Company A, 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion Unit History
Introduction & Activation:
Medical Gas Treatment Battalions were developed in the pre-war years as a type of non-divisional medical unit consisting of a Headquarters, 3 Clearing Companies, with each of the latter subdivided in 2 Bath and 4 Treatment Sections, whose task was to bathe and treat gas casualties and to provide them with non-contaminated clothing in preparation for return to duty or for further evacuation to the rear. While such units were intended for use in the evacuation system, they did not participate in the actual transportation of patients. Some improvements and changes were eventually introduced during World War 2. These Battalions would often serve as Holding Units (involved in air or rail evacuation), and sometimes as improvised Convalescent Hospitals, and also provided vehicles to move other organizations.
A Company, 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion was officially activated on Monday, 22 March 1943, at Camp Livingston, Alexandria, Louisiana (Army Ground Forces Training Station –ed).
The Company was truly in its infancy at that time since there were only 2 Officers and 82 Enlisted Men in the organization. First Lieutenant Treadwell A. Robertson, MC, and First Lieutenant Milton Waldman, MC, comprised the Officer personnel (with the former in command). First Sergeant John Farinaro, transferred from the 92d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion,became responsible for the unit’s formation and initial basic training. All remained utter confusion for several days and then ability and discipline received recognition in the form of promotion of 9 EM to Privates First Class on 1 April 1943; Privates Austin, Brown, Burd, Collins, Fray, Hagan, La Rose, Sanz, and Thompson.
Discharge of Enlisted personnel over 38 years of age depleted the Company but on 11 April 1943, 51 Enlisted Men transferred from Camp Barkeley MRTC, Abilene, Texas, were assigned and joined A Company. During the next few weeks, more men came in and the Company personnel were in for more promotions. 1 May 1943 brought additional members to the Company which was now at full T/O strength (T/O 8-125 dated 11 August 1942 for the Medical Gas Treatment Battalion authorized an aggregate personnel strength of 44 Officers, 1 attached Chaplain, and 457 Enlisted Men and comprised the following subunits: Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment, and 3 Clearing Companies –ed). As the Company was now ready to prepare itself for future military operations, 5 Enlisted Men were sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, for advanced practical training as Medical and Surgical Technicians.
On 21 May 1943, Second Lieutenant Joseph Maskel, MAC, reported for duty, considerably lightening the administrative and instructional duties of the two only Officers.
On 25 May 1943, A Company participated in its first overnight bivouac and setup of a field installation. Pup tents were pitched, orientation classes in night combat given, and a “Gas Treatment Platoon” established in blackout conditions. During this period, the installation was struck, moved to a new location, and again prepared for admission of patients, all in blackout conditions, and in the excellent time of only 35 minutes. Excellent morale and behavior received recognition in the form of an official commendation from the Battalion Commander.
June of 1943 found the organization following intensive training including both didactic classroom training and physical conditioning of all Company personnel. Road marches, varying in lengths from 5 to 10 miles in the hot broiling sun of Louisiana were a frequent occurrence, but morale remained high. Furloughs were granted with many of the EM returning home to their loved ones, for the first time since induction.
In spite of the intense heat training continued from reveille to retreat! Fortunately, Camp Livingston had a swimming pool not far distant and a daily swim was therefore included in the training. Overnight bivouacs became more frequent and the Company improved its efficiency and skills in setting up a “Gas Clearing Company” with each performance. Road marches increased in length and the unit was rapidly approaching a high level of training, only interrupted once a week and after duty hours, for fiercely contested soft ball games with the other Companies of the Battalion.
Preparation for Overseas Movement:
On 9 July 1943, the entire Company was informed that the 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion had been alerted for overseas movement. Activity reached a new high as A Company prepared its organizational equipment for overseas movement. Training equipment and aids were turned in to supply and Company equipment was packed, subsequently crated, and duly labeled for shipment. Issue of Geneva Convention brassards, M-1 steel helmets, and “showdown” inspections, all followed in rapid order. In the midst of all this activity the Company took on new Officer strength when Second Lieutenant Burt Collier, MAC, joined the unit on 16 July 1943.
On 18 July 1943, Second Lieutenant J. Maskel left A Company on DS for overseas with the advance party of the Battalion. Then to everyone’s surprise the 93d was removed from alert status on 20 July. By the end of July A Company had been brought up to full T/O strength in ratings and many EM were proudly wearing new chevrons. First Lieutenant Seymour Goldman, DC, joined the unit on 27 July and Second Lieutenant Donald D. Miller, MAC, brought the administrative complement to strength when he joined the same day. Training continued without interruption throughout August, including the infiltration course under live fire.
By the end of August 1943, new alert orders were once more received, and on 4 August, Lieutenants T. A. Robertson and M. Waldman were promoted to Captain. More Officers joined A Company, including some who had attended courses at the Chemical Warfare School, Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. Of these, First Lieutenants Barret, Battaglia, Codin, Heck, McCullock, Pessis, and Peters, all MC, joined A Company. They were immediately assigned to training and were of great assistance in giving the EM the latest in medical treatment and technique.
On 8 September 1943, Captain Treadwall A. Robertson, MC, was transferred to B Company. Captain Milton Zeilengold, MC, joined A Company from B Co and assumed command. To indoctrinate and integrate the new Medical Officers into their respective Companies, the entire Battalion went on a six-day bivouac in the Louisiana wilds. They were all exposed to the weather, the climate, the snakes, with everyone concluding that field conditions were very rough.
On 11 October 1943, the entire 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion boarded a troop train bound for the New York Port of Embarkation.
