Welcome to the
128th Evacuation Hospital


The members of the 128th Evacuation Hospital Living History Organization
would like to personally thank G Jesse Flynn for his contributions to this website.
Without his support, we would not have such accurate information available for education!!

Check out the complete Unit History here.


A Brief History of the 48th Surgical/128th Evacuation Hospital

*Author’s note at end of text.

            The story of the 48th/128th begins in Fort Warren, Wyoming in 1941. The unit was comprised of approximately 300 personnel. The nurses of the unit were volunteers from various areas of the United States with about 20% from Fort Knox, Kentucky each of these nurses had been stationed at military posts. The Medical Officers were mostly doctors with a few logistic and administrative personnel. The Enlisted Men were mostly draftees and volunteers.

            On  August 1, 1942, 39 nurses under LT Salter and seventy-seven enlisted men arrived for duty with the 48th Surgical at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

            On August 6, 1942 the Nurses of the 48th left the United States aboard the USS Wakefield in New York. August 7, 1942 the 57-60 nurses of the 48th met their Commanding Officer Col. Ringer aboard the USS Wakefield which would end her journey in Glasgow, Scotland by way of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The 58 tent hospital at this point is made up of the following numbers: 22 Medical Officers, 1 Chaplain, 60 Nurses, and 250 Enlisted men. The 48th Surgical Hospital consisted of three units: the First (nurses under Lt. Salter), Second (under Lt. Teresa Archard), and Surgical Auxiliary (which would always be with the most forward of the two units.). While in Tidworth, the days were spent marching, drilling and guarding, until they moved up into the mountains outside of Glasgow to begin a whole new regimen of field living.

The 48th had been selected to provide medical personnel for the Roosevelt Group during the Invasion of North Africa. This select personnel from the 48th consisted of six Nurses, six Officers, and twenty Enlisted men. This group embarked for North Africa with the 26th Infantry, 1st Division and General Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt’s son). The Oribita and the Monarch of Bermuda were the ships which carried the 48th Surgical Hospital during “Operation Torch” to the shores of  North Africa on November 8, 1942. The Roosevelt Group on the Monarch of Bermuda landed on the west of  Oran at the village of  Les Andalouses. The Allen Group aboard the Orbita, carrying the rest of the 48th Surgical, landed east of  Oran at Arzew. 30,000 American soldiers of the Central Task Force, along with the Doctors, Nurses and Enlisted men of the 48th Surgical Hospital (Unit’s 1 & 2) disembarked from landing craft for the first amphibious landing of American troops in  North Africa. These troops (Nurses included) landed under fire from the French Garrison on the shores.

After the invasion the First Unit along with the Mobile Surgical Unit set up operations in old military barracks and the Second Unit took up residence in an old infirmary about 2 blocks away in Arzew and opened its doors on November 9. The hospital treated over 300 casualties within the first three days (12 abdominal laporatomies, amputations [done by flashlight, no power] and wounds which required surgery) under constant sniper fire. When the hostilities ended the unit functioned as a Station Hospital until  January 14, 1943.

The unit left Arzew, eastbound towards Constantine on January 15, 1943. They moved 400 miles over a period of two days. The First Unit set up near Thala, Tunisia on 27 January. The Second Unit with the Mobile Surgical Unit set up at Feriana, Tunisia in old outpost barracks. On 1 February the First Unit shut down and joined the Second, then the entire unit was ordered back to Thala, and all Units were open and working on 10 February 1943.

The Second Unit with the MSU (Mobile Surgical Unit) was ordered to evacuate on 15 February for the beginning of the German counter offensive at Kasserine Pass. They set up at Bou Chebka, and before they could receive causalities they were forced to move further back to Youks les Bains. The First Unit was forced out of Thala.

