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Welcome back Lukens!

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Welcome back!

By RICHARD B. TOBIAS, M.D.

1 Bn 393 Medics


     First Lieutenant David H. Lukens, Medical Administrative Corps, joined the 99th Infantry Division in May 1944 at Camp Maxey TX, to be assigned as assistant battalion surgeon, Second Battalion, 393rd Infantry. Like all other division units, the medical detachment was finally achieving Table of Organization strength and conducting final training exercises prior to the division's transfer overseas.

     After that brief stay in England, Lt. Lukens' group crossed the Channel, traversed northern France, and ended up near Krinkelt, Belgium. As other elements moved up to replace the 9th Division veterans on the front, the Second Battalion stayed in Regimental Reserve. It was thus available to be assigned, together with units of the 99th and other divisions, to support the attack Dec. 12-15 on the Roer Dams. The attack met unexpected heavy resistance, thus was abandoned as the Nazis began their own massive offensive later to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

     The 393rd's Second Battalion returned, not without difficulty, to the Krinkelt-Rocherath area where it was wedged into a gap in the front between the 395th Regiment troops to the north the 393rd's Third Battalion to the south - a gap created when the 393rd's Third Battalion suffered heavy casualties and was largely unable to withdraw. Lt. Lukens' Second Battalion and its aid station was able however, to withdraw and eventually take its position along Elsenborn Ridge before Christmas 1944.

     Lt. Lukens' conduct during this period was recognized as he was awarded the Silver Star medal. As is usual, as a medic his name is not included in the roster compiled in "Dauntless," the 99th Division's definitive history, since he was a non-combatant.

     As the division sprang into action late January 1945, and participated in the assault across the Cologne Plain, Lt. Lukens' battalion surgeon Capt. Mario Del Baglivo suffered an exacerbation of a hernial condition which necessitated his evacuation and immediate surgery. For the remainder of the war the 393rd's Second Battalion's Lt. Lukens was the sole medical officer, and not yet a physician.

     At the war's end the 393rd Medical Detachment reassembled at Landshut, but Lt. Lukens was not present. As his second battalion approached the Austrian border his gradually progressive physical deterioration was finally diagnosed as atypical pneumonia, and he was evacuated to a hospital in France, terminating his relationship with the 99th. Convalescence was slow, and he filled other medical assignments before finally being shipped stateside.

     Home again, he entered Flower-Fifth Avenue Medical School, New York City, graduating with his M.D. in 1950. He eventually was able to retire from practice in the metropolitan area and he and Mrs. Lukens moved to Florida. Unfortunately Mrs. Lukens died in early 1999, but their son, Major William Lukens, Judge Advocate, stationed in Tokyo, spent part of his compassionate leave in assisting Dr. Dave reconstruct his military history. Surfing the Internet, Major Lukens was able to locate the 99th Association, editor Bill Meyer, and eventually, me.

     So he's a physician now, thus possibly "Dave" is no longer his appropriate nickname. Considering the physician-apostle, perhaps "Luke" is now better. In any case, welcome back, Luke!

      — David H. Lukens M.D., 160 Cypress Club Drive, Apt. 605, Pompano Beach FL 33060-4744.

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