170th General Hospital Unit History

Partial aerial view of Camp Grant, Rockford, Illinois, where the 170th General Hospital was activated and where it trained prior to its movement overseas.

Activation & Training:

The 170th General Hospital was activated at Camp Grant, Rockford, Illinois (Medical Replacement Unit Training Center; total acreage 3,349, troop capacity, 453 Officers and 20,836 EM –ed), on 1 August 1944, with Colonel George F. Moore, Jr., MC, being assigned Commanding Officer. He was however later disqualified physically for overseas duty, and therefore replaced by Lt. Colonel Oliver H. Waltrip, MC, who took over command on 4 August 1944.
A Medical Training Center was basically designed to house 7 Medical Training Battalions, each containing approximately 1,000 men.

The Enlisted personnel necessary to bring the unit up to T/O strength were assigned at Camp Grant (activated March 24, 1941 – closed October 15, 1944, main training outfit 1643rd Service Unit, output of medical trainees in 1944, 21,320 men –ed).
Most of these men were from the 8th Medical Training Battalion, which, for the past three months had been in training at Camp Grant under the newly organized “Pre-Activation Training” system. A few of the EM were shipped in from other Station or General Hospitals located throughout the Zone of Interior. A large percentage of the Medical and Surgical Technicians were graduates of Enlisted Technicians Schools, either from Camp Grant,  from other Medical Training Centers, or from General Hospitals such as Kennedy (Memphis, Tennessee) and Lawson (Atlanta, Georgia). The others, who lacked a medical background, received their training during the pre-activation program. Commissioned Officers, with the exception of Nurses, Hospital Dietitians, and Physical Therapists, joined the unit early in August.

Instructors’ Guide for Medical Department Mobilization Training Program 8-101, prepared under direction of The Surgeon General, 8 November 1943. This issue was published in January 1944 for use by Medical Department Units, and superseded the previous MTP 8-1 for Medical Department units activated on or after 25 September 1943. The guide contained 558 pages as well as numerous illustrations and drawings.

T/O & E 8-550 General Hospital (3 July 1944) as used for ComZ-destined units
Personnel 56 Officers
Personnel 83 Nurses
Personnel 1 Warrant Officer
Personnel 450 Enlisted Men
Capacity 1,000 Beds
Minimum Floor Space Requirements 120,000 Sq Ft
Vehicles 6 Ambulances ¾-Ton
Vehicles 6 Trucks ¼-Ton 4 x 4
Vehicles 4 Trucks 1 ½-Ton Cargo
Trailers 4 Trailers ¼-Ton Cargo
Vehicles 2 Trucks 2 ½-Ton Cargo
Trailers 2 Trailers 1-Ton Cargo
Trailers 2 Trailers 1-Ton 250-Gallon
Vehicles 1 Truck ¾-Ton Weapon Carrier
Vehicles 1 Truck 2 ½-Ton Dump w/Winch

(the very first Table of Organization applying to a General Hospital was T/O 8-507, dated 15 June 1941, which indicated an authorized strength of 73 Officers – 120 Nurses – and 500 Enlisted Men –ed).

In May 1944, after the establishment of the “Pre-Activation System”, the Medical Replacement Training Centers were redesignated Army Service Forces Training Centers (ASFTC) to symbolize the transition to the new program. At this juncture, Camp Grant (Illinois) was one of the three Training Centers of the Medical Department, and all were being taxed to provide a combined capacity of 50,000 trainees! When troop requirements increased to 70,000 in mid-1944, Cp. Grant was unable to provide facilities for further expansion. In June 1944, the MRTC began the process of transferring to Ft. Lewis in Washington (Army Ground Forces Training Camp and home to the 3d Infantry Division), where additional training facilities were available. As classes graduated, buildings were closed, and cadre and equipment were shipped to Ft. Lewis. The last of the staff departed for Ft. Lewis on 30 September 1944, and on 15 October, the MRTC at Cp. Grant was officially disbanded.

Offices were set up, and official organization started on 2 August 1944. On 5 August, unit training was started under Captain Lester J. Finkle. The Mess Department began operating with the noon meal on 3 August, in two of the vacated 7th Medical Training Battalion’s mess halls. The various Departments, such as Administration, Personnel, General Supply, etc. worked day and night in organizing the hospital unit; and the entire month of August 1944 was spent in unit training, organization, and in interviewing and processing personnel.
Emphasis on field training was carried out when each Battalion was required to complete a 5-day field exercise at the end of the training cycle. During this period, the Training Battalion marched to a maneuver area, set up field kitchens, slept in pup tents, and functioned as separate medical entities, or as Medical Battalions responsible for operating Aid Stations, Collecting Stations, and Clearing Stations. Simulated casualties of all types were used to provide experience in diagnosis, treatment, and the transportation of patients in the field. Special attention  focused on the selection of sites and such topics as camouflage, cover and concealment, individual security, defense against air – mechanized – chemical – and airborne attacks, care and handling of equipment, personal hygiene and sanitation. During the course of the problem, trainees were rotated so that each man assisted in the operation of each type of station. All trainees, whether they were basic medical soldiers or common specialists such as motor mechanics, chauffeurs, and cooks, were required to participate in the field exercise.