Staging & Overseas Crossing:
After three nights and two days of travel in hardly pleasant and comfortable conditions, the train reached Camp Shanks, Orangeburg, New York (staging area for New York Port of Embarkation –ed), it was 0200 in the morning, and the date was 14 October 1943. After due processing everyone was granted 12 hour-passes to visit New York City. On 26 October, A Co sailed down the Hudson River for pier 90, where it was to board the famous ”Queen Mary” (also traveling on board the ship was the rear detachment of the 2d Infantry Division –ed). The inconveniences of the recent trip to the POE were soon forgotten in the crowded luxurious environment of the great ocean liner.
The trip across the Atlantic went remarkably smooth and the ship rapidly crossed the long miles all by herself without any cause for alarm. Having departed at 1700 hours, 27 October 1943, the “Queen Mary” entered the Firth of Clyde early morning of 2 November 1943 (on 5 November the Queen Mary would return to New York –ed). At exactly 1630 hours in the afternoon, A Company set foot on British soil at Greenock, Scotland …
The Company quickly entrained and after an all-night ride reached Charlbury, Oxfordshire, England, where the advance party was waiting with vehicles. After entrucking, the group was quickly whisked away to Camp Ramsden Heath, in Essex. The buildings looked cold and cheerless upon arrival, but with all members of A Co assisting, the area soon became the envy of the entire Battalion.
The following weeks were filled with activity with all personnel given indoctrination lectures on ETO regulations, British customs, laws, and traditions. Maintaining physical condition was a priority with road marches being held regularly. After duty hours Officers and EM took advantage of the liberty trucks to visit nearby places as Whitney, Charlbury, and Oxford, and make the necessary social contacts. Thanksgiving was highlighted merely by the fact that the Enlisted Men ate turkey while the Officers received pork.
On 6 December 1943, First Lieutenant Kenneth Codin, MC, was transferred to C Company, and Captain Leo M. Seltzer, MC, was assigned from C Co to this Company. On 12 December, 2 Officers and 3 EM left for one (1) month DS on Maneuver “Duck” in Cornwall, England.
Training continued through the month of December and soon everyone came to realize what an awful English winter it would be like. Fortunately Christmas Day brought back some of the season’s spirit and time was spent to organize a party for children of the surrounding villages.
January 1944 finally saw the arrival of the unit’s field equipment and training now shifted from classrooms with improvised teaching aids to the field where Officers and men could see, understand, and experiment what they would be working with. 14 January brought many changes in Officer personnel. First Lieutenant Battaglia, MC, was lost to the Detachment of Patients, 2d General Hospital. First Lieutenant Joseph Maskel, MAC, left A Co to assume command of Headquarters Detachment, and Second Lieutenant Burt Collier, MAC, became Battalion Supply Officer. Second Lieutenant Donald D. Dobson, MAC, was assigned to A Co.
As the Company was proficient enough it gave a demonstration of the “Gas Treatment Platoon” at the American School Center, Shrivenham, England. Significant of the high state of training of A Co was the fact that they were the first subunit asked by Battalion Headquarters to give this kind of demonstration. Several Technicians received practical training in the medical and surgical wards of the 2d General Hospital. Some Officers received promotions to Captain.
During the three and half months of their stay at Ramsden Heath, the personnel had become very fond of their “Hilltop Home”. They had endured the wind, fog, rain, and snow on the barren hill, one of the highest in that part of England, east of the Cotswolds (a range of hills in west-central England –ed), and it was with heavy hearts that they said goodbye to this camp and area when moving to a new location.
On 14 February 1944, the entire 93d moved 42 miles southeast by motor convoy to a new station which would soon be known as “Badgemore Tented Camp”. This area one mile west of Henley-on-Thames, south Oxfordshire, was a nice resort nestling in the valley of the Thames River. Officers and Enlisted Men would be living in pyramidal tents. After setting up, a huge ‘circus’ tent suddenly erupted in the center of the camp area and its rising was due completely to the tent-pitching ability and hard work of Sergeants Austin, Underwood, and Woodruff and their fine crew of Enlisted Men. This canvas tent would become the center for all Special Services activities and religious celebrations, and the many fine movies and USO shows which were shown within it.
One of the highlights of the events was a talk on Japan given by Chaplain Henry, former missionary to Korea, whose keen observations gave a deeper insight into the type and character of the other axis enemy in the Pacific Theater, based on personal experience before and after his imprisonment by the Japanese.
On 19 February, 95 Enlisted Men of A Co left with Captain Peters on a Base Section Evacuation Problem exercise. These men, together with another 200 men from Battalion, traveled via Hospital Train throughout southern England from one medical installation to another, acting as simulated casualties. This way these hospitals were given valuable training in admission, triage, treatment, medical and surgical care, and evacuation of large numbers of casualties. The information gained by the group was to be used in future training. Morale improved with the arrival of bright and sunny days and green grass and training continued in spring, sometimes interrupted by sports and athletics. Social life gradually increased with visits to many famous cities and places in the immediate vicinity. Spring was also present in the hearts and romance began to bloom. Technician 4th Grade Galea became the first man in the Battalion to appropriate an English bride.
A month later, on 19 March 1944, Captains Milton Zeilengold and Milton Waldman left for an indefinite period of DS to Totnes, Devon, and Captain Leo M. Seltzer assumed command in their absence (they all returned on 31 March –ed). Weeks and months of arduous training were becoming very apparent and on 29 March, Second Platoon gave another demonstration of the “Gas Treatment Platoon” and the marked improvement in speed, setup, reception of patients, and closing, was immediately noted with Colonel Fleming, “the Father of the Medical Gas Treatment Battalion” and Chief Medical Officer of the CW Medical Service in the ETO, congratulating the men on their excellent work.
