Battle Study # 6             

Study Title: Locations of Aid Stations  of the 101st

Subject: During the campaigns of the 101st Airborne Division in France, The Netherlands and Belgium 101st Division's sub-units commandeered all types of buildings and used them as Battalion and Regimental Aid Stations. Battledetective.com found the locations of many of these aid stations.

Date: June 6th, 1944 - January, 1945

Location: Normandy, Holland, Ardennes

 

Introduction: One of the features of an airborne unit in World War Two was that it had to carry all its necessary equipment into battle. Troopers either had to jump with their equipment, or have it flown in by glider or dropped by means of aerial delivery. This means that airborne troops are lightly equipped when it comes to supplies of food, water and ammunition. And most of all, medical equipment. As a rule, airborne troops fight behind enemy lines. Not being able to set up a field hospital in a tent city under these circumstances, sky soldiers have to improvise. This applies to the location of field hospitals, dressing stations and aid stations. These are some of the most remarkable locations of battalion, regimental and divisional medical facilities of the 101st Airborne Division in the European Theater of Operations.

 

Normandy Campaign

The 1st Airborne Surgical Team and the 326th Airborne Medical Company set up the first Surgical Hospital of the Allied Forces in Normandy.

 

On pages 73-77 of Philipe Jutras's book Sainte-Mère-Église, Paras US 6 juin 44 we read:

[…] it was necessary that the airborne casualties be provided with early, adequate surgical coverage. This presented the Medical Corps wit a new and challenging problem. Members of the 3rd Auxiliary Surgical Group made up the 1st Airborne Surgical Team. This team reported to the 101st Airborne Division on March 19, 1944 and was attached to the 326th Medical Company. […] On may 30, the Medical Company, with the attached team, reported at the marshalling area in Aldermaston, England, ready for the invasion. […]Members of the surgical team immediately set up a station in the area of their landing and received and treated casualties. Three members stayed at this station while two, before daylight, proceeded to a preplanned chateau in Hiesville, the site of the surgical hospital, arriving by jeep at approximately 0700 hrs. The chateau was in German hands but was soon neutralized by American paratroopers. This was Chateau Colombrière, said to have been built in 1554; it was a large estate, then occupied by the Cotelle family. It had been selected by aerial photographs and intelligence information. It was a large stone building with a courtyard and large stables, good water supply and shelter, and located in an advantageous area for reception and protection of casualties. With the help of paratroopers, gliderists, and the Cotelle, it was soon ready for operation. Equipment was assembled and before 0900, the First Surgical Hospital of the Allied Forces was in operation. Immediately there was a steady flow of casualties into the unit in every conceivable type of conveyance: our vehicles, captured enemy vehicles, horse drawn carts and wagons, hand-carried litters, some assisted by their comrades, walking, etc…

The other members of the team soon arrived. Operating rooms were set up in the chateau, and major surgery performed. Many combat men not yet linked up with their units assisted in setting up equipment and arranging the chateau. Some collected parachutes used for bunks and blankets for the wounded. It became a workable and efficient field unit.

At about 2100 hrs, another glider borne element of the medical company arrived. Enemy resistance was still strong, and there were severe casualties in the group. The sea-borne members of the medical company had, with the help of paratroopers, made their way through a narrow corridor late on D-Day and joined the unit.

With this additional personnel, five surgical tables were in continuous operation. Sections for triage, shock treatment, plasma and blood transfusions, operative and post-operative treatment were organized for handling all types of head, thorax, abdomen and extremities were operated in their order of priority and kept in a post-operative section under the care of medical officers and medical corpsmen. The parachutes from the morning drop were used for blankets and bunks. Whole blood was supplied from lightly wounded and ambulatory patients.

Enemy action continued in the area sporadically both day and night, and it was not until the third day that snipers were cleared from the stable area and surrounding grounds. A small German medical unit was captured nearby, and their equipment and personnel were set up in the courtyard near the stables and allowed to treat German casualties. They were allowed to allowed assistance from our personnel when available. The surgical personnel, working continuously with but very short breaks for K rations, coffee, etc.
 

The chateau in use as First Airborne Surgical Hospital. Note German POW's sitting on wall on the right.


In the afternoon of D+3, the fourth day of operation, liaison contacted the 42nd hospital which had moved to an area nearby from the beach, and our post-operative casualties were moved to that unit.

At approximately 2345 hrs, on Friday, June 9, a German bomber dove upon the hospital releasing two bombs. The first was a direct hit upon the west part of the hospital destroying a large part of it. The second was a 2200 lb bomb which went through the gable and landed just to the rear. It was a two-minute delayed-action bomb. This completed the destruction of the building. Over 20 were killed and about 60 were wounded. Many of the casualties were medical personnel. The airborne surgical team operating at the time received only minor injuries. A unit of German paratroopers was dropped in following the bombing but was neutralized by our forces by morning.