4-page folding card (pocket version) entitled “SOME IMPORTANT FACTS YOU MUST KNOW” distributed to personnel at the Staging Area and prior to embarkation for overseas. It contained a number of instructions and recommendations with regard to military censorship. Reference U.S. Government Printing Office 16-227929-1

POM Status (Preparation for Overseas Movement):

On 9 August 1944, the Advance Party, consisting of 1 Medical officer, 1 MAC Officer, and 3 EM, left Camp Grant to proceed to the Port of Embarkation. The C.O. (Lt. Colonel O. H. Waltrip) requested the Sixth Service Command to ask that the Nurses, Hospital Dietitians, and Physical Therapists be instructed to report to the unit at Camp Grant instead of the Staging Area, and accordingly, 83 Nurses, 2 Hospital Dietitians, and 2 Physical Therapists, reported to the unit on 28 August 1944! The 5 American Red Cross workers (1 Asst. Field Director, 2 Recreational Workers, 1 Social Worker, and 1 Secretary) joined the 170th General Hospital at the Staging Area. Processing of the Nurses took place within 5 days after reporting. Many of the ladies required almost complete processing for ‘POM’. Captain Helen F. Callon, ANC, was appointed Principal Chief Nurse.

The entire hospital unit went into bivouac at Camp Grant for 5 days after the Nurses joined. During this period, unit training continued and the organization learned how to live in the field. Processing was completed by 3 September, after which the Hospital was thoroughly inspected by representatives of the Sixth Service Command (comprising Illinois-Michigan-Wisconsin, with Headquarters at Chicago, under Second United States Army jurisdiction), and given an overall rating of “excellent”. The morning of 8 September 1944, the entire unit entrained at Camp Grant for a Staging Area on the east coast. The mission of the 170th General Hospital, upon activation, was to complete processing as well as unit training under MTP 8-2 (Mobilization Training Program) so as to be able to operate efficiently a 1,000-bed hospital in the field under canvas. The unit received only 4 weeks of training under MTP 8-2 and was subsequently ordered to move in the current status of training. Not enough of all the different MOS were available at Camp Grant, and so the unit left with 453 Enlisted Men, with overages and shortages in several occupational specialties.

Military personnel at the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) ready to board ship for an “unknown” destination. The terminal was part of New York Port of Embarkation. It should be noted that 95% of of men and material headed for the European Theater staged in some of the camps established in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania prior to passing through the BAT which employed over 56,000 military and civilian personnel at the time. During World War Two 3,237,009 troops and 38,524,545 tons of military supplies passed through the New York POE facilities.

There was also a serious lack of well qualified Medical Officers when the unit was ready to sail for overseas. The organization had no Chief of Surgery, Medicine, Orthopedics, Neuro-Psychiatry, or a Urologist, who were considered qualified to fill the positions! Only the Chiefs of X-Ray and Laboratory Services were considered qualified; 2 qualified Nurse Anesthetists and 6 O.R. Nurses were assigned, together with a qualified Chief of Anesthesia. Two (2) young Officers with limited experience in Orthopedics were found, but the Chief of EENT Service was not highly skilled either. Only the Dental Service was considered to be completely staffed as per the authorized T/O. Although the Enlisted Men, on the whole, were considered well trained, a large number of them had never worked in a hospital before, and some came from other branches of the service, with their only ‘medical’ knowledge having been acquired in more or less 3 months attendance in Technicians Schools. There was, above all, a great lack of practical experience. The positions of Registrar, Adjutant, Detachment Commander, and the Medical and General Supply were filled by competent Officers, but the Personnel and Executive Officer lacked field experience. The Administrative NCOs, while lacking experience in hospital administration, as a whole, were however thoroughly competent and highly trained. The Nursing Staff and Dietitians were capable, and one Physiotherapist was exceptionally capable, but the other one had to be disqualified at the Staging Area (she was never replaced).
Four (4) Medical Officers, 6 Nurses, and 390 EM of the organization were eventually placed on TD, forming the 47th US Army Hospital Train Provisional Group, per orders from Headquarters, Normandy Base Section, ComZ, ETOUSA.

Overseas Movement:

