In December 1944 the German Army under Field Marshal General Gerd von Rundstedt launched an all-out offensive against the western front, popularly known as the Battle of the Bulge. The German attack bowed the American front line westward almost to the Meuse River. Many medical units, among them the 44th and the 67th Evacuation Hospitals, were forced to evacuate the area on short notice. Five nurses with the 67th volunteered to stay overnight with 3 surgeons and 40 enlisted men to care for 200 patients too weak to withstand the move. (1) This is a fictional version of their story creating my own details as to how it might have happened, The names are changed for story purposes and to respect the real heroes of the story.
“Several of these wounded will need surgery right away,” Capt. William T. Van Huysen shares with his colleague Capt. Norman Hagopian as other doctors, nurses, and ambulance drivers assist healthier wounded onto trucks and ambulances.
“We’ll need nurses to stay and assist and to tend to the others too weak to travel tonight,” Capt. Hagopian reaches out and stops a nurse as she starts to pass.
Capt. Van Huysen places his hand on Hagopian’s shoulder, “They’ll need to volunteer. We shouldn’t order any of the nurses to stay.”
“Stay?” 1st Lt Anna M. Aslakson leans in to be able to hear the surgeon’s conversation.
“Will,” Capt. William N. Baker side steps two drivers from the 464th Medical Collecting Company assisting two of the convalescent soldiers being evacuated, “I’ve been ordered to remain and help with the two hundred or so soldiers they’re leaving behind.”
“We’re leaving soldiers behind?” Lt. Aslakson unconsciously grabs the sleeve of Capt. Baker.
“They’re too weak to make the trip,” Capt. Hagopian informs, “we’re hoping to get them better able to leave.”
“We still have maybe a dozen of them that still need surgery,” Van Huysen points out.
“Then you’ll need nurses,” Aslakson declares with one finger pointed to herself.
“Only volunteers,” Van Huysen grasps Aslakson by the hand as she starts to dash to find nurses to stay and help with the wounded.
“Are you volunteering?”
“Of course. How many will you need?”
“Keep it basic, Anna. The Nazis who caused this carnage are moving this way and our troops are outnumbered. So, the risk is greater than normal.”
Lt. Aslakson dashes out to where the wounded our being loaded up.
Capt. Van Huysen turns to Capt. Baker, “Go and assess the extent of the medical care needed of those we’ve deemed too weak.”
“Why don’t you go and help Anna with finding nurses,” Capt. Hagopian gestures for Capt. Van Huysen to follow 1st Lt. Aslakson.
Capt. Van Huysen nods and heads outside. Capt. Hagopian joins Capt. Baker.
“I’ll need a dozen nurses. Who will stay and help us care for those soldiers?” Anna Aslakson throws up her hand suggesting how the volunteers should respond.
Several nurses begin to raise their hands. Suddenly, as Capt. Van Huysen appears, the sounds of large artillery fire break through the afternoon quiet. Some hands lower just a little and nurses look around at each other.
“You, you, you, and you,” Capt. Van Huysen points to four nurses whose hands rose higher with the noise of war.
Anna Aslakson nods to Will Van Huysen affirming his choices. 1st Lt. Nina L. Bareham, 1st Lt. Sally J. Casement, 1st Lt. Ethel Gilbert, and 1st Lt. Elizabeth J. Stuber follow Anna into the 4th Convalescent Hospital turned Evacuation Hospital in Spa. Tonight, it will become an experience they will never forget.
As the seven gather, Capt. Bill Baker and Capt. Norm Hagopian share those wounded earmarked and prioritized into degrees of care. They have indicated ten as needing some surgery before they can expect to convalesce enough to travel.
“Betty,” Bill Baker points to Elizabeth Stuber, “you’ve assisted me before. How about you assist me in one of the surgery rooms with this young man here?”
Betty Stuber and Bill Baker reach out to one of the five ambulance drivers assigned to stay and transport soldiers to help him cart the soldier to a surgical area. Anna Aslakson and Will Van Huysen get assistance from a driver and one of the forty enlisted men with another wounded to a surgical area.
In the meantime, S/Sgt William Anderson and S/Sgt Joseph J. Wysocki assign a couple of men to stay with the doctors and nurses and then lead the others outside to guard the paramentor. Norm Hagopian and Sally Casement, Ethel Gilbert, and Nina Bareham begin to prep others for surgery.
