53d Field Hospital Unit History

Portrait of three members of the 2d Hospitalization Unit, 53d Field Hospital. From left to right are “medics” Topaluski, Myhill, and Shamroo. Please note the different GC symbols painted on the helmets.

Introduction & Activation:

The 53d Field Hospital was officially activated as the 229th Station Hospital on 25 February 1943, at Cp. Rucker, Ozark, Alabama (Division Camp, total acreage 58,999, troop capacity 3,280 Officers & 39,461 EM –ed) under T/O & E 8-560 dated 22 July 1942, authorizing a total force of 21 Officers, 25 Nurses, and 150 Enlisted Men. Activation was based on GO # 11, Headquarters, Fourth Service Command (grouping the States of  North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, with Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, and under jurisdiction of Third United States Army), dated 4 February 1943.

The cadre for the 229th Station Hospital was assigned and joined from New Orleans Army Air Base per paragraph 19 of Special Order # 99, Headquarters, New Orleans Army Air Base, dated 10 April 1943. The remainder of the Enlisted personnel, 120 more or less, came from various camps in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Service Commands, Zone of Interior.

The Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel Cornelius F. LEHMANN, O-157864, MC, was assigned from Brooke General Hospital, Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas (designated General Hospital by WDGO#58 dated 29 Oct 42). Five (5) MAC Officers came from O.C.S., Class Number Ten, Cp. Barkeley, Abilene, Texas (Armored Division & Medical Replacement Training Center, total acreage 69,879, troop capacity 3,192 Officers & 54,493 EM –ed). Twenty-five (25) Nurses came from the First Service Command on 5 September 1943. Two (2) Dental Officers were assigned during July and August 1943 (1 Dental Officer was transferred to the 35th Inf Div in fall of 1943).

The Chaplain was 1st Lieutenant Erwin E. Heckman, O-525852, ChC, who was transferred from First Service Command to the organization. The Officer carried on with the usual Chaplain’s duties and also participated in the unit’s training phases during its stay with the 229th Station Hospital. On 26 November 1943, Chaplain Erwin E. Heckman, was transferred to Service Command Unit #1438, PW Camp Opelika, Alabama, per paragraph #1, Special Order #279, Army Service Forces, Headquarters, Fourth Service Command, Atlanta, Georgia.Captain Frank A. Anderson, O-512206, ChC, joined the Hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 13 March 1944.


Personnel received technical training by performing T/O duties of the 229th Sta Hosp at Cp. Rucker Station Hospital. Two (2) “General Clerks School” and two (2) “Medical Records Clerks Schools” functioned at Cp. Rucker for all medical units of the Post during the organization’s stay there. A “Sanitary Technician School” was attended by the Technicians. Further training was conducted thru the construction of a Post demonstration sanitary installation. The Hospital unit kept its quota full at all times at “Service Command, Medical and Surgical Technicians School” and “X-Ray Technicians School”.

The 25 Nurses assigned to the 229th Sta Hosp on 5 September 1943 were placed on TD (Temporary Duty) in the Cp. Rucker Station Hospital, for further training. Two (2) Dental Officers were on daily call and duty at the Cp. Rucker Dental Clinic. Cp. Rucker had an allotment of Officers for attendance at the “Adjutant General’s School”, Ft. Washington, Maryland (acreage 347, troop capacity 362 Officers & 2,526 EM –ed), Class # 26, Term beginning 18 December 1943. The Unit Personnel Officer was chosen and attended this course for a duration of 8 weeks. All members of the medical organization underwent the Infiltration Course.

A well-supervised Training Program was followed thru all its phases during the entire period at Cp. Rucker and the remainder of the year while stationed  at Cp. Ellis, Illinois.

Group of Nurses assigned to the 53d Field Hospital. Picture taken at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, prior to their departure in April 1944.

The entire unit participated in 2 one-week maneuver exercises, functioning as a Station Hospital.

Redesignation & Reorganization:

The 229th Station Hospital moved from Cp. Rucker, Ozark, Alabama to Cp. Ellis, Table Grove, Illinois (Army Service Forces Training Center, total acreage 17,503, troop capacity 1,795 Officers & 24,654 EM –ed), on 30 November 1943, as per paragraph 1, Special Order #290, Headquarters, Cp. Rucker, Alabama, and during the month of December 1943 it went thru many changes.

The 229th Sta Hosp was redesignated and reorganized as the 53d Field Hospital effective 10 December 1943 under T/O & E 8-510 per paragraph 9, General Order #85, Army Service Forces Training Center, Cp. Ellis, Illinois dated 11 December 1943.

Housing was harsh, unit personnel being housed in one story, two stove-type wooden barracks. The staff was never able to obtain the proper water softener to successfully remove grease from dishes, pots, and pans. Luckily, bathing facilities and laundry service were adequate. During the time the organization spent at Cp. Ellis (1 Dec 43 > 24 Feb 44), there was a very large turnover and loss of highly trained Enlisted Technicians. Most of these men went to Sanitary Companies, Portable Surgical Hospitals, and Hospital Trains. These highly trained Technicians were partially replaced in number by medical personnel and by Military Police and Quartermaster men and other non-Medical Department personnel. The only 3 assigned junior Medical Officers were transferred from the unit while at Cp. Ellis, 2 went to numbered Station Hospitals (incidentally, one of these units was deactivated shortly thereafter).

The Adjutant of the unit was transferred to Percy Jones General Hospital (designated General Hospital by WDGO#64 dated 24 Nov 42). Two (2) Dental Officers were assigned from the Sixth Service Command on 8 February 1944. The 53d Field Hospital left Cp. Ellis, Table Grove, Illinois with only 9 Officers and 162 Enlisted personnel for a new station.

