Friday, June 17, 2022

The Tuning Slide is now Life In Tune

A lot has happened in the last two+ years. The old Tuning Slide blog has not been published, but the first two years are the book, Life in Tune. The blog domain has now disappeard as well. But have no fear, the posts are all right here.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Buddy's War- A Son's Reflection- Happy Birthday, Dad

This post was originally written for the final post of the Following the 10th Armored blog at the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It is now the end of the 75th Anniversary. I have updated a few things, but it is generally as I wrote it five years ago. 


Today, November 19, 2020 is the 115th anniversary of my Dad's birth. Seventy-five years ago today, on his 40th birthday, he was settling back down in his hometown in Pennsylvania after years of uncertainty with World War II, training for War and the 11 months overseas with the 80th Medical Battalion/10th Armored Division.

He was now back at the pharmacy he owned. His wife of 18 months was with him. She was, I am sure, a stranger in a strange land, being a 32-year old Jewish woman from Brooklyn now in the (mostly Christian) wilds of North Central Pennsylvania.

Less than three years later in August 1948 their first child would be born eight months after Dad's mother died. Another three years and a second son would come along. Time would move quickly and unforgivingly for Harold and Dora.
  • August 1958 Dad would have brain tumor surgery
  • November 1959 he would sell the pharmacy
  • November 1961 Mom would discover she had colon cancer
  • February 1962, she would be gone.
  • Summer 1963 Dad would move to a Veterans' Hospital
  • December 1964, two weeks after his 59th birthday, he, too, would be gone at which point I was 16-years old.
I never had what could be called a "close" relationship with either of them. There wasn't time for a lot of memories to be built. Whatever memories were there were also sublimated in the grief and trauma of losing them both while still a teenager. Much of what I know about Dad is in bits and pieces. Until the past several years his war service was an uncertain bunch of seemingly disconnected facts and rumors.

I then opened my grandmother's diary for the first time. (Hard to believe, I know.) I soon began to discover a few more bits and pieces that actually corroborated the facts and rumors. I began to put a timeline together and do more research.
  • Yes, he "ran away" from home and got himself drafted
  • Yes, he was at Camp Gordon, Georgia with the 80th Medical Battalion/10th Armored Division where he met and married my mother
  • Yes, he was at the Battle of the Bulge
Thus I began to read more about the work of the 10th Armored including the campaign by campaign history- Impact: The Battle Story of George S. Patton's Spearhead Tenth Armored Division in Europe in World War II by Lester M. Nichols. I did more research on the Internet and decided I would do this blog series following Dad's journey in the war.

I come now to the end. This will be the last post in the series. Seventy years ago war was over. There's nothing else to report on the battles seen and wounded cared for. World War II as I said in a previous post remains the paradigm of a "good war." It was truly a world war with staggering casualties everywhere. It did truly save western democracy as we know it. It also began the breakdown between races when the Black American troops came home to find they were less accepted at home than in Europe.

Through these intervening seventy years much has changed. I myself am a product of the aftermath of World War II and then of Vietnam, causing a major shift in so many things American. The divisions raised in that war coinciding with the Civil Rights Movement and then Watergate are the precursors of much of the division we see active today.

What I learned was subtle and perception changing.
  • This past 4th of July (in 2015) I realized that my deep and emotionally positive responses to the military songs and Sousa marches are to a great extent based in my Dad's war. I play "the caissons" as much in his honor as any other reason. The others remain symbols of the victory of World War II.  
  • I can see now in pictures I have seen dozens of times, in Dad's eyes, that far-away soul that has seen more than he ever wanted to. If his unit was part of the liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp as seems to be the case, the inhumanity he witnessed would be forever etched in that soul.
  •  In other pictures of Dad with his comrades in the medical unit, there is a sense of brotherhood that Steven Ambrose wrote about so movingly in his World War II books like Band of Brothers. Whether it is standing outside a beer hall/restaurant or beside a Nazi war plane, there is a confidence that comes from having done something so awful, yet so important - and succeeded. And they did it together.
  • I have a better awareness now of why my Dad never wanted to talk about it. A medic involved in that winter hell of the Bulge would be a classic definition of PTSD, a word unknown at the time. Since all the other "rumors" I collected seem to be true, the stories of nightmares and not being willing to talk would probably also be true. As would his hair-trigger anger which was most likely made worse by the "startle-effect" common to PTSD.
  • Knowing how many from my hometown went to war in the 1940s I also have a better understanding of the world I grew up in. We were all surrounded by veterans. Most of us in my class were children of those vets. I am sure that colored more than just the patriotism that was bred into us. It also produced many fathers who had difficulty relating to anyone but their comrades at the local VFW or American Legion. Vietnam later brought the addition of drug abuse. WW II had its alcoholism I am sure.
  • I, personally, have been a pacifist my entire adult life. This isn't the place to go into the details of what that means and how that can- and does- fit together with my lifelong patriotism. I noted to a friend the irony of a pacifist following the end of World War II so closely. He commented back that it gives me the opportunity to again see why I believe what I do about war. 
  • He was right on target. I am as much a pacifist as I ever was. War is always an evil, even when it does good or even when it is necessary. We must never forget that. Perhaps because my Dad was already in his mid-30s when he got drafted and sent to war, it was not the self-defining vision late-teens and early-twenties would experience. The "glory" of war was forever tarnished for him in the snow and ice of the Ardennes. I remember a vague statement to that effect from his sister, my aunt, who took over the role of mother and father when they were gone. In the midst of her patriotism she indicated that some way or another, her brother had forever changed.
  • Since my Dad was a non-combatant, a medic, I learned from this vicarious family connection to the War that there are many ways to serve without having to carry arms. Being a non-combatant, even a pacifist, does not mean that one is a coward. There a many ways to stand up for one's beliefs and serve the country. My Dad did that. I never looked at him that way before.
  • I am proud of him and glad I did this (now twice!) I met a side of my Dad that I never knew- and would probably have never known. To live that hell, then come back to his hometown roots and pick up where he left off, must have been a whirlwind of emotions. I don't know if he survived it or whether that all played into his own death before age 60. Losing his 48-year old wife after less than 20 years of marriage played into that as well, I am sure. 
  • In the end I am humbled by my Dad's service and the service of his many comrades. It was not what he wanted to be doing- none of them wanted that. But they went and did it. Many of them would say that they simply went and did what they had to do, then came home and tried to forget it. We cannot forget; we must not forget. There is a lesson of the greatness of the American spirit in their story- spirit, and courage, and humility.