On 4 April 1944, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment moved to Southampton, leaving the 3 Companies at Henley to await orders for movement (Lt. Colonel Joseph W. Palmer, MC, CO > 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion was Port Evacuation Officer in charge of removal of patients from LSTs and their subsequent distribution to Holding units and Transit Hospitals in southern England –ed). For the first time, A, B, and C Company began to function as a separate Company solving its own individual problems. More Officer promotions took place during the month.
At 0900 hours, 4 May 1944, orders finally came through and A Company left Henley-on-Thames by motor convoy heading for Devonshire. It was at this time that the Company was divided into its components: 4 Treatment Sections, with each Section attached to a different unit of a Field Hospital. The 185-mile trip was made without mishap.
Company Headquarters + First Treatment Section of First Platoon, consisting of 5 Officers and 44 Enlisted Men were attached to the 49th Field Hospital at Churston Ferrers, Devon.
The Second Treatment Section of First Platoon, consisting of 2 Officers and 29 EM was attached to the First Hospitalization Unit of the 7th Field Hospital at Brixham, Devon.
The First Section of Second Platoon, consisting of 2 Officers and 29 Enlisted Men was attached to the Second Hospitalization Unit of the 7th Field Hospital at Hemborough, Devon.
The Second treatment Section of Second Platoon, consisting of 2 Officers and 29 EM was attached to the Third Hospitalization Unit of the 7th Field Hospital at Five Lanes, Devon.
Fortunately, all Company Sections remained within a few miles of each other so that liaison was easily maintained.
Each separate Treatment Section soon had its “Gas Treatment Section” ready to function and prepared for any emergency. The Enlisted personnel were incorporated into the different wards of the Field Hospitals and received individual instruction from Officers, Nurses, Ward Masters, and Technicians. The Medical Officers pertaining to the Treatment Sections in turn gave an intensive and thorough course in treatment of gas casualties, including identification and detection of agents, to the various unit members of the 7th and 49th Field Hospitals.
On 15 May, the unit was officially notified that it was now assigned and attached to the Advance Section, Communications Zone (ADSEC ComZ) and was consequently alerted for movement. On 17 May, Captain Leo M. Seltzer traveled to Services of Supply (SOS) Headquarters at Cheltenham to attend a Chemical Warfare conference. At this meeting, and with members from each ADSEC medical unit present, Colonel Fleming and his staff gave the latest changes in treatment and introduced the new available equipment, and what was expected of each Medical Officer and each medical unit. Lt. Colonel McCarthy was present to welcome all to the Advance Section, ComZ.
It was during their stay in Devon that various elements of A Company experienced their first air attacks. German bombers were attacking naval craft in Torquay and Brixham harbors and were not always very accurate in dropping their bombload and this kind of incidents often led to a mass exodus from warm beds to man-dug foxholes! The Company experienced some of the finest weather in this area and the nearby seaside resort of Torquay offered much in the way of entertainment and social activity during off-duty hours. As May of 1944 drew to a close, the gathering armada of Allied naval craft of every possible description told the men that the forthcoming assault on “Festung Europa” was not too distant. Everyone waited impatiently for that big day to arrive. News bulletins on 6 June 1944 found the personnel eagerly listening to the progress of the American Forces on the French beaches and as the days passed the alerted unit waited in vain for casualties to treat and care for. As the weeks passed, it was realized that in that particular location there would be no casualties as they were adequately received and easily handled in the great harbors of Plymouth and Southampton. The First Treatment Section did receive a few British sailors who had been exposed to methyl bromide fumes. Bed rest, administration of oxygen, and sedation brought quick recovery and these cases were quickly forwarded to a British Hospital. By the end of June, Officers and Enlisted Men were becoming very restless and wanted to join the soldiers already fighting on the continent. It was therefore with eager anticipation that A Co left Churston Ferrers, part by motor convoy and part by rail on 24 June for the concentration area, together with the rest of the 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion, heading for Beaulieu, Hampshire, southern England, 140 miles due east. The unit was finally on its way to France.
The next days were filled with activity, Geneva crosses were painted on all the tentage, and luggage and equipment marked. Being located midway between Southampton and Bournemouth, trips to these interesting cities were available to all personnel after duty hours. It was at one of these locations that the men came in contact with Hitler’s “buzz-bombs”. They were interested to watch but when a few got close enough, everybody just dove for the slit trenches and foxholes.
Suddenly at 0100 hours, 11 July 1944, orders were received to prepare for departure by motor and rail at 0600 hours. Amid flying and falling “buzz-bombs”, now totally ignored, the men hurriedly packed their belongings and prepared for movement. A Company was prepared and the vehicles fully loaded and ready to move, although the other two Companies of the Battalion were apparently “caught with their pants down”.
A Company moving in two separate groups by motor and rail arrived at Seton Barracks, Crown Hill, Devon, just outside of Plymouth around 1500 hours, 11 July 1944.
Armed with personal luggage, K-rations, and anti-seasickness pills, 5 Officers and 105 Enlisted Men left Seton Barracks on 12 July and boarded the British LSI (L) “Empire Gauntlet” in Plymouth harbor. Captains McCullock, Peters, Seltzer, and Waldman, and Lieutenants Pessis and Miller, accompanied by 29 Enlisted Men remained behind to travel via the Liberty Ship SS “John Hay”, with the Company vehicles and equipment. The latter only sailed on 14 July.
