Unit A

50th Field Hospital

50th Field Hospital WWII History

During WWII, each American field hospital had 223 personnel attached to it. Each Medical Detachment was divided into a Headquarters section and three battalion sections, [1st, 2nd and 3rd]. Battalion sections were also referred to as platoons or hospitalization units. Each battalion section was organized into three separate squads. The squads were called the Litter [Stretcher] Bearer Squad, Aid Station Squad and Company Aid Squad. Battalion sections had various vehicles at their disposal. These included ambulances, quarter ton trucks, two and a half ton trucks, three quarter ton cargo trailers and 250-gallon water trailers.

The original 50th Field Hospital was activated at Camp Atterbury, Indiana on the 10th September 1943. The commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Leon D. Blumberg.

In February 1944, Army Nurses were assigned to the unit. Shortly after this, the 50th Field Hospital received orders that the unit was being assigned for overseas duty. On the 26th February, the entire unit departed camp and later boarded a ship in Brooklyn, New York. The ship arrived in Swansea, Wales on the 9th March. The unit disembarked the following morning and were then transported to a ‘Casual Camp’ at Sherston, Wiltshire, England.

On the 4th April, the 50th Field Hospital travelled to their new Station in Weymouth, Dorset on the Southern Coast of England. A large old house and its grounds became the unit’s new location. The building was still being used as a hospital by the British Army and Voluntary Aid Detachment at the time. The 561st Ambulance Company were also stationed at this post and were attached the field hospital.

The following day the new field hospital was set up. Tents for personnel were set up first in the grounds of the building and the tents needed for the hospital itself arrived later. Concrete slabs were placed on the ground inside the ward tents to make a solid floor. Surgery was undertaken in the ward tents and the house itself was used for medical wards. The unit’s eighteen nurses arrived later that day.  

On the 28th April, the hospital received its first casualties. The wounded men were transported to the site by ambulances and were victims of two LST boats that had sunk in the Channel whilst on manoeuvres. The ‘manoeuvres’ referred to in these records are thought to be related to the infamous training exercise known as ‘Operation Tiger’ or ‘Exercise Tiger’.  

‘Operation Tiger’ involved American Forces using Slapton Sands in Devon as a practise or rehearsal area for the D-Day landings that were scheduled for early June. The beach at Slapton Sands resembled one of the Normandy beaches and various training exercises had begun the year before. LST’s were used to deploy men and equipment onto the beaches. The LST’s were usually escorted by Royal Navy ships. On the 28th April, a convoy of LST’s were heading for Slapton Sands, when several German E-boats intervened and began to fire torpedoes at the vessels. As a result of this, two LST’s were sunk, another was badly damaged and hundreds of men were killed, drowned or reported as missing.  

The field hospital admitted approximately 140 men and another fifty or more men had been pronounced dead on arrival. A further 200 men were treated by the Red Cross in Weymouth. Patients continued to arrive throughout the night and during the next day. Casualties were eventually evacuated to the 228th Station Hospital.

On the 18th May, ambulances were dispatched to Warmwell to collect several casualties from the 116th Infantry unit. Someone had picked up a dud rifle grenade and had passed it around. Unfortunately, another soldier dropped it and the resulting explosion injured eighteen men, two of whom later died.  

D-Day, the 6th June 1944 arrived. Planes were heard overhead throughout the night. Casualties from the allied invasion began to arrive the following day. The injured men were all Americans. Over the next few days, there was a steady flow of injured soldiers arriving. By the 10th June, British men were amongst the casualties received by the field hospital.   

Wounded German prisoners also began to arrive. They were terrified upon arrival and staff learned that the men believed that they would be used for experiments. Their panic subsided as their wounds were treated by efficient medical staff.

By the end of June, fewer casualties were admitted to the field hospital. This was due to the fact that hospitals had been set up in France by this time and after receiving their first treatments there, the wounded were then being transferred to station and general hospitals further back in the chain of evacuation. 

During mid July the 50th Field hospital received over 360 patients who arrived by LST boats. Most of them had already received prior treatment and needed wounds redressing.  Casualties continued to be received into August.

 

(The above photos of the 50th Field Hospital at Weymouth during the Normandy Invasion are from the US Army's Office of the Surgeon General's Office of Medical History publication "Medical Department, United States Army - Surgery in World War II". For further reading, follow this link http://history.amedd.army.mil/ )

On the 16th August, the 50th Field Hospital began preparations to move. One platoon of the hospital was reassigned to Aldermaston Airfield in Newbury. On the 24th August, another section of the hospital was transferred to temporary assignment to the 110th Station Hospital in Southampton.  On the 29th August, Section ‘A’ of the field hospital was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and the following day, Section ‘B’ was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. Both sections were attached to the airborne units throughout ‘Operation Market Garden’. Only Section ‘C’ and the Headquarters unit remained at Weymouth.  