Jodie Harmon recalls:

“One day the whole Army began to move back past us coming from the front. The Germans were attacking and we were in full retreat. Late that evening the commander couldn’t understand why we hadn’t received orders. Why was everyone retreating and not us? So he and the first sergeant got in the command car and left to go to corps headquarters and find out. They sent word back for us to stack all of our equipment and get it ready to burn in case we had to surrender. We got everything torn down except one ward tent and maybe another small tent that had a few patients that we had no way to move. All vehicles were in use moving other units to the rear. We finished before nightfall. The wind was blowing hard and it was a cold February night. We just lay down and went to sleep expecting to be in enemy hands when we woke up or maybe wake up in time to torch our equipment. A little bit after midnight, a two and a half ton truck came rolling in and a large sergeant came along and jerked the blanket off of us and said to get our equipment together and get on the truck……We got lost and almost drove into enemy lines.”

The First Unit moved to La Messianic, Algeria two days later, and the Second Unit went to Montesquieu, Algeria.

The Second Unit  was ordered to Gafsa to set up on March 27, 1943. At this time the 48th Surgical Hospital was just 12 miles behind the front lines at El Guettar. On this third day of battle, 416 wounded men came through admissions in the night till early morning; eighty six of them required emergency operations. Shortly after this War Correspondent Ernie Pyle wrote an article about the 48th and on April 19th the 48th Surgical set up for the last time.

On May 1, 1943 CG#34 re-organized the 48th Surgical Hospital into the 400 bed 128th  Evacuation Hospital. On May 4 the 128th moved to Sidi Nisir near Hill 609. On May 8, fighting stopped in Tunisia. The hospital moved to Lac Bizerte on June 13, 1943.

With the 7th Army moving out to Sicily on July 9th, the 128th received the order to support them. The first group of personnel from the 128th landed on July 22, 1943 at Lacata, Sicily.

0700 BDST a storm struck the hospital on October 2, 1943. Within five minutes every tent had been torn down. Tent poles, Lab equipment, X ray equipment were broken in two and 195 patients were on the wards. They worked ferverently to move the hospital into buildings in a nearby town. Although the Sicilian Campaign lasted thirty-eight days, the 128th remained in Palermo until November 8, 1943.

November 8, 1943 marked the one year anniversary of the unit’s entry into combat. They had received and treated 21,305 causalities, 2,586 of them requiring surgery and it was on this date that they left Sicily as the most experienced hospital in the U.S. Army. Next stop, England, to train the new and inexperienced hospital units for the planned invasion of France.

The 128th EVAC hospital was stationed at Tortworth Castle in England from November 1943 to June 1944 for three primary reasons: 1. To prepare for the planned invasion of France. 2. To share the knowledge gained in a year of combat with new medical units arriving in Europe. 3. The need for rest in recuperation for this unit. The 128th at this time was the most experienced hospital in the ETO, so it was selected to train personnel of hospitals that would be landing in Normandy following the D Day Invasion.

Spring was coming to an end and on June 6, 1944 the members of the 128th EVAC packed and left Tortworth Castle for a port of embarkation. During transit to Falmouth the 128th was informed that the D Day Invasion had begun. It was here they boarded the William N. Pendleton, and began the trip to the shores of  Normandy. On June 10, 1944 at 1530 hours the first members of the 128th waded in on Utah Beach.

This excerpt from Dr. Schwade’s diary from June 8, 9, &10 tells his story:

Normandy: “Trip-along coast of Southampton-met convoy of 25 LCI’s and across channel to France. 4 a.m. attacked by Jerries. Got four ships of convoy in rear. One glider bomb missed us by 100 yards-some fun. Ate good and slept in cabin while others were in hold and eating K-rations. Met nice chap-Jerry Hale, 2nd Engineer on ship who took good care of us. Landed at Utah, red-beach at 4:30-waded in again and walked to area. 42nd Field Hospital set up and busier than hell. We’re first Evacuation Hospital to land-even 42nd Field Hospital nurses beat their outfit in-some fun."

"Slept in field-in pup tent with fire artillery and planes going day and night. Saw one Jerry shot down-good site. Lots of gliders smashed in fields. Many colored parachutes and supplies around in trees.”

