A series following the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. This updates the series Following the 10th Armored that I did five years ago. The beginning posts set the stage for 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europewith the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.

#17- A Hint of Something To Come


    •    April 21, 1944
At 6.45 in the evening Buddy called from Augusta and his friend was there and I talked to her.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
This is the first mention in the diaries of Buddy’s friend. Did Beula know that she was more than just a “friend” and was she using the euphemism to ignore the implications? Dad was 38 years old, never married. His brother Carl, 42, the eldest, was to be married by the end of June to his very long-time girlfriend.  His sister Ruth, 40, the middle child, had been married about 10 years. Dad had a history of a long time girlfriend that I have mentioned in other posts, whose tires he reportedly slashed when angry.

For all practical purposes Buddy was a small-town boy He spent most of his life in his hometown along the banks of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the nearby Pine Creek in North Central Pennsylvania.

The West Branch rambles through the Allegheny Plateau, before heading east at Lock Haven. Forty or so miles later it breaks south at Muncy leaving the valley. It will join the North Branch a few miles further and form the main river to the Chesapeake Bay. The east flowing section is in a wide, fertile valley, the transition between the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Province (- Link) to the south and the Allegheny Plateau (- Link) to the north. For those 40 miles Bald Eagle Mountain (- Link) bounds the river and the valley. Powerful, tall and green, the mountain is the edge of the world from either direction.

Then there is Pine Creek (- Link). Don’t let its name fool you. One historian commented that it deserves the name river rather than creek. It can be a powerhouse of liquid- or a rock strewn stream. It runs eighty miles from its start beyond Ansonia. It flows through the Allegheny Plateau heading south having carved what is known as The Gorge or the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. It flows into the Susquehanna a few miles from my hometown, near the site where an ancient Elm stood for centuries until felled by Dutch Elm disease. Under that elm, the Tiadaghton Elm, on July 4, 1776, a group of illegal settlers known as the Fair Play Men signed a declaration of independence from England as the same thing was happening in Philadelphia. (- Link)

Pine Creek is the Tiadaghton- its native name. We were always told it was the largest creek in the world; the major tributary of the West Branch of the Susquehanna. Pine Creek is the wild place, the wilderness on which one’s life foundation can be built, a wilderness at the bottom of a majestic pine bounded gorge. Get your feet wet in Pine Creek, the saying went, and you will always return.

Both Dad’s parents grew up in the same area on neighboring homesteads. The town, and the whole valley from Williamsport to Lock Haven as well as up Pine Creek was filled with all kinds of distant- and not too distant relatives. Everyone knew everyone.  Nevertheless, as I said in post #2, I have little concrete information about his childhood and young adult years.

As a small-town boy, he did become familiar with the city when he went to pharmacy school in Philadelphia. But his feet had been in Pine Creek. After his graduation in 1928 he returned home to the West Branch Valley and lived with his parents in the house where he had spent much of his youth, worked at a local pharmacy that he and his father eventually purchased.

I am sure that it would not have been too much to assume that Dad was going to marry someone local.

All of this was now several years past when Beula got to talk to Buddy’s “friend” 75 years ago. When and how he met this friend is lost in family history. From information in Beula’s diary it appears that Dad was renting from a family in Augusta, about 9 miles from Camp Gordon and probably working in a hospital at least part time. Sixteen years later the family would stop in Augusta on a return trip from Florida and visit with a family who we were told was where Mom was living at the time. I can only guess that it may have been the same place. Who knows? Sometimes facts are not possible to discover.

What Beula and Bill or any of his siblings knew is pure, uneducated conjecture. Now, 75 years later we know where it was about to go.

Meanwhile,

◆ April 1944
◆ 75 Years Ago
    ◦    Adolf Eichmann and the Nazis offered the Hungarian rescue worker Joel Brand the "Blood for Goods" deal, proposing that one million Jews be allowed to leave Hungary for any Allied-occupied country except Palestine, in exchange for goods obtained outside of Hungary. The deal would never be made because the Allies believed it to be a trick and the British press slammed it as blackmail,
    ◦    A two-day meeting between Hitler and Benito Mussolini was held near Salzburg, and
    ◦    "It's Love-Love-Love" by Guy Lombardo and His Orchestra topped the Billboard singles charts.

#16- Medical Training

◆ April 1944
◆ 75 Years Ago
Less than two months before the planned Allied invasion of France, American and British warplanes soften German defenses on the Normandy coast. (WW II timeline)
    Things will soon get far more hectic, surprising, and involved for my dad and his family. At this point 75 years ago it was all still in limbo. Through mid-April the only mention of Buddy this month in my grandmother’s diary was that she either received a letter from him or sent him one or a “box,” most likely of food. During this break in the action I have been researching the how and what of training for medics. I have found a number of helpful manuals and reports on the Internet. One is The Instructors’ Guide for Medical Department Mobilization, September 1942 and the other is part of the series on World War II history, this volume from 1974 on the Army Medical Department Medical Training in World War II. They give a clear picture of what the US Army Medical Department faced in the early years and how they developed the world class medical units that were indispensable. First, some background from the pre-war years as reported in the history.

