A series following the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. He was in Europe with the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.This updates the series Following the 10th Armored that I did five years ago.

#56- To the Rhine

    ✓    Company C Morning Reports
    ✓    16 March 1945

Departed Trier 1015. Traveled 10.9 miles via motor convoy to Lampaden, Germany. Supporting CCB.  Arrived 1145. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. Weather fair. (MR)
Combat commands of the 10th Armored Division began passing through infantry of the 80th and 94th Divisions before daylight on 16 March. Although the Germans of General Hahm's LXXXII Corps during the night had formed a new crust of resistance sufficient to deny genuine armored exploitation for another twenty-four hours, no doubt remained among either American or German commanders as the day ended that a deep armored thrust was in the offing. (Hyperwar)

    ✓    17 March 1945

Left Lampaden 1630. Traveled approximately 8 miles via motor convoy to Kell, Germany. Arrived 1730. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. (MR)
Early on 17 March, the 10th Armored Division drove eight miles and seized a bridge intact over the little Prims River, last water obstacle short of the Nahe. (Hyperwar)

    ✓    18 March 1945

Left Kell 1115. Traveled 12 miles via motor convoy to Otzenhausen, Germany. Arrived 1400. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. (MR)
    ✓    19 March 1945
Left Otzenhausen 1440, Traveled 12 miles via motor convoy yo Wolfersweiler, Germany. Arrived 1540. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. Weather clear. (MR)

As worked out in detail by Patch and Patton, the two armies split the area between the Nahe River and the Rhine almost equally, with a new boundary running just north of Kaiserslautern and reaching the Rhine south of Worms. Patton nevertheless intended to take Kaiserslautern himself and then turn one infantry and one armored division southeast, deeper into Patch's zone, to link with the Seventh Army's VI Corps along the Rhine. Thereby he hoped to trap any Germans who might remain in front of the Seventh Army in the West Wall. That accomplished, Patton "would clear out of [Patch's] area."51 The plan presumed, of course, that the Seventh Army at that point would still be involved in the West Wall, but in any event, Patch apparently accepted the agreement with the same good grace earlier accorded the Supreme Commander's proposal.
It took another day before the effects generated by the heat began to show up on headquarters situation maps, but by 19 March a graphic representation of the Third Army's gains looked, in the words of Patton's colleague, General Hodges of the First Army, "like an intestinal tract."53 With the added weight of the 12th Armored Division (Maj. Gen. Roderick R. Allen), General Walker's XX Corps made the more spectacular gains. By midnight of the 19th, the 12th Armored was across the upper reaches of the Nahe and had gone on to jump a little tributary of the Nahe, more than twenty-three miles from the armor's line of departure of the day before. The 10th Armored Division stood no more than six miles from Kaiserslautern. (Hyperwar)

    •    Monday, March 19, 1945

Got up at 10.30. It is raining.Changed the beds. Had a letter from Buddy. He is in Germany. Wrote to Ruth and Dora.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman

    ✓    20 March 1945
Left Wolfersweiler 1125. Traveled 23 miles via motor convoy to Reichenbachsteegen, Germany. Arrived 1453, Set up clearing station and billeted troops. (MR)
    ✓    21 March 1945
Left Reichenbachsteegen 0845. Traveled 17 miles via motor convoy to Schopp, Germany. Arrived 1320. Set up clearing station. Billeted troops. Supporting CCB. (MR)

There were 152 admissions in the three companies of the 80th Medical Battalion on the 21st; there will be another 205 ton the 22nd as this drive south continues. Hence Company C will remain at Schopp for an extra day. They have traveled 83 miles in these six days.

[The] 10th Armored Division [was turned] south and southeast into the Pfaelzer Forest. By nightfall of 20 March, two of the 10th Armored's columns stood only a few hundred yards from the main highway through the forest, one almost at the city of Pirmasens on the western edge, the other not far from the eastern edge. A third was nearing Neustadt, farther north beyond the fringe of the forest. The 12th Armored meanwhile was approaching the Rhine near Ludwigshafen. Not only were the withdrawal routes through the Pfaelzer Forest about to be compromised but a swift strike down the Rhine plain from Neustadt and Ludwigshafen against the last escape sites for crossing the Rhine appeared in the offing. 