 I am honored to be your son, Dad.

Happy Birthday.

Thanks for your service and dedication.

This is the final post in this Buddy's War blog. Meanwhile I am in what is hopefully the final stages of putting my search over the past 10 years into a book, Buddy's War. It is a completely different task to write a book than a blog. It will have a different format and be a memoir of my search for my Dad and the lessons I have learned. I hope to have it published by VE Day in May of 2021. If you would like to be kept up-to-date on what I am doing, please follow the link below to sign up for more information.


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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Buddy's War- Veterans' Day 2020

This was from my blog series Following the 10th Armored when I followed them at the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It is five years later and we are at another Veterans' Day at the end of the 75th anniversary of that war. I have done a little bit of updating, but I present it here with an even deeper humility and awe at my Dad and his "greatest generation."

For the past year I have been following my Dad's 10th Armored Division in the last year of World War II. I have done research and learned things that I never knew. In this next to last post in the series, I decided to think about this whole process from the viewpoint of being a son of a World War II veteran.

Today is Veterans' Day. For me it has always been a special day of remembrance. They have been called "The Greatest Generation" and their war has defined "good war" (if there is such a thing) for the past 70 years, at least two generations. The first half of the 40s became, for my generation, a "magic" time. It was World War II! We grew up with war stories, war movies, war memorials built. We celebrated the great victory well into the early 60s. Korea was a blip on the road of history. World War II was the big war, the war of our fathers.

They weren't the greatest generation to us, not as it has come to be used in recent years. They were the heroes who went and did what needed to be done and paid a great price for it. From the vantage point of the 21st Century, this is three-quarters of a century ago. But for me, they are recent events. The war ended but three years before I was born.

Our lives were impacted in many silent ways by the returning vets. In small towns across the country these veterans were well-known, special people. Yet many, as in my Dad's case, kept it all bottled in. To question it, to raise any concerns was unpatriotic. We never thought about it. We never asked about what he, and so many others, suffered in their silent nightmares? What was it like to relive the Battle of the Bulge from a medical battalion? The horrors he must have seen are beyond the ability of anyone to imagine.

By the time I was old enough to think about these and ask the questions both he and my mother were gone. It was the mid-60s  and the times were changing. It is only in recent years, with the advent of the Internet that I have been able to trace the stories I never heard directly. In so doing I opened a book I didn't know existed. I found a way to be an observer from a distant place and see pictures of my Dad in new ways. I have posted some of them here over the past year.

I look at them differently today. I had been told that he would often have nightmares about the war in those days before it was known as PTSD. I can understand a little more about it today. Being a medic in such a horrifying place as the Battle of the Bulge would produce many traumas. I am sure he tried to return to "normal" but must have found it difficult. I remember his anger and wonder today how much of that might have been made worse by the memories. I also know and have been told that he was a caring person. He gave prescriptions on "credit" that had eventually to be written off when he sold the store but 14 years after the war ended.

In the health care of the 50s and 60s, my Dad was also cared for by the VA. He spent the last 16 or so months of his life in the chronic, nursing-type ward at the VA hospital in Wilkes-Barre. His brain tumor prevented him from taking care of himself. The VA did that for him and for us- his family. We received veterans' benefits and college support. The whole atmosphere, the ambiance of World War II was a unique and caring response. At least that is how I saw it as a recipient of the care and support.

His generation is passing away. According to the National World War II Museum there are now approximately only 300,000 veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II. 