    Training facilities of the U.S. Army Medical Department in 1939 reflected adaptation to peacetime medical requirements. From a World War I peak of over 340,000, the Medical Department’s strength had been reduced to a little over 11,500 officers and enlisted men by June 1939. … The five Medical Department field units that existed were either understrength or skeleton organizations; trained enlisted cadre could not have been provided in case of mobilization.
    Had the Medical Department been confronted with mobilization in the summer of 1939, the problems of creating a functioning organization capable of providing both routine health care and field medical support might have proved insurmountable. [Emphasis added.] The 2-year period that intervened provided an opportunity to adjust the program for the crisis that lay ahead. (Medical Training)

    Training that already existed was expanded slightly starting in 1939 after the start of the war in Europe when Germany’s invaded Poland. A report about the later development of replacement training centers on the website of the WW II US Medical Research Center clearly states the purpose:

The ultimate purpose of all Military Training is the assurance of Victory in war! An Army must be trained to do its job in the most effective manner if it is to reach victory with the least possible losses to the country. … Attached medical personnel and Medical Department units must be prepared to support the offensive spirit and actions of the Armed Forces. … Units must be trained to function effectively in any type of military operation. The well-trained medical unit will increase the offensive spirit by assuring combat personnel of adequate medical service at all times.

Medical personnel were therefore trained to be aggressive, resolute, and thoroughly capable…While the basis of initial training was the individual, the ultimate requirement was teamwork, from the smallest unit to the largest. (— Link)
    In order for that to happen, there was a basic program for medical personnel training. It appears that after the draft was begun in late 1940, the training looked something like this:
[E]nlisted men were to receive 13 weeks of basic training. [It] was divided into two phases: The first, a period of basic military training; and the second, a period of basic technical and tactical training. After 2 weeks of basic military training at the beginning of the cycle, the trainee was expected to be able to display and care for his uniform and equipment, to understand military courtesy, and to have acquired a fundamental knowledge of such basic military subjects as individual defense and march discipline.

The third to 13th weeks of the program were devoted to basic technical and tactical training. Training in basic military subjects continued, but after the second week of the cycle, the program stressed basic technical subjects that would prepare men either for specific duties or for further training at a medical unit or installation. During this period, men were also trained to march and execute tactical movements, to establish and operate battalion or regimental dispensaries, and to maneuver with the combat arms in the field….

Individuals qualified to be trained as technicians were selected at the end of the fourth, eighth, and 12th week of the cycle and sent to Medical Department special service schools or to enlisted technician schools for 8 to 12 weeks of technical training. (Quora)
    From other sources I have found that the Army earmarked medic candidates from the very first day they joined the Army. Sounds simple enough, but the truth of the matter is that in that time referred to as the period  of “Limited National Emergency”
Although there was extensive study and planning for the expansion of the Army Medical Department [during that period], little was actually done. …  The Army Medical Department was also handicapped by lack of funds to construct troop housing and classrooms at the training centers and to expand facilities at the technical and advanced technical training schools. The shortage of instructors at the training centers and technical schools was a chronic problem. Training equipment had to be improvised or simulated. Irregular arrivals and unscheduled transfers of trainees resulted in vast fluctuations in enrollments. (— Link)
    Looking at the 1942 Instructors’ Guide gives a decent outline of what the training was supposed to look like.

1) Basic Training- weeks one and two
The preliminary training of the individual enlisted man will be stressed. At the end of this period he should be able to wear properly, display, and care for his uniform and equipment; understand and correctly practice indoor and outdoor military courtesy; and have an applicatory knowledge of the essentials of all basic subjects prescribed in this program.
2) Technical Training- weeks 3-10
Emphasis is placed upon fundamental technical subjects which will fit him for actual practice or further training in a medical unit or installation. In addition to the technical subjects, specialist training, tactical and logistical training is begun. Fundamental technical subjects were covered such as establishment and operation of stations, collection and treatment of casualties in the field, the operation of regimental and battalion dispensaries; and the preparation for participation with the associated arms in field exercises and under combat conditions. 

3) Tactical Training- weeks 11-13
This period should be devoted largely to field and applicatory exercises. At the end of this period personnel intended for tactical medical units should be able to march and execute tactical movements with facility, establish and operate stations, collect and treat casualties in the field during day or night, operate battalion or regimental aid stations, and participate with the associated arms both in field exercises and under combat conditions.

4) Specialist Training- weeks 14-26
For a surgical technician this would include everything from nutrition and hygiene to ward management and air raid procedures. (Instructors' Manual)
    It appears that in the last quarter of 1941 the basic training portion was shortened to 11 weeks. But by then my dad would have already completed both basic and specialist training as outlined in the Manual.

    My Dad was part of the initial mobilization in the two years of 1939-1941. As I talked about in an earlier post, he registered for the draft as required on the first day in October 1940. His enlistment date was January 13, 1941. I assume that because of his own civilian training as a pharmacist he went though both basic training and medical orientation as listed above. The one thing that supports that assumption is a picture I have of medics from the hospital at Camp Blanding, Florida in late August 1941, over seven months into his year.

Buddy in upper right corner (cropped)

As I have said elsewhere, I have no diary from my grandmother to confirm any information. So far I have hit dead ends on following him in that first period of service. If, as I assume, he was trained in his eventual specialty- surgical technician- this all would have taken him until mid-July 1941. Did he stay for further training or to develop skills? Camp Blanding is not listed as a medical training facility in anything I have found. Was he sent home early since the space was needed for increased training when the draft was extended in 1941?

    All I know for sure are the dates above, the picture from Camp Blanding, and that by January 1942 (perhaps earlier) he was home and remained at home until activated in August ’42 into the 80th Armored Medical Battalion. Now, in April 1944, he was a medic with the 10 Armored Division’s medical battalion, no doubt “enjoying” these last months before going overseas. D-Day was less than six weeks away and then everything would change.