The first part of A Company crossed the Channel and reported to have had a very calm and comfortable journey, finally reaching Utah Beach 15 July 1944. After debarking, the group marched 7 miles to the bivouac in Transit Area “B”, clothed in gasproofed garments, and loaded down with equipment and other impedimenta. The second group traveling by Liberty Ship transferred eventually onto an LST for landing just 50 yards off shore. On 16 July 1944, the entire A Company had finally landed in France and in the course of time had reached Transit Area “B” where it bivouacked at Foucarville. Ten-in-One rations had been obtained which proved a welcome change from the endless days of C-rations. The main body then moved to the first camp site in France, located approximately 2½ miles southeast of Montebourg, Normandy. On 18 July, the remainder of the Officers and Enlisted Men joined the Company at this place. Except for 4 water trailers being lost ‘somewhere’ on Utah Beach, the short sea voyage had been accomplished without too many difficulties. The only casualty was Technician 4th Grade Clarence Gingery who was suddenly seized with acute appendicitis and was returned to the United Kingdom.
After having been in France but a few days A Co had already met the great destructive power of modern warfare. When motor convoys passed through towns and villages that lay in wrecked shambles, mute evidence that great battles had recently been fought, and American boys had given their lives for peace and security, it dawned on the men what D-Day was all about. Everywhere the local people welcomed their liberators who had finally come to free them of the “Boche”.
On 20 July 1944 8 EM were detached to the 77th Evacuation Hospital stationed nearby and reinforced by a Platoon pertaining to the 8th Field Hospital. On that same day, Captain L. M. Seltzer left for Cherbourg on TD at the Surgeon’s Office, ADSEC. His duties concerned medical sanitation of the many Army units stationed and rehabilitating in the city, and hospitalization and housing of the medical units staging in that area.
On 21 July 1944, Captain Milton Zeilengold, MC, was transferred to Headquarters, Advance Section, Communications Zone, per VOCG, where he was to assume the position of Hospital Inspector of ALL medical units within ADSEC ComZ. Captain Ellis G. Behrents, MC, was assigned and joined the unit from B Co, assuming command when Captain M. Zeilengold left.
On 22 July, the entire Company moved by motor convoy to Biniville, Normandy, where it joined Battalion Headquarters and C Company. The primary mission, with C Company and 2 units of the 8th Field Hospital consisted in establishing a Holding Unit for Air Evacuation of battle casualties. A larger and very efficient tent city was soon set up about 2½ miles from the airstrip (A-24C –ed), which Ninth Army Air Force Aviation Engineers (IX Engineer Command –ed) had constructed. Later augmented by the remainder of the 8th Field Hospital, the tented Hospital spread over several hedgerow-lined fields accommodating almost 900 patients. On 23 July, 3 of the Technicians were returned from TD with the 77th Evac for it became apparent at once that every trained Technician would be needed in the care and treatment of the very large number of casualties that began to pass through the Company. As frontlines were only a short distance away intermittent artillery fire was plainly audible, but after a while everyone became accustomed to the sounds of battle and almost ignored them. On 8 August 1944, at 1500 hours, A Company was honored by a whirlwind inspection of the installation by the Honorable Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury and Lt. General John C. H. Lee, CG Communications Zone, and Deputy Commanding General, ETO Headquarters. Then came the Battle for St-Lô and the great breakthrough, accompanied with the rumble of falling bombs, artillery fire, etc. which warned of the next big push. Allied forces advanced so rapidly that some medical installations were left far behind to be of value to their primary mission, entailing preparations for movement to new locations.
The T/O Officer strength was completed when Captain David I. Kravchick, MC, joined the organization from an Engineer Regiment on 10 August 1944. The next day, A Co moved to Courtils, France, some 6 miles of Avranches (air evacuation facility mainly used by TUSA –ed) at the base of the Brittany Peninsula. Another hospital was quickly set up and with the assistance of C Company and one Hospitalization Unit of the 12th Field Hospital the unit reverted to its primary mission being Air Evacuation of casualties. Large numbers of American, British, Free-French and German wounded were handled at this new location and 650 casualties were evacuated by airplane from airstrip A-30C! Quite a feat to accomplish, and even cooks, bakers, and NCOs assisted the litter bearers in carrying patients from tent to tent and to the waiting ambulances. A few enemy air raids were experienced soon after arrival, but not much harm was done, as the personnel were becoming battle hardened by now. The monotony and routine of hard work was broken on occasion by the appearance of USO shows which were enjoyed by both the patients and members of the command. Due to the tremendous rapid march of the Allied forces across France the unit was soon left far in the rear and admissions gradually ceased. For the first time in weeks there were days of complete rest and recreation. The Mont St.-Michel with its ancient Benedictine Monastery soon became one the major attractions.
Between 4 and 5 September A Company moved from Courtils (airstrip A-30C –ed), near Avranches, France, in one of the longest movements by motor convoy to a new location, Le Bourget airfield, near Paris, France. No member of the Company will ever forget the cordial and hearty welcome extended by the population of Paris at the entry of the organization’s vehicles into the most famous of all capital cities in the world. Morale of the Officers and Enlisted Men was very high but fell to an all-time low when the Company was told on 6 September that they would not stay at Le Bourget. However, the number of casualties became too great for C Company and two Hospitalization Units of the 8th Field Hospital to handle, and A Co was told to remain and settle down there. Captain M. Zeilengold rejoined the Company the same day but was then transferred to C Company. Once more, the primary mission was to operate as an Air Evacuation Holding Unit engaged in evacuation (at Le Bourget, airfields A-54 + A-54C, were cleared and rehabilitated by the 922d Engineer Aviation Regiment, IX Engineer Command, Ninth United States Army Air Force –ed) but as casualties were received with hardly more than frontline first-aid, the Third Hospitalization Unit of the 8th Field Hospital was requested to come and assist and set up two tented ORs that were in operation almost continuously. While at the height of its activity, Maj. General Paul R. Hawley, MC, ETO Surgeon, visited the installation and complimented A and C Company for their efficiency. When off-duty, personnel visited Paris and engaged in perfume purchasing. Soon men who had never been able to mouth a single word of French became proficient in the art of talking to the Mademoiselles!