The whole unit left Camp Grant, Illinois, by train for the NYPE Staging Area on 8 September 1944. At the staging area, the code number (or shipping number) was ordered blacked-out on TAT equipment and personal baggage, such as footlockers, bedrolls, and duffel bags, as the unit was ordered to sail on a Hospital Ship. Three days later, another order was received to black-out the “170th Gen Hosp” designation as well. Twenty-four hours later all TAT equipment was picked up by the authorities at the staging area and was never seen again until the unit assembly was unloaded in France on 17 and 18 November 1944. The unit’s processing was completed by 1200 hours on 12 September. The next nine days, there was nothing to do, except to go on passes, receive some  immunization shots, attend some lectures, and await final sailing orders … on 21 September 1944, at 0310, breakfast was served to the unit, and thereafter everyone entrained at 0500. The Staging Area was left by train at 0530 hours, and the unit arrived at the NYPE at 0900 hours.
Embarkation on the USAHS “Charles A. Stafford” (ex-Siboney, launched 15 August 1917, requisitioned  for troopship duty in 1941 and named USAT “Siboney”, converted to a Hospital Ship in New York, officially designated a Hospital Ship 1 August 1944 in accordance with the 1917 Hague Convention, with a patient capacity of 706, and a speed of 16 knots, left NYPE 21 September 1944 with destination the United Kingdom,  with on board a complement of 17 Medical Officers, 38 Nurses, and 147 Enlisted Men commanded by Lt. Colonel William Keller, MC –ed) followed, with the vessel leaving dock at 1700. One apple was given to each person for dinner on the boat, as the orders specified that box lunches would not be taken – dinner was supposed to be served on board. Therefore, for 16 consecutive hours, all food that the personnel had was just one apple! It is important to note that the TAT equipment was not on board the Charles A. Stafford. Between 1944 and 1945 the ship was to make 5 voyages to the United Kingdom, and 1 trip to Gibraltar and Marseille, France. The USAHS “Charles A. Stafford” would bring a total of 4,058 patients home.

Picture of USAHS “Charles A. Stafford” the Hospital Ship which carried the 170th General Hospital overseas. After first being requisitioned for troopship duty by the Army in June 1941, USAT “Siboney” was having new boilers installed in January 1944 when it was acquired by the New York War Shipping Administration for conversion to a Hospital Ship. It was officially designated a US Army Hospital Ship and christened “Charles A. Stafford” 20 May 1944 and ready for a new job by 30 August 1944.

United Kingdom:

The 170th General Hospital unit docked at a port somewhere in England (some sources say Liverpool –ed) around midnight, 30 September 1944. At 0700, 1 October, just as everyone was sitting down to breakfast, the ship’s Commander notified his passengers that there was to be no breakfast, and everyone was to pack immediately, leave the ship, and march to the railroad station 2 ½ miles away to board a train leaving at 0745 hours sharp! After having packed hurriedly and without breakfast, personnel forced marched to the station where they were told that the train had not even arrived and that it was not scheduled to depart until 1000. At 1030 hours, the train left, with everyone traveling across England and still without any food. The group arrived at a port in southern England about 1900 hours and waited for over an hour for trucks. Footlockers, bedrolls, and duffel bags, were left on the boat, and the staff and personnel would not see any of them for a long time. After spending a very cold and miserable night in a park, and hungry, there followed a 3-mile march to the docks, the next afternoon (Nurses were however given transportation). Another night was now spent aboard 4 LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) which set sail for France the next morning.

First Operations in France:

Officers’ Staff (1944)
Lt. Colonel Oliver H. Waltrip, MC Commanding Officer (4 August 1944)
Major Francis B. Linne, MC Executive Officer (5 August 1944)
Captain Helen F. Callon, ANC Principal Chief Nurse (28 August 1944)

Scene illustrating First US Army trucks and personnel being brought ashore by means of a Rhino Ferry. Rhino Ferries and Tugs, operated by US Navy Construction Battalion (CB-Seabee) personnel operated at the Mulberry Artificial Harbor established at Omaha Beach, Normandy.

The unit reached Omaha Beach, Normandy, 3 October 1944 after experiencing some rough seas without supper, debarked and hiked 2 miles to Transit Area #2 (Nurses were provided transportation). After waiting until 2100 hours, the group moved west via Carentan to a bivouac area near Boutteville, France, about 6 miles from the coast (a site previously occupied by other Army hospitals –ed). Tents and cots were provided (they had to be borrowed) by the 261st Amphibious Medical Battalion, 1st Engineer Special Brigade (which had already landed on Utah Beach 6 & 7 June 1944), but once more, the men remained without supper and without any vehicles. Bedrolls, footlockers, and personal duffel bags were still on a boat and probably somewhere in England. No breakfast was provided the next morning, and no transportation to haul rations was available either. In the end a truck was borrowed from another unit, and rations and water  secured for dinner. After dinner, the unit packed and moved ½ mile to a larger bivouac site. All personnel were cold with only two blankets per man, no fuel was available, so, with a single truck, a small party had to look for water and haul rations, and scour the beaches for firewood to prepare some food. There was no reserve clothing, moreover it was rainy, cold, and muddy. Repeated requests to the Normandy Base Surgeon, the Quartermaster, and the Ordnance people, produced neither stoves, fuel, lights, nor transportation. To say that personnel, and especially the Nurses, suffered, would be putting it mildly. For 40 days, the unit lived without stoves or lights, on C or modified B rations, always wet and cold. There was no way to bathe or change clothes until the duffel bags and personal baggage arrived at Le Havre on 25 October 1944.

