08 October, 2011

08 October 1944


438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
8 October, 1944         

Dearest sweetheart –

Excuse the V-mail, but I have to make a quick get-a-way this morning and I have a couple of things to do first. I’m going on a little trip and will tell you about it when I get back.

Spent the greatest part of last night playing poker with the boys – and lost. Darling if being unlucky in cards means being lucky in love – you are going to be very much loved, because I just don’t win at cards. I guess you won’t have to worry too much about my gambling. I’ve never liked it and have played cards in the Army merely to kill time. Gosh how I’d love to spend a Sunday with you again! Saw Pete yesterday for a short time and we reminisced about last year this time when we used to head for Holyoke and a swell week-end. Gee – it was wonderful – as I think back to it. We’ll have to go back up there someday, darling, and spend a week-end at the Hotel. What say? Pete, by the way, sends his best regards to you and Mary. All for now, sweetheart, except to tell you I love you – oh – so very much!! Love to the folks and so long for now.
My deepest love,


about Greg's Orders
and the 4th Convalescent Hospital

On 8 October 1944, Greg received orders to pick up a patient at the 4th Convalescent Hospital in Maastricht, Holland.

The following partial history of the 4th Convalescent Hospital was excerpted from the WWII US Medical Research Centre's web site.
The originally-planned guiding principle was that the 4th Convalescent Hospital would operate as a “Detention Section” for treating all sulfonamide-resistant cases of Gonorrhea with Penicillin, and also all primary, secondary, or latent Syphillis with the most recent Penicillin treatment rather than arsenicals. Upon arrival in France the unit was immediately faced with an addition in its mission, namely the hospitalization of patients with Self-Inflicted-Wounds (SIW), while they awaited findings of an Investigation Officer as to their LOD (Line of Duty) status, i.e. the question of intent to avoid hazardous duty, etc. Since most wounds involved the feet and hands and were rather severe (with compound fractures), the patient was not ambulant or just slightly so, depending on weather, terrain, and circumstances.

A LOD investigation is generally conducted whenever a soldier acquires a disease, incurs a significant injury or is injured under unusual circumstances. There is a presumption that all diseases, injuries or deaths occur "in the line of duty - not due to own misconduct." A LOD investigation helps determine a soldier's entitlement to pay and allowances, accrual of service and leave time and, in some cases, disability retirement. A soldier receives these benefits only if the final determination is "in line of duty - not due to own misconduct." Because the number of patients reached over 700 prior to establishment of LOD status, a most difficult problem arose and many personnel, Officer and Enlisted, worked daily for 16 to 18 hours throughout the month of July and even part of August. Furthermore, certain Evacuation Hospitals were prone to transfer bed patients with measles, mumps, meningitis, scarlet fever, and suffering from severe wounds to the Convalescent Hospital. With time and change in policy, the 4th Convalescent Hospital arrived at the prescribed mission: “10-day cases” (patients to be fit within 10 days), ambulant, and requiring minimum definitive care. In general, the 4th Convalescent Hospital did not intend to see severe battle casualties. Such policy was a must in view of the limited Commissioned and Enlisted personnel, and the lack of Nurses.

In August of 1944 the unit received instructions to relocate in the vicinity of St. Lô, France, in order to establish a Convalescent Hospital of 1,500 beds. Since the Hospital had at this time approximately 1,400 patients, it was decided to split it into 2 echelons. The forward echelon (Detachment “A”) would open near St. Lô, while the rear echelon (Detachment “B”) remaining at La Cambe would be closed for reception of patients. This plan was followed throughout the Normandy and Northern France campaigns whenever necessary, and the system of “leap frogging” was found to be very satisfactory. Thus, Detachment “A” set up 1,500 beds and began to receive patients. During this period, it became more and more difficult to return patients to duty. Higher headquarters instructed units and Replacement Depots to send vehicles to the hospital for members of their command, but due to the rapidly moving tactical situation the plan did not function and the 4th was forced to send out daily trucks to Divisions and Corps with soldiers ready for duty. Many men were lost to their proper Army units during their stay at some Replacement Depots.

On 15 August 1944, a 500-bed Convalescent Hospital was set up in the vicinity of Gathemo, France. On 18 August, Detachment “A” jumped Detachment “B”, and six days later, the two units were again preparing for another leap frog. Per instructions, the Detachment operating at St. Lô was closed and the equipment moved to Gathemo. Final disposition of patients resulted in the transfer of approximately 300 patients from the rear to the forward echelon.

On 26 August 1944, orders were received to send a convoy with all necessary equipment and personnel to set up a 500-bed section of the Hospital in the vicinity of La Ville aux Nonains, near Senonches, France. The convoy consisted of 25 Officers and 120 Enlisted Men. It opened for patients on 29 August. No actual difficulty in the evacuation of patients to other hospital installations occurred. However, it was apparent that the type of patient being sent to the 4th Convalescent Hospital was not the kind that should have been received. A Convalescent Hospital’s primary mission was to return patients to duty, but only 27% were the return-to-duty-type patient. A careful triage of cases did not take place. During July and August 1944, the organization received double amputations, serious injuries, severe battle casualties, self inflicted wounds, meningitis, scarlet fever, malaria, mumps, and other contagious diseases. Although every patient in the hospital was supposed to be ambulatory, at one time 574 litter cases were present. With approximately 73% of all patients received at this hospital being evacuated to other medical installations, it was apparent that unnecessary use of ambulances and other transportation occurred.

The most difficult problem was the return of patients to duty. Until the latter part of August 1944, no organized method for disposition was available. Lack of a place to send fit men, transportation difficulties and the absence of coordinated plans by the Replacement system resulted in the following situations: at one time 1,100 men were ready for duty, but no place existed to send them to, and no transportation to a distant Replacement Depot was available. Many patients therefore went AWOL. The morale of troops dropped greatly when they could not return to duty to their unit. Hospital beds were filled with men ready to be returned to duty with combat units. Many men were re-hospitalized for injuries sustained while waiting to be returned to duty. Thus it was that Greg was sent to pick up Jim Copleston, a man he had gone with to the Hippodrome in Ipswich, England on the 2nd of February, 1944.

After closure of the installation at Senonches, France, First United States Army instructed Detachment “A” (forward eschelon) of the 4th Convalescent Hospital to move to Eupen, in the eastern part of Belgium. On 19 September 1944 the unit supplies and personnel were moved by train and motor convoy. There was however a change in location, and after locating a Jesuit Seminary School building in Maastricht, Holland, the 1,500-bed Hospital set up in the available building, opening on 2 October 1944 for patients.

The Jesuit Seminary which served as the 4th Convalescent Hospital,
is now The School of Business and Economics
at Maastricht University, The Netherlands

The rear echelon (Detachment “B”) joined the forward echelon at the same location on 16 October. Civilian personnel (about 20 people) were employed at Maastricht for general housekeeping. Civilian personnel were allocated in the fall of 1944, when the organization occupied buildings (in lieu of tents) for the first time in the campaign. Such personnel were used for manual and non-medical tasks, including cleaners, janitors, plumbers, and electricians when available, with skilled positions usually remaining unfilled.

The former Seminary and what is now
The University of Maastricht, The Netherlands

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