My Dad was among the older vets of his era, almost 39 when he arrived in Europe in 1944. He died 51 years ago, not yet even 60. But the youngest vets are now at least in their mid-80s. My generation is older than most of them were when I was a teenager. We are losing that intimate contact with an important piece of our American heritage and democracy. They fought a war in which there was to us a clear example of evil spreading across the world. Hitler and the Axis powers were terrifying, even to many sitting in the relatively safe borders of North America. In what may have been one of the more selfless acts in world history, 16 million Americans went to fight for the world's safety and security. They believed, a with a great degree of certainty that if they didn't, the world would not be safe for any of us in this country or for freedom and democracy. But they went and through grit and courage, fear and sheer force of will were victorious.

And then they helped rebuild their former enemies.

Perhaps when history is written in another 75 to 100 years this will stand out as the greatest moment in American history. It's pretty damn close to it already!

I have always known this at some level. One cannot grow up on the World War II movies and documentaries, books and stories without being aware of that. It is real today whenever I hear the marches of the different military branches. "When the Caissons Go Rolling Along (U.S. Army Field Artillery March)" still moves me.

This must be an open book for generations to come. These WW II vets set a standard that is not easy to match but their willingness to serve remains the archetype.

On this Veterans' Day, 75 years after the end of World War II, I will pause and give thanks for my Dad's service and for his generation that gave us an incredible model to follow in serving. There are many things to remember, but this is one we forget at our own peril.


I will have one more post in this Buddy's War blog in eight days- my Dad's birthday. Meanwhile I am in what is hopefully the final stages of putting my search over the past 10 years into a book, Buddy's War. It is a completely different task to write a book than a blog. It will have a different format and be a memoir of my search for my Dad and the lessons I have learned. I hope to have it published by VE Day in May of 2021. If you would like to be kept up-to-date on what I am doing, please follow the link below to sign up for more information. 

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Buddy's War # 60- A Mother's Relief

Back on VE Day, Beula wrote,
The war is over and O God just think of the mothers that their boys won’t be coming home.
Today the underlying thought came out:

    •    Wednesday, May 23, 1945

Got up at 9:00. Went to the store and cleaned. Got a letter from Buddy that he wrote on VE Day. So now I feel better.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
In the time between VE Day on May 8 and today, Beula spent some time with Ruth in Bethlehem, saw some movies, went out to eat, and seemed to be busier than usual. Yet for those 15 days she had no doubt been holding her thoughts, prayers, and fears deep inside. She never commented on it in the diary. The dread and anxiety must have been overwhelming, as it may have been throughout the whole time Buddy was overseas. We do learn how to live with such anxieties. Or perhaps in the past years, she had found a way to live without thinking about it. On May 22 she received a letter from Buddy, but it was written before VE Day.

Today, she could feel better. What a relief!

But with all the elation and relief, some sense of the dread must have remained. The war was not over. Germany had surrendered; Japan fought on. Did they know that a massive invasion, far greater than D-Day was being planned? Were they all just living in the uncertainty of what troops would be transported to the Pacific for an invasion of Japan?

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Buddy's War #58- The Last Offensive

[Note: It has been over a month since I last posted on the movement of the 10th Armored Division/80th Medical Battalion. A whole bunch of different things happened, like the pandemic and related consequences. I apologize for that. In this post, I will do a summary of the month of April which saw a great deal of movement for Buddy’s Company C. I will not be posting each day’s movement as you will see below. The month will end with them in place for the end of the war. Next week I will do some more reviewing as we come to the end of the war in Europe. There will be more to come.]

The month of April was the “last offensive.” The epilogue to the section on this campaign in “Hyperwar” says it well:
The only basic matter to be decided by the last offensive was not whether the Germans would be reduced to total defeat, but when. Given the stranglehold and almost mystic fascination that Hitler and his coterie exercised over the German people and the incredible loyalty of German military commanders to a regime that long had been discredited, perhaps it was inevitable that the end would come only when the nation was prostrate, almost every square inch of territory under the control of the victors. In those circumstances, whether the invaders insisted on unconditional surrender or came shouting mercy and forgiveness probably would have had little effect on the outcome.

Map indicating all locations in April 1945 for Company C,
80th Armored Medical Battalion of 10th Armored Division

     •    Wednesday, April 4, 1945
Got up at 10-.  It is cold so I did not do anything. Wrote to Ruth and Buddy. Received a box from Ruth- 2 shirts and 2 tea towels.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman

    ✓    Company C Morning Reports
    ✓    1 - 16 April 1945

This period of April was the last major offensive of the war for the 10th Armored Division. It appears to have been one of the more difficult of the battles the 10th had faced. A report issued a few years after the war noted that some of the difficulties may have been caused by moor planning and lack of clear communications. I am not a big fan of George Patton, but his reputation and drive make me wonder if this would have been as difficult a mission if the 10th Armored had still been with Patton and the Third Army.  In any case, the greater difficulty faced by Company C can be seen in the lists of casualties in the Morning Reports for April 6-10.