On 13 October 1944, the 170th Gen Hosp obtained 1 x ¾-ton truck, 1 x 1 ½-ton cargo truck, and 2 x 2 ½-ton cargo trucks from Ordnance, but still no stoves or lights. Patrols of Officers and Enlisted Men were kept at all beaches to watch for the missing equipment, vehicles, and personal impedimenta, and much erroneous and confusing information was received. As a matter of fact the unit’s vehicles were never located! The sick rate was surprisingly low considering the poor living conditions. The organization more or less completed another 2 weeks training under great difficulties.

On 2 November 1944, an Advance Party was sent to a new bivouac area in the Loire Base Section. Tentage for housing the unit had to be borrowed from a hospital in Chartres. The main body of troops was transported by train in “40 & 8s” from Normandy and reached the new site on 11 November. No fuel was yet available, and it was still very cold and muddy. Tentage was hauled in the recently released trucks and gasoline field ranges were finally procured for the first time. Enlisted personnel however still had to sleep on the ground with just two wool blankets. The first period (over 40 days) they slept in their pup tents, but after 40-45 days, they were housed in squad tents at the new bivouac site. Commissioned Officers slept in pyramidal tents. A first coal allotment was finally received on 14 November and people were warm the first time since they landed on the continent. On 20 November 1944, following vehicles were released by Army Ordnance Headquarters in Paris: 3 x ¾-ton trucks, 1 x ¼-ton truck, and 1 x 1 ½-ton cargo truck.

Overview illustrating Omaha Beach, Normandy, with its Beach Maintenance Area, including supply dumps, assembly and transit areas. Most units landing on Omaha were received, regrouped, and assembled in a specific transit area, before being directed to a location inland.

Improvisations, Procedures, Equipment, Manpower:

A number of improvisations had to be made for the lack of certain equipment. Lamps were manufactured out of bottles filled with kerosene. Much borrowing from neighboring units had to be done to keep life from being miserable. The TAT equipment was hauled to the hospital site from the railway station between 16 > 18 November 1944. On 21 November, 404 patients were admitted, and there were still no ambulances for disposition and evacuation, the water supply was not yet declared potable, and electric lights were not yet installed. T/E generators and organic tentage were never located. The coal allotment for December had been hauled in, and tents, stoves, and beds set up. The equipment eventually arrived in good shape with only approximately 10% of shortages in most classes.
Soon after the Hospital opened, a PW enclosure was built, and before Christmas 250 German PWs and 28 French civilians were working in the Hospital Plant. It would not have been possible to efficiently run a hospital of this size with such a low T/O of personnel. Forty (40) EM were tasked with guard duty alone. The 170th Gen Hosp had been operating under canvas since it opened on 21 November 1944, with the help of borrowed tentage.
Unfortunately, only 8 wards had been winterized and it took another three weeks before winterization of all the wards was completed. Stoves and fuel were now available, but there was no electricity. The unit managed to borrow one 30 KW generator from the 19th General Hospital (which had set up in the vicinity of Le Mans early November 1944) and, after about two weeks, Engineers installed two of their own generators. No canvas repair kits were available, and as of 31 December, it was impossible to repair leaking tents. Lumber was missing, GC Red Cross markers were nowhere to find, red and white paint was not made available. Circulating pumps could not be obtained, and therefore only one shower unit could be installed for the patients (the hospital staff had no accessible bathing facilities for three and one half months –ed). The water was obtained from a 200-foot well on the grounds, and a concrete underground water tank of 15,000-gallon capacity served as the main storage tank. Individual washing was done by everyone, and there was no dry cleaning in the neighborhood. Everyone slept in his clothes, as it was too cold to undress without fires. About 14 November, a third blanket was obtained for each Officer and Enlisted Man from the Loire Base Section Quartermaster. Nurses had to keep wearing their class A uniforms, and had no sweaters, no leggings, no overshoes, other people missed overcoats, raincoats, and had no extra clothing. Luckily some extra combat clothing had been obtained on 7 November. Messing was improved after receiving ranges, but keeping food warm remained a problem, and the lack of certain items such as salt and pepper shakers and coffee cups caused problems when serving bed patients. There was a shortage of stovepipes, and there were insufficient personnel to operate everything, so, 60 PWs were employed in the three messes in order to help serve 1,500 to 1,600 people three meals a day. There was no concrete slab on the floors, no drainage gutters were provided, and dish washing facilities were totally inadequate …

Medical Control & Services:

The VD rate for the unit was zero, as no cases occurred in Commissioned or Enlisted personnel since the unit was activated. Lectures on venereal diseases nevertheless continued. A Pro-Station was maintained in the nearest city and one was open in the Outpatient Department, as well as in the Detachment area. Acute battle casualties (location far to the rear) were not received and most cases only required little treatment. Patients who could not be made fit for duty in 30 days were evacuated to the United Kingdom. A portable field sterilizer was in operation to sterilize PW clothing and such hospital linen or patients’ clothing as needed. PW latrine details were organized and dumps evacuated by suction by a French civilian firm. There was no problem of insect control, due to the cold weather.