All night, the fifty-nine try to drown out the thunderous roars of German artillery by staying busy. The surgeons and nurses are careful to provide adequate care but they must do so in more of a rush as they can hear and are given sporadic reports by Joe Wysocki and Willie Anderson of the approaching enemy infantry and Panzer tanks.
During the night, as the wounded grow stronger, the four ambulance drivers transport them to designated evac hospitals out of harms way. This comes with great risk as the battle rages all around them and along their routes.
“All night (the nurses) listened to the approaching roar of the German guns as they cared for their patients.” 3 They approached the foreboding danger like any other of the many risks they’d had to undertake while travelling just miles behind the front lines all during the war.
1st Lt. Nina Bareham huddles in the frigid air which feels refreshing from the night of feverish labor. Leaning against the door frame, she watches as the morning sunlight glistens on the ice and snow laying thick and heavy on the ground and the trees. A strong wintry blast forces Nina to return inside. They survived the night’s drama and may be able to leave soon. The last of the wounded, now healthy enough to evacuate pulls away from the convalescent center.
The nurses and Capts Hagopian and Baker leave with the last of the patients and all but seven of the enlisted men. Capt. Van Huysen stays with the seven EM to guard the equipment.
It is reported that the next day after all personnel and equipment have been safely evacuated that German troops arrive. For several days, the surprise German attack advanced until around Christmas Eve. From then until nearly the end of January heavy fighting causing many casualties, loss of equipment and lives on both sides of the conflict until finally Allied troops were victorious. This is just one of many incidents of bravery occuring during the Battle of the Bulge.
The following 3 Officers, 5 Nurses (volunteers), and 40 Enlisted Men remained to care for and to evacuate the remaining patients:
|Captain William T. Van Huysen (MC)Captain Norman Hagopian (MC)Captain William N. Baker (MAC)1st Lt Anna M. Aslakson (ANC)
1st Lt Nina L. Bareham (ANC)
1st Lt Sally J. Casement (ANC)
1st Lt Ethel Gilbert (ANC)
1st Lt Elizabeth J. Stuber (ANC)
S/Sgt William Anderson
S/Sgt Joseph J. Wysocki
Tec 3 Warren D. Blaylock
Tec 3 Winford L. Graham
Tec 3 Norman E. Long
Tec 3 Thaddeus J. Naskiewicz
Tec 4 Thomas Coffman
Tec 4 Warren W. Hallsell
Tec 4 Dal C. Holland, Jr.
Tec 4 William P. Shrader
Tec 4 William C. Snider
Tec 4 John J. Zysk
Cpl Cecil V. Horton
Cpl Edward Stevens, Jr.
Cpl Ralph D. Young
|Tec 5 Howard J. Hancock
Tec 5 W. J. Newbolt
Tec 5 Wiley R. Oliver
Tec 5 James G. Walker
Pfc Ollie F. Barfield
Pfc Irven Bierman
Pfc Damon H. Burkeen
Pfc Woodrow N. Littleton
Pfc Christopher W. Nagle
Pfc Clyde N. Snyder
Pfc Luther B. Tabor
Pfc Howard I. Tilley
Pfc Joe Vietti
Pfc Jewel C. Webb
Pfc Calvin H. Weber
Pfc Alvia Young
Pvt Donald R. Barnhart
Pvt Helmut M. Boehm
Pvt Charles W. Carr
Pvt Charles Miller
Pvt Warren G. Neal
Pvt Paul Roberts
Pvt James T. Rose
Pvt Elmer L. Schrader
Pvt Jack N. Troll
Captain Van Huysen and the following seven EM stayed at the Hospital site as guards over the hospital equipment:
|Tec 4 Thomas Coffman
Tec 4 William P. Shrader
Cpl Edward Stevens, Jr.
Tec 5 William B. Reed
|Pfc Christopher N. Nagle
Pfc Clyde N. Snyder
Pfc William J. Wilson
Certificates of Merit were later awarded to the Officers and Nurses and to several of the Enlisted Men, all EM being commended for their unselfish devotion to duty. (2)
I write about what I'm thinking or what I've imagined in an effort to regain that childhood imagination and marry with my many years of real experiences. I'm getting better at it the more I write.I am a published author of two romantic intrigue novels.My books can be found at Amazon.com or if you want a personalized copy, by emailing me at email@example.com.