In desperation the Luftwaffe during 20 March sent approximately 300 planes of various types, including jet-propelled Messerschmitt 262's, to attack the Third Army's columns, but to little avail. Casualties on the American side were minor. Antiaircraft units, getting a rare opportunity to do the job for which they were trained, shot down twenty-five German planes. Pilots of the XIX Tactical Air Command claimed another eight.

In the face of the 10th Armored Division's drive, the word to the westernmost units of the XC Corps to begin falling back went out late on the 20th, and when the 42d Division, in the mountains on the left wing of the VI Corps, launched a full-scale assault against the West Wall late the next day, the attack struck a vacuum. Soon after dawn the next morning, 22 March, a regiment of the 42d cut the secondary highway through the Pfaelzer Forest. A column of the 10th Armored had moved astride the main highway through the woods and emerged on the Rhine flatlands at Landau. Any Germans who got out of the forest would have to do so by threading a way off the roads individually or in small groups. 

By nightfall of 22 March, the Germans west of the Rhine could measure the time left to them in hours. (Hyperwar)
(Note on this map: I have tried to give the scope of what was happening during this week with Patton racing to cross the Rhine before Montgomery. As such he utilized the 10th Armored to block the southern escape route. In so doing, as described in the text, he moved the 10th and its units out of the Third Army territory, crossing them into the Seventh Army of General Patch. Hence all the different places listed in this map with the movement of Buddy's Company C shown in blue as usual.)

By March 23, the Third Army engineers were ready, and Patton, desperate to cross the great river before Monty, decided that his men should make a feint at Mainz and cross at once at Oppenheim. By daylight on the 23rd, six battalions were over the river for a loss of only 28 men killed and wounded, while other infantry and engineer units had crossed just to the north, at Nierstein, without opposition. Patton telephoned Bradley: “Brad, don’t tell anyone but I’m across … there are so few Krauts around there they don’t know it yet. So don’t make any announcement. We’ll keep it secret until we see how it goes.”
However, the Germans soon became aware of the crossings and after heavy Luftwaffe raids on the Third Army pontoon bridges during the day, Patton called Bradley again that evening: “For God’s sake tell the world we’re across … I want the world to know Third Army made it before Monty.” 
In fact, the world already knew. At Bradley’s headquarters that morning, Patton’s representative had announced that the Third Army had crossed the Rhine at 10 pm on March 22, “without benefit of aerial bombing, ground smoke, artillery preparation and airborne assistance.” Clearly, this was a dig at Montgomery, who was using all these assets at that very moment to assist his crossing of the same river. (Warfare Network)

    ✓    23 March 1945

Clearing Section left Schopp 0900. Traveled 12 miles. Arrived Rodalben, Germany at 1000. Opened clearing station 1100. C.P. and remainder of company left Schopp at 1620. Traveled 32 miles via motor convoy to Annweiler, Germany. Arrived 2030. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. (MR)

They have now traveled a total of 115 miles in 8 days. They still have a week to go in the month.

It appears that, as a result of the coordinated efforts between Third and Seventh Armies, the 10th got to the right place at the right time. Now they will be attached to General Patch’s XXI Corps, 7th Army for the rest of the war. Patton has utilized them well on his own personal race to the Rhine. Now they move to other things.

    •    Friday, March 23, 1945
Got up at 10. Gee, but I feel bad. Cleaned some. Father washed the windows.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman

#55- A Brief Respite and More Background

    •    Friday, March 16
Got up at 11. Did not feel so good. Wrote to Buddy.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
75 years ago today, the 10th Armored/80th Medical finished a four-day break in the city of Trier. In the two weeks prior to the break they had, as pointed out in earlier posts, cleared the Saar-Moselle Triangle, captured Trier, crossed the Moselle and did some clearing up toward Wittlich and Bullay. According to Nichols in Impact, they took the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Trier, the oldest city in Germany of the old Roman Coliseum and other ancient remains.