83 Nurses had accompanied the Hospital when leaving Camp Grant, Illinois (mostly assigned from the Ninth Service Command). Their sick rate was low, despite the hardships they endured, and none was evacuated. Both Receiving and Evacuation were ready to receive patients on 21 November 1944. The first 404 patients were received at 1420 hours, 21 November, and a second mass admission of 402 patients took place on 27 November. Although operating with a certain lack of organization and parallel training, facilities were gradually improved and mistakes avoided or corrected. On 3 December, the 170th General Hospital admitted 164 patients and evacuated 134. This dual operation revealed that tentage was inadequate. Loading points for litter patients were consequently established, and coordination of litter crews and wards personnel improved.
Additional space for receiving and evacuation was obtained by pitching 2 ward tents side by side, tying the side walls together, and bracing the center with an extra arch span. Fifteen (15) litter benches were locally constructed, thus reducing the discomfort of patients and affording the clerk/typist access to the patient for questioning while processing his records. In order to keep track of the current bed status, a large board was constructed with tags representing the number of available empty beds in the various wards.

Operating Room in action at the 170th General Hospital. Surgeons carry out an abdominal procedure on a patient.

Total number of Patients received 2,678
Total number of Patients returned to Duty 927
Total number of Patients evacuated to UK 787

Welfare, Social Service, Recreation, Others:

A Recreation tent was provided for Officer patients and another one for Enlisted patients. These were furnished mostly from captured enemy stocks obtained from the Quartermaster. American Red Cross and Special Services were unable to provide very much, except a radio that was placed in the Enlisted patients’ tent. A Post Exchange (PX) was in operation, and beer was available to the Detachment, and coca cola to the patients. Stars and Stripes newspapers and Yank magazines were provided, with movies being made available four afternoons a week to patients (a movie tent was constructed by lashing 4 ward tents together). Entertainment was not as plentiful as it should have been, because of the hospital’s location. A woodworking and handcrafts shop was set up in a ward tent to occupy the time of a certain number of patients, as the bad weather was not conducive to outdoor sports, recreation, or exercise. Because of its location, the organization could not benefit from the larger and better USO shows.

Commanding Officer (1945)
Lt. Colonel Clayton H. Hixson, MC Commanding Officer (2 June 1945)
(a new Executive Officer was also assigned in 1945 –ed).

On 1 January 1945 a Recreation and Rehabilitation Program was initiated under the Chief of the Orthopedic Section, with a system of graduated exercises. Patients were divided into four classes and received up to 1 hour of exercises each day. It was hoped that, as soon as the weather permitted, to start outdoor games and exercises in order to keep muscles limbered up and to bring the patients in a better physical condition before returning to duty.

The Utilities Department was meanwhile making desks, benches, signs, and a thousand other things, to improve the setup, and boost both patients’ and personnel morale. Enough bread or sugar was not always available, and rations such as fruit juices, canned fruits, canned soups for patients needed to be increased. The daily coal ration was inadequate and overall living conditions needed improvement. It was concluded that tented hospital units should not be used in extreme climates such as the one in Normandy, if it could possibly be avoided.

Further Operations:

The 1,000-bed 170th General Hospital was under canvas at Site # 3, near Le Mans, France, Normandy Base Section where it operated Hospital Plant # 4297 and functioned as an Allied Military Hospital between 21 November 1944 and 5 April 1945, after which time all Allied patients were evacuated to other Hospitals, and German PWs were received! On 13 April, the 170th General Hospital’s bed capacity was increased from 1,200 to 1,500. The 166th General Hospital operated Hospital Plant # 4298 and was established at Site # 4 (also near Le Mans), while the 177th General Hospital which operated Hospital Plant # 4296 (near Le Mans) was set up at Site # 1. The authors were unable to identify which General Hospital served at Site # 2. All 4 sites were located in or near Le Mans.
German Medical Officers and Technicians were coming in for the treatment and medical care of German personnel. They were immediately trained in procedure and technique of United States Military Administration and Professional Treatment as far as practicable. At 2400 hours, 31 May 1945, US Hospital Plant # 4297 ceased to function – and the 7431st Provisional German PW Hospital was activated with the entire plant including all equipment and supplies transferred under the command and control of a PW Labor Supervision Company. Each Provisional German PW Hospital was provided with a staff of 4 US Officers and 14 EM. The PW Labor Service Companies were controlled by a PW Labor Supervision Company, which had 1 US MAC Officer on its staff (starting May 1945, all Provisional German PW Hospitals were required to have 2 Labor Supervision Companies and by 4 May 1945 a total of 40 had been activated and were operational –ed). Attached to the 170th General Hospital were the 8614th and 8615th Labor Service Companies and the 1562d and 1563d Labor Supervision Companies.
During March 1945, the heavy influx of German PW battle casualties necessitated the transition of additional US Army Hospitals from receiving American and Allied patients to receiving Prisoners of War. Mid-March 1945 the 174th and 176th General Hospitals were receiving exclusively PWs. By the end of the month also the 164th General Hospital started a gradual transition. It was contemplated that in  the near future, the NBS would have the majority of its hospitals providing care to German PWs. The 166th and the 170th General Hospitals were to follow.

