Heroes: the Army
"...Of course all the while that he was talking, I was working with the help of my aid men giving morphine, stopping the blood, tying the bleeders off, and getting all the plasma in them that I could..."
Tasker N. Rodman, M.D.
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: 379th FA BN,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: Capt., Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Batesville, AR
On the Way to the Elbe
T.N. Rodman, M.D. 379 FA Bn.
I am almost positive this occurred in Bielfeld on the way to the Elbe. I was the aid surgeon for the 379th FA Bn. on 7 Apr. '45 (according to the article in the July/Sept. '97 Notes) we were in support of the 405th as usual. Our routine was, that our HO would decide where to set up our guns to give the 405th the best support. Of course it depended on how fast they advanced. On an ordinary day we would move only once or not at all. One time we didn't move for over a month. When we were notified a move was coming, I would send my regular army Staff Sgt. Ramsey [Claude W. Jr.] (my right hand man) to go with the Btn. Recon. party to find a place to set up our aid station. He was instructed to find a cellar with steps that would accept litters. If he could find none, he was to find a strong building to use.
As soon as we got up that morning and ate breakfast, I heard from one of the firing batteries that we were using charge six and it looked like there would be a move. Our HO usually set up the guns to begin using charge 3 or 4. About 8 am Ramsey went up ahead and found us a building with a cellar we could use. The Btn. moved in just a little while to the next town and was shooting charge 4. (Charge 7 was the maximum that the 105s shot. I sure hope I'm right about this.)
It seemed that in only about an hour the guns were shooting charge 6 again. I sent Ramsey again to find a place and we moved in about two hours from the time we set up and again we were shooting charge 4. In about another hour we were shooting charge 6 again and we were going to have to move. The 405th were really moving on. This was the third move that day.
Again here went Ramsey and this time he found a place in Bielfeld but couldn't find a cellar with steps wide enough to get a litter down, and thinking that we would move again soon, he put the aid station on ground level. We moved and this time we were shooting charge 1. I remember that my driver, Fred Herrington, and I were tooling along toward our next town just fine when all of a sudden there was a GI on the shoulder of the road with a single 50 caliber machine gun. I wondered what he was doing there. We stopped and I asked, "What outfit are you with?" He replied "I'm with the 405th." I said "What are you doing here?" He responded, "I am shooting interdirectory fire into that town over there." I finished with "Hell! I thought we were supposed to support the 405th, not the other way around." We laughed and went on our way to our next station.
I guess that our Btn. HQ decided not to move any more that day. This time when we set up our guns we were using charge 1. It felt kind of hairy to be that close; we weren't used to that.
Things kind of quieted down and about an hour before dark we were sitting around shooting the breeze, when all of a sudden two badly wounded GIs from a Recon. group were brought into my aid station. Their story was that they were going into Germany in a half track when all of a sudden a Tiger tank (all German tanks were "Tigers" it seems like) came out from behind a building and shot the half track with their 88". (Everything bigger than a rifle was an "88" seems like.) There were two killed and two badly wounded.
One of the kids could talk but the other couldn't. The one who could talk told me that there was a counter attack of five or six Tiger tanks with infantry coming this way. Of course all the while that he was talking, I was working with the help of my aid men giving morphine, stopping the blood, tying the bleeders off, and getting all the plasma in them that I could. Before I got them stabilized and ready to move to the field hospital, I heard that our battery "C" had been hit, with one killed and three wounded. My battery aid men, including Sgt. Hill, [Dean E., PFC.] came with them.
All of this time we were working on the Recon. wounded and were making room for the casualties from Battery C. I ordered an ambulance from the field hospital, and knew that I could transport two on my jeep. I had, at the beginning of combat, had the motor pool build hangers to hold two stretchers, and a wire cutter on the front of the jeep.