On the 11th September, the remainder of the 50th Field Hospital departed Weymouth. The following day, the unit sailed over to France.

Upon arrival at Utah Beach [other reports state Omaha Beach] the hospital was despatched to St. Marie Du Mont. They remained in this area until the 27th September, when they moved out to Liege in Belgium. Some of the hospital moved with vehicles and the remainder of hospital personnel were transported by hospital train. The journey took six days, with the train stopping at various points on route.

In Liege, the 50th Field Hospital set up camp at the 28th General Hospital situated in an old Belgian Fort known as Fort Thier de la Chartruse. On the 22nd October, the 50th Field Hospital moved again, to Dave in Belgium. The hospital, this time set up as a ‘150 bed’ Station Hospital, was officially in operation by the 1st November. Later reports stated that it was difficult to operate a station hospital with field hospital equipment. However, due to acquiring captured supplies and material, the problems were overcome and the transition was completed fairly smoothly. Civilians and prisoners of war also worked at the hospital during this time. 

Section ‘B’ of the 50th Field Hospital [attached to the 101st Airborne Division] was sent to establish a station at Veghel. On the 14th October, the platoon moved again, this time to Nijmegen. The following day, they moved yet again, across the Waal River to establish a station there. In November, the platoon was relieved from duty and brought to the Division Rear OP. On the 11th November, the section moved to Mourmelon, France to operate a station hospital for the 101st Airborne Division.

Section ‘A’ [attached to the 82nd Airborne Division] was stationed at Camp Soisson in France, by the 30th November. In December, section ‘A’ moved out to Malmedy, Belgium.

Section ‘C’ and Headquarters were alerted to move position when the German counter-drive gained momentum and the main spearhead was heading towards Namur. The field hospital moved out on the 24th December and headed to Ecole Moyene de Filles.

By the close of 1944, section ‘A’ of the 50th Field Hospital was stationed in Werbomont, Belgium, with the 82nd Airborne Division, section ‘B’ was stationed in Mourmelon, France and section ‘C’ and Headquarters remained in Namur, Belgium.

From January 1945 through to 10th February 1945, section ‘C’ and Headquarters remained in Namur, running a station hospital for Headquarters Advance Section Command Z. The hospital was located in a former school. Section ‘B’ remained at Mourmelon operating a station hospital for the 101st Airborne Division. Section ‘A’ moved to Camp Soisson, France along with the 82nd Airborne Division. During the months of February and March, both ‘A’ and ‘B’ sections were inactivated as separate divisions and were absorbed by the medical detachment of the 50th Field Hospital.

Between the 4th and 17th of March, section ‘A’ was reactivated and departed for Liege in Belgium to assist the 93rd Medical Gas Treatment Battalion with air evacuation. Following this operation, this detachment was again inactivated and reabsorbed by the Headquarters section of the 50th Field Hospital. The medical detachment of the 50th Field Hospital moved into Hollogne in Belgium to operate as a 400 bed holding unit for air evacuation.

The hospital was assisted by the 6th Sanitary Company [Italian] who provided loading teams at the airfield. On the 21st March the 14th Field Hospital joined the 50th Field Hospital and took over operations when the 50th Field Hospital moved on yet again, at the end of the month. 

In April 1945, the 50th Field Hospital moved into Germany. Section ‘C’ set up base in Paderborn and section ‘A’ set up a 1000 bed POW hospital in Bad Kreuznach, attached to the 106th Infantry Division. The remainder of the hospital unit moved to Von Carstegen Estate, Bad Godesburg. The hospital then moved again, its new location was Winzenheim in Germany.

By the 3rd May, the hospital was operational. German medical personnel worked within the hospital and German medical supplies were secured. Over a period of time, the hospital gradually increased in size. A road was constructed in order to gain easy access to and from the hospital. Extra blankets, stretchers and tents arrived and by mid-May, most of the American equipment had been replaced with German equipment.

By now, the hospital was set up to receive 1000 patients and records show that there were 800 patients settled there. As VE Day [8th May 1945] came and went, the hospital continued with its work. American staff continued to train German personnel and the total number of patients admitted to the hospital at this time amounted to 1000. The 560th Ambulance Company was attached to the hospital during this period and provided assistance in evacuating patients. 

By the end of May, the number of patients decreased to 700 and throughout June 1945, the separate detachments of the 50th Field Hospital moved again, within Germany.

On the 10th July, Headquarters, ‘A’ and ‘B’ sections were staging at Bad Kreuznach, whilst they awaited further orders. Section ‘C’ remained at Hechstchem. Four days later the hospital relocated to Camp Caseine Gouraud in Soisson, France. Their orders were to operate a 250-bed Station Hospital. On the 18th July, sections ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ were deactivated and absorbed by the 50th Field Hospital.