    ✓    6 April 1945
Marvin Tews T5 and Simon Smith Pfc — Missing in Action
Tews was a surgical tech, like Buddy,  and Smith was an aid man. I did some digging on the Internet and found that both these soldiers ended up as prisoners of war. They both were liberated and repatriated. Tews (26), from Minnesota,  in October 1945 and Smith (23), from Michigan, in July 1945. They both lived into their mid-80s.

    ✓    8 April 1945
Noble Long Sgt. and Emmett Gilberts Cpl — Killed in Action
The Morning Report gave no duty listing for either of these soldiers. They were the first, and only, killed in action from Company C during the war.
Joseph Vendittelli T4 —  Slightly wounded in action. Lacerating wound, forehead. Not Hospitalized
    ✓    9 April 1945
- Joseph Vendittelli T4 — wounded in action. Penetrating wound, right foot, burns about face. Trfd to evacuation hospital
- George Tennant Pfc — Penetrating wound hand and arms. Trfd to hospital unknown
- William Cash Pvt — Penetrating wound arm. Trfd to hospital unknown
- Carl Kopp 1st Lt — Slight gunshot wound face and left thumb. Not hospitalized
    ✓    10 April 1945
Robert Gilbert Pfc and John Lower Pfc — Missing in Action
Gilbert, like Marvin Tews and Buddy, was a surgical tech. It appears that Lower was an ambulance driver. 
I don’t know the story, but both returned to duty seven days later on 17 April.

     •    Thursday, April 12, 1945
Got up at 10-. Got ready for club. We had a nice time but Ruth called at 6 o’clock and said President Roosevelt had died at 4.30. It was an awful shock.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman

     •    Friday, April 20, 1945
Got up at 10-. Cleaned upstairs. Cleaned the kitchen. Wrote to Ruth. It is raining tonight. 9 o’clock and father is not home yet.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman

As it drove into Bavaria, the division overran one of the many subcamps of Dachau concentration camp in the Landsberg area on 27 April 1945, earning it recognition as a liberating unit. (Link)
As April ended they were in place for VE Day a little more than a week later. Perhaps the final indication of the reason they had been fighting was discovered on 27 April when portions of the 10th Armored liberated one of the many subcamps of Dachau. (Still looking for more information at this point.) Again, the epilogue to the Last Offensive section of Hyperwar says it best.
 As the last offensive came to an end, few if any who fought in it could have entertained any doubts as to the right of their cause--they had seen at Buchenwald, Belsen, Dachau, and at a dozen other places, including little Ohrdruf, what awful tyranny man can practice on his fellow man. To erase those cruel monuments to evil was reason enough for it all, from bloody OMAHA Beach to that bridgehead to nowhere over the Elbe. (Link)
     •    Sunday, April 29, 1945
Got up at 10-. Got dinner. Mrs. S. came in for a while. Wrote to Buddy.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Testing God?

Listening to the "pastors" who have insisted that God will keep them safe in the pandemic- I was struck by how much it sounded like the temptation of Jesus that we always hear way back at the beginning of Lent.

Satan: Go ahead, Jesus, jump from the highest point of the Temple. God will protect you. Isn't that what scriptures say?
Somehow I do not believe that God would want any of us to put ourselves in harm's way in order to test or prove the existence or love of God.
  • Does that mean that I should handle poisonous snakes since God will protect me? 
  • Does that mean if I want to stay warm when I go outside in the cold without a coat that God will keep me warm? 
  • Does that mean I should go stand in the middle of the train tracks convinced that God will stop the train in time since God has promised to protect me?
  • Does that mean that if I give the virus to someone else, I am not responsible if they get sick, since after all God promised?
Jesus: It also says in scripture that we should not test the Lord, our God.
The Coronavirus is that train coming down the tracks. It is the poisonous snake. It is the frigid winter air that can kill you. It may not be as easy to see or hear, but we have been told how to stay safe.

Just do it, okay? God gave us minds and wisdom and knowledge to use, not to set aside.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

R.I.P. John Prine

I never got to see him in person. But his music is among the greatest. Thanks to a remarkable songwriter. He told us what he would do today in a song. Enjoy. Laugh and cry as you watch.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Buddy's War #57- At the End of March

    ▪    80th Armored Medical Battalion
    ▪    After Action Report: March 1945

Clearing Station Report

Personnel Casualties:
Killed: 0
Wounded: 1 officer, 2 enlisted men
Missing: 2 enlisted men
Reinforcements received: 1 officer, 34 enlisted men

And, as usual, what might be needed to make things better. This reflected the change that occurred in March when the 10th moved right out of Third Army territory into the Seventh Army,