On 20 September 1944, orders were received to leave the Paris area and A Company and C Company traveled a distance of 140 miles to Cerfontaine, Belgium, where B Company was operating. The two units bivouacked with B Co on 21 September, leaving on 22 September for the large airport near St. Truiden (airfield A-92 –ed), Belgium. This movement took some time traveling along the Meuse River and in the Meuse Valley for a considerable distance. The scenery however was beautiful and peaceful, although in many places demolished bridges and wrecked homes had either been burned or destroyed by the retreating Germans. On site, A Company was quickly joined by the personnel of B Co and the entire 12th Field Hospital. For the first time since arriving on the continent, the personnel of A Company were installed in a fine building and barracks formerly occupied by the German Wehrmacht. A and B Companies functioned at high speed for a few weeks until suddenly told in no uncertain terms by the Ninth Army Air Force to take the hospital installation down and get lost! With no orders for movement and no place to go, the personnel were told to bivouac. The Enlisted Men continued to stay in their permanent quarters, but the Officers left the pyramid tents and moved into the luxurious quarters of a former German Officer’s School, which proved quite a transition from canvas to tile floors, from folding cots to beds with springs, from cold to hot and cold running water, it was almost too much! In the days that followed, sightseeing and traveling were the main form of recreation and practically every Company member visited Brussels, Liège, and other liberated cities in Belgium.
A Co finally received orders to move to Verviers, Belgium, and occupy the “Ecole Normale de l’Etat”. An advance party under the command of Captain L. M. Seltzer moved to prepare the building for use. While looking it over they were however told that orders had been changed and that the 77th Evacuation Hospital was going to move into that building (which they did on 7 October 1944 –ed). Everyone eventually returned to St. Truiden and bivouacking.
On 27 October, the Company moved by motor shuttle 11 miles north of Hasselt, Belgium, where, together with two Hospitalization Units of the 12th Field Hospital, they were to establish a Rail Evacuation Holding Unit. Fortunately, the personnel were housed in a Belgian caserne, a former Belgian Army barracks completed in 1939, and rapidly seized by the Wehrmacht after invading the country in May 1940. It was probably the finest place the Company had ever seen and worked in. It was while being stationed in Hasselt that the men started watching and following the constant rain of “buzz-bombs” fired by the Germans at some of the large cities in Belgium. When one of them fell some 500 yards from the hospital building many of the casualties were treated by A Company personnel.
The T/O of the Company having changed (downward reorganization –ed), it became necessary to reduce the number of Enlisted Men and on 2 November 1944, 6 men were transferred from A Co to the 15th General Hospital in Liège. An NCO treated at this hospital was evacuated to the United Kingdom, and together with the first men, the loss of these people was keenly felt as the majority of them had been serving with the unit since the day of its activation. A Company had become very much attached to their caserne in Hasselt, and it was with great mental anguish that the news was received that they would have to leave the place as it was now located in territory controlled by the British Second Army. So on 13 November 1944, the personnel were moved a distance of 26 miles southeast by motor convoy to Herstal, near the large city of Liège, Belgium. The organization was not operational at the time. Upon arrival, the EM were housed in the comfortable quarters of the “Ecole St. Lambert”, while the Officers were billeted in houses over the Theater and Café of the “Maison du Peuple”, the communal center for the city. The latter place was much too public, often overcrowded, and proved unsatisfactory so that within a few days other quarters were found a short distance away in a private residence once occupied by German Officers. A week of pleasant philandering, sightseeing, shopping, and visiting followed, raising morale to high levels. The cities of Herstal and Liège offered much in the way of entertainment, hospitality, and sightseeing. On 15 November 1944 however, peace was suddenly shattered by the buzz-bomb blitz of Liège and surroundings. These vicious weapons of terror started coming down without discrimination. When one flying bomb landed within 300 yards of the Officers’ quarters there was a general exodus from the upper floors and beds were set up in the air raid shelter in the cellar constructed by the Germans during their occupation. After the blast not many windows were left in the rooms. A few days later another V-1 struck right behind the Officers’ quarters and now not only were there no windows, but also many rooms were wrecked, casements blown away, and door panels missing. A few more days elapsed and then another flying bomb landed one block away from the “Ecole St. Lambert”, shattering many windows, blowing away the greater part of the tile roof, and injuring many men (hit by flying glass). It was then wisely decided to move to a location of greater safety. New quarters were found at the “Ecole Communale” at Vivegnis, 4 miles from Herstal, Belgium. Thanksgiving Day, its second overseas, was celebrated 23 November with a sumptuous dinner with turkey and all the necessary trimmings served to all the personnel.
Two of the Officers went on a reconnaissance and fortunately found a set of two school buildings in a small village only 3 miles further north, and on 1 December 1944 the entire A Company moved to their new station. Before the move was accomplished 2 Officers and 20 EM had been placed on TD (starting 24 November 1944 –ed) with Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment and B Company to assist with Air Evacuation of casualties at their other installation at Hollogne-aux-Pierres, Belgium.
On 3 December 1944, the Company received a fateful order assigning 21 limited assignment soldiers from the 19th Replacement Depot to A Co. On 5 December a new Noncommissioned Officer joined the unit, Technician 5th Grade Robert L. Tinsley. Some of the NCOs and a few Officers received their long-awaited promotion in rank during the month. Officers and Enlisted Men returned from TD, but of the 21 promised replacements, only 17 came through. On 12 December 17 EM were transferred to the 16th Replacement Depot (within the frame of AGF Replacement System –ed). Their departure caused great sadness to all the members of the command. 6 Enlisted Men were received on 15 December 1944 to somehow compensate losses.