The Tenth was about to go on a long trip. In the next six days, they will travel 83 miles and then over 100 more by the end of the month. In these movements, the 80th Armored Medical Battalion will change its organizational movement to match the original plans set out in the manual for Armored Medical Battalions. No doubt this aided in the work of the clearing station of the company. With the more rapid movement of armored units as compared to infantry units, they needed to make sure the patients in the clearing station were moved appropriately. To do that Company C would often move in two sections as we will see from here through the end of the war.

As shown in this screenshot of the 1944 Armored Medical Units Field Manual flexibility and mobility were essential. As will happen for the rest of March and all of April this will be the story of the 80th as the 10th Armored’s organic medical battalion. The battalion medical companies were referred to as “second echelon” treatment, i.e. not front line treatment. The Field Manual describes them this way.
    ✓    24. MEDICAL COMPANY. For details of organization, see T/O 8-77. The armored medical battalion includes three medical companies organized and equipped to be self- contained. The primary function of the medical company is to assure prompt and continuous evacuation of forward medical units, and to render medical care to casualties evacuated. Each medical company consists of a headquarters, a collecting platoon, and a clearing platoon.
In reading through the daily Morning Reports for Company C, my Dad’s company, there has not been any indication of three sections as listed above. I am sure there must have been some breakdown, especially considering there was a surgical team since my Dad’s duty was surgical tech. Whenever they would move, the Morning Report would almost always indicate that the “clearing station” was set up and then the troops billeted.

    ✓    Collecting platoon
(1) This platoon consists of a platoon headquarters and two identical collecting sections. The platoon headquarters is equipped with a radio-liaison vehicle included in the group medical net (FM). It is capable of contacting all division medical units within range,
(2) This vehicle formally operates forward from the clearing platoon, contacting the aid stations and controlling and directing the ambulances of the medical company to battalion aid stations and casualty collecting points in the forward areas.
(3) Ambulances of the collecting sections operate forward from the clearing station to evacuate battalion aid stations and casualty collecting points established by the medical detachments.
Sidenote: there is a good memoir of a radio technician, Wire As a Weapon: Observations of a lineman with the 150th Armored Signal company laying wire from 10th Armored Division Headquarters to the forward units in 1944-45. (If you Google it, you will get lots of articles about the weapon a garrote wire for killing.) 

    ✓    Clearing Platoon
Functions and operation. ( a ) This platoon is the nucleus of second echelon medical service in combat. The clearing station does not attempt surgical procedures better performed by specialized units of supporting medical elements. Its primary purpose is to perform emergency surgery, including amputation, to combat shock, to administer blood and plasma transfusions, tetanus toxoid, apply splints, and check dressings.
The clearing stations employed mobile surgical trucks. According to the Army Medical Department History:
“Mobile Surgical Trucks” were truck-mounted ‘mobile’ operating rooms designed for temporary expansion of busy and overcrowded Hospitals! These units provided additional and self-sustained two-table operating rooms which could be utilized for all types of surgery. No additional burden was put on the Hospital, since the truck possessed its own autoclaves, surgical instruments, lighting, gloves, dressings, and linen. It must be noted that the Truck itself was only a means of transportation, while the ‘special’ Tent (carried in the trailer, together with the necessary power supply) provided with the Truck acted as the actual operating room.
The Truck, 2 ½-Ton, 6 x 6, GMC, CCKW-352 (short wheelbase); 353 type (long wheelbase), aka “deuce-and-a-half” the US Army’s workhorse, was one of the best vehicles suited for this purpose. manufactured by the General Motors Truck and Coach Division of the Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company

Illustration of a Surgical Truck and Tent, as introduced by the 47th Armored Medical Battalion.

One of the two Mobile Surgical Trucks of C Company, 78th Armd Med Bn, 8th Armd Div, ready to accept casualties. Wounded German PWs on litters are waiting for treatment.

Partial display of basic equipment of two Mobile Surgical Trucks, set up in the appropriate Tent

Again, from the Field Manual:
Each surgical unit contains an operating table with operating lights, cabinets for supplies, instruments and sterile dressings, hot water heater with boiler, a supply of cold water, a sterilizing unit and facilities for ventilation and heating. Electric power is furnished by a gasoline-operated generator. Each surgical unit includes a specially constructed blackout tent to provide additional space for the treatment of casualties. One surgical unit has in addition the necessary items of equipment to treat gas casualties. In the event of an enemy gas attack, this unit operates for the emergency treatment of systemic symptoms incident to toxic gases and the emergency treatment of chemical burns. It is equipped to perform essential decontamination of personnel and equipment. (Field Manual)
As I mentioned above, part of the reason we will see in the coming weeks for the splitting of the clearing station into platoons or sections (both words are used to describe them in the morning reports) is for the efficiency of collecting and clearing the wounded. The Field Manual makes sure this is covered.