At the time we were located at ground level with a big window facing the main street of the town through which I could see the street, I began to notice some traffic going to the rear. At first I didn't think too much about it, but it gradually got worse, until there was everything going to the rear fast. There were a couple of jeeps, then a weapons carrier. Later came several 2 1/2 ton trucks and I knew I was in trouble when a quad fifty went by going like a bat out of hell for the rear. I had not received the casualties from Battery C, but I was getting a handle on the Recon. injured and was about ready to send them back.
I could visualize one of the Tigers sticking its gun through the window and letting go. I had a knife on my belt which I pulled off, putting it in a corner out of sight. I put on my first aid arm band, and that was all I could do for myself, thinking that a doctor and aid men were considered noncombatants. I knew that "that old dog wouldn't hunt" and kept doing my work.
All of a sudden Maj. Wilson Reed (since has made General) stuck his head in the front door and said "How are you doing, Doc?" I replied, "I'm gaining, Major." To which he said, "Well, you take care of the casualties in here and I will take care of the Germans out here." I didn't know what he was going to do, but I felt better at once knowing that someone was helping me, my aid men, and my wounded. At that time the C Battery casualties came in and a couple were hurt pretty bad. I sent the Recon. boys back on the jeep to the field hospital. By that time we had received and begun work on our own men.
In the meanwhile Maj. Reed got out in the street and began to stop everything coming, and I mean everything. If a poodle dog had been coming along he would have had it ready to bite. He began placing all of this armor on both sides of the road facing up the road. He must have had fifty or more troops out there on the road. He had quad fifties, mortars, rifles, BARs, heavy machine guns, & 50 Cal. singles. I think he did have a 40 mm antiaircraft gun pointing up the road and finally he got one of our l05s and bore sighted it up the road, and said "Now let's see who is going through.
I learned this by talking to GIs who were coming in and out of the aid station. Then he sent our Cub (I think it was really a Taylorcraft) airplane up to see what was going on. All this time we were working and getting our casualties ready to go back. The ambulance came and took all of the wounded back to the field hospital, and in as good a shape as we could get them. Of course they all went with their bleeding stopped and a bottle of plasma hanging on them. That is one thing I have always regretted in the difference between a battle surgeon and private practice. I never did hear of the outcome of my work.
After all the excitement, the Cub pilot came back and reported that the Recon. half track had gotten just too close to the Tiger, and it turned around and shot them. The tank was just trying to get home and scuttlebutt did the rest. It was very shaky anyway. My aid men and I wanted to run too, but what would have happened to our wounded? I decided there are no heroes, just men who saw a job to do, and did it. Major Reed and my aid men, of whom I am very proud, are examples. (At my age - 78 - I am not good with names, but maybe those aid men will write me.)
An interesting aside about airplanes: we kept missing stove top lids and wondered about that. One day I learned that the pilots were putting them in their seats to protect themselves from ground fire.
Another incident was one that happened on Christmas Day 1944. This casualty happened when he was working with his group shooting a 105 howitzer on the north side of Waurichen when it was strafed by a German plane. He received a wound, and when I got there I saw some of his intestines lying outside, on top of his abdomen. I didn't see any bleeding so I began morphine, IV plasma, sprinkled sulfanilamide, soaked an ABD pad with plasma and applied it to the intestines to keep them moist until he got back to where he could be worked on properly. I have always wondered how he got along. I hope he reads this and writes me.
Another story about Maj. Reed was when we first went into combat. The 405th was attacking the town of Beek, Holland. I happened to be in the fire direction center and heard the progress of the attack by radio from the forward observer. The attack was up a slope in front of a pill box. All of a sudden the pill box occupants opened fire on the GIs with their machine gun. Naturally the GIs hit the ground, and were pinned there behind any dirt, hammock, depression, or rock they could find. After what seemed ages, the forward observer reported that they wanted to get out of there and couldn't get up because they would be hit. The infantry command, by way of the forward observer, had requested smoke so they could leave. A request was put in to Division for smoke which was denied for some reason which I never did understand. The forward observer was begging to get the smoke and Maj. Reed took it upon himself, and sent it anyway. This, in my opinion, saved a lot of lives. After that, I have always respected Maj. Reed for his guts and integrity.