The 128th first site in Europe was Boutteville, about 5 miles from the coast. By July 2 hospital personnel began to care for German POW’s with the German surrender at Cherbourg. July 24, 1944 brought about St. Lo and “Operation Cobra” and the members of the 128th found themselves packing up and moving to La Foret for three days.

Pvt. Jodie Harman recalled the move:

“The ground was plowed and cratered for miles. Buildings were pulverized. Some of the bombs fell short and killed many American soldiers and one of our generals. This attack opened the front and we started moving out of the beachhead. As we traveled through the bombed out area of St. Lo, the smell was so bad that I could hardly stand it. Body parts and animals were rotting everywhere. We moved thirty miles to another area and set up the unit.”

COL Wiley received orders to move the 128th on August 15. A few miles south of Argantan, in the southern opening of the Falaise Pocket was the site of the hospital. Germans were trapped and the fighting in this area was fierce. By August 31, the unit was stopped at Senonches, for some rest and recuperation, and by 10 September they were on the move towards Belgium.

Jodie Harmon recalls:

“The next time we stopped to set up the hospital we were in Belgium. We got kind of bogged down there for a while. We then moved very close to the Belgium-German border, right up to the Siegfried line. The fall weather began to set in and we began to have a lot of cloudy, rainy weather. The conditions were extremely muddy. We had to haul material in to make streets in order to get vehicles between the hospital tents.”

Since 29 September, the battle for the German city of Aachen continued, in a frenzy until well into October. The 128th was able to watch the destruction from their current location and with the fall of  Aachen, November brought lots of rain and new problems for the 128th.  With the steady rainfall pools began to form on top of the tents causing stress on the ropes and collapsing them.

In December the 128th set up residence in Brandt, Germany in a German Army Post where it would begin service for a new battle raging in the Heurtgen Forest. 16 December 1944 brought much activity to the 128th, the Battle of the Bulge which raged into January 1945 bringing in its wake causalities, and movement.

German paratroopers had been dropped only a few miles away from the 128th at Malmedy. The sound of anti-aircraft fire was consistent throughout the night. Trucks from the 128th were sent to Malmedy to move patients and hospitals to safer areas behind the lines, and on 23 December the 128th EVAC moved to Verviers, with the Germans forces threatening them.

At 0800 on December 25 the 128th opened its doors at Verviers. That afternoon a Christmas Dinner was served to all personnel, including visitors from the 97th EVAC.

As causalities from the Bulge were still coming in Nurse Anesthesiologist LT Martha Cameron remembers the importance of her trade:

“Anesthesia was a necessary adjunct to surgery. General anesthesia was restricted to sodium pentothal, nitrous oxide, and ether. Nitrous oxide, oxygen and ether anesthesia, then popular, was deliverable only by the two field anesthesia machines which were used for special abdominal and all chest cases, one in each operating room tent. These cases were managed by M. D.’s Kirby Schiffler, Chief of Anesthesia, Richard Stappenbeck and George M. Bogardus, who was sent to battalion Aid Station during the Battle of the Bulge and lost a leg due to shrapnel wound. Those cases were long and hard.”

“In addition to the two “suitcases” that contained the breakdown Heidbrink Anesthesia machines, we had one five-by-two foot long boxes that contained syringes, needles, anesthetic agents, and various tools of the trade which when unpacked turned into our anesthesia worktable, one in each tent. We were responsible to evaluate each patient in turn, consult if necessary and render the patient unconscious for surgery. I remember lining up the pins that accompanied each new syringe for Pentothal on the chest pocket flap of my fatigues over a 12 hour duty tour. During the first Normandy day 20-25 pins were there, so that averages two or more cases per hour. We didn’t try to count after that.”