On March 12 I posted a quote from the book Battalion Surgeon by the late Dr. William McConahey from Mayo Clinic. Captain McConahey was part of an infantry battalion surgeon medical corps from D-Day through the end of the war. I also discovered a lengthy interview from 2003 with McConahey online as part of the Library of Congress’s stories from the Veterans History Project. Here are some excerpts that helped me find out a little more about the situation Buddy was facing on a daily basis. This was life on the front lines of the war:
Well, they call you a battalion surgeon. I did no surgery, really. I was simply trying to save lives. They bring in the wounded to the Aid Station, first thing is to stop bleeding. And then give lots of morphine for pain. We used a lot of that, sometimes intravenously. And set fractures, and cleaned out the wounds, which were mess. Often they were filled full of dirt and debris and grass and torn uniforms. Cleaned them out good. Now we had no antibiotics in the days, except we had some sulfa powder. No penicillin. They had it back on base, in the hospital behind us, but we didn't have any. We'd sprinkle some sulfa in on the wound and put on a sterile dressing and pack it wide open and send them on back. We also gave tremendous amounts of blood plasma. We had no whole blood, but these were, we had cases of one bottle of sterile water packed under pressure and a bottle of blood plasma powder packed under vacuum. See, this was blood plasma with no red cells, but just dried protein part of the blood which gave the body and brought them back out of shock. They put these two bottles together with double ended needle and stuck the water bottle into the plasma bottle and in about 30 seconds you had a bottle of blood plasma. We put it intravenously and we gave that by the bucket full. We have hundreds and hundreds of those things in the Aid Station. And that would get them out of shock in a hurry and that's what saved lives time and again, was the blood plasma we had.

I had 32 men in my medical Aid Station and one officer, assistant battalion surgeon with me, another captain. Then these 32 enlisted men. Of those, 12 were company aid men. These guys lived up on the front lines with the company. [The aid men] would lie in the foxholes with the rifleman and they'd say "medic" and they'd run to the aid of the wounded and they would put on a doggone as good dressings I ever saw, lying on their bellies and the bullets going over their heads. How they did it, I don't know. Did quite a job. And then they would let us know in the Aid Station if there was some wounded up on the front line with walkie talkie radio we had. So I'd send up a litter squad, four men on a jeep, and a jeep driver, and he would take them as far as he could forward, then they would walk across the fields until they found the wounded man was. See, no helicopters then. So they'd put them on a litter, haul them back to the Aid Station and bring them back to me and we'd take care of them. So we had these twelve men on the front lines, eight litter bearers, two jeep drivers, and ten technicians to help me in the Aid Station. They would help clean wounds out, give plasma, all the rest, helped me a great deal in the Aid Station. That's what we had in our group.
Question: Now, how far were you from the actual fighting, in the Aid Station?
We'd try to find a house to get into, or a shed, or something, because you couldn't work out in the cold. … So we got as close as we could to the front lines so we weren't under actual fire. Maybe about a quarter a mile behind the front line, something like that. And then we would go to work and they would bring the wounded into us on the Aid Station there. And once they were in good shape, we put them in the ambulance and send them back to the Collecting Company, the next group behind us, which is about five miles back. And then they would look them over. If they were okay then, back to the Cleaning Company, ten miles to the rear, and that was almost a small hospital, with a couple of surgeons. They could do emergency surgery if they had to at that time.

[Note: This would explain why the location for Company C was almost always given at a distance behind the front. It is also important to remember that all of these were part of the company. I have no way of knowing at this point where Buddy was assigned. As a “surgical tech” I would guess it would have been in the Collecting or Clearing Company, but I am not sure.]

If they weren't badly wounded, they stayed in the Clearing Company for maybe a week or so, if they were back in good condition, send them back to the front. If they weren't, they would go on back then to an evacuation hospital or a field hospital, something behind maybe 30-40 miles to the rear and be taken care of there. And then, if even more badly wounded, they'd take them on back to England. And they might be there for a couple months, get them fixed up, then ship them back to the front, go back to duty. If they were badly hurt, send them on back home, sometimes, then too after that. 

[Note: Next comes the question perhaps most often asked of medics- did you carry a gun?]
Oh no.
Question: Or did your men carry guns? You had no protection, then, really.
No, we didn't carry guns because the Germans had signed what they called the Geneva Convention, in which they said they would not try to shoot at Aid people. So we all knew that and we had red crosses painted on our helmets on all the four sides. We had red crosses on our arms. Our jeeps carried red cross flags. I know that my life was saved many times by Germans not shooting at us. We didn't carry any weapons and they knew that. And often they had me in their sight, they wouldn't fire. It happened, I know, several times. I had been fired at, [?] one man took a shot at me and missed me by about four inches. That happened now and then, but usually they did not shoot at us. So we were safer to be without arms than to be carrying them.

[We] all were marked this way. Well, one time I just briefly mentioned this. I went behind lines by mistake one time. I was trying to find the Aid Station after I had gone back to check with the Collecting Company. I was coming back in the jeep and I missed a turn-off. I went back behind German lines by two miles, didn't know it. I came around a corner and down the road the German had a tank gun, pointing right at us, ready to fire the thing, the first tank or trunk that turned the corner. They didn't shoot. They saw the Red Cross flag on the jeep... they didn't shoot because we were medics... [and] all around us and the sides of us were little German soldiers digging foxholes, the guns right beside them. They looked up and wondered what was going on. Well, the driver jammed the jeep in reverse, went back up and around the corner and out of there, but they could have killed us, captured us, but they didn't, because they saw we were medical corps people.(Link)

As March ended, the 80th Medical and the 10th Armored were in the midst of their final month of combat. VE Day was less than 40 days away. Their movement over the next few weeks will get them in their final position, but also remind them of the ghastly evils that were everywhere to be found in this horrific war.