An essential for the proper functioning of the clearing station is the ability to move on short notice. This capability is dependent upon whether the accumulated casualties are being promptly and continuously cleared from the clearing station by corps or army medical units. Constant liaison by the supporting medical unit is necessary to insure prompt evacuation of the clearing station. Liaison is established and maintained by the supporting medical unit charged with the evacuation of the medical company. (Field Manual)
One other note during this brief break from the war from reading the Morning Reports:

When someone either joins the company or is transferred to another company, in most instances they indicate their race.  Race is almost always listed as “W”. This one was different:

    ✓    Company C Morning Report
    ✓    13 March 1945
Manygoats, Raymond Pvt. Reasgd and jd 13 Mar 45 from… HQ 53rd Reinforcement BN, 17th Reinforcement depot. MOS 303. Semi-skilled. Race Amer Indian. (MR)
MOS 303 was the duty code for "hospital orderly."

And on the homefront:

75 years Ago Today
March 16, 1945:
President Roosevelt said at a news conference that as a matter of decency, Americans would have to tighten their belts so food could be shipped to war-ravaged countries to keep people from starving. (Link)

#54- Beyond Trier

    •    Thursday March 8
Got up at 10. Felt bad so I am not doing anything. Received a letter from Ruth. Wrote to  her. It is a spring day.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
The 10th Armored and Company C of the 80th Medical Battalion remained at Trier from 2 March through 15 March. It was a clean-up time around and northeast of Trier. Originally, Nichols tells us, the plan was that the 10th just clear the Saar-Moselle Triangle. Their efficiency and speed achieving that goal led to the capture of Trier as well. That then was to be the end of the mission until the actions of Col. Richardson’s Task Force captured the Romer Bridge. Again the combat operation was extended to crossing the Moselle and heading north to Wittlich.

8 March 1945- After capturing Trier two Tiger forces crossed the Moselle and were within six miles of Wittlich, 20 miles north of Trier.

10 March 1945- Task Force Cherry entered the city and kept moving another 12 miles toward Bullay to seize the bridge there. They were not to be successful as the Germans had already destroyed it.

12 March 1945- The mission ended and TF Cherry rejoined the rest of the 10th in Trier.

At the same time, CC B and CC R drove the Germans back just a few miles north of Trier at Ehrang. Unfortunately, work on repairing the bridgehead at Ehrang was slowed allowing the Germans to mount a specific attack on the infantry battalion and the battalion’s captain was killed among heavy casualties. A Task Force of CC R managed to cross the river and pushed the Germans from the hills on the high ground overlooking the town of Schweich.

Schweich was declared an “open city”. The Germans, according to Nichols, told the Division in a message that the town was
“undefended and sheltered 3,000 wounded Germans.” But when Task Force Chamberlain entered Schweich, they fond a devastating array of 88s, [88mm German anti-tank and anti-aircraft gun, perhaps the best overall and most feared of the German arsenal] mined streets, and instead of 3,000 wounded- they found but two German casualties. Nettled by the big lie, the tankers quickly seized Schweich. Shortly afterward, the acerbic Germans rained a steady stream of shells into that “open city”… resulting in heavy Tiger casualties there as the bombardment took its toll.
11 March- after two days of fighting the TF had neutralized the German threat and they returned to Trier.

By March 12 the Division was back together in Trier. They were resting in preparation for the move toward the Rhine.

Co C was assigned in support of CC B during this time. Looking at the battalion’s end of March After Action Report, the capture of Trier and the move toward Ehrang and Wittlich are reflected in the admissions to the three clearing stations. Between 1 March and 9 March over 1,300 admissions are listed, an average of 145/day. The numbers drop beginning on 10 march with less than half that- 615 admissions, 56/day- through 20 March.

