45th Evacuation Hospital Special Anecdote
On July 2, 1944, nine (9) German Nurses arrived at the 45th Evacuation Hospital in the vicinity of La Cambe, France (Calvados Department). It had been decided by American military authorities that these Nurses, captured after the fall of Cherbourg (DRK personnel and Kriegsmarine Auxiliaries) where they had been working at the underground hospital, were to be returned to the German lines. However, they did not know until after their arrival at the hospital that they were to be released. Needless to say, they were overjoyed when they received the news. While staying at the 45th Evacuation Hospital, the CO escorted them through the facilities. The Nurses had the opportunity to observe supplies and equipment and talk to German patients and prisoners of war. They were most curious about the care and treatment given to German patients and PWs in England and on the continent. As the German Nurses and Auxiliaries went through the American hospital, the staff hoped they would remember and treat their people with the same kindness.
After visiting the hospital, the Nurses waited while a cease-fire was being negotiated with the enemy. The German Nurses were eventually transported in closed WC-54 ambulances to Balleroy. Here, there was a wait of approximately two hours while final arrangements were being made with the German Officers to whom they were to be returned. A short cease-fire was agreed upon by radio involving the following people: Captain Fred Ghercke, CAC, CO Prisoner of War Interrogation Team #24; Captain Quentin Roosevelt, G-2, First Infantry Division; and Major F. Heeren, CO Panzeraufkläringsabteiling, 2. Panzer Division. At approximately 1800 hours the German women were taken through the lines at Caumont-l’Eventé. The above story was described in the British Edition of “Yank” dated July 30, 1944. There was also ample press coverage of the incident at the time, with articles being published by Don Whitehead, AP War Correspondent.
Captured medical personnel were often retained by the detaining power with a view to providing medical care or services to Prisoners of War. When there was no longer a need for their services they were to be returned (or exchanged) to their own lines.
Actually two exchanges took place on July 2 and July 9, 1944 respectively, involving a total of sixteen (16) German Nurses. Both exchanges took place on the road between Balleroy and Caumont and received quite some press coverage in Allied countries at the time.