By the end of July, furloughs were made available to hospital staff and many travelled to England and to the Riviera. The Station Hospital opened on the 6th August and re-deployment training programmes were scheduled. Four days later, the hospital staff received news of Japan’s surrender and the news was officially announced on the 14th August 1945.

For the remainder of August, the hospital remained busy, carrying out large amounts of dental work and handling outpatients. On the 1st September, Colonel Leon Blumberg was relieved of command of the hospital and returned to the United States. Major Jennings B Marshall assumed command in his place.

Section ‘A’ [although not officially reactivated] proceeded to Chatieu Thierry, France, whilst the remainder of the hospital continued as a Station Hospital in Soisson for troops in the area until the beginning of November. During this period, another section of the hospital was reactivated and moved into St. Florentin, France on the 25th October to set up a Station Hospital for 101st Airborne troops. Out of the sixteen Nurses that were permanently assigned with the 50th, five of these women had now received orders for transfers to the Army of Occupation.

Throughout November, the hospital sections remained in place although another section furnished the POW hospital at Villers Helon in France. During the month of December, the hospital sections continued their work in Soisson and St. Florentin and a third section acted as a Station Hospital for troops in the Reims area.  

In early December, ten Nurses transferred from the 189th General Hospital on temporary assignment to the 50th.

On the 17th December, the 188th Medical Ambulance Detachment was assigned to the 50th. The American Red Cross were also attached to the unit during the months of November and December. Two Red Cross women worked hard to assist patients and staff alike. They provided ‘comfort’ articles to patients and contacted other units on their behalf for information. In each ward, they placed puzzles, books and writing materials.

The Red Cross workers organised parties, dances, movies and arranged basketball and football teams. The women set up a recreation room for the enlisted men that included a bar. They also set up a day room for the men and furnished it with magazines, writing materials, and books. Doughnuts and cokes were also supplied.

For Christmas 1945, the two Red Cross women gave out sweets and cigarettes and they also managed to supply presents for all of the patients, officers and enlisted men. They provided Christmas trees and decorations and even persuaded the Mess Corporal to dress up as Santa Claus! During this period, the unit continued to lose enlisted men and officers, who were scheduled for redeployment.

Captain Solomon D Goosman [later Gosman] was a Dental Corps officer within the 50th Field Hospital. He served with the hospital in England and on the continent during WWII. Records show he transferred from the Medical Detachment, 95th Engineer General Service Regiment on the 5th November 1944. He arrived at the field hospital in Namur on the 7th November. According to cryptic letters received by his wife whilst he was stationed in Belgium, German prisoners were used within the hospital as orderlies. At one point, American soldiers were surrounded and gliders were used to fly in much needed supplies and aid. In 1957, Captain Goosman and his wife visited the area and the building used by the field hospital still remained.

Walter ‘Wally’ Pazdro was a Tech Five surgical assistant with the 50th Field Hospital during WWII. Through his son Robb, Wally recalled a story where in cases where it was too dangerous to administer Morphine to the wounded, or where Morphine was in short supply, he instead offered ‘M&M’ candies to casualties to help ease their suffering. The candies were separated into different colours and each colour represented a different pain level. Brown ‘M&M’s were used for general discomfort and red ‘M&M’s were offered to patients suffering with extreme pain. The patient was advised not to bite into the pill as the taste was intensely bitter and would probably make him vomit. Many casualties experienced pain relief by taking ‘M&M’s. Wally stated that this method actually ‘worked’ and eased some of the suffering until the wounded reached general hospitals further behind enemy lines.

Statements referring to the general living conditions experienced by the hospital personnel during WWII, report that the staff did not seem to go short where general amenities were concerned. Showers were available for use in England and even in France and Belgium. Water was obtained from city water supplies and from Army water points. Food supplied in Europe was issued by the Quartermaster and was described as well prepared and sufficient.

The 50th Field Hospital and its unit members received various awards during and after WWII. Some members were awarded the Bronze Star and others were awarded the Certificate of Merit. The unit was awarded the ‘Belgian Fourragere 1940’ for valour and meritorious service with the 82nd Airborne during the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ in December 1944. The unit was also awarded the ‘Meritorious Service Unit Plaque’ for superior performance of duty during 1944-1945.

The unit was also cited for the following campaigns: ‘Northern France 31st January 1945’, ‘Ardennes 20th June 1945’, Rhineland 24th July 1945’ and Central Europe 20th June 1945’.

 We would like to say a big thank you to Robb Pazdro, Neal Gosman and their families for helping to provide information, accounts and pictures relating to the original 50th Field Hospital and its members. Thank you also to Robb Pazdro and his Mother for their kind permission in allowing us to use photographs taken from the private album of Walter ‘Wally’ Pazdro.

 

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