More American medical units were now landing by beach, and evacuation to those unit became possible.

On June 10, the medical company and surgical team were resupplied by air drops and beach units. It then set up operations about two kilometers north of Hiesville and continued operation until July 10, when the 101st division returned to England, landing in South Hampton on July 13th.

 

Today, only a monument marker reminds us of the location of the hospital:

In June 2007, Dutch World War Two collector and historian John de Neef was also in Normandy. He submitted this report of his visit to the Normandy battlefields: "I have put my metal detector to good use. I have found many buckles and also a piece of parachute tied to what I assume is a bandage with blood stains on it. I found it in a dry ditch in front of the site of the Colombrieres chateau. It is my theory that the the parachute and bandage were used to tie off wounds."

This is a picture of John's discoveries in the soil near the former hospital:

(click on image to enlarge)

John's theory fits seamlessly in Jutras's account about the use of parachute cloth in the hospital.

 

Battalion aid station of 2/501st PIR in the church of Angoville-au-Plain

 

From the brochure of the Association Sauvegarde de l’église d’Angoville au Plain we acquired inside the church:

 

"Colonel Ballard, Commanding Officer of the 2/501st PIR sent his adjutant. Lieutenant Edward Allworth, along with two 2nd Battalion Medics, Private Kenneth Moore and private Robert Wright to establish an aid station in the church at Angoville.

For three days the fighting continued in and around Angoville, and the wounded kept coming into the haven set up in Angoville church. Wounded from both sides, and one French child were brought in and treated by medics Moore and Wright. Three times Angoville changed hands during the fighting, but the aid station in the church held fast and continued treating the wounded. The first time the Germans recaptured Angoville they stormed into the church, their guns at the ready. However upon entering they saw both American and German wounded being treated and quietly left the church, leaving this medical sanctuary alone. The church was not bothered again.

This 11th Century Norman church still holds services today, and stands as a symbol of man’s humanity in the midst of one of man’s greatest horrors – war. Eighty men and one child found refuge in this church during those tumultuous day, and evidence of their suffering is still present today in the blood stained pews and bullet marks about the church. After sixty years the church remains virtually unchanged as it did during those monumental days[…].

 

Battledetective.com was in Angoville and made this is impression of the church today:

(click on images to enlarge)

Monument in honor of medics Moore and Wright

The church of Angoville-au-Plain

Stained glass window in honor of medics Moore and Wright

Stained glass window installed in 2006

Blood stains in the church benches

Evidence that some men gave the utmost for today's freedom!

 

Operation Market Garden and The Island (Holland)

The 506th Regimental aid station in Helena Hoeve near the Drop Zone and Landing Zones of Son

 

Immediately after landing, medics of the 506th PIR set up an aid station for jump casualties. The barns of the Helena Hoeve, a farm owned by the Roefs Family, was located in the middle of DZ's "B" and "C" and LZ "W".

This is the Helena Hoeve farm today:                          

(click on image to enlarge)

This is a comparison that we made with the Helena Hoeve in use as an aid station and the building today.

Divisional Hospital, run by the 326th AMC in the "Zonhove" Sanatorium in Son

The 326th Airborne Medical Company, which was the medical detachment of the 101st Airborne Division, set up the Divisional hospital in the Zonhove Sanatorium in the center of the Dutch village of Son, during Operation Market Garden. They started in the late afternoon of September 17th 1944. Jump injuries had already been taken care of at the field hospital near the Drop- and Landing Zones at Sonniuswijk. Five operating rooms were laid out inside the sanatorium with twenty surgeons working in shifts. They were mainly occupied with removing shrapnel and treating gun shot wounds. Some amputations had to be executed. The surgeons worked around the clock. In the 4 months that the sanatorium was in use as a US Army hospital, 2,600 Allied soldiers were treated. The patients who did not make it, were taken to the temporary US cemetery at nearby Wolfswinkel.

This photograph shows the Zonhove Sanatorium in use as the 101st Divisional Hospital with medics of the 326th at the steps leading to the front door. Note the Red Cross flag on the flag pole in front of the building:



 

Today, the building has been demolished to make room for  a modern medical facility for the elderly and the physically and mentally challenged.
 

A modest monument in the park surrounding the various pavilions reminds of  "Those who fell in Sepember 1944":

 


 

In 1979, 35 years after Operation Market Garden, Board Member of the Dutch Society of Airborne Friends Kees Wittebrood, wrote the history of the Zonhove Sanatorium serving as the 101st's Divisional Hospital.

