Geneva Convention marker has been fixed to the reception hall of the convent in Blumenthal during the 108th’s stay.

The buildings were equipped with well-lit room, dining halls, bathing facilities and completely equipped kitchens. We almost began to feel like civilians again. We made friends of the convent staff and of nearly all the civilians in town. They proudly pointed out that town’s one and only point of interest, a hilly spot on the edge of town where the borders of Belgium, Holland and Germany joined. We photographed ourselves sitting, standing and sprawling over the Dragons’ Teeth tank traps which were the outer defences of the Siegfried Line. We also visited Aachen, a great scene of wholesale destruction.

In January the convent’s chapel was the scene of the wedding of one of our Nurses to an Army Ordnance Officer. The ceremony, its arrangements as complete as any ever held at home was followed by a reception for the entire personnel of the organization. The nuns under the guidance of the Mother Superior decked our dining hall tables with snowy linen graced with flowers and green sprays over which the bride presided, dressed in her gown fashioned of white parachute silk.

The Blumenthal Convent was also equipped with a fairly large auditorium and stage. The Thespians in the organization promptly got together and with the advice and coaching of the American Red Cross staff, put on a grand musical revue. They poked good-natured fun with their song and script at the Army, the Officers and at GI Joe himself. The effort was successful enough to warrant going on the road; and the cast presented the show to the nearby-stationed units.

Photograph showing the unnamed 108th Evac Hosp Nurse and her husband cutting their wedding cake.

We were busy here, too. From the Ardennes Forest where the Germans were hurling their might against the Allied lines, came loaded ambulances. The bitter winter weather caused numerous cases of Trench Foot and frostbite, swelling the totals of patients to new highs. The strong approaches of the Siegfried Line were also taking their toll in blood.

We spent nearly three months at Vaals. Weather and terrain were holding up our drive into the Reich. The Roer River dams, whose destruction by the enemy would drown the attack force, was holding us at bay. First the dams had to be taken and destroyed by the Americans. However, one afternoon late in February, the grapevine spread the word that the river had receded and that our troops would force a crossing, ending the deadlock on the river banks. That night we heard the roaring artillery shelling the Germans fifteen miles away. It was one of the war’s greatest barrages and made even us, safe behind the blazing American guns, restless at the noise they made. The next morning the wounded brought back the news that the bridgehead was secured. We knew that we would soon be moving forward with our advancing infantry.

We hated to leave the nuns, the people and the town. But we knew as we drove deeper into Germany that we were hastening the day that we might return to Vaals in peacetime…

Germany:

Kempen:

We moved out through Aachen towards the Roer River. The river which was scarcely wider than a large stream had receded back to normal. We could see however, the high water marks which had broadened the flow to more than three times its usual size. On the east bank were the ruins which had once been Jülich, a town of almost nine thousand which was one hundred percent destroyed by the terrific artillery barrage which preceded the crossing of the Roer.

View of the Enlisted Men’s quarters at Kempen, Germany.

We arrived at what was left of the city of Kempen, more than halfway beyond the Roer and the last barrier to the core of Germany, the Rhine River. We occupied a civilian hospital. The fact that it was one of the few undamaged buildings in the town was a tribute to the accuracy of our bombardiers.

Here, Enlisted Men took over what had once been a Hitler Youth School as their living quarters, while the Officers and Nurses billeted in homes. The school was located about a city block away from the hospital and we were the recipients of many a cold stare from the small civilian population still remaining as we walked to and from our quarters. However, this was not entirely an Army show. Huge trucks came up to the river carrying US Navy landing crafts and sailors. Launching their ships they quickly loaded them with infantry which landed on the opposite banks, securing beachheads. Combat Engineers fought and built their pontoon bridges so that tanks and supply trucks could reinforce the GIs. If ever the Allies proved their unity it was here at the crossing of the Rhine. Canadians, British and American, Army and Navy, joined in the swift successful push.

We packed and prepared to follow them. The victory talk and optimism which had died on our lips last fall was beginning to crop up again. This time we felt there would be no stopping for lack of supplies, nor a Siegfried Line to halt the victory parade.

Hiddingsel:

All of us are familiar with our town or neighborhood hospital. The average American hospital has a capacity of approximately 200 beds. Try to picture then, our unit with its equipment designed to take care of 400 patients, double the size of the permanent ones at home packing and lading and following after the swiftly rolling tanks. It is an impressive display of the far-sighted efficiency of Army planning. But follow them we did! Leaving Kempen we crossed the Rhine and rolled deep into Germany.

The 108th Evacuation Hospital’s method for crossing the Rhine.