The attention was diverted from the “buzz-bomb” attacks when the enemy started its counteroffensive in the Belgian Ardennes on 16 December 1944. Listening to the news bulletins and following the enemy advance on the situation maps made the staff formulate plans for evacuation and during the night of 22 December with the advancing enemy reported only 14 miles from the outskirts of Liège, it was thought that withdrawal would become inevitable! Aerial activity, both Allied and German increased and antiaircraft artillery fire sprang into action everywhere.
25 December 1944, the second consecutive Christmas celebrated overseas brought news that enemy armored columns had definitively been stopped and everyone ate the delicious dinner prepared by Staff Sergeant James A. Collins and his fine mess staff with much greater zest. The sky was blue, but suddenly out of that blue appeared a German fighter-bomber to strafe a roadblock set up only 200 yards ahead of the building. This was 1230 hours on Christmas Day. It was the closest all of the men had ever been to an ‘uncaptured’ enemy. Appropriate Christmas decorations and a fine tree had been set up in the recreation room, beer was free, carols were sung accompanied by piano music provided by Private First Class Richard D’Alosio, and everyone soon went praying that the coming year would bring peace and return to the loved ones at home…
27 December found A Co suddenly alerted for movement and at 0800, 28 December 1944, it moved 40 miles southwest to a new station at Namur, Belgium, under a snow storm. On their way Officers and Men couldn’t help but notice that a variety of American units were moving north – away from the advancing enemy – and when they reached their destination, they were told that the Germans were just 10 miles away from the city!
A Rail Evacuation Holding Unit was set up with help from the 12th Field Hospital in a former Belgian Military Hospital known as the “Hôpital Militaire”. The building was large and ideal for this type of unit, although living quarters were a little cramped, they were comfortable and facilities excellent. It was a much larger building than the installation in Hasselt, but with assistance from hired civilian labor, everything was soon in order and ready for the reception of patients who started arriving on New Year’s Day. The Hospital filled to capacity and on 7 January 1945, the first Hospital Train took off with patients. For the next ten days, 2 more Hospital Trains loaded with casualties were sent off. Everyone was much too busy performing their mission to look at situation maps. Then gradually, the tactical situation improved on the ground and the skies cleared filling the air with Allied airplanes. Germany’s last offensive was dying and enemy troops started moving back in the direction of the ‘Fatherland”. In recognition of their excellent records and service in the Company, 12 Privates were promoted to the grade of Private First Class. On 13 January, A Company once more lost 7 EM to the Army Ground Forces Replacement System.
On 18 January 1945, orders were received from ADSEC directing A Co to move to Hollogne-aux-Pierres, Belgium, by motor convoy, taking the place of the Third Hospitalization Unit, 12th Field Hospital and rejoining Headquarters and B Company of the 93d. Nevertheless, 4 Officers and 17 Enlisted Men were sent on TD with the 12th Field Hospital to assist them with evacuation at the “Hôpital Militaire” in Namur, Belgium (which finally closed down 24 January 1945 –ed). As from 19 January onward, A Co was fully operating (together with B Co –ed) at Hollogne-aux-Pierres, preparing casualties for Air Evacuation from airstrip A-93 at Bierset (near Liège). The hospital site, located in an old zinc factory and mine (only 2 miles from the 298th General Hospital –ed), was unfortunately a far cry from the comfortable Hôpital Militaire in Namur. During the same period, 1 Officer assisted by 1 Technician was placed on DS with the 50th Field Hospital at Namur, Belgium, for a week.
After an intense period of activity in Namur, the work in Hollogne-aux-Pierres, Belgium, was almost a vacation, with personnel taking time to solve personal medical problems, such as removal of tonsils, being treated for diphtheria, and caring for other ailments at the 298th General and the 56th General Hospitals. More individual promotions followed. On 3 February, First Sergeant John Farinaro received a 7-day furlough for England, where he was to marry Miss Florence Smith of London. After a while A Company was eventually alerted to prepare for another move, and this time the Company was happy to hear that they would soon rejoin the 12th Field Hospital in Aachen, Germany.
The organization moved on 11 February 1945 to Aachen and joined the 12th Field Hospital on site. Their mission was to establish a Rail Evacuation Holding Unit in the large “Skt. Elisabeth Krankenhaus”. For most of the men this was their first trip into Germany and across the shattered and abandoned pillboxes and concrete positions of the Siegfried Line, the fortifications that the German military thought would protect the country from any invading forces. Aachen testified of the terrible destructive power of the Allied forces and looked completely demolished, wrecked, destroyed; hardly a house was unmarked and even the hospital building that had been selected showed evidence of the tremendous Allied fire power brought upon the city. The Engineers did however do an excellent job in repairing the building and the facilities and the personnel were able to settle down into rather comfortable quarters. The unit used 4 floors of the 8-story building and the site undoubtedly became one of the finest places the 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion had the privilege to work in.
Many days had not passed when the Company staff began to realize the effect on morale of the “non-fraternization” policy, so daily liberty runs back to Liège, Belgium, were begun much to the delight of all concerned. At first the Company was not too busy, but soon a tremendous flood of casualties started arriving from both the First and Ninth United States Armies. By 1100 hours, 23 February 1945, the first casualties from the Roer River crossing were received and this would become one of the most intensive periods of medical activity that A Co ever experienced. It was also here that the personnel received their first German civilians and it seemed strange at first to have old men, women and children coming into the wards for treatment. Anyway there was not much time left to think about the impact of war on the civilian population, as preparing evacuation of 3 to 4 Hospital Trains a day took most of the time. Captain Milton Waldman took over temporary command on 25 February, when Captain Ellis G. Behrents left on a 7-day leave to the United Kingdom.