Partial view of a Surgical Ward at the 170th General Hospital. During its stay in the European Theater of Operations, the organization mainly operated under canvas.

On 2 June 1945, Colonel Oliver H. Waltrip was relieved of command of the 170th General Hospital and Lt. Colonel Clayton H. Hixson, MC, was assigned as the new Commanding Officer (the Hospital’s address now became 170th General Hospital, Chanor Base Section, APO 562, US Army).

Military & Civilian Personnel:
There was still a lack of well qualified Medical Officers. Both the Chief of Surgery and the Chief of Medicine were not considered qualified. Requests were therefore made and new Officers supplied. A consistent shortage of Officers and Nurses to bring each section up to T/O strength provided for some temporary problems, due to having to supply Medical, Dental, and Nursing services for TD and DS, together with never having reached the new T/O in some Sections. Rotation helped solve some of the problems. In the end, 1 Physiotherapist, 1 Engineer Officer, and 2 Dental Officers were never assigned. Requisitions for extra personnel were submitted to the next higher Headquarters on the 1st and 15th of every month. A new Executive Officer was assigned to the organization.
Authority had been received to employ French civilian personnel; consequently 49 civilians were employed (37 men + 12 women). With the ingress of additional German Prisoners of War, 42 French civilians were released, while 7 women remained for general duties in the sewing rooms and the Nurses area. German PWs functioned better in all places of duties when compared to the French who were often absent and considered to be not very competent. Since PWs proved to be efficient as cooks, waiters, and general KP, they were utilized to the utmost in the messes, where they served an average number of 4,837 meals over a 24-hour period.

Training of Personnel, Equipment, etc.:
By now the Enlisted Men were well trained and competent due to their prior training and operations. In January 1945, the first replacements were received for duty in lieu of the EM sent to Infantry Replacement Depots. This of course necessitated a new training program as those people had never functioned in a hospital. It also brought about some shifting of Enlisted personnel for expeditious functions of the 170th General. Eventually a training program of four hours each week for all EM was initiated in compliance with directives from the Normandy Base Section, ComZ. These periods were staggered daily so as not to interfere with the normal function of the Hospital. Training aids used consisted of Field Manuals, lectures from Medical Department Officers of all branches and sections, together with projecting and viewing of film strips. VD control was continuously stressed.

Equipment, Supplies, Transportation:
Shortages of equipment, supplies and transportation were gradually solved and about 98% of all equipment and supplies (including TAT and T/E) had been received, except for 1 x 1 ½-ton cargo truck which was still on requisition. Two (2) generators and some tentage had been lost in transit from Rouen, Brittany, to the new station at Le Mans, France. Some generators had been installed by the Hospital Engineers, while others, borrowed from other units in the area, were sufficient for some basic and meager lighting of the Officers, Nurses, and Enlisted Men’s quarters. The latter provided light for approximately 8 hours a day, apart from improvised lighting such as candles, kerosene and gasoline lamps. Medical supplies were adequate and were supplied with expediency from the Medical Depots.

Improvisations of techniques, procedures, and equipment continued, mainly in the Orthopedic and Physiotherapy Sections for the treatment and conditioning of patients. Traction frames, work benches, exercising apparatus, and a number of unusable bicycle frames were recuperated and mounted on concrete blocks.

Conservation of Material & Manpower:
Conservation of material was conclusive due to the course of the war and the current weather. Instructions were made available through daily bulletins and direct orders. In January and February 1945, fuel allocation was inadequate and did not provide for the minimum comfort during the severe winter period. Rationing was instigated throughout the hospital and its area. The policy of conservation was carried out satisfactorily and adhered to by all concerned in the command.
Manpower was conserved due to the demand for combat troops at the Infantry Training Centers and Replacement Depots. German PWs were interviewed for qualifications and experiences for possible duties in the special clinics and services. This proved very satisfactory in the duties previously performed by some of the Enlisted personnel. In general policing duties, the German Prisoners of War proved adequate, and the carrying of litters, the beautification of the grounds, together with their use in general utility and mess duties proved very rewarding. On 1 January of 1945, 250 German PWs were assigned, followed by an additional 250 on 12 February, and 125 more on 14 March. From 26 April to 1 May 1945, 500 enemy PWs were received for general and professional duty in operation of the 7431st Provisional German Prisoner of War Hospital.

Scene illustrating a Laboratory Technician of the 170th General Hospital at work. He is trying to determine the relative amounts of plasma and corpuscles in blood by means of a hematocrit.