    •    Sunday March 12
Got up at 10. Changed the beds. Washed some. It is a rainy day.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
In following my dad, Buddy, through the war I have also read a number of books by others who were in similar situations in World War II. One was the book Battalion Surgeon by the late Dr. William McConahey from Mayo Clinic. Captain McConahey was part of an infantry battalion surgeon medical corps from D-Day through the end of the war. I will be quoting him again later, but this particular quote from the preface of his book struck me at this point.
My horizon was quite limited. The war fought in division, corps, and army headquarters, where personal danger and discomfort were slight, was one of maps and lines and pins and shifting troops here and there- more like a fascinating game of chess. But the war I saw was one of mud and discomfort and suffering and death and terror and destruction.
I have the advantage of books and the Internet to put these stories in some semblance of order. As I read I can find out what happened when and in what order. Even in Nichols’ somewhat over-hyped prose, it all sounds clear and directed. I also know the end of the story. Through it all, though, I keep looking for ways to describe what my dad was going through. This quote does it as well as any. I am sure that the “mud and discomfort and suffering and death and terror and destruction” McConahey describes were real for Dad. Perhaps the transformation in him that war must exact on one’s soul, was why he may have been “Buddy” to his mother, but he was no longer simply a mother’s son.

We are now just shy of 8 weeks until the end of the war in Europe. There is still more of the chaos and destruction to come.

#53- Capturing Trier

    •    Thursday, March 1, 1945
Got up at 10. Did not do anything. Went to club. Was awful tired when I came home. Received 3 letters from Buddy.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
On Wednesday, 28 February the assault on Trier has begun by the 10th Armored CC B. After capturing the hill east of the city they raced down the hill from the northeast. This night blitz, including the dismantling of a roadblock, was accomplished in  the quiet of darkness enabling the Tigers to maintain an element of surprise.

  • March 1 (INS News report by Larry Newman)
Rampaging tank and infantry fighters of the U.S. Third Army’s 10th Armored Division crashed into the historic German city of Trier from three directions and swept ahead to cut off hundreds of Wehrmacht soldiers northeast of Saarburg.
By 0400 CC B was inside Trier. The entire northeast section of the city was deserted and by 0730 the northern section of the city was in the Allied hands.

The massive history available online The US Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations, has a section on The Last Offensive by Charles B. MacDonald. Here is part of the description of the taking of Trier.
In late afternoon, [of March 1] as both CCA's task force and CCB continued to run into trouble on the fringes of the city from pillboxes and 88-mm. antiaircraft pieces, Colonel Roberts, CCB's commander, ordered the commander of the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, Lt. Col. Jack J. Richardson, to enter Trier along a secondary road between the other two attacking forces. Richardson was to head straight for the city's two Moselle bridges.

    The night was clear, the moon full, and visibility excellent as Task Force Richardson in early evening started toward Trier. Entering the city before midnight, the task force encountered a German company with four antitank guns, but the surprised Germans surrendered without firing. One of the prisoners revealed that he had been detailed as a runner to notify a demolition team at one of the bridges when the Americans arrived.

    Splitting his force, Richardson sent half toward each of the bridges. The northern team found its bridge blown, but the team moving to the ancient Kaiserbruecke, which had stood since the Roman occupation of Trier in the earliest days of the Christian era, reported its bridge intact. Rushing to the bridge himself in a tank, Colonel Richardson found his men under small arms fire from the far bank. Directing .50-caliber machine gun fire from his tank onto the far end of the bridge, Richardson ordered a platoon of infantry and a platoon of tanks to dash across. As the infantrymen complied, a German major and five men ran toward the bridge from the far side with detonating caps and an exploder.

    They were too late.

    It mattered not whether the delay in blowing the bridge was attributable to concern for the historic monument or to the fact that the German officer was drunk. What mattered was that the 10th Armored Division had a bridge across the Moselle.

[Sidenote: In Impact! Nichols adds to the story by reporting that the German major, in order to hide his failure, led the Tigers to seventeen other German officers who were revealing in another house. Hence the comment in the history report on what caused the delay in the blowing up of the bridge.]