Training at Cp. Ellis, Illinois – Enlisted personnel were trained in Medical, Surgical, Sanitary, and Clerical skills. Various individual Officers received training in Bomb Disposal, Camouflage, Demolition, and class instruction. Various Training Aids, such as film and projectors, slides, charts, silhouettes, and on-the-job training were used.

Typical view of an “Infiltration” course, one of the realistic aspects of training.

Change of Station – Zone of Interior:

The 53d Field Hospital departed Cp. Ellis, Illinois, for Ft. Bragg, Fayetteville, North Carolina (Field Artillery Replacement Training Center, total acreage 129,422, troop capacity 4,311 Officers & 76,175 EM –ed) on 24 February 1944. Housing was an improvement, as personnel were now being set up in three story brick barracks, with ample water supply, bathing facilities, and laundry service. After arrival at Ft. Bragg, the unit was brought to full strength for overseas duty. The MC Officers were assigned from the Third, Fourth and Eighth Service Commands. The Chaplain was assigned from Cp. Davis, Wilmington, North Carolina (Antiaircraft Artillery School & Training Center, total acreage 34,518, troop capacity 1,978 Officers & 35,327 EM –ed). One (1) MAC Officer was assigned from Cp. McCain, Grenada, Mississippi (Division Camp, total acreage 42,243, troop capacity 2,779 Officers & 39,341 EM –ed). Eighteen (18) Nurses were sent by the Second and Fourth Service Commands. There was a large turnover of Enlisted personnel at Ft. Bragg, before the proper qualified fillers (replacements) for overseas duty could be obtained! The unit finally departed Ft. Bragg, Fayetteville, North Carolina, for Cp. Kilmer, Stelton, New Jersey (Staging Area for New York Port of Embarkation, total acreage 1,815, troop capacity 2,074 Officers & 35,386 EM –ed) in full strength.

Training at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina – Training was of the lecture-type with much actual Map Reading, Compass use, and field exercises. Blackout Driving was given to all vehicle drivers, while Convoy Driving was equally practised. All Hospital Units participated in Bivouac exercises with a Training Program in operation. During Bivouacs, the unit was required to make 3 night moves and set-up various Aid Stations, one using lights – one using flashlights only – one in complete blackout.

Training at Cp. Kilmer, New Jersey – the whole Hospital received Gas Mask Drill and Training, Over-Side Landing Training, and Censorship Regulations.

Movement Overseas:

The 53d Fld Hosp left Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, for Cp. Kilmer, New Jersey (Staging Area) on 15 April 1944 with a total strength of:

22 Officers – 18 Nurses – 190 Enlisted Men

Commissioned Officers and Enlisted personnel availed themselves with final leaves and furloughs prior to overseas duty while at Ft. Bragg. During its stay at Cp. Kilmer, the unit went thru the normal routine of duties and final training of a Staging Area during the 84 hours spent at the camp.

The 53d Field Hospital departed Cp. Kilmer, Stelton, New Jersey and the shores of the United States on 19 April 1944, as per War Department Letter AG 370.5, dated 28 Feb 44, OB-S-E-SPMGT-M, dated 8 April 1944, with a complement of 22 Officers, 18 Nurses, and 190 EM.

On 19 April 1944 the 53d Fld Hosp departed the United States aboard Troop Ship (New York 515 – Queen Elizabeth liner) and reached Scotland on 27 April 1944. After debarkation, it entrained and traveled to Hagley, Worcestershire, England (VK 3601), where it arrived on 27 April 1944, and where it was assigned to Third United States Army. During the time of stay at Hagley, medical service of the unit was maintained by the 52d General Hospital.

Some 53d Fld Hosp personnel in front of an M-1934 Pyramidal Tent. Its capacity was 8 men, without a stove. With the M-1941 stove installed, it was recommended for use by 6 men.


On 7 July 1944, the 53d left Hagley, England, and moved to the Concentration Area located at Tidworth, England (VU 6666). On 12 July, it departed once more, moving to the C-5 Marshalling Area in the vicinity of Southampton, England. On 13 July, part of the Hospital moved by motor convoy, followed by another group of personnel on 14 July. The whole unit then crossed the Channel toward the continent (France) by ship (Napier) arriving 15 July 1944 at Transient Area B (Utah Beach).

On 16 July 1944, the Hospital moved from Transient Area B to a bivouac area in the vicinity of Senoville, France (area north above Carteret). On 2 August, the Unit left its bivouac area and moved to a new bivouac at La Lande.
On 6 August 1944, the Hospital Headquarters and the 3 Hospitalization Units departed La Lande and became fully operational.

Location of Headquarters
Betton 6 Aug 44 > 8 Aug 44
Dol-de-Bretagne 8 Aug 44 > 22 Aug 44
St-Urbain 22 Aug 44 > 10 Sep 44
Châteaulin 10 Sep 44 > 24 Sep 44
Ploudaniel 24 Sep 44 > 29 Sep 44
Location of First Hospital Unit after becoming operational
Dol-de-Bretagne 7 Aug 44 > 24 Aug 44 (83d Inf Div)
Ploudalmézeau 25 Aug 44 > 26 Sep 44 (29th Inf Div)
Ploudaniel 26 Sep 44 > Bivouac
Location of Second Hospital Unit after becoming operational
Ploudaniel 8 Aug 44 > 23 Aug 44 (4th Armd Div)
St-Urbain 23 Aug 44 > 10 Sep 44 (6th Armd Div)
Châteaulin 10 Sep 44 > 26 Sep 44 (Task Force “A”)
Ploudaniel 26 Sep 44 > 29 Sep 44 (Bivouac)

While operating at St-Urbain, the Second Hospital Unit acted as a Clearing Station in support of Task Force “A” (formed 31 Jul 44 under Brig. General Herbert L. Earnest with the mission to push along the north Brittany coastal region to capture the railroad bridges intact).