Housing, Water Supply, Bathing & Laundry:
In conformity to General Hospital Plans of Operation, all housing was under canvas, which was now considered satisfactory through all types of weather. The Enlisted Men, Officers, and Nurses, were quartered in the same type of construction under canvas tentage. Water supply came from a deep well in the camp site area, but when it caved in during the first week of January 1945, water supply had to be procured from the 166th General Hospital (which arrived in the Loire region in November 1944), while a pipe and pumping station was being completed from a nearby river. Purification was satisfactory and met all requirements with a reasonable margin of potability.
Two (2) squad tents with eight shower heads each were constructed in the Medical and ANC Officers’ area. Showers were never provided for the EM due to lack of engineer equipment. Hot water provided by boilers in each shower area was considered adequate for general use. Laundry for the Enlisted personnel was provided by a Quartermaster Laundry Platoon situated near Le Mans. Officers and Nurses relied on a French civilian laundry firm near the camp site which charged outrageous prices. French civilian women were eventually employed to service the laundry for the Nurses by authority of the Normandy Base Section, with the use of Government-issue washing machines. Officers, Nurses, and Enlisted Men were allowed to send up to three (3) garments per week to a French civilian cleaning and pressing establishment which provided good service at nominal prices. Hospital linen and laundry were taken care of by the previously-mentioned QM Laundry Platoon.            

Food and Messing, Sewage and Waste, Insect Control:
Rations were good and procured within a few miles from the hospital site. Being housed in tents in severe cold weather the immediate problem was to get hot food to the patients and personnel quickly. Steam tables were improvised and additional chow lines initiated. One mess tent for semi-ambulatory patients was set up and served by German PWs. The walks between the wards and other tents were graveled, therefore it was impracticable to use food carts; so litters were used to carry food to the wards. The few Dietitians were cooperative and capable and prepared and served the special diets as requested. As they proved very efficient, German PWs were used to the utmost in the Messes and Kitchens; they helped prepare, distribute, and serve over 4,000 meals a day.
Large cement tanks had been constructed for dumping of sewage material and the well-known honey buckets at the latrines were used in adequate quantities. It proved a little difficult to convince the French civilian contractor to remove the contents at weekly intervals. Due to its current inefficiency a new drainage system had to constructed.
Conservation of food was adequately exercised and supervised at all times. Suitable arrangements had been made with French civilians for the disposal of edible and non-edible waste, and incinerators were available to dispose of any dry materials near the camp site. Due to the period of the year (winter) there were no insect problems except a few ants which were of no consequence.

Professional, Medical & Surgical Services:
VD control was in effect and lectures were given monthly. Training aids, film strips, and literature were available. Prophylaxis Stations were maintained in the Detachment area together with direct access to Pro-Stations established in nearby towns. The VD rate itself was at a minimum for the EM; and no cases were reported among the Officer staff.
No new methods of diagnosis and treatment were adopted during the first half of 1945. Directions issued by the Chief Surgeon’s Office were followed explicitly. Acute casualties were not received as the hospital site was established far to the rear. Most of the cases received were in good condition and required little treatment, except for dressings, changes of plaster casts, removal of foreign bodies, or secondary closures of wounds. Patients unable to return to duty in sixty (60) days were evacuated to the United Kingdom, to receive further special treatment, or evacuated to the United States. Sulfonamides and the new Penicillin drug were used when indicated. The Surgery and Medical Sections were filled to capacity for the first 90 days of 1945. There were a total of 864 patients under treatment between 1 January 1945 and 15 July 1945. In total there were 2,580 admissions and 3,462 dispositions to the ZI, UK, or to duty (651 patients returned to duty, 341 were evacuated to the UK, 17 were returned to the ZI, 339 were transferred to other hospitals, and 137 were sent to the Surgical Service –ed). Of these 1,095 cases were admitted to the Surgical Service and 1,485 admissions went to the Medical Service. Specific admissions, such as trench foot and frostbite represented 434 and 50 cases respectively; 339 patients had to be evacuated to other hospitals. In general the professional personnel was considered adequate and justified for the type of surgical and medical procedure required in the chain of execution of this Hospital.
The 83 ANC Officers still on duty were considered very competent and qualified. Many of them had gone on TD, DS, to various medical installations, such as Evacuation, Field, and General Hospitals, and to Dispensaries in the region. All qualified Nurses had been promoted, one (1) Captain to Major (the Principal Chief Nurse), two (2) 1st Lieutenants to Captains; and twenty-eight (28) 2d Lieutenants to 1st Lieutenants. All sections of the 170th General requiring trained Nurses were adequately staffed.
The X-Ray Service handled 4,394 patients, of which 2,373 were German Prisoners of War. The EENT Service was competent and had only a few emulations to accomplish together with some minor surgery. The Dental Service functioned satisfactorily, although short of 2 Dental Officers, and performed 4,273 sittings, 1,308 fillings, fixed 287 dentures, extracted 1,597 teeth, set 47 fractured jaws, and placed 14 acrylic eyes.
As there was no Veterinary Officer assigned, meat and dairy inspections together with submission of the required reports were accomplished by trained Enlisted personnel.

Receiving and evacuation functioned efficiently. On 1 January 1945 there were 864 Allied military patients; from 5 April to 1 June 1945 there were 1,969 German PW patients. A change of station took place in June when Detachment A, 170th General Hospital, officially opened as of 0001 hours, 5 June 1945, at the Hôtel Dieu, Rennes, Brittany, taking over operation of the Hospital Plant formerly run by the 199th General Hospital.
The admission of patients from 5 June to 29 June 1945, at US Army Hospital Plant # 4289, Rennes, Brittany, France was 26 admissions of Allied military personnel and 10 of German PWs. The last dispositions took place on 29 June 1945, at which date the unit ceased to operate as of 2400 hours.

