• Last modified 5597 days ago (Feb. 21, 2009)
  • Return to Checkerboard

Eugene Bauer shares stories at History

The Dr Harold C

The Dr. Harold C. Deutsch

World War II History

Round Table Program

     The following is told by Eugene Bauer, BN Surgeon, 1st BN, 393rd Regiment:

     These are mental images and stories from a battalion surgeon's point of view. First of all, my battalion's "aid station" in the forest east of Krinkelt looked like a pile of logs ala beaver/muskrat huts with sunken "floor," a black potbellied stove, and one Coleman lantern.

     I was sent there with the 99th Infantry Division one month before the Battle of the Bulge. I was told this was a "sleepy hollow" assignment.

     When I mentioned my head hit the "ceiling," I was informed that the doctor before me was short and that they would "lower the floor" to take care of the situation. The floor in this case was dirt. When I asked "where is the former doctor so I can ask him about the do's and don'ts, they said, I couldn't because he had his foot blown off from "stepping on a German shoe mine while picking up a shiny souvenir." After that, I made up my mind to never pick up anything unless it was handed to me and never sit on an upholstered chair or sofa until I saw somebody sit on it first.

     The next morning when I walked outside of the camouflaged battalion "aid station" I was puzzled and amazed to see a spider web-like maze of white store string and hospital gauze wound around the trees in a crisscross fashion and asked Richard Tobias, our MAC officer, what the meaning was and he said "the GI's did that so that they would not get lost at night when they had to go to the bathroom and that they didn't want to get that near to their own foxhole and not find their way back (50 yards) in the dark." This "maze" was on both sides of the aid station, so that told me that they also did that in case they were wounded and needed to find their way to and from the aid station.

Fresh pork chops

     After the Battle of the Bulge had quieted down but the winter snow was all around, Sergeant Breckenridge, a jeep driver for our Chaplain Thompson, told me about a large German sow killed on a road by an American tank. He asked "if it was OK to tow it in and winch it up on a tree near our aid station so that he could 'dress it out' as in a butcher shop, since that is what he did before he got into the service, and we would have a supply of fresh pork chops."

     Word quickly spread like lightning throughout the regiments of our division and an officer asked me "if the rumor was true that we had fresh pork chops and if yes, could they have some?" We gave them the number of pork chops they wanted and for the moment I was in charge of a "delicatessen."

     Then, when we asked Sergeant Breckenridge if we could give him a shot of bourbon he said "if you put the bourbon in a clear water glass I cannot accept it, however, and I repeat, however, if you put the bourbon in a porcelain tea cup as the chaplain is a strict Baptist and he would assume I was drinking a cup of coffee or tea and not liquor, I could then accept it."

Mother Gibbs

     During one of our "rest" periods, our enlisted aid man found an abandoned German sewing machine (small portable) about the size of a loaf of bread, in a farmhouse. He made the announcement, "hey fellas, let me know if you have any tears or holes in your pants and if you need any missing buttons replaced on your jackets." He could fix sewing problems like that in five to 10 minutes.

     After he repaired the first pair of fatigue pants, the grateful GI said, "Oh, thank you. . ., thank you. . ., thank you. . ., Mother!" From that moment on, for the rest of the war, the enlisted aid man was known and identified as "Mother Gibbs."

Veterinary medicine and house calls

     During another rest period, I was informed that if I was called for medical help for the local civilians, "it is up to you."

     One day, I noticed a German farmer with a "hound dog" look and asked him "what was wrong?" He said his cow gave birth to a calf the day before and he was worried the afterbirth (placenta) was still inside and the cow could die. I mentioned that while I never delivered cows before but had delivered babies. The farmer said that I was well qualified, so we all followed the farmer to the cow barn. I removed my shirt and started to do a pelvic exam when the cow's ears stood straight up and she did a little "jig" on her feet. When my arm was up to the elbow, the cow had to go to the bathroom, I had my first cow pie. When my arm was deep to my shoulder, I got a second cow pie. After the farmer inserted an enema hose of disinfectant solution I took my hand out.

     The farmer's wife came over with a bowl of fresh eggs (about two dozen), and when I handed them over to my aid men, I was told "it was well worth it, Doc." I said, "For whom?"

House call with a sick Grosspapa

     I mentioned, "Was ist loss?" (What is wrong?) and they said "Grosspapa hat lungen enzinderung." Since I had scientific German in college I knew lungen means lungs and enzinderung means fire, so I knew what they were telling me. . .pneumonia.

     After listening to Grandpa's chest I said "Das ist richtig"(that is right) and we left penicillin tablets and instructions to the relatives. They were so happy that they gave us a fresh baked German kuchen (cake).

Ditty bags

     As we boarded the SS Argentina ocean liner, converted into a troop ship in Boston Harbor in October 1944, I was handed this mini apron (like a carpenters apron) but O.D. color and the pouch had a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, mirror, comb, and razor. I was told this was a "ditty bag" made by some women's organization. That was very nice and thoughtful but throughout the war I was amazed at the "other" uses the GIs came up with for the "ditty bags."