When we reached Stendal I was told that I was the doctor for 5,000-6,000 displaced persons in a camp nearby. After giving it some thought I decided I had better take inventory at the camp. I found quite a lot of drugs, tablets and ampules, that I could use in the dispensary. They were labeled in German. I was surprised and pleased with the amount of drugs I could identify using the German generic names
On looking around I found that the doctors consisted of two Russians, one Polish, one French and one Belgium who was a woman. I called them together, and using what little German I knew, told them that there would be a sick call every morning at 0700 hours, and I expected them to be there at 0600 and ready to go to work. I didn't know how it was run before, but they got the message and apparently accepted it with no protest.
I arrived at 0600 hours and assigned each doctor a room for him to work in. Then at 0700 the patients began to arrive. It didn't take very long for me to see that there was a problem, for we weren't going as fast as I wanted. I found that the Poles wouldn't go to the Russian doctors and the Russians wouldn't go to the Polish doctor. Each was afraid they would get poisoned by the other doctor. There was not as much trouble with the Belgium and French doctors. After I got this straightened out - by sending the Russians to the Russian doctors and the Poles to the Polish doctor, and all to the Belgium and French doctors - the line began to move faster.
Things worked along smoothly from then on until 1 May 1945. During this time the "Big HQ" was trying to get each person a ride back to his respective country. Of course there were forms, copies of forms, and copies of copies and things moved slowly. About 0300 on 2 May 45 I was called to the camp by the Officer of the Day who had some trouble. When I arrived I found there were about three dead, 4-5 dying, 5-6 blind and many vomiting. All were Russians.
On questioning I learned that the Russians celebrated May Day (their 4th of July) by scrounging the countryside for whatever they could find. It turned out they had found a hog which they brought to camp, cut it's throat, dragged it down the steps into a basement, stringing blood all the way, and began to cook it whole.
My Russian doctors found out, and told me, that the Russians had found some Buzz Bomb juice which they had been drinking. I knew, or thought I knew, that BB juice was wood alcohol, and that was the cause of all the carnage. One or two died later, and it looked like some were going to be permanently blind, crippled or both. For some reason there was plenty of IV fluids in the dispensary. Abbott's name was not on the bottles but they worked just as well.
The wheels kept turning and in a few days it was reported that the Russians were to be released to go home. Since there were still ten very sick Russians I thought they weren't able to travel. I would keep working on them and send them home later when they were better. When I told the Russian doctors of my plan, all Hell broke loose! They weren't going to leave their buddies there, no matter what. I told them I would think it over and let them know in a few hours.
I thought that even if there were no trucks, they would take them anyway, even if they had to carry the patients on their backs. If I were in their place I would have done the same thing. Some hadn't been home in one to three years, and I'm sure they were homesick. They were not about to stay there, blind or not. Another reason was they would have gone anyway, and I would lose face. On thinking about it since, I have always been glad that it worked out as it did. We moved south to Passau before all of the displaced persons had been dismissed, and I don't know what happened later to the non-Russians. I made friends with some of them.
In the second week after we arrived in Stendal, I was called to the mini-camp there in town where I delivered a Latvian woman of a baby boy. I would like to know what happened to them, but I don't remember their names - much less their address in Latvia.
These stories are correct to the best of my memory. I just hope I have the names correct. I would like to hear from any of the 379th who would write me. I had a passing friendship with the surgeons of the other l05 batteries and would like to hear from them too.
----- T. N. Rodman, M.D., Capt.
[Note: Dr. Rodman ended this article with his address and a phone number. For the sake of privacy, that information was not added to this story on our web site. We do have that information on file. Thanks, the web master]
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
The above story, "On the Way to the Elbe", by T. N. Rodman, M.D., 379 FA Bn., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 50, No. 2, Jan/Mar. 1998, pp. 9 - 12.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 27 March 2004.
Story added to website on 30 March 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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Updated on 17 February 2012...1351:05 CST