Location of Third Hospital Unit after becoming operational
Betton 6 Aug 44 > 8 Aug 44 (8th Inf Div)
Plouay 9 Aug 44 > 20 Aug 44 (4th Armd Div)
Plouay 20 Aug 44 > 12 Sep 44 (6th Armd Div)
Plouay 12 Sep 44 > 28 Sep 44 (94th Inf Div)

On 29 September 1944, Headquarters left in company of its 3 Hospital Units for a 500-mile trip across France to Belgium. Subsequent bivouacs were Rennes (29 Sep 44), Chartres (30 Sep 44), Suippes (1 Oct 44), with arrival at Bastogne, Belgium (2 Oct 44).

All 3 Hospital Units acted as clinics for outpatients during all operational set ups. Scheduled Sick Calls were held for adjacent combat troops. Many routine X-Ray and physical examinations were run for personnel other than those officially assigned to the Hospital. When a unit was exceptionally busy with a large run of surgical patients, extra personnel was attached from regular Army Medical Battalions. Additional transportation was provided by attaching extra ambulances to the Hospital Units for evacuation of patients.

View of different tents in use with medical units. From left to right: Medical Fly, Hospital Ward Tent Fly, M-1942 Squad Tent, and a M-1942 Command Post Tent.


After arrival in Belgium on 2 October 1944, the different locations occupied by the 53d Field Hospital were as follows:

Location of Headquarters
Bastogne, Belgium 2 Oct 44 > 14 Oct 44
Tongres, Belgium 14 Oct 44 > 17 Oct 44
Nuth, Holland 17 Oct 44 > 10 Nov 44
Heerlen, Holland 10 Nov 44 > 12 Dec 44
Kohlscheid, Germany 12 Dec 44 > 28 Dec 44
Stolberg, Germany 28 Dec 44 > 28 Dec 44

Since all 3 Hospital Units accompanied Headquarters to Bastogne, Belgium, reaching their bivouac area on 2 October 1944, they set up at the following locations:

Location of First Hospital Unit
Bastogne, Belgium 2 Oct 44 > 14 Oct 44 (Bivouac)
Maastricht, Holland 14 Oct 44 > 16 Oct 44 (Bivouac)
Heeze, Holland 16 Oct 44 > 8 Nov 44 (7th Armd Div)
Oreye, Belgium 8 Nov 44 > 20 Nov 44 (Bivouac)
Waubach, Holland 20 Nov 44 > 22 Nov 44 (Bivouac)
Kohlscheid, Germany 22 Nov 44 > 28 Dec 44 (30th Inf Div)
Stolberg, Germany 28 Dec 44 > 28 Dec 44 (8th Inf Div)

During the time the First Hospital Unit was in medical support of the 7th Armored Division at Heeze, Holland, it acted as a combined Field Hospital and Clearing Station.

Location of Second Hospital Unit
Bastogne, Belgium 2 Oct 44 > 9 Oct 44 (Bivouac)
Wiltz, Luxembourg 9 Oct 44 > 14 Oct 44 (8th Inf Div)
Tongres, Belgium 14 Oct 44 > 18 Oct 44 (Bivouac)
Heerlen, Holland 18 Oct 44 > 12 Dec 44 (30th Inf Div)
Kohlscheid, Germany 12 Dec 44 > 24 Dec 44 (Bivouac)
Eschweiler, Germany 24 Dec 44 > 24 Dec 44 (104th Inf Div)
Location of Third Hospital Unit
Bastogne, Belgium 2 Oct 44 > 3 Oct 44 (Bivouac)
St. Vith, Belgium 3 Oct 44 > 14 Oct 44 (2d Inf Div)
Tongres, Belgium 14 Oct 44 > 17 Oct 44 (Bivouac)
Nuth, Holland 17 Oct 44 > 10 Nov 44 (29th Inf Div)
Eygelshoven, Holland 10 Nov 44 > 17 Nov 44 (Bivouac)
Nieuwenhagen, Holland 17 Nov 44 > 25 Dec 44 (84th Inf Div)
Rotgen, Germany 17 Nov 44 > 25 Dec 44 (84th Inf Div)


Following locations in Germany, where the 53d Field Hospital was stationed:

Location of Headquarters
Stolberg 28 Dec 44 > 10 Feb 45
Eschweiler 10 Feb 45 > 4 Mar 45
Wickrathberg 4 Mar 45 > 26 Mar 45
Lemmenhofe 26 Mar 45 > 2 Apr 45
Lembeck 2 Apr 45 > 3 Apr 45
Appelhülsen 3 Apr 45 > 4 Apr 45
Brackwede 4 Apr 45 > 9 Apr 45
Bückeburg 9 Apr 45 > 13 May 45
Wehmingen 13 May 45 > 4 Jun 45
Giessen 4 Jun 45 > 5 Jun 45
Kirn 5 Jun 45 > 5 Jun 45
Location of First Hospital Unit
Stolberg 28 Dec 44 > 10 Feb 45 (8th Inf Div)
Bocholtz 10 Feb 45 > 1 Mar 45 (Bivouac)
Kirchherten 1 Mar 45 > 3 Mar 45 (Bivouac)
Damm 3 Mar 45 > 31 Mar 45 (83d Inf Div + 95th Inf Div + 2d Armd Div)
Lemmenhofe 31 Mar 45 > 2 Apr 45 (Bivouac)
Lembeck 2 Apr 45 > 3 Apr 45 (Bivouac)
Appelhülsen 3 Apr 45 > 4 Apr 45 (Bivouac)
Brackwede 4 Apr 45 > 21 Apr 45 (84th Inf Div)
Salzweidel 21 Apr 45 > 4 Jun 45 (5th Armd Div)
Giessen 4 Jun 45 > 5 Jun 45 (Bivouac)
Nürburgring 5 Jun 45 >5 Jun 45 (Sta Hosp for 106th Inf Div)

While supporting the 84th Infantry Division at Brackwede, Germany, the First Hospitalization Unit acted as a combination of a Field Hospital and a Clearing Station. They received well over 100 patients in a few hours time (many walking wounded). As evacuation facilities to the rear were almost impossible, the unit was very heavily taxed until appropriate evacuation channels were opened.