We set up in the town of Hiddingsel, not far from the large but badly bombed city of Münster. Casualties here were not heavy. The armored forces and truck riding infantry were racing through the crumbling Wehrmacht with only mild resistance. Daily, huge ten-ton trailer trucks rolled passed us, toward the rear, their stake bodies bulging with great loads of German prisoners.

We were handling some American patients from the armies which were encircling the Ruhr valley but mostly we were encountering a new type of case. These were the men and women slave laborers (DPs > Displaced Persons -ed), citizens of Russia, France, Poland, Belgium and many other countries which had been overrun by the German Army. We treated them and fed them and their appreciation for the smallest kindness was great.

Here too we were able to watch the great migration of these liberated people. On foot and on bicycles, and some on captured German Army vehicles, they made haste to leave this hateful country which had been their prison for many years. Many piled their personal belongings on rickety home-made carts, tugging and pulling them on the already overcrowded roads. Nothing mattered except that they must reach the borders where Allied officials were beginning the tremendous task of repatriating them.

Our prime function of caring for our troops was rapidly diminishing. In the two short weeks we remained here, the fighting had left us far behind again. Once more the tents were struck, equipment packed and loaded and we continued on our way eastward.

Schoppenstedt:

We journeyed all day, past Hamelin, home of the pied piper, legend across the Weser River, speeding down the wide four-lane Autobahn. Hitler’s roads designed to carry a victorious German Army, skirting Hannover and finally reaching a point fourteen miles southeast of Braunschweig, seventy miles from Berlin. We drove through the rolling geometrically laid out farm country followed by the half frightened, half defiant glances of the people. Except for the American tanks which had preceded us we were the first American troops in this advanced position. No infantry or occupational units had arrived here as yet and the people were on tenterhooks, not knowing whether the German stories of American bloodthirstiness were soon to be proved or not.

One of many US soldiers released from German prison camps arrives at the 108th Evacuation Hospital.

We arrived at our location, a large grassy field, late in the afternoon of 14 April 1945. The hospital was soon ready to operate and we began to receive great amounts of Allied personnel (RAMPs > Recovered Allied Military Personnel -ed) that had been prisoners of the Germans. British and American boys arrived from the prisons which the advancing Armies were liberating. Their stories of the inhuman treatment accorded them by their German jailors were painfully illustrated by their skinny faces and shrunken bodies. Their tales of brutality left us aghast. The freed men were dazed and unable to believe their sudden good fortune at falling into friendly hands. One English “Tommy”, his hand trembling as he held a copy of the US Army’s newspaper (“Stars and Stripes” –ed), could barely speak as he told us that it was the first newspaper he had seen since he had been captured, five years before. He protested weakly when he read that Shirley Temple was engaged to be married! “She’s but a mite of a child” he said, unable to bridge the five year gap since he had seen his last cinema.

We knew however that the end was near. Twenty miles away on the banks of the Elbe River, the American troops were meeting their fellow conquerors, the victorious Russian Army. The air was nervy with rumors of peace and everyone expected the long-awaited news momentarily. Yet, days dragged by. Our ears were glued to every available radio. Little by little, victory came. The disintegration of the German Army was being accomplished in sections.

This is written in Schoppenstedt, where we were for V-E Day. How long we will remain, where we will go, what our individual destinies shall be are all questions which only the future can answer. But it is doubtful that we shall go as a unit.

In almost a year on the continent we have been in operation constantly with the exception of October and November 1944 when our efforts were expended battling mud, as tiring as any operation. The Army Surgeon General has commended the unit for its work. Everyone has done his share, and more so, that we can wind up this campaign with pride in our achievements. But rather than eulogize ourselves, let us note some of the figures. We feel that the quality of our service has been good, what of the quantity?

Total admissions: 13,733
Total enemy admissions: 2,233
Total surgical operations: 6,066
Total returned to duty: 2,317 (21%)
Total died of wounds: 1 in 1,000 (approximately 1,300)
Total prescriptions dispensed: 21,870
Total miles travelled by truck: 467,000
Total dental procedures performed: 1,367

Unit Roster:

The following roster is taken from the same publication as the historical narrative above.

Officers:
Colonel:
Yarbrough, James E. (Commanding Officer)
 
Lieutenant Colonel:
Berlinghof, Clifton H.
Gibson, Horace C.
Merritt, William H.
Weeks, Richard B.
 