    •    Saturday, March 31, 1945
Got up at 9.30.  Went to the butcher shop. Baked. Had a letter from Buddy and Ruth. It was cool tonight.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Buddy's War #56- To the Rhine

    ✓    Company C Morning Reports
    ✓    16 March 1945

Departed Trier 1015. Traveled 10.9 miles via motor convoy to Lampaden, Germany. Supporting CCB.  Arrived 1145. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. Weather fair. (MR)
Combat commands of the 10th Armored Division began passing through infantry of the 80th and 94th Divisions before daylight on 16 March. Although the Germans of General Hahm's LXXXII Corps during the night had formed a new crust of resistance sufficient to deny genuine armored exploitation for another twenty-four hours, no doubt remained among either American or German commanders as the day ended that a deep armored thrust was in the offing. (Hyperwar)

    ✓    17 March 1945

Left Lampaden 1630. Traveled approximately 8 miles via motor convoy to Kell, Germany. Arrived 1730. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. (MR)
Early on 17 March, the 10th Armored Division drove eight miles and seized a bridge intact over the little Prims River, last water obstacle short of the Nahe. (Hyperwar)

    ✓    18 March 1945

Left Kell 1115. Traveled 12 miles via motor convoy to Otzenhausen, Germany. Arrived 1400. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. (MR)
    ✓    19 March 1945
Left Otzenhausen 1440, Traveled 12 miles via motor convoy yo Wolfersweiler, Germany. Arrived 1540. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. Weather clear. (MR)

As worked out in detail by Patch and Patton, the two armies split the area between the Nahe River and the Rhine almost equally, with a new boundary running just north of Kaiserslautern and reaching the Rhine south of Worms. Patton nevertheless intended to take Kaiserslautern himself and then turn one infantry and one armored division southeast, deeper into Patch's zone, to link with the Seventh Army's VI Corps along the Rhine. Thereby he hoped to trap any Germans who might remain in front of the Seventh Army in the West Wall. That accomplished, Patton "would clear out of [Patch's] area."51 The plan presumed, of course, that the Seventh Army at that point would still be involved in the West Wall, but in any event, Patch apparently accepted the agreement with the same good grace earlier accorded the Supreme Commander's proposal.
It took another day before the effects generated by the heat began to show up on headquarters situation maps, but by 19 March a graphic representation of the Third Army's gains looked, in the words of Patton's colleague, General Hodges of the First Army, "like an intestinal tract."53 With the added weight of the 12th Armored Division (Maj. Gen. Roderick R. Allen), General Walker's XX Corps made the more spectacular gains. By midnight of the 19th, the 12th Armored was across the upper reaches of the Nahe and had gone on to jump a little tributary of the Nahe, more than twenty-three miles from the armor's line of departure of the day before. The 10th Armored Division stood no more than six miles from Kaiserslautern. (Hyperwar)

    •    Monday, March 19, 1945

Got up at 10.30. It is raining.Changed the beds. Had a letter from Buddy. He is in Germany. Wrote to Ruth and Dora.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman

    ✓    20 March 1945
Left Wolfersweiler 1125. Traveled 23 miles via motor convoy to Reichenbachsteegen, Germany. Arrived 1453, Set up clearing station and billeted troops. (MR)
    ✓    21 March 1945
Left Reichenbachsteegen 0845. Traveled 17 miles via motor convoy to Schopp, Germany. Arrived 1320. Set up clearing station. Billeted troops. Supporting CCB. (MR)

There were 152 admissions in the three companies of the 80th Medical Battalion on the 21st; there will be another 205 ton the 22nd as this drive south continues. Hence Company C will remain at Schopp for an extra day. They have traveled 83 miles in these six days.

[The] 10th Armored Division [was turned] south and southeast into the Pfaelzer Forest. By nightfall of 20 March, two of the 10th Armored's columns stood only a few hundred yards from the main highway through the forest, one almost at the city of Pirmasens on the western edge, the other not far from the eastern edge. A third was nearing Neustadt, farther north beyond the fringe of the forest. The 12th Armored meanwhile was approaching the Rhine near Ludwigshafen. Not only were the withdrawal routes through the Pfaelzer Forest about to be compromised but a swift strike down the Rhine plain from Neustadt and Ludwigshafen against the last escape sites for crossing the Rhine appeared in the offing. 

In desperation the Luftwaffe during 20 March sent approximately 300 planes of various types, including jet-propelled Messerschmitt 262's, to attack the Third Army's columns, but to little avail. Casualties on the American side were minor. Antiaircraft units, getting a rare opportunity to do the job for which they were trained, shot down twenty-five German planes. Pilots of the XIX Tactical Air Command claimed another eight.