Location of Second Hospital Unit
Eschweiler 24 Dec 44 > 4 Mar 45 (104th Inf Div + 30th Inf Div)
Wickrathberg 4 Mar 45 > 31 Mar 45 (Bivouac)
Senden 2 Apr 45 > 12 Apr 45 (5th Armd Div)
Brackwede 12 Apr 45 > 13 Apr 45 (Bivouac)
Klötze 14 Apr 45 > 6 May 45 (5th Armd Div)
Hesslingen 6 May 45 > 4 Jun 45 (local area Hosp service)
Giessen 4 Jun 45 > 5 Jun 45 (Bivouac)
Kaiserslautern 5 Jun 45 > 5 Jun 45 (local Sta Hosp service)
Location of Third Hospital Unit
Rotgen 25 Dec 44 > 9 Feb 45 (78th Inf Div)
Mariadorf 9 Feb 45 > 1 Mar 45 (83d Inf Div)
Muntz 1 Mar 45 > 26 Mar 45 (83d Inf Div)
Lemmenhofe 26 Mar 45 > 6 Apr 45 (Holding Unit)
Bielfeld 6 Apr 45 > 7 Apr 45 (Bivouac)
Minden 7 Apr 45 > 8 Apr 45 (Bivouac)
Bückeburg 8 Apr 45 > 12 May 45 (84th Inf Div + Clr Sta)
Wehmingen 12 May 45 > 4 Jun 45 (area RAMP + DP Hosp)
Giessen 4 Jun 45 > 5 Jun 45 (Bivouac)
Kirn 5 Jun 45 > 5 Jun 45 (area Sta Hosp)

While stationed at Bückeburg, Germany, the Third Hospitalization Unit acted as an Army Clearing Station for patients coming from the 84th Infantry Division. After the Division moved further forward, the Hospital Unit handled all cases. The bulk of patients entering the Hospital then were mainly road accidents cases and green alcohol poisoning. When located in the vicinity of Wehmingen, Germany, in XIII Corps Area, the unit acted as a Surgical Hospital for Recovered Allied Military Personnel (RAMPs) and Displaced Persons (DPs). A very small number of patients were however processed at this station.

European Theater of Operations – Personnel:

While in England, some further personnel assignment shifts were carried out. Due to many hospitalizations of Enlisted personnel, the unit left the United Kingdom with 185 men, 5 below T/O strength. 2 MC Officers were found physically unqualified and were removed; they were replaced by two other MC Officers immediately.

On 16 June 1944, Lt. Colonel Cornelius F. Lehmann (O-157864), MC, current C.O. was transferred to the 82d General Hospital. At the same time, Lt. Colonel Clarence A. Bishop (O-358948), MC, was assigned and joined to command the Hospital. (On 11 July 1945, the bi-annual report of activities is signed by Colonel N. E. Peatfield, MC, XO).
On 2 September 1945, Lt. Colonel Clarence A. Bishop, was relieved of assignment and principal duty as Hospital CO and transferred to the 7th Convalescent Hospital. Major Robert E. Bartunek (O-391368), MC, then assumed command of the Unit.
On 24 September with the departure of Major Robert E. Bartunek, command of the 53d Field Hospital was temporarily assumed by Captain Jerome Peister, O-689970, DC.
On 8 October 1945, Lt. Colonel Alfred Brigulio, O-346237, MC, became the new Commanding Officer; he was assisted by Lt. Colonel Herbert D. Edger, MC, (XO).

Group of 1st Unit and 3d Unit Company Morning Reports and Admission Disposition Report, all dated October 1944, and related to the 53d Fld Hosp.

Several of the Hospital’s personnel went into action on DS with other medical units, such as the 100th Evacuation Hospital. On the other hand extra manpower was sometimes welcome, and the 53d received help from medical personnel pertaining to the 158th General Hospital.

In August 1944, 1 MC Major was reclassified and removed from the Unit. This vacancy was only filled in December 1944. On 15 September, 6 MC 1st Lieutenants, 1 MAC 1st Lieutenant, were promoted to Captain. Four (4) ANC 2d Lieutenants were promoted to 1st Lieutenant. In April 1945, 1 ANC 1st Lieutenant made Captain.

Chaplain (Captain) Frank A. Anderson (O-512206), ChC, (Lutheran Augustana) was assigned and joined the organization at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina on 13 March 1944 from Cp. Davis, North Carolina, as per paragraph 1, Special Order #60, Headquarters, Fourth Service Command, Atlanta, Georgia, dated 10 March 1944.

In January 1945, 1 ANC Nurse was lost to the organization by medical evacuation; she was later replaced by a Nurse from a General Hospital. Also in January, 1 MAC Officer resigned from the Army; a replacement was only received on 7 June 1945. In May 1945, 1 married Nurse was evacuated to the Zone of Interior; she was never replaced. In March 1945, 1 MC Officer was evacuated to the United States; no replacement was ever received to compensate for this loss.

The unit employed its first civilian personnel starting 1 June 1945. A Purchasing and Contracting Officer was appointed by Army Headquarters. Displaced Persons of various Allied Nations worked and were paid for their services. German civilian female personnel were employed for general cleaning duties, they were also paid as directed by existing pay scales and were therefore very cooperative.

A 5% overstrength of Enlisted personnel was allowed for the organization. This went into force immediately, which proved a great help for the Hospital Units. In July 1945, the 53d Fld was carrying a 2% overstrength. All Enlisted personnel evacuated for causes of disease and injury of various nature were almost immediately replaced. Requisitions for reinforcement and/or replacement were kept very current, never causing a great strain on the Unit.