A copy of this history was provided to battledetective.com, courtesy of the late Mr. Wittebrood's family.


(click to open complete history)


 

The 501st Regimental Aid Station in the Nunnery in Veghel

The 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment set up its Regimental Aid Station in a convent of Franciscan Nuns on Nieuwstraat. Together with the 50th Field Hospital, the hospital treated jump-injured paratroopers and combat casualties as well as German Prisoners of War.  

These are photographs taken in September 1944:

(click on images to enlarge)

1 Paratroopers of the Colonel Johnson's 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment march passed the nunnery on Nieuw Straat

2 Ambulances of 501st medics are parked on Nieuw Straat while cheerful citizens of Veghel celebrate their liberation.

3 Carefully a wounded paratroopers of the 501st is taken into the hospital. He is brought in by car. Note the nurse carrying the soldier's M1 Garand rifle.

4 German prisoners of war use a horse drwan hearse to carry a dead soldier (friend or foe is unknown to us) to the Veghel cemetery.

5 German mortar bombs explode on Nieuw Straat in front of the Regimental aid station.

6 Damage to the Veghel church and the convent. The German shelling caused many casualties, even among wounded German prisoners who were cared for in the convent.

 

                                                    Photo's 1,2,3, and 6 courtesy of  Erwin Janssen of Eerde

This is the convent today:                                         

(click on image to enlarge)

In September 2004 Battledetective.com attended a special lunch commemorating the 60th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. It was organized in the convent for WWII veterans by the municipality of Veghel. In the courtyard we were the interpreter for a conversation between a Franciscan nun and veteran of the 501st, Frank Cipolla. The nun told that she lived in the convent at the time it served as a military hospital.

Suddenly the Franciscan asked if Frank was married. Not having an idea where this would lead to, we translated the question.  Frank told that he was single during Army service but that he was married after the war and was a widower now. The nun explained her question: she said that she had the most compassion with the married men who came from the United States to fight so far away from their spouses.

Reunion after 60 years. 501st veteran Frank Cipolla meets a Franciscan nun

in the courtyard of the Veghel convent. 

She already lived in the convent when it served as the 501st Regimental aid station.

 

Battle of the Bulge and the Ardennes (Bastogne)

The 326th Airborne Medical Company's Field Hospital, serving as Divisional Aid Station for the 101st Airborne until its capture on the 20th of December 1944.

Page 181 of WWII 501st combat medic R. Edward O'Brien's book With Geronimo Across Europe reads: "The major medical organization in the division was the 326th Airborne Medical Company. The pecking order, front to rear was, battalion aid station, regimental aid station and divisional medical company. [...] do you know where the 326th is?" "Oh, it's at Road Junction N4 and N22, about seven miles northwest of here, don't worry, it's well to the rear. [...] We arrived at the road junction and had been stopped by the crew of an armored vehicle that was guarding the junction. We turned right and after going about four hundred yards turned left off of the road and into a field. There along a slight ridge about two hundred yards off the road was the medical company. I got out of the truck and went into the headquarters tent."

With these directions as a guide, we found the location.

 

This is where O'Brien turned in the field (right where Battledetective's car is parked):

This is the field and the ridge:

Right beyond the ridge, just out of sight from the road, someone had put some wooden stakes and steel rods into the ground. This person had draped an olive drab tarp over it, thus creating a tent-like object in the field where once a complete medical tent-city was. As if to say: You've found it!

501st Regimental Aid Station in Le Petit Seminaire in Bastogne; later serving as Divisional Aid Station.

Battledetective was in Bastogne and fortunate enough to be allowed inside the chapel of the Seminary by a former teacher of the school. Today the chapel is a multifunctional building with class rooms, a small theater, a print shop and a storage room.

Page 180 of O'Brien's book reads: "The seminary proper was occupied by the regimental headquarters and the chapel became the regimental aid station. When I walked into the chapel I saw straight ahead the main alter and along the right side four or five small alters. Later I learned that the small alters were used by student priests in earning how to perform the mass ritual. The center of the chapel was filled with hard pews which were later removed to make room for the wounded, As I was looking at the stained glass windows and thinking what a wonderful place for an aid station I was suddenly reminded by the first sergeant why I was there."

This is what the altar looks like today:

Operating Room

Also in O'Brien's book, on page 195: "The major didn't hesitate and he ordered the senior medical technician to prepare an operating room. The senior technician told me to come with him, I guess I just happened to be available, and he led me to a large room behind the alter. It was large, quiet, and out of sight of the other patients."

The room is not behind the alter but adjacent to it. It is now a print shop:

Battle Detective Tom is very proud to have been allowed on the spot were men
of the 101st Airborne Division were treated for their wounds,
sustained in the Battle of the Bulge:

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