In the face of the 10th Armored Division's drive, the word to the westernmost units of the XC Corps to begin falling back went out late on the 20th, and when the 42d Division, in the mountains on the left wing of the VI Corps, launched a full-scale assault against the West Wall late the next day, the attack struck a vacuum. Soon after dawn the next morning, 22 March, a regiment of the 42d cut the secondary highway through the Pfaelzer Forest. A column of the 10th Armored had moved astride the main highway through the woods and emerged on the Rhine flatlands at Landau. Any Germans who got out of the forest would have to do so by threading a way off the roads individually or in small groups. 

By nightfall of 22 March, the Germans west of the Rhine could measure the time left to them in hours. (Hyperwar)
(Note on this map: I have tried to give the scope of what was happening during this week with Patton racing to cross the Rhine before Montgomery. As such he utilized the 10th Armored to block the southern escape route. In so doing, as described in the text, he moved the 10th and its units out of the Third Army territory, crossing them into the Seventh Army of General Patch. Hence all the different places listed in this map with the movement of Buddy's Company C shown in blue as usual.)

By March 23, the Third Army engineers were ready, and Patton, desperate to cross the great river before Monty, decided that his men should make a feint at Mainz and cross at once at Oppenheim. By daylight on the 23rd, six battalions were over the river for a loss of only 28 men killed and wounded, while other infantry and engineer units had crossed just to the north, at Nierstein, without opposition. Patton telephoned Bradley: “Brad, don’t tell anyone but I’m across … there are so few Krauts around there they don’t know it yet. So don’t make any announcement. We’ll keep it secret until we see how it goes.”
However, the Germans soon became aware of the crossings and after heavy Luftwaffe raids on the Third Army pontoon bridges during the day, Patton called Bradley again that evening: “For God’s sake tell the world we’re across … I want the world to know Third Army made it before Monty.” 
In fact, the world already knew. At Bradley’s headquarters that morning, Patton’s representative had announced that the Third Army had crossed the Rhine at 10 pm on March 22, “without benefit of aerial bombing, ground smoke, artillery preparation and airborne assistance.” Clearly, this was a dig at Montgomery, who was using all these assets at that very moment to assist his crossing of the same river. (Warfare Network)

    ✓    23 March 1945

Clearing Section left Schopp 0900. Traveled 12 miles. Arrived Rodalben, Germany at 1000. Opened clearing station 1100. C.P. and remainder of company left Schopp at 1620. Traveled 32 miles via motor convoy to Annweiler, Germany. Arrived 2030. Set up clearing station and billeted troops. (MR)

They have now traveled a total of 115 miles in 8 days. They still have a week to go in the month.

It appears that, as a result of the coordinated efforts between Third and Seventh Armies, the 10th got to the right place at the right time. Now they will be attached to General Patch’s XXI Corps, 7th Army for the rest of the war. Patton has utilized them well on his own personal race to the Rhine. Now they move to other things.

    •    Friday, March 23, 1945
Got up at 10. Gee, but I feel bad. Cleaned some. Father washed the windows.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tuning Slide 5.32- Music in a Time of Pandemic

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

This will be our reply to violence:
to make music more intensely,
more beautifully,
more devotedly than ever before.
— Leonard Bernstein

I have used this quote by Bernstein before. It was originally written after the death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. It was a time of uncertainty and chaos, fear and grief. As I sat down to write today, already late in posting this week’s Tuning Slide, I realized that I cannot write what I had intended to write about- the interaction of sound and rhythm in music. I will get back to that, I promise. But first I had to clear my mind of all the things running around in there in the midst of the current time of uncertainty and pandemic and fear.

These are times like none other we have seen in many years. Perhaps the closest we can come to it in the last fifty years is September 11, 2001. Suddenly things were different. It felt like the world of order and sanity was under attack. These things that are this disruptive of life as we have known it don’t happen often, but they are gut-wrenching when they do.

This afternoon I did a simple shopping trip. We are on our way back home to Minnesota from Alabama, our time cut sort by the exponential growth of the virus worldwide and the cultural and societal changes that are coming along. It may be that we will never again see the world as we did just a few short weeks ago. Churches, schools, gyms, concerts, band rehearsals, coffee shops, movie theaters, fast-food restaurants are all different today. As I drove through the small Missouri city where we are staying this evening, I saw the impact with some empty parking lots and empty shelves in Walmart. And not just the hand-sanitizer and toilet paper. Food aisles are empty, too. Over the counter medication shelves are less than fully stocked.

Then I see again that amazing story from Italy where they have been in lockdown for a number of days. The streets are empty across that country. But there’s this trumpet player standing on his balcony or the neighbors singing with each other. Music becomes a source of strength for those as they shared their time and talent, even in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty.

Take time to listen to music these next weeks. Extend that listening into the months after that. Turn this time of fear and chaos into a time when the depths of our humanity can be touched with hope and peace. Those of us who play in musical groups, it doesn’t matter what the style or genre, start thinking about what and how you can make a difference when the curfews come down and the lock-downs open up. Listen and research and practice. Take time away from the daily chaos of the news and retreat into music or reading or meditating or taking a walk if you can. Find the music in your own heart and enhance it.