European Theater of Operations – Training:

While in Hagley, England, a full time training schedule functioned for all ranks. Technical medical handling of patients was the main subject of instruction to the Enlisted Men. During its stay in England, Training Films, Film Strips, and Training Aids were used in Aircraft Identification. Road Marches, Bivouacs, Orientation Programs took place. Apart from the numerous medical subjects, Officers and Enlisted Men attended school for one week on Waterproofing of Vehicles. One (1) MC Officer attended a 3 day-course at the “Incident Officers School”, while 3 ANC Nurses took a 3-week Nursing Course at the “American School Center”; 3 MC Officers also followed a 3 week-course at the “Medical Field Service School” (American School Center).

53d Fld Hosp personnel having chow in the open. Picture taken in April 1945, during the unit’s stay in Germany.

Several Enlisted Men of the Hospital Units were trained for two or even three jobs. Medical and Surgical Technicians were being constantly cross-trained, to handle several types of duties about the Hospital.

After VE-Day, discussion groups and current events programs were part of the overall weekly Information & Education Program (held 2 hours per week). The necessary materials were made available, such as Information Bulletins, Yank Magazines, Fact Sheets, Warweeks, Stars and Stripes Newspapers, Orientation Kits, and the radio. Films were shown on various topics as required by higher Headquarters. In all Hospitalization Units, continuous job training was taking place, with Enlisted personnel being trained in skills other than their specialty. Physical training was another means for maintaining body condition, morale, and discipline.

European Theater of Operations – Housing, Water Supply, Bathing Facilities, Laundry Service:

Housing was satisfactory in the E.T.O. In England, most personnel were billeted in private homes, but on the continent, personnel lived under tentage until cold weather set in. At this time, all units set up, functioned, and lived in buildings! After VE-Day, the Hospital resumed living under canvas, bivouacking under field conditions.

Water supply was always adequate, coming from authorized and supervised Engineer Water Points. Bathing facilities were available and a Bath unit alternated between the 3 Hospital Units during the warm months of the year. Army Shower Points were in the neighborhood and available to personnel. When buildings were used, many were equipped with showers and baths. The Quartermaster Laundry was used continuously for the Hospital linen, blankets, etc. since the very beginning. Personal laundry was handled by local (private) laundries or by German individuals, or done by the individual person with the Hospital’s organizational laundry machines.

European Theater of Operations – Food and Messing, Sewage and Waste Disposal, Insect Control:

In England a regular organizational Mess was available. On the continent, Class B Rations were always prepared, except during a major change of location, with 10-in-1 Rations being used. On change of station, because of the tactical change, K-Rations were distributed until the mess organization could be stabilized. The prescribed G.I. immersion heater and water cans for washing mess gear were in constant use, with soap available for proper use in the washing of the individual mess utensils. Later on, during the Hospital’s stay in Germany, Class A Rations were generally available, while operational Rations were supplied during the various moves.

Conservation of equipment, food, water, and electricity was always highly stressed. Sewage and Waste disposal were handled as per SOP. Standard methods for sanitation were used during the summer. In winter months, some burning disposal methods were used, but local civilians usually picked up the waste material from the kitchen for animal consumption. Waste from the Hospital itself was either burned or buried during all seasons of the year.

Insect control was never a noticeable problem due to the general coolness of the atmosphere both in the British Isles and on the continent. A constant watch was however maintained to see that no insect did become prevalent. US Army standards were in operation.

European Theater of Operations – Venereal Disease Control:

Only 2 cases of V.D. were officially reported and successfully treated for the first 4 operational months of 1944. No cases were reported for January – July 1945; and only 2 cases were recorded during the period July – October 1945. Prophylactic kits were continuously available to members of the command at all times. A chemical V.D. prophylactic facility was always set up in all locations and the prescribed Sex-Morality Course was repeated every 6 months.

Casualties are being brought in by ambulances. They will be triaged before any treatment can take place.

European Theater of Operations – Assignment and Attachments:

Upon its arrival in the European Theater, the 53d Field Hospital was assigned to Third United States Army, ref. Letter AG 322, European Theater of Operations, subject: “Troop Assignment No. 56”, dated 26 April 1944.

On 22 August 1944, the Unit was attached to VIII Corps. On 5 September 1944, the Hospital was relieved from Third U.S. Army and assigned to Ninth United States Army (attached to VIII Corps), per Letter AG 322, Headquarters, Twelfth Army Group, subject “Troop Assignment No. 42” dated 5 September 1944. On 23 September 1944, the 53d Fld Hosp was relieved from attachment to VIII Corps, ref. Letter AG 370.5, Ninth U.S. Army, subject: “Troop Assignment No. 37”, dated 26 September 1944. On 29 September, the entire organization departed Brittany, France, moving by motor convoy to Belgium.

On 26 February 1945, the entire organization was attached to the 31st Medical Group (until 19 Mar 45). On 30 April 1945, the command was now attached to XIII Corps (relieved 13 May 45). On 2 June 1945, the unit was relieved from assignment to Ninth U.S. Army, and re-assigned to Fifteenth United States Army, per Letter Headquarters, Twelfth Army Group, dated same day (until 11 Jul 45). It passed on to Seventh United States Army control, until its movement to the Assembly Area Command and the Oise Intermediate Section.