“Some cases were long with 3 or 4 specialty surgeons, particularly in face cases, which meant a long recovery period as well. We didn’t have a recovery room set-up in those days so the anesthetist stayed with the patient until all reflexes were present and the patient talked. I got a new name after one such case. The patient ‘McCarthy’ and I were alone in surgery for an hour or two and I had resorted to repeating loudly, “Speak to me, McCarthy,” not realizing I was being overheard. Finally McCarthy spoke and I called for help to take him to the post-op ward tent. To my surprise, the next day as I passed by a cluster of surgical techs I was greeted with a chorus of ‘Speak to me, McCarthy!’ and that was not the end of it. It became my second name. COL Proffitt called me by that name in the mess tent to step up to receive my promotion order to First Lieutenant. Corporal James G. Darsie was totally responsible for that and also for many pleasant memories of how excellent teamwork in the O.R. can be. He, Francis Farabough and Mike DeVito and I could turn out cases with unparalleled efficiency and speed."

Martha summarized,

“Sodium Pentothal, not without its hazards, proved to be the answer to the challenge of caring for multiple surgical cases in the shortest time, keeping pace with the needs of war in the Forties, but we couldn’t have done without ether. I never saw an explosion with ether even though once during the Bulge at Verviers the surgeon’s hands were so cold they begged for the nearby stove to be lit. Dropping a few wet towels near the head of the patient, I relented and the surgeons appreciated it.”

After the move to Hannut, Belgium, on January 24-25, the unit moved to Banneaux on January 28 and opened the doors once again to the hospital on February 3, 1945. The weather was warmer than normal and the patients were regular and manageable. On February 26, 1945 LT Gladys (Martin) Flynn left the 128th. Only 17 of the original 57-60 nurses who landed in North Africa on November 8, 1942 were still with the unit.

On March 9, 1945 the 128th EVAC moved to Euskirchen, Germany in support of the battle for the Ludendorff Bridge, at Remagen. After nine days the unit was moved again across the Rhine River to Duenstekoven, Germany and began operating under canvas again. American and Allied troops were moving across Germany and the scenery that greeted the 128th was some of the most beautiful they had ever seen, along with mass destruction side by side. Personnel were inwardly concerned about the possibility of being sent to the Pacific now that things were winding down in Europe, but they were told that they would be going home, and many hoped it was true. It was spring once again and along with causalities hospital personnel were ravaged with mumps.

On April 14, 1945 the hospital was located at Kromback, Germany and it had moved two more times. The hospital at this point was treating mostly POW’s. On April 30, 1945 the 128th Evacuation Hospital moved for the last time to Grafenwoehr, Germany. As the war in Europe was coming to a close the army instituted the “point system”. Each soldier was awarded points for time in service, time in combat theaters, and other factors. Most of the members of the 128th were sent home between July 1, and December 1, 1945. They sailed and flew home on converted troop ships and bombers. The adjustment of returning home was tremendous and required time and patience. The nurses were also subjected to various indecencies traveling home on ships. LT Marte Cameron recalls:

“As the ship passed the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, the band struck up “Roll Me Over in the Clover.” The men sang and cheered until the boat docked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.”

The following entries from Dr. Leonard Schwade’s diary tell the sentiments of those coming home from the war weary battlefields of Europe in 1945:


July 11, 1945:

“At Luxembourg. Will travel by air to States-Yea Man!”

July 15, 1945:

“To Paris-stayed 11 days and left on green project by air from air field at 3:00 a.m. Stopped in Lisbon, Portugal, the Azores, Newfoundland, and then Washington D.C. Too foggy to land in New York. Called Esther. On to Fort Dix, New Jersey. Then Pullman train to Chicago to Ft. Sheridan. Saw Esther this night – 28 July – Wonderful!!”





Heroes From The Attic: A History of the 48th Surgical Hospital/128th Evacuation Hospital 1941-1945, by G Jesse Flynn

And If I Perish, Frontline U. S. Army Nurses in World War II, by Monahan & Neidel-Greenlee

WW2 United States Medical Research Center, http://www.med-dept.com

Walter Reed Army Medical Center, http://www.history.amedd.army.mil

Library of Congress

Library of Congress Veterans History Project: ANC

Military History Center, Carlisle, PA

GI Nightingale. by Lt. Teresa Archard



Created 03-01-2011
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