     1. One GI must have had cold ears because he had the ditty bag cover his head, underneath the helmet liner and steel helmet. The ditty bag's two green apron strings were hanging down in the front of his chest, like braids!

     2. Another GI had his cold foot and shoe covered with the "ditty bag" stuffed with newspapers. The apron strings were tied around his ankles like a ballet dancer.

     3. Another GI had the "ditty bag" wound around his M-I rifle at the trigger mechanism like ear muffs so that it wasn't too cold on his trigger finger. It was the coldest winter in Germany in 100 years.

     4. Finally, the "ditty bags" were seen at times around an injured elbow or shoulder and even used as a scarf.


     One day the "mail-call" officer (I think his name was Friedman) said "Doc/Capt. Eugene Bauer, here is a letter from your brother and here is another letter from your brother and another and here is the 10th letter from your brother. Then here is a package from your brother."

     Everybody was around me like a football huddle, and when I opened the package I said "why would my brother send me a loaf of white bread." After thumping it I found it was as hard as cement. The GI's noticed a horizontal cut in the middle of the loaf and after taking the "top" off the bread I found a bottle of blackberry brandy encased in the center of the bread like it was in cotton batting. The bread was molded perfectly around the bottle. After passing the bottle around, the GIs were happy and loved my brother's "food" package.

Dumb-dumb bullets

     One day on the front I was faced with a soldier who was wounded in the buttocks, and to my amazement, instead of extracting pieces of metal from the so-called "shrapnel" wounds I found splinters of wood painted red. Richard Tobias said "that's from "dumb-dumb" bullets."

     Again, quoting Richard Tobias, who was and is a "walking encyclopedia" and a "walking tape recorder" about the 99th Infantry Division says "wooden bullets were sniper's favorites." They could be fired toward their own lines because they disintegrated within 50 to 100 yards. Stained red to make them devilishly hard to pull out, the splinters would then fester. This would disable without actually jeopardizing the victim.

Remagen Bridge

     On March 8, 1945, one day after the Remagen Bridge was captured, hundreds of army "ducks" were literally driving down the highway from the north to the bridge. With the driver at the steering wheel and the four rubber tires on the pavement, it looked like a giant flat bottom duckboat with wheels driven like a car. They all drove down the bank at the Remagen bridge and were clamped side by side with a steel tread planking put on the top for tanks, trucks, and jeeps etc., for when the bridge collapsed, which actually happened March 17.

     There was a group of U.S. Naval officers, in white uniforms, overseeing the project to supposedly consult over the Remagen pontoon bridge situation. There was a sign on the left side of the entrance of the bridge abutment that read: "Speed Limit 5 MPH."

     At the right abutment of the bridge the GIs had written: "STOP. Is this trip necessary?"

     In the middle of the bridge there was an impaled jeep with the tires facing up — obviously a direct hit.

     Then to my surprise there was a fleet of 15 German jet fighter planes coming to bomb the Remagen Bridge in groups of threes. These were the first jet fighter planes in the world. When the first jet plane flew into close range, three batteries of anti-aircraft artillery fire came from the right at the same instant from a camouflaged position at entrance and exit of the bridge and nearby to the side and zeroed into the first jet plane with red tracers. The plane literally disintegrated and "vaporized" into confetti like a ticker tape parade. The next two jet fighters tried also but the anti-aircraft battery fire blasted the back half and tail off the planes and they fell helplessly out of control into the Rhine River.

     After that, the rest of the German jet fighter planes fled and were never seen thereafter.

Three-day pass to Paris

     After the Battle of the Bulge quieted down the Army sent me and six aid men to Paris for a rest. Apparently the "high brass" in the war was worried we were in danger of "shell shock," etc.

     We were put up in a fine downtown hotel (Hotel Du Monde) in Paris and were told we could eat, drink, and sleep in the hotel without paying any bills and just go sightseeing etc., for the three days.

     After this they came for us in an Army truck at night, and when we could hear artillery sounds of "Kaboom! Kaboom!" getting louder our GIs said "Oh, it sounds like we're almost home!" and everybody laughed.

     While in Paris for those three days it snowed one day and all was bedlam. Grandmas, grandpas, and children were all throwing snowballs at each other like six-year-olds with glee. I'm told it rarely snows in Paris, so when it does it's a "national holiday!"

V1 and V2 buzz bomb rockets

     At Elsenborn Ridge one day we saw a V1 buzz bomber rocket plane on the way to bomb London. Then a fighter plane was chasing it and we waved and cheered until it made a U-turn in the sky and came down on us with machine guns blazing. We all ran 10 different directions and I noticed a new slit trench that was never used. I fell into it quickly, and while it seemed like eternity, it must have been all over in 60 seconds — nobody was hit or killed. That was the first and last time we ever waved or cheered like that.