European Theater of Operations – Attached Auxiliary Teams:

Surgical Teams joined the organization from the 4th Auxiliary Surgical Group on 7 June 1944. They consisted of 2 General Surgical Teams; 1 Maxillo-Facial, 1 Gas Team, 1 Orthopedic Team, and 1 Neuro-Surgery Team. On 6 July 1944, one Mobile X-Ray Team was attached to the Hospital. After the unit’s move to the continent, these Teams were relieved from the Hospital. On 16 September 1944, all 4th Auxiliary Surgical Group Teams were removed from the Hospital Unit and replaced by personnel of the 5th Auxiliary Surgical Group. Up and until VE-Day, Surgical Teams consisting of 2 General Surgical Teams and 2 Shock Teams were attached to each of the three Hospital Units. To cope with a heavy rush of incoming patients, a third Surgical Team was often attached to the Hospitalization Unit. After VE-Day, if the situation demanded, a Surgeon and 1 Anesthetist from a larger medical installation were placed on Temporary Duty with the Hospital to handle any extra surgery that might be required.

European Theater of Operations – Conservation of Material and Manpower:

At all times conservation of material and equipment was enforced. At regular intervals, Officers of the command inspected to see to it that such conservation was carried out and introduced any necessary changes. In many cases, Medical Technicians qualified as Medical Records Clerks. The unit’s Carpenter was also the Electrician, and furthermore one of the Hospital’s Dental Technician also operated as an X-Ray Technician.

European Theater of Operations – Nursing and Dental Service:

The Nursing service of the unit was carried out by 18 assigned Nurses. They were broken down to: 1 Principal Chief Nurse in Headquarters, 5 Nurses in the First Hospital Unit, 6 Nurses in the Second Hospital Unit, and 6 Nurses in the Third Hospital Unit. There were 5 Surgical Nurses per each Hospitalization Unit. By mid-1945, the number was reduced to 4 Nurses. On 28 March 1945, the Principal Chief Nurse was transferred from the unit, with immediate replacement. Another Nurse was evacuated to the Zone of Interior course of May 1945.

The Dental service was provided by a single (1) Dental Officer in each Hospital Unit. In addition to their Dental work, the Officers (DC) had additional duties, such as Registrar, Graves Registration Officer, and miscellaneous Medical Officers. In July 1945, 1 Dental Officer was sent on Detached Service to a Quartermaster Battalion for short periods of time, when called for by higher Headquarters.

European Theater of Operations – Welfare, Social Service and Recreation, Chaplain Service:

The services of the A.R.C. in providing means of communicating with families at home were available to patients and duty personnel. A Recreation Worker and Staff Aide (both civilians) were assigned to the unit on 17 June 1944. Cases handled included adjustment of marital misunderstandings, counseling and help with personal problems, financial aid to family, inquiries for relatives held in occupied and liberated countries, etc.
Comfort articles including cigarettes, chewing gum, toothbrushes, razors, combs, stationery, and many others, were furnished to patients, and when needed, also to assigned personnel. Medically approved recreation for patients, smoking, reading, writing letters, conversation and listening to music were some of the usual activities.

For duty personnel, Special Services Companies furnished movies at frequent intervals, together with Overseas Editions of current books and magazines. Day Rooms were provided for reading, writing, card games, and music. Even parties, such as Halloween and Christmas were held at the appropriate times, and occasional dances or bingo were also introduced. A few Special Services live shows (USO) visited the unit in the field, with French, Belgian, Dutch, and later German musicians entertaining the Hospital personnel. In Germany, quite a few men enjoyed fishing and swimming in rivers and lakes. Intra-Units competition was a contributing factor to morale in general. While the Hospital was in bivouac, recreation facilities were many. Baseball, softball, volley-ball, were some of the sports involving the Hospital’s personnel.

View of La Roche (Belgium), with castle, devastated by German and Allied shelling during the Battle of the Bulge. Picture taken in January 1945.

The Chaplain was responsible for advising the Unit’s C.O. on all matters affecting the moral and religious welfare of the command. He had no “additional” duties. The 53d Fld Hosp had a single Chaplain (Lutheran) who made the necessary arrangements for Sunday Holy Mass (Catholic) when the organization as a whole was together in bivouac. Personnel of Units in operation could attend Catholic Mass at adjacent Clearing Stations on Sundays. The Officer had Sunday Services at all Hospital units each week. Daily Ward rounds in the Hospital and periodic calls to the 3 Hospital Units were part of his responsibility. On demand, the Chaplain helped patients write letters home. As foreseen in training, the Chaplain attended the Chaplain’s Orientation Course on 23 May 1944 for 3 whole days at Headquarters, ETOUSA, APO 871, while the Hospital was still stationed at Hagley, England.
The religious percentage of personnel serving with the 53d Field Hospital was Protestant > 55%, Roman Catholic > 38%, Jewish > 6 ½%, with the rest being without denomination. These figures were constant for the entire period 1944-45. Chaplain Frank A. Anderson (Captain) remained with the 53d until mid-July 1945.

European Theater of Operations – Improvisations of Procedures and Equipment:

The Hospital usually set up 3 separate Hospitalization Units in Divisional areas, rendering definitive medical treatment to non-transportable chest and abdominal cases. It was necessary to augment the basic T/O & E equipment with several “home-made” apparatus. Special surgical scrub stands were manufactured from steel containers, G.I. cans and welded pieces of sheet metal. Overhead O.R. lights were created with the use of welded steel sheets, G.I. light sockets and some white paint. Issue folding cots were set up in the Shock Ward unfolded only 60% of their total width, being wired in this position. Patients brought in on litters could receive immediate attention since the litter fitted directly over the cot frame with the litter stirrups keeping the cot from unfolding completely. The patient was then treated, carried to the X-Ray department, or to Surgery, and to the post-operative Ward, on the same litter, eliminating excess movement and lifting (in addition the adapted cot lifted the patient higher, thereby avoiding extra tubing and saving the personnel from acquiring back fatigue from continually stooping)! IV bottles were held by rods made from ammunition boxes. Chest drainage tubes, Levine tubes, and catheter drainage were all improvised from available Plasma tubing.

