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US Army

Saving live on the front

Saving live on the front
 
The 109th was not a combat unit but it certainly had its rough times as it was near the front most of the War.  I should mention that it had 39 officers of which about half were surgeons.  There were 40 nurses and 217 enlisted men.  The unit was formed and completed basic training at Camp Carson, Colorado in June 1943.  It went overseas in April of 1944 and landed on Utah beach in Normandy in 1944. 
 
The 109th Evacuation Hospital was a 400 bed unit, usually housed in tents, and called semi mobile since it could be dismantled, loaded onto trucks, moved, and set up again in a few hours.  It was a complete hospital since it had surgical staff and equipment to do any type of surgical procedure necessary in combat.  During the invasion of Normandy the hospital had landed on Utah beach and supported Patton’s 3rd Army as it moved across France. 
 
In the later part of 1944, the front was moving rather fast and the 109th was ordered to move to an area near Boulay, in Alsace-Loraine on December 4th.  The weather had turned very cold so the unit set up in some buildings previous used as a prisoner of war camp hospital.  The place looked like a prison, which it was, with barbed wire fences and pillboxes.  Pot-bellied stoves made life good and the men got to sleep inside for the first time since landing in Normandy.  Casualties were about what had been expected ranging from about 50 to 100 each day. 
 
On the afternoon of December 22th the hospital was notified that it would again support Patton’ 3rd Army as it moved north to relieve the pressure of the German break through.  It was a go, go.  Within hours the hospital was retreating back to Metz, where it bivouacked until the entire supporting unit got organized for the Patton’s move north. 
 
On December 28th the 109th moved into some French Military Academy buildings in Montmedy, France.  Montmedy was about six miles south of the Belgium border and causalities were very heavy.  Other supporting surgical teams were called in to help.  Treatment was difficult because of several complicating factors.  The ward medics were faced with as many as 40 wounded in each room coming out of anesthesia, the Germans had dropped paratroopers behind the lines, so some of the medics had to do guard duty.  Also a number of the enlisted men were called up to serve as first aid men in various infantry units in the area, and there were several heavy snow storms.  Because of the heavy casualties, both German and American GI’s had to be placed in the same area and this did not work as one would expect.  Regardless of all the problems, nearly 3000 causalities received surgical treatment while at this location with a very low death rate. 
 
On 29 January 1945 the 109th moved to a former Children’s Air and Sun School, Institute de St Ode near Sprimont, Belgium, just ten miles from Bastogne.  The fighting was over but the results were overwhelming in terms of casualties and equipment.  The 109th Evacuation Hospital admitted more casualties and had the lowest death rate of any Evacuation Hospital in Europe.  It received five battle stars. The Meritorious Unit Commendation and the European Theater streamer.
 

Source: Bulge Bugle November 2015

 

By T/4 Howard M. KLITGAARD

 

109th Evacuation Hospital

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium