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For Regimental History


FIRST AID ON FOUR FRONTS IN
WORLD WAR I
308th Medical Detachment
Letters written by,

Sgt. 1st Class
William D. Conklin


HISTORICAL SKETCH OF The MEDICAL DETACHMENT, 308th INFANTRY

(Compiled for the Records of the Division Surgeon
77th Division, A.E.F., as of Jan. 1, 1919)

The Medical Detachment of the 308th Infantry, like others in the77th Division, had its origin in a group of officers and enlisted men who, after a summer's training at the Medical Officers' Training Camp (Camp Greenleaf), Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga., arrived at Camp Upton Sept. 9., 1917, and shortly afterward were assigned to the Regiment, With Lt. Noss D. Brant, the Regimental Surgeon, were associated at first, Lts, Stanioy L. Freeman, Edgar S. Everhart, and Lawrence D. Floyd, and 17 men. Assignments from draft increments brought the enlisted strength up to the required 48, and from time to time new officers, medical and dental, were received.

In December, after Lt. Brant and Lt. Freeman had become Captains, the former was called to join a Red Cross Hospital Unit at Ft. McPherson, Ga. The order of transfer was finally rescinded from Washington, but his successor as Regimental Surgeon., Capt. William. J. Condon, had already been appointed. With Lt. (later Major) Everhart, Lt. (later Captain) John J. O'Donnell, and Lt. Richard B. Whittaker all transferred within the Division, and Lt. Floyd to the 152nd Depot Brigade, the personnel of officers at the time of leaving for foreign service was as follows: Medical--Capt. William J. Condon (Surgeon), Capt. Stanley L. Freeman, Capt. Henry Pleasants, Lt. Allie D. Morgan, Lt. Walter G. Trow, Lt. Carl F. Koenig, Lt. Beamon S. Gooley; Dental--- Major Gerald G. Burns., Lt. George A. Hewey., Lt. Harold J. Loomis.

Capt. Condon served as Transport Surgeon of t1ie !White Star liner "Cretic" (Transport #545), which sailed from New York April 6., 1918, touched at Halifax, and arrived at Liverpool the evening of April 19th. One Battalion of the 308th Infantry, the Machine Gun and Supply Companies, and the Medical Detachment were aboard the "Cretic," besides the 306t1n Field Hospital and other units. The Medical Detachment conducted the Transport Hospital, in which 44 cases were treated.

Beginning April 20th came the night journey to Dover, the Channel crossing, and a short sojourn in one of the "Rest" Camps at Calais. On April 25th, near Zutkerque, the Detachment was divided by Battalions, Capt. Condon becoming Surgeon of the 1st Battalion at Zutkerque,(as well as remaining Regimental Surgeon., Capt. Freeman being assigned to the 2d Battalion at Bayenghem, and Capt. Pleasants to the 3d at Hellebroucq.

In the area near the Arras Front, where the Regiment arrived the middle of May, the three Battalion Infirmaries were stationed at Sombrin, Warluzel, and La Bezique Farm (later Mondicourt). Shortly after arrival, Capt. Freeman was evacuated sick to hospital, from which he never returned. Lt. Trow succeeded to his post, and when Capt. (later Major) Pleasants was called to Division Headquarters to be Sanitary Inspector his place was filled (May 25th) by Capt. James F. Wagner of the 307th Field Hospital.

Upon arrival in the Baccarat Sector, June l9th, the 1st Battalion advanced to the line and took up its position in and near Badonviller It was here on the morning of June 24th that the Regiment had its first real baptism of shell-fire and gas. For his heroism at this time, when he left his Aid Post and went out to a position of extreme danger in order to dress the wounded, Capt. Condon was mentioned in the first list of Divisional citations. In this area, the units of the Detachment were at various times stationed in Berrichamps, Neuf Maisons, Ker Arvor., Pexonne, Three Pines, and Badonviller ; but no enemy activity over a period of five weeks equaled that of the initial barrage and raid.

During a round of visits to the various Aid Posts on the morning of July 14th, Capt. Condon was severely wounded by the bursting of a shell near Pexonne, sustaining a compound fracture of the right leg. Capt. Wagner, the 3d Battalion Surgeon, was immediately appointed his successor, Lt. Morgan taking charge of the 1st Battalion Detachment and Lt. Koenig of the 3d. About this time Major Burns (later Division Dental Surgeon) was transferred to the Division Dental Laboratory, and Lt. Trow, promoted to Captain, left to be Surgeon of the 306th infantry. Acquisitions in Lorraine were Lts. Harry Feldman and Charles C. Rose, and Capt. John A. Winstead, who joined during the march to Charmes to entrain.

Arrival on the Vesle Front the middle of August brought the Regiment face to face with conditions that made the assignment of two first-aid men to each Company in-the line imperative. While these men were the first to suffer, heroic work was done in Aid Posts such as those at Les Pres Farm and Ville Savoye constantly exposed to artillery fire. On Aug. 21st, the enemy scored a direct hit on the Regimental Headquarters at Chery-Chartreuve, where the Surgeon had his office, and Chartreuve Farm did not prove much move secure. For more than a week before it was moved to Chateau du Diable, near Fismes, the P.C. was at Sergy. During this Period, Lt. Cooley and Pvts. Weekley, Huttnor, Chester, Mager, DuBois, and Shapiro of the Detachment were all evacuated, gassed, and Capt. Winstead sick. Pvt.
Lester A. Umstot was wounded Aug. 18th at Las Pres Farm while leading a sick man to the Aid Post, and died in the ambulance. Before the Aisne was reached, Lts. William A. Lieser, William McIlwain, and Josiah A. Powless joined the staff of Medical Officers. On Sept. 5th Lt. Koenig, after rendering heroic assistance to the 3d Battalion commander in the advance toward the Aisne, Was mortally wounded near Blanzy-les-Fismes. Pvts. Baker and Fisher were dropped from the rolls as missing and eventually it became known that they had been captured. By the time the Division was relieved, on the night of Sept. 16th, the 3d Battalion, which had borne the brunt of the fighting in the Regimental Sector beyond the Vesle, had taken a position on the heights overlooking the Aisne north of Revillon.

A quick move by lorries to the neighborhood of Ste. Menehould, a long hike to Florent., and then the Detachment was again dispersed just prior to the great drive through the Argonne, beginning Sept. 26th.

The Regiment pushed its way through La Harazee and the Depot-des- Machines, in the heart of the Forest, and on to Binarville and Lancon, The problem of evacuation of the wounded from the Forest could only be met at first by long litter carries through winding trenches and the almost impenetrable tangle of undergrowth, to the ambulance stand at La Harazee crossroads.

This became necessary some 60 hours after the start of the drive, and lasted for a period of 36 hours. It took 12 hours to carry a man 5 kilometres over this difficult terrain. The litter bearers, men of the 308th infantry Band, who had never before been under such severe strain, and men from the 305th and 306th Ambulance Companies, often arrived at the cross-roads faint and exhausted, but returned at once with empty litters, and carrying medical supplies.

It is fitting here to pay tribute to the tireless and fearless work of the S.S.U. ambulance drivers who evacuated hundreds of men for this Regiment from the Argonne and also in Lorraine and on the Vesle. At Ville Savoye one ambulance after another was wrecked in attempting to carry out the wounded over a road in full view of the enemy and shattered by shellfire.

When it became possible, the wounded were sent down to La Harazee on a narrow-gauge railroad, which was also used to carry upstretcher, blankets, and splints. Soon afterward, the road from Le Four-de-Paris was opened for ambulances; but at night the narrow gauge continued to be used. Before the Regiment had reached Lancon, the Detachment had lost Lt. Lieser, wounded (died Oct. 4); Lt. Rose, sick; Pvts. Baxter, Otreba, Hinman, and Gehris, wounded. Pvts. Sirota and Bragg were taken out of the famous "Pocket" completely exhausted by the ordeal, and evacuated, as was Pvt. Walker, wounded. Pvt. Marshallcowitz had been wounded and taken prisoner.