European Theater of Operations – Professional Medical and Surgical Services:

The majority of patients received by the Hospital were, for the greater part, severe surgical cases. All types of injuries and diseases were handled, and both female and male military personnel and civilians were treated. The incident of contagious diseases treated or passing thru the Stations was slight. Routine therapeutic care was given all patients augmented by the use of sulfonamides and penicillin in great quantities, including large amounts of intravenous blood plasma and whole blood (ratio close to 1.5 to 1 per patient). Large amounts of whole blood administered to patients were sourced from either the Blood Bank or from Army personnel volunteers.

Surgical Consultants from higher Headquarters frequently inspected the Hospitalization Units for proper techniques and post-operative cases.

The post-operative mortality rate varied in the Hospital Units from Station to Station, but the rate for the entire Hospital (Hq + 3 Units) for the period covered between April – December 1944 was 11% (it never went over that percentage). The Hospital as a whole processed 2206 patients (including amputations, blast injuries, and other admissions) with 250 deaths totaling 11% overall mortality rate, and 1065 post-operative cases (abdominal and chest injuries) with 118 deaths totaling 11% post-operative mortality rate.
For the period January – July 1945, the post-operative mortality rate was only 7%. The entire command processed 2077 patients (including amputations, blast injuries, and other admissions) with 74 deaths totaling 4% overall mortality rate, and 671 post-operative cases (abdominal and chest injuries) with 52 deaths totaling 7% post-operative mortality rate. The entire 53d Fld Hosp had 694 cases processed in the outpatient clinics.
In the period lasting from July – October 1945, no special problems or unusual occurrences appeared. Only the Dispensary service for the maintenance of the Unit’s Sick Call alone was kept during this bivouac period.

European Theater of Operations – Medical Evacuation:

Although the Hospital underwent frequent changes in assignments and attachments, evacuation was always under direction of an Army Medical Group. Some of the patients went to Evacuation Hospitals, other Field Hospitals, Army Clearing Stations (acting as Holding Units), Medical Gas Treatment Battalions and Companies, General Hospitals, and/or returned to duty. As soon as they became transportable, patients would normally be transferred to an Evacuation Hospital. In the latter part of its operations in Europe, evacuation of the Hospital’s personnel was directly to the 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany.

European Theater of Operations – Equipment and Supplies:

During the period spent at Cp. Ellis, Illinois, January 1944, after having been redesignated a Field Hospital (Dec 43), the organization was in possession of its training equipment. Difficulty was encountered in obtaining the T/E vehicles, and the Mobile Bath Unit that was promised, but never arrived. Training for severe weather operations was stressed, and all personnel were issued Arctic clothing!

Prior to departure to Ft. Bragg (Feb 44), all vehicles, medical training equipment, and arctic clothing was turned in. The following March 1944, the Hospital received its medical equipment (designated Item No. 97227) which was packed for overseas shipment. After storing this for a week, the organization was told to reship it to the 66th Field Hospital, Cp. Ellis, Illinois. New equipment was issued while at Ft. Bragg, and in time for use before the unit’s departure. When at Cp. Kilmer (Apr 44), lightweight gas masks and eye shields were obtained, and final showdown inspections of T/E 21 equipment were held.

Picture taken by personnel of the 53d Fld Hosp, while visiting Gardelegen. The Allied advance caused the enemy to evacuate some of its concentration camps. Inmates at work in the Dora-Mittelbau complex were evacuated 3-4 April 1945 and brought to Gardelegen. While the German Commander surrendered his troops to the 102d Infantry Division, 1,016 political prisoners (mostly Polish and Russian slave laborers) were burned alive by their guards after having been detained in an empty warehouse. Gardelegen was liberated by elements of the 405th Inf Regt on 16 April 1945. Personnel of the 53d Fld Hosp stationed at Klötze visited the place of the crime. The 102d Inf Div CG organized an official burial ceremony for the victims.

On arrival at its overseas destination (United Kingdom), supplies were administered by the Western Base Section, but as they failed to a large extent, requisitions had to be subsequently submitted for most T/E items! For instance and due to lack of availability, only two (2) 1 ½-ton 6 x 6 personnel carriers were issued in lieu of four (4) 2 ½-ton 6 x 6 trucks. The tentage problem was particularly vexing, Squad Tents were not available, and on 15 June 1944, 112 Pyramidal Tents were issued in lieu of them. In the end with help from Third U.S. Army Headquarters, these were turned in to be replaced by 27 Hospital Ward Tents. The medical equipment, Item No. 97227, received during June – July was about 95% complete. Major shortages were only filled on 7 July.
When set up in a tent, the Chaplain usually had a large one combining his office, conference room, and living quarters. During winter time when housed in buildings, the Chaplain generally had a separate room for his exclusive use.

All Hospital Units pertaining to the 53d Fld Hosp, when setting up in tents, used a “T” and a “Cross” formation in a variety of combinations, depending upon the type and area of the available terrain. All tents were joined (wherever possible) so that the whole Hospital was joined together (by fixing front skirts of Ward Tents to the front pole of adjacent tents; Pyramidal Tents were used to fill the center areas of either the “T” or the “Cross” formation.

Upon arrival on the continent (Jul 44), the 53d Fld Hosp went into bivouac in the Third United States Medical Concentration Area, near Barneville, France, with T/E about 99% complete. During this bivouac area, additional items were requisitioned as authorized by Third U.S. Army. Water supply was felt to be a potential problem, and therefore two (2) 1500-gallon water storage tanks were provided. On 6 August 1944, the organization became operational in the Brittany Peninsula, its 3 Hospital Units widely separated, being set up approximately near St. Malo, Brest, and Lorient, France. When each Hospitalization Unit began operating on its own, extra equipment had to be requisitioned in order to maintain three 150-bed facilities. Initially Medical Supply Depot facilities were somewhat inadequate, and occasional difficulty was experienced in obtaining dextrose and saline solutions. Also the blood supply was limited, but this situation was later alleviated on completion of the Brittany campaign. In Germany whole blood was more accessible as supplied by the E.T.O. Blood Bank. During the post VE-Days, blood, if needed for patients was secured by transfusion from duty personnel of the Hospital, or nearby Army units.