    By the morning of March 2, contingents of Combat Commands A and B had swept into all parts of the city, and the prisoner bag increased as sleepy-eyed Germans awoke to find American tanks all about them. Task Force Richardson alone took 800 prisoners.

The Army Newspaper Stars and Stripes told the story of the capture of the Bridge this way:
A Nazi hero, who sat in a barroom while forces smashed toward the bridge he was to protect, fiddled just long enough with his glass to enable the Tenth Armored “Tiger” Division to capture intact the strategically located Romer Bridge… Before the drunken officer could give the order to blow the bridge… the Tenth had taken it— and him.
According to the 80th Medical Battalion’s end of the month After Action Report, well over 350 were admitted to the battalion’s clearing stations in those two days. Company C was following in support of CC B.

March 2: Division HQ is moved into Trier. They occupy one of the more modern buildings that had been the SS HQ.

    ✓    Company C Morning Report
    ✓    3 March 1945
Left Beurig 1425. Traveled 16 miles via motor convoy to Trier, Germany. Arrived 1615. Established clearing station and billeted troops. Roads rough. (MR)
    •    Saturday, March 3, 1945
Got up at 11. Did not do much. Wrote to Ruth. Had a cold or something. Could not talk.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
Trier was a city rich in history as the oldest city in Germany. It's capture was, Nichols says, "one of the most successful and spectacular battles of the war."
The Tenth Armored's combat performance in this operation was eminently successful. Detailed planning, high morale, and fighting ability all contributed to the significant victory in the Saar-Moselle Triangle and in the capture of Trier.  ... 
 In a signed statement at Nurnberg later German Field Marshals Goering and Jodl declared that the capture of Trier ranked with the Normandy invasion and the speedy crossing of the Rhine as one of the three most important phases of the war. (Nichols)

    •    Tuesday, March 6, 1945
Got up at 10. I guess I feel better. Had a letter from Buddy and Dora. Wrote to Buddy, Ruth, and Dora.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
7 March 1945: Patton comes to visit the 10th Armored HQ in Trier. To everyone’s apparent surprise, he brings along Eisenhower himself!

Nichols tells us that prior to this visit rumors had been circulating that Eisenhower had sent a directive to Patton that he should not enter Trier:
 Bypass Trier to the south… it will take four divisions to capture it.
Patton then immediately radioed Eisenhower to let him know he had just taken it with one armored division, adding:
What the hell do you want me to do… give it back to the bastards?
Nichols reports this as a “rumor” but relates it with all appropriate quotation marks and ellipses. So I asked myself, “Was it true?” It very well could have been since Patton really wanted to be the first to cross the Rhine- not Montgomery as was the official plan. He pushed and directed the Third Army and took advantage of every opportunity.- capturing Trier was one of those opportunities.

History Warfare Network reports that
By March 1, Patton’s troops had captured PrĂ¼m and Bitburg; Trier fell a day later. Ike’s headquarters had estimated that it would take four divisions to capture the former Roman provincial capital of Trier, but Patton was able to send a message saying, “Have taken Trier with two divisions. Do you want me to give it back?”
I would guess there may be more than a little bit of truth in the rumor. In addition, March 1 was supposed to be the day Patton released the 10th Armored from his Third Army. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. It well could be another example of Patton’s ability to circumvent official directives or convince them to be changed.

Another quote from Rick Atkinson (Guns at Last Light) about Patton:
Battlefield carnage always inflamed Patton’s imagination, and the Saar-Palatinate proved particularly vivifying. In Trier, for instance, twenty air raids and Third Army onslaughts had reduced the city to 730,000 cubic yards of rubble. “The desolation is frozen, as if the moment of combustion was suddenly arrested, and the air had lost its power to hold atoms together,” wrote Private First Class Lincoln Kirstein, who would soon found the New York City Ballet. “Hardly a whole thing is left.” The entrance to the old Roman amphitheater still stood and that, coupled with his nightly readings from Caesar’s Gallic Wars, sufficed for Patton to inform his diary in mid-March that he “could smell the sweat of the legions.” It was all there for him: gladiators grappling with wild beasts; legionnaires and centurions “marching down that same road” now carrying his own legions; Caesar himself mulling how best to bound across the Rhine.