Captain:
Borrowman, Robert C.
Buckelew, Albert W.
Buscaglia, Anthony T.
Catalano, Russell J.
Chorba, William G.
Cutrer, Edward A.
Edmonds, Gerald W.
Farrell, Robert L.
Ferenchak, Ralph S.
Freidman, Abraham I.
Fremont, Rudolph E.
Gorin, George
Goughnour, Myron W.
Guest, Samuel I.
Hall, Philip V.
Higbie, Alanson
Hoffman, Edward S.
Jablonsky, Jacob
Jones, Ellis W.
Jones, Paul A.
Kobak, Mathew W.
Lee, John Jr.
Lehner, Jack
Mann, Robert W.
Manwaring, Arthur E.
Mascali, Angelo A.
Morey, Jerome
Mulvanity, Richard T.
Nix, James T. Jr.
Redwine, Howard M.
Sherman, Irving J.
 
1st Lieutenant:
Benjamin, John P.
Chalk, Walter R.
Crossin, Donald J.
Goodman, Nelson
Kilp, Alfred J.
Taylor, James L.
 
Warrant Officer:
Gough, Henry E.

Group photo showing Officers and Nurses of the 108th Evacuation Hospital.

Nurses:
Captain:
Holm, Alice E.
     
1st Lieutenant:
Allen, Mary F.
Bahen, Rita M.
Blake, Anna L.
Brady, Anna M.
Bridgey, Virginia M.
Camp, Dorothy L.
Caner, Helen M.
Connelly, Rita J.
Davis, Carolyn V.
Douglas, Eileen C.
Dunfee, Helen M.
Edgar, Mildred W.
Ehrhart, Alice M.
Evan, Blanche H.
Farley, Mary A.
Gaitanis, Katherine F.
Glankovic, Mary M.
Hamm, Linda
Hamrick, Eunice M.
Joslyn, Lois M.
Kos, Helga M.
Kydd, Marjorie W.
Lindberg, Lilly M.
Markham, Eva P.
McGough, Rita L.
Nuetzel, Mary M.
O’Brien, Mary G.
Retter, Irene M.
Rexrode, Mary J.
Ryan, Mary E.
Sadler, Margaret T.
Seasongood, Alda B.
Seeley, Sarah E.
Sheley, Martha E.
Shive, Eleanor L.
Smith, Mildred A.
Snodgrass, Mary V.
Spencer, Myrtle
Weir, Vera S.
Wilson, Margaret E.
Younquist, Marna A.
Buck, Mary E.
Miller, Margaret J.

Surgical Technicians complete an almost full-body cast of a wounded GI at the 108th Evacuation Hospital.