Capt. James M. McKibbin and Capt. August G. Hinrichs, both M.C., joined the Regiment while in the forest; Lt. Loomis, D.C., was transferred to the 304th Machine Gun Battalion, and Lt. Prank P. McCarthy arrived in his place, On Oct. 14th, on the advance toward Grandpre, near Chevieres, Capt. McKibbin and Lt. Powless were both wounded severely, the former in going to the aid of a line officer, and the latter in exposing himself in order to dress Capt. McKibbin's wounds.

Both died in Base Hospitals. Other changes in personnel occurred before the end of October. Capt. William A. Morgan had come, and had gone to be Surgeon of the 306th Machine Gun Battalion; Lts. Charles, Sellers, Clanton R. Athey, Arthur H. Hauber, and William P. Sammons had joined the Detachment; and Capt. Hinrichs and Lt. Feldman were evacuated, sick. Early in November Capt. Hewey was transferred to the Sanitary Train, and Lt. Athey was incapacitated through an accidental injury,

When the Division was relieved by the 78th on Oct. 16th, the 308th Infantry returned through Lancon to Abri du Crochet in the Argonne, later moving to Le Chene Tondu, and finally to Pylone, from which they advanced in the last great drive on Nov, 2d, In the Regiment's farthest point of advance, at Angecourt, Capt. Wagner received word of his promotion to Major; and after the Armistice had been signed, on the hike toward Chateau-Villa-in, Lt. Morgan donned his Captain's bars. Lt. Alexander W. Fordyce joined the organization during this march.

Upon arrival in the 9th Training Area, Dee, 4th, the Detachment, like the Regiment, was scattered through 7 towns: Orges, Pont-la-Ville, Essey-les-Ponts, Cirfontaines, Braux, Vaudremont, and Aizanville. Capt. Robert R. Cutler, M.C., and Lt. (later Capt.) Joseph J. Millard, D.C., were assigned during this period. Major Wagner, who had been Regimental Surgeon for more than 6 months and had been identified with the Regiment for 8 months, was lost temporarily by transfer to the 302d Sanitary Train, for duty with Camp Hospital #9. Capt. Allie D. Morgan was appointed Surgeon in his place. Capt. Morgan is the only officer with the Medical Detachment who came to France with it, and he had not, to date of writing, been absent from duty one day.


Although there have been altogether fully 40 officers identified with the organization, there have bean only a few non-commissioned officers. Sgt. Boynton, who came from Ft. Oglethorpe with the original group of volunteers, was evacuated sick to hospital just before the regiment left Camp Upton. Sgts. Matelusch, Fournier., and Conklin (also of the original group) were still with the Detachment at the close of 1918, as was Sgt. Meyer, who received his warrant at Baccarat.

One enlisted man of the Detachment attained a commission. Pvt. William F. Lindorff attended the 0,T.S. at Camp Upton, but, like other successful candidates, did not receive his commission as 2d Lt., Field Artillery, until after arrival in Europe. His commission dated from July 12, 1918, and he left Sept. 23d to attend Saumur Artillery School, having-meanwhile had lively experience in Lorraine and on the Vesle as first-aid man (though officially an artillery sergeant) with Co. A, of this Regiment.

At times during hostilities it appeared as if the Detachment were made up largely of replacements, but many of the old members have come back from hospitals, so that 28 of the original 48 who crossed on the "Cretic" are together again.


Battle casualties of the 308th Infantry (including a few not evacuated to hospital) include: slightly wounded, 544; severely wounded, 548; slightly gassed, 617; severely gassed 19; wounded (degree undetermined), 139; gassed (degree undetermined), 45, The total number killed in action was 317, and 24 died of wounds
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