Suddenly, A Co received orders to return to their parent unit, as the flood of casualties reaching Headquarters and B Company was too great for them to carry. Consequently A Company returned to Hollogne-aux-Pierres, Belgium, on 2 March to supplement the unit. The following day, another 4 Enlisted Men were transferred to Replacement Depots for training as Infantry soldiers. An exchange of Officers took place between A and B Company. Captain E. G. Behrents only returned from his leave in England on 15 March 1945, and immediately reassumed command of A Company.
Life in the Liège area was becoming very pleasant, the “buzz-bomb” alert had been lifted after the rush from the Roer to the Rhine, and cafés and clubs were reopening. The opera played, USO Shows were in town, dances, and entertainment of every variety was plentiful. Spring was in the air and the personnel were almost resigning themselves to a kind of life of rear echelon garrison troops. However there was still a war on and Ninth US Army couldn’t get along without medical support, so with the 50th Field Hospital taking over duties in Hollogne-aux-Pierres, Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment, together with A and B Companies began the move to München-Gladbach, Germany, on 16 March. By 17 March 1945, the entire unit was fully established under canvas on the municipal airport (designated Y-56 –ed), located on the outskirts of München-Gladbach, resuming duties of an Air Evacuation Holding Unit. On 19 March, 3 additional Enlisted Men were assigned and joined A Co. The unit’s stay in the city was highlighted by several events but foremost among them were the frequent visits of high-ranking British and American Officers, such as Lt. General William H. Simpson (CG Ninth United States Army); General Dwight D. Eisenhower (C-in-C Allied Armies); Lt. General Omar N. Bradley (CG Twelfth Army Group), British Air Marshall Arthur W. Tedder, and many other frequent visitors. Many camera enthusiasts (though forbidden by AR –ed) managed to take excellent snapshots of the high-brass and General “Ike” always graciously posed each time he arrived at the airport. General W. H. Simpson had his private aircraft parked right near the hospital installation.
It was also in München-Gladbach that the organization received casualties from the combined American-British airborne and water-crossing of the Rhine River at Wesel, Germany. Casualties from Operation “Varsity” which took place on 24 March 1945, starting coming in influencing the patient census, but it was felt that the number and severity of casualties from this operation did not anywhere near approximate those suffered during the Roer River crossing. 1 April 1945 brought more promotions for Enlisted Men, and on 3 April, 3 new men joined A Company.
Once again, the rapid advance of the ground forces left the hospital far in the rear. B Company had already left to assist the 9th Field Hospital in operating another Air Evacuation Holding Unit at Kirchhellen, Germany, on the other side of the Rhine and A Company was anxious to move also. Movement orders finally came through on 8 April, with A Company crossing the Rhine River by motor convoy and heading for Paderborn, Germany, some 140 miles away. They finally rolled onto the airport at Paderborn, passing through a completely gutted city, to find the advance detail well set up with most of the wards prepared for operation. Armed forces belonging to First and Ninth United States Armies had lined up in Paderborn 5 days before the unit’s arrival, but the infantry had not yet arrived. German Armies were still attempting to break out of the “Rhur Pocket” and the enemy forces ahead of A Company held only by a thin line to their armor, and there, right in the middle, was A Company of the 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion to treat and evacuate casualties! Airfield Y-97 that they were using was a former Luftwaffe Bomber Base and evidence of frequent bombardment and recent artillery and armored fighting were to be seen everywhere. Abandoned and wrecked enemy fighters and bombers littered the demolished hangars, emplacements, and revetments, with ordnance equipment, destroyed vehicles and weapons, abandoned gear and supplies everywhere, and stocks of supplies in abandoned warehouses on the base. Scrounging and looting took place, and within only a few days the company area abounded with anything a man could ask for (except female companions and ice-cream soda). Radios, bicycles, motorcycles, automobiles, weapons, uniforms, generators, and many other items were available in large quantities. It should be stated that several dead German soldiers were found in the area until a Graves Registration Company detail recovered them and put them in their proper place – 6 feet under.
Casualties continued to pour in increasing the patient census considerably, and it was also at this installation that the personnel began to evacuate recently liberated American Prisoners of War (RAMP – ed). The stories they had to tell about their former captors and the treatment received while in the hands of the Germans made everybody’s blood boil and long for retribution. It was heart warming to see the appreciation of these unfortunate soldiers, expressed not by words, but by their expression on their faces and in their eyes, when they received food and proper medical and other care from the ward personnel. It was fine to see the men, some too weak and emaciated from months of starvation and ill treatment, walk onto the aircraft on their way home. It was in Paderborn too that contacts were made with Displaced Persons (DPs –ed), mostly foreign nationals from all over Europe, uprooted from their homes, separated from their loved ones, and brought to Germany to feed the voracious appetite of the Nazi war machine!
The German Army was now disintegrating as a strong fighting force, and Allied armored columns raced over the Weser River on to the Elbe River, closely followed by the Infantry Divisions. Meanwhile Soviet Forces were rapidly advancing in the east, closing in on Berlin, the capital city of the “Reich”.
Moving time was there again, but for this one, the 93d Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel Joseph W. Palmer, MC, had something extra in mind as a token of recognition of the fine work achieved. No one thought it could happen, but after several months of arranging air evacuation of casualties, A Company was to take a plane ride themselves!
On 18 April 1945, A Company, 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion, became airborne and the majority of the personnel and their equipment, the complete mess, and some of the hospital equipment were transported by 6 C-47 cargo planes a distance of over 150 air miles to Mariental Air Base (airfield R-39 –ed) in the vicinity of Helmstedt, Germany. The flight was for many the very first one and for all a great thrill. From the air the ‘passengers’ could see where tank battles had been fought, where Allied bombers had dropped their eggs, and where the enemy had ineffectively tried to slow down the advance by blowing up bridges and destroying military installations. The flight was not so smooth however, in fact rather bumpy, and many of the men had need for that ‘bucket’, with others happy when the wheels of the aircraft touched down. The airfield was a former Luftwaffe Air Cadet Training School, and after landing, the planes were surrounded by DPs with Poles, Russians, Czechs, French, and Belgians of all ages looking in awe at the Americans.