After arriving in Bastogne, Belgium (Oct 44), all equipment was checked, salvaged items were repaired, and shortages requisitioned. In November – December 1944, all tentage was completely checked, repairs made, and unserviceable tentage salvaged.

Lighting equipment was one of the biggest deficiencies. T/E authorized one (1) 3KV generator per Hospital Unit, and Third U.S. Army had authorized an additional 3 KW per unit. These generators were not of the sufficient power to adequately light a Hospital, moreover breakdown was frequent, and Engineer Maintenance Sections did not usually have replacement parts. In October 1944, Ninth U.S. Army started replacing the 3KW generators with 2 (two) 5 KV units per Hospital Unit (6 delivered by end Jan 45). Two (2) 1-ton trailers were issued to mount the 5 KV generators (weight 1350 lbs).

In July 1945 and upon receipt of Alert Orders from Headquarters, Seventh United States Army, the organization was directed to turn in all equipment and supplies to the Mannheim Medical Depot.

European Theater of Operations – Transportation and Troop Ship Data:

The 53d’s Annual Report covering the year 1944, (dated 26 Jan 45), indicated that the current T/E for vehicles was at the very basic requirements of each Hospital Unit, and even so constant transportation difficulties were always present even where Supply Depots, Ration and Water points were now in close proximity. In many cases Ambulances were used in lieu of other types of vehicles. The vehicle strength was obviously calculated for static operations and most movements were made by a temporary allocation of transportation means from an Evacuation Hospital! It was repeatedly demonstrated that 15 2 ½-ton cargo trucks with trailers in addition to organic transportation were needed to move one single Hospital Unit. Headquarters Platoon was usually furnished only 1 additional 2 ½-ton cargo truck with trailer for movements.

The Chaplain received a single ¼-ton truck and trailer.

The allowance of 250-gallon water trailers, 1 per Hospitalization Unit was believed inadequate. The fact that First U.S. Army Field Hospitals had a 700-gallon water truck per Hospital unit added substance to the unit’s belief, that more water was absolutely necessary. By July 1945, the Hospital was issued 3 700-gallon water trucks, one per Hospital Unit. During fall of 1945, unit transportation consisted of 5 ¼-ton trucks, 2 ¾-ton trucks, 2 2 ½-ton cargo trucks, and 5 ¾-ton ambulances, which were all retained in order to be utilized for movement to the Assembly Area Command.

When traveling on Troop Ship 515 (Queen Elizabeth) from New York to the United Kingdom, the Hospital was assigned many details, such as blackout guard, water point guard, Kitchen Police detail for Enlisted Men, daily trash detail, and furnished the Officer for the Officer of the Guard.

European Theater of Operations – Final Activities:

On 12 May 1945, it was found that 5 Officers and 4 Enlisted Men had over 85 points on the Adjusted Service Rating Card. New data implied that another 4 Officers and 16 EM also had reached over 85 points. In the latter part of May 1945, the organization’s Medical Supply Officer volunteered for further active duty in another active Theater (Pacific area). On 1 June he was transferred to a Medical Depot Company. This Officer was then replaced by an Officer from another unit who had scored 116 points!

On 14 June 1945, the 53d Field Hospital was listed as Category II unit, with Redeployment directed for preparation of the Unit for P.T.O. duty. When this information was released, the unit was authorized to wear 3 bronze Service Stars for participation in Military Campaigns, thus reaching a total of 5 Campaign Stars (Normandy – Northern France – Rhineland – Ardennes-Alsace – Central Europe). Shortly afterwards, the Hospital was redesignated Category IV, resulting in many personnel changes to make the Hospital eligible for demobilization in the States. Many problems were occasioned with respect to personnel since replacements were more than often effected without any regard to T/O & E or SSN. A final readjustment was achieved prior to the Unit’s movement to the Staging Area.
Final total personnel assigned for Overseas Movement consisted of 9 Officers and 217 Enlisted Men. All Nurses and the majority of the Medical Officers had previously been withdrawn for return home either as casuals or as part of the “Green Project”.

End of Operations – 53d Field Hospital

First Hospital Unit ceased operations 15 July 1945 at Nürburgring, Germany
Second Hospital Unit ceased operations 14 July 1945 at Kirn, Germany
Third Hospital Unit ceased operations 13 July 1945 at Kirn, Germany

The entire 53d Fld Hosp then moved to a final bivouac area at Dorlar, Germany, where it remained from 15 July 1945 to 10 September 1945, with attachment to the 31st Medical Group.
On 10 September 1945, movement to Braunfels, Germany was completed and attachment to the 68th Medical Group effected. At this last station, Alert Orders for Overseas Movement were received, ref. Letter AG 370.5-C-530, Headquarters, Seventh United States Army, War Department, Medical Department, dated 24 September 1945.

On 10 November 1945, the Unit departed by truck for the Assembly Area Command and thence by train to the Calas Staging Area (Southern France –ed) for oversea shipment with destination the United States, Zone of Interior, as a Category IV Unit ready for demobilization…

We are very thankful to Tec 5 Alfred G. Myhill (ASN:12214882) for providing us with his Unit’s History as well as some period photographs. Technician Fifth Grade Al Myhill served both as a Medical (MOS 409) and a Dental Technician (MOS 855) with the Second Hospitalization Unit of the 53d Field Hospital in World War 2. A complete Personnel Roster would be welcome.


This page was printed from the WW2 US Medical Research Centre on 20th May 2024 at 22:02.
Read more: https://www.med-dept.com/unit-histories/53d-field-hospital/