One of the recently arrived German Prisoners of War is being interviewed and will first go through triage prior to receiving the appropriate treatment. In spring of 1945, there was a large influx of enemy patients at the 170th General Hospital.

Welfare, Social Services, Recreation:
Furnishings in the recreation tents came mostly from captured German stocks, with game equipment and other supplies provided by the Special Services and the Red Cross. By mid-1945, radios were available for each ward and recreation tent. Local shows and Special Service shows were procured and several troupes of French entertainers were invited and played for the non-ambulatory cases in the different wards.
Motion pictures were shown afternoon and night for all personnel; matinees were organized for patients, evenings for all personnel, including Officers and Nurses. Soft ball diamonds and volley ball courts were constructed. A Nissen hut was built to house the Post Exchange, where coca-cola, beer, soft drinks and all available rations were served.
Two (2) Chaplains were assigned to the 170th – one (1) Catholic and one (1) Protestant. One of them was First Lieutenant Edward Callens. They held services several times a week as deemed necessary and encouraged and assisted the patients. The American Red Cross issued such comfort items to the patients as cigarettes, candies, books, writing pads, pencils, etc. The APO would donate to the ARC workers all undelivered packages received from the ZI for the comfort of the patients. All the above helped morale and was conducive to minimum complaints of hospitalization. Wood working and crafts helped and stimulated the patients. Frequent leaves and furloughs were granted to Recreation Centers, the French Riviera, or to places of interest in France and in the United Kingdom. All personnel had already received a trip to Paris, the French capital city. The majority of the Medical and ANC Officers had had seven days’ leave at the Riviera.

On 1 January 1945, a special Recreation & Rehabilitation Program was set up under the Chief of Orthopedic Section to help patients improve their physical condition by taking one (1) hour of exercise per day. The only Physiotherapist, Second Lieutenant Alice Rainwater was particularly active. After the weather improved, an athletic field was built, with baseball, softball, volleyball, and such other games that became part of the general Recreation and Rehabilitation Program run by the Hospital. Together with the former, tri-weekly trips to a special Château only 7 to 8 miles from the hospital site, which was not only a showplace but also a very old landmark of France, were organized. This initiative proved very interesting to the patients and helped boost morale.
The overall health of all personnel was good; only a few cases of diarrhea were noted, but none severe. All inoculations, necessary for immunities, were given and personnel of the command were constantly checked should any medical problems occur.

Normandy Base Section Bed Capacity:
At the beginning of 1945 the following Hospitals were in operation within the Normandy Base Section:

164th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4273)
165th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4268)
167th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4267)
168th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4277)
174th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4271)
176th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4272)
180th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4275)
189th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4276)
195th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4278)
196th General Hospital – 1,200 beds (Hospital Plant # 4274)
280th Station Hospital – 250 beds (Hospital plant # 4269)
261st Amphibious Medical Battalion – 210 beds (none)

Each of the above Hospitals, except the 280th Sta Hosp, was occupying a tented hospital site under standard AEF construction.

Partial view of an Operating Room at the 170th General Hospital. Two Surgeons are operating on a patient.

Due to a shortage of bed space within the Base Section it became evident that capacities of hospitals would have to be increased! Accordingly in January and February 1945, new hospitals set up sufficient beds to bring the capacity from 1,200 to 1,500. These included the 168th and 189th General Hospitals.
On 1 February 1945, the following additional hospitals were added to the Normandy Base Section: the 14th Field Hospital (530 beds), the 62d Field Hospital (400 beds), the 28th Station Hospital (250 beds), and the 179th Station Hospital (1,510 beds). As more hospitals and medical units ceased operations or were transferred elsewhere, some had to increase their bed capacity and new units joined. On 10 February 1945 the following additional Hospitals were included within the Normandy Base Section:

166th General Hospital – 1,000 beds
170th General Hospital – 1,000 beds
177th General Hospital – 1,560 beds
199th General Hospital – 1,200 beds
38th Station Hospital – 400 beds
49th Station Hospital – 250 beds

This increased the capacity with 5,410 beds. On 11 February, the 224th General Hospital set up with an initial capacity of 345 beds. By 28 February 1945 total bed capacity in the Normandy Base Section had reached the figure of 23,174 representing a net gain of slightly more than 70% over the initial capacity of 1 January 1945.

Special Note:

Following some reorganization, the 170th General Hospital reopened to receive patients as of 0001 hours, 1 August 1945, now operating as a 500-bed medical unit, at Site # 1, Gonfreville-l’Orcher, APO 562, near Le Havre, France. It eventually ceased operations 21 September 1945.

The MRC Staff are still looking for additional data relating to the 170th General Hospital, such as personnel rosters, and information about its return to the Zone of Interior and subsequent inactivation. Thank you.


This page was printed from the WW2 US Medical Research Centre on 13th April 2024 at 19:06.
Read more: https://www.med-dept.com/unit-histories/170th-general-hospital/