The plane ride was a wonderful adventure, but when the group were taken to their quarters, they were left speechless; Officers and Enlisted Men moved into modern buildings formerly housing Luftwaffe Officers, complete to every detail of comfort.
The Hospital was soon established under tentage on the field and work resumed immediately. B Company, assisted by one Hospitalization Unit of the 50th Field Hospital joined the people of A Company a few days later thus swelling bed capacity to 800. It soon became apparent that this capacity would not be necessary as casualties were slight and admissions remained low. On 23 April, new ‘blood’ was received from the ZI, with the arrival of 4 extra Enlisted Men who joined A Co. Tragedy struck when on the night of 25 April 1945, 6 EM belonging to the Company’s motor pool died as a result of injuries received in a traffic accident. They were buried after an impressive service conducted by Chaplain Phibb on 26 April.
Helmstedt was supposed to have been A Company’s last move, but Ninth US Army sent in a request for a company to medically support the combined British-American crossing of the lower Elbe River near Wittenberg, Germany. A Company lost, and of the 93d they were in it, again. After closing down on 27 April, the personnel awaited orders for movement, but before these were received, the Elbe was crossed before anyone had moved.
On 1 May, the Company moved once more, heading for Salzwedel, Germany, a distance of 50 miles due north to open another Air Evacuation Holding Unit (near airfield R-55 –ed). Once again they were completely set up under canvas and admissions were moderate. The airfield was part of a complex housing a former Luftwaffe Cadet Training Center and scores of abandoned, burned, or destroyed aircraft littered the area. The main part of the installation, the ”Adolf Hitler” barracks was occupied by a Battalion pertaining to the 84th “Railsplitter” Infantry Division who were tasked with the supervision of some 5,000 DPs. Maj. General Alexander R. Bolling (CG 84th Infantry Division) honored the medical troops with a visit and toured the installation. His good humor, desire to help, concern for the many patients, and lack of pompous selfesteem impressed everyone and he looked like a decent and regular fellow! This was confirmed, when that same afternoon, a number of 84th Infantry ARC girls arrived with donuts, candy, and chewing gum for the patients, and the Division’s Band gave a jive session for everyone to enjoy.
The war was now rapidly coming to a close in the European Theater and great events followed each other in rapid order; Hitler’s death; the capture of Berlin; and finally the unconditional surrender of Germany, with V-E Day on 8 May 1945. Celebration of such important events was unfortunately limited due to circumstances as it was business as usual, and evacuation continued unabated.
During the same period further changes were taking place in A Company. Captain Milton H. Waldman was transferred from A Company to the 203d General Hospital in Paris, France. Another Medical Officer, Captain McCullock went on leave to the United Kingdom. Two of the unit’s NCOs left for a well-deserved furlough at the French Riviera. 5 new Enlisted Men were assigned to the Company on 8 May.
As the days passed, admissions decreased and sightseeing trips were organized along the Elbe River. More Officers left on 18 May when Captains Robert Barrett, Harry Heck, and David Kravchick were transferred to Headquarters, Area Assembly Command, Reims, France (where the many City camps later opened –ed). Within a couple of weeks, Officer strength had been reduced to 2/3 of its normal number.
Although A Company continued to operate as an Air Evacuation Holding Unit, most of the men were now concerned wit their individual ASR scores, trying to determine how many points they had accumulated, and how many more they needed toward discharge and separation from the service. When the new campaign awards, “Ardennes-Alsace” and “Central Europe” were announced by the WD, the personnel hoped the unit would be awarded credit for the additional campaigns and so add extra points to their ASR (unfortunately only the “Central Europe” campaign was to become part of the Battalion’s awards –ed). 1 June 1945 brought many much deserved promotions and awards which were announced and presented by the Battalion CO during formation. The climax was reached when Staff Sergeant James A. Collins, received a Certificate of Merit in recognition of his outstanding service in charge of the mess and kitchen throughout the operations on the continent. This was followed by distribution of the last captured German brandy, and actual celebrating could begin.
On 6 June 1945, Technician 5th Grade Robert Tinsley of A Company became the Enlisted high-pointer (with 102 points) and the FIRST Enlisted Man of the command to leave for the United States to be honorably discharged. At 1200 hours, the same day, A Company, 93d Medical Gas treatment Battalion, completed its primary mission and the last C-47 roared down the runway and took to the air with its load of patients!
After closing down operations, Headquarters and Second Platoon, A Company were moved to Haimbach, slightly west of Fulda, Germany, where the entire Battalion was assembling. By 8 June, everyone had moved down to Haimbach and all seemed delighted with the picturesque bivouac site. The 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion’s major duty was to run an Assembly Area for ADSEC medical units who were redeploying from the ETO direct to the Pacific Theater or back to the Zone of Interior. As soon as the mission was completed and shipping space was available, the Battalion was to return to the US. Captain Edwin Peters and Private Mike Mena left for 7 delightful days of rest at the French Riviera on 13 June. On 14 June 1945, Captain Benjamin Passis was transferred to the 61st Field Hospital scheduled for occupation duties in Germany.
Headquarters Ninth United States Army
Office of the Commanding General
Letter of Commendation
The MRC Staff are particularly indebted to Patrick Yack, son of Corporal Leo P. Yack who served overseas with C Company, 93d Medical Gas Treatment Battalion in World War 2. Patrick generously provided them with copies of vintage documents related to the history of A Company, enabling them to edit this concise Unit History. The authors are still looking for a complete Personnel Roster of the Battalion.