Enlisted Personnel
     
Arth, Alvin J.
Askvold, John Jr.
Astin, Edgar J.
Atkins, George C.
Atkins, Troy H.
Baas, John T.
Bade, Frank F.
Bailey, Aaron H.
Baker, Dale M.
Ballard, John C.
Banks, Grover
Barringer, Robert L.
Beasland, William Jr.
Bendorf, Richard W.
Benson, Ralph E.
Bethune, Birdie D. Jr.
Betz, Max W.
Blumenfeld, Mendel M.
Blumhagen, Fred C.
Borowski, Sylvester E.
Bosch, Allan W.
Brandy, Leo C.
Breno, Michael
Brown, Thomas W.
Brown, Virgil L.
Budz, Andrew J.
Burford, Robert R.
Cagle, James H.
Calacci, Italo H.
Campbell, Stanley G.
Carlson, Richard K.
Carr, Logan A.
Carrigan, Joseph D.
Chianelli, Fred W.
Clow, Douglas R.
Collier, Charles L.
Connor, Vincent J.
Cooter, Coy N.
Corzine, Lilbourn P.
Cross, Loren A.
Cruz, John T.
Cumbie, Othel E.
Curry, Lawrence A.
Dalton, Raymond
Davis, Howard R.
Davis, Martin D.
Dean, George A.
De La Paz, Arthur
DeMarco, Angelo M.
DeMarlie, Cyriel I.
Dester, John E.
DeTournay, Henry R.
Deuth, Milton C.
DeVaughn, Charles F.
Donovan, Ellis P.
Dorotiak, John
Dudley, George E.
Duguid, Ralph O.
Erlenborn, Frank A.
Eucker, Raymond L.
Eykamp, Leonard H.
Fautz, Fred H.
Fawcett, Donald L.
Flanagan, Glenn H.
Forrester, James R.
Garshell, Leo
George, Everett I.
Gerbig, Arthur F.
Gill, Nicholas, S.
Gonerka, Theodore C.
Good, Harold I.
Goodley, John D.
Goranowki, Clarence E.
Greenberg, Harry H.
Grosswald, Leo
Grynch, Martin G.
Hacke, Charles F.
Hackney, Elmer T.
Hall, Raymond R.
Harshbarger, George E.
Hawkins, James L.
Headrick, William V.
Heiman, Nick G.
Heseman, Walter H.
Hetmanski, Chester J.
Hicks, Lloyd A.
Hilke, Edward A.
Hirsch, Herman R.
Homan, Robert H.
Hubbard, George E.
Hudak, Stephen C.
Hudson, Lloyd E.
Hunt, George
Hurley, Richard P.
Iverson, Leonard E.
Jakubiak, Daniel S.
Johnson, Carl J.
Jones, Alfred E.
Jones, Robert W.
Joosten, James K.
Justice, Rowland B.
Katz, Sidney
Keller, Millard J.
Kennedy, Lester K.
Kidd, Ivan Jr.
Klonowski, Edward J.
Knittle, Charles K.
Korzybski, Leo G.
Kott, Andrew V.
Krantz, Junior F.
Landgaf, Norman C.
LaSala, Philip A.
Lawrence, Frank S.
Liell, Clarence E.
Lippman, Albert L.
McBride, Byron H.
Madigan, George W.
Mangels, Henry R.
Mahoney, Norman E.
Marnell, Charles A.
Marple, Frank E.
Marszewski, Sigmund M.
Meador, Paul T.
Mickle, George E.
Middleton, George E.
Mirecki, John J.
Modrowski, Robert A.
Mondragon, Juan B.
Moore, Edwin D.
Moore, Robert J.
Mullen, Ralph G.
Myczek, John Jr.
Myers, Dale I.
Neeley, Ralph E.
Nelson, John W.
Nowack, Charles H.
Okrongley, Walter D.
Oliver, Edward W.
Ollman, Kenneth W.
Olund, Richard A.
Paschke, Richard F.
Patton, Donald H.
Perkins, Walter J. Jr.
Perrino, Frank D.
Pershing, Fred D.
Petronis, Anthony J.
Piacenti, Frank D.
Pica, Gabriel A.
Pidgeon, Fred A.
Pierce, Richard W.
Poese, Gilbert L.
Pound, J. T.
Poznanski, Frank H.
Rabinowitz, Harry
Rashid, Thomas N.
Rathgeber, Dale D.
Realy, Lewis H.
Rehn, Reynold H.
Reiffenberger, Norbert G.
Reilly, Daniel J.
Rosenfeld, Charles S.
Rosenow, Elmer M.
Rushing, Paul L.
Russell, Raymond E.
Rychlowski, Henry J.
Sacia, Charles M.
Schaefer, Harold W.
Schweickert, William T.
Sciabbarrasi, Antonio
Scott, Roy
Seafort, Robert S.
Seddon, William N.
Segalla, Luciano R.
Shay, Richard L.
Sherman, Robert B.
Siedenburg, Richard E.
Singer, Michael
Sisler, Charles R.
Slowiak, Edward A.
Smith, Edward
Snyder, Richmond F.
Stackhouse, Walter R.
Sternberg, Alvin
Stotler, Kenzel B.
St. Pierre, Richard E.
Strange, Claude M.
Stultz, Donald E.
Sullivan, Archie F.
Suto, Stephen G.
Swanger, James H.
Tallo, James J.
Tapella, Frank D.
Tartaglione, Dominic
Tatum, Ethridge
Tazelaar, Louis R.
Thorsen, Richard M.
Tipfer, James E.
Traci, Earl E.
Tucker, Freeman C.
Vandergrift, John J.
Vanderslice, Ralph L.
Van Epps, Eugene E.
Vaughan, Ferman C.
Walter, Arthur C.
Warrner, Robert J.
Wason, Albert S.
Waterworth, Leroy
Weatherwax, Calvin E.
Wexelman, Harry
Whitlock, James F.
Widener, John W.
Wiley, Wayne W.
Wilke, Walter H.
Williams, Charlie B.
Williams, Douglas E.
Williams, Gale L.
Williamson, William H.
Wilson, James W.
Winslow, Peter P.
Wittenkeller, Raymond W.
Wolford, Edward E.
Wolszon, Edward
Wood, William H.
Wylie, Arthur J. Jr.
Zavodny, Stepehen J.
Ziegler, Thomas R.
Zielinski, Walter G.
Ziobro, Frank A.
Zimmer, Franklin R.

Unfortunately, the original document upon which this Unit History is based does not make mention of the unit’s activation or indeed its return to the Zone of Interior in 1945. As a result, the authors would appreciate any additional information about these time periods that readers might be able to provide.

 

This page was printed from the WW2 US Medical Research Centre on 23rd June 2018 at 20:08.
Read more: https://www.med-dept.com/unit-histories/108th-evacuation-hospital/