We may not know where all this will lead; We can know that if we follow the music of the heart and soul- each of our individual hearts and souls- we will find the sound and the harmony, the rhythm and the style that can bring greater hope to the world. Those of us who are musicians have a wondrous gift to share. May we take this time to discover how to expand it for the good of ourselves, our families and friends, and wherever we may go.

I guess I needed to talk about this- to adjust my personal tuning slide, to remind myself of why I am doing this and how important it is to me. Now I’m going to listen to some music, read a while, and do it again tomorrow. I’ll be back next week with the Sound and the Rhythm.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Buddy's War #55- A Brief Respite and More Background

    •    Friday, March 16
Got up at 11. Did not feel so good. Wrote to Buddy.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
75 years ago today, the 10th Armored/80th Medical finished a four-day break in the city of Trier. In the two weeks prior to the break they had, as pointed out in earlier posts, cleared the Saar-Moselle Triangle, captured Trier, crossed the Moselle and did some clearing up toward Wittlich and Bullay. According to Nichols in Impact, they took the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Trier, the oldest city in Germany of the old Roman Coliseum and other ancient remains.

The Tenth was about to go on a long trip. In the next six days, they will travel 83 miles and then over 100 more by the end of the month. In these movements, the 80th Armored Medical Battalion will change its organizational movement to match the original plans set out in the manual for Armored Medical Battalions. No doubt this aided in the work of the clearing station of the company. With the more rapid movement of armored units as compared to infantry units, they needed to make sure the patients in the clearing station were moved appropriately. To do that Company C would often move in two sections as we will see from here through the end of the war.

As shown in this screenshot of the 1944 Armored Medical Units Field Manual flexibility and mobility were essential. As will happen for the rest of March and all of April this will be the story of the 80th as the 10th Armored’s organic medical battalion. The battalion medical companies were referred to as “second echelon” treatment, i.e. not front line treatment. The Field Manual describes them this way.
    ✓    24. MEDICAL COMPANY. For details of organization, see T/O 8-77. The armored medical battalion includes three medical companies organized and equipped to be self- contained. The primary function of the medical company is to assure prompt and continuous evacuation of forward medical units, and to render medical care to casualties evacuated. Each medical company consists of a headquarters, a collecting platoon, and a clearing platoon.
In reading through the daily Morning Reports for Company C, my Dad’s company, there has not been any indication of three sections as listed above. I am sure there must have been some breakdown, especially considering there was a surgical team since my Dad’s duty was surgical tech. Whenever they would move, the Morning Report would almost always indicate that the “clearing station” was set up and then the troops billeted.

    ✓    Collecting platoon
(1) This platoon consists of a platoon headquarters and two identical collecting sections. The platoon headquarters is equipped with a radio-liaison vehicle included in the group medical net (FM). It is capable of contacting all division medical units within range,
(2) This vehicle formally operates forward from the clearing platoon, contacting the aid stations and controlling and directing the ambulances of the medical company to battalion aid stations and casualty collecting points in the forward areas.
(3) Ambulances of the collecting sections operate forward from the clearing station to evacuate battalion aid stations and casualty collecting points established by the medical detachments.
Sidenote: there is a good memoir of a radio technician, Wire As a Weapon: Observations of a lineman with the 150th Armored Signal company laying wire from 10th Armored Division Headquarters to the forward units in 1944-45. (If you Google it, you will get lots of articles about the weapon a garrote wire for killing.) 

    ✓    Clearing Platoon
Functions and operation. ( a ) This platoon is the nucleus of second echelon medical service in combat. The clearing station does not attempt surgical procedures better performed by specialized units of supporting medical elements. Its primary purpose is to perform emergency surgery, including amputation, to combat shock, to administer blood and plasma transfusions, tetanus toxoid, apply splints, and check dressings.
The clearing stations employed mobile surgical trucks. According to the Army Medical Department History:
“Mobile Surgical Trucks” were truck-mounted ‘mobile’ operating rooms designed for temporary expansion of busy and overcrowded Hospitals! These units provided additional and self-sustained two-table operating rooms which could be utilized for all types of surgery. No additional burden was put on the Hospital, since the truck possessed its own autoclaves, surgical instruments, lighting, gloves, dressings, and linen. It must be noted that the Truck itself was only a means of transportation, while the ‘special’ Tent (carried in the trailer, together with the necessary power supply) provided with the Truck acted as the actual operating room.
The Truck, 2 ½-Ton, 6 x 6, GMC, CCKW-352 (short wheelbase); 353 type (long wheelbase), aka “deuce-and-a-half” the US Army’s workhorse, was one of the best vehicles suited for this purpose. manufactured by the General Motors Truck and Coach Division of the Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company

Illustration of a Surgical Truck and Tent, as introduced by the 47th Armored Medical Battalion.

One of the two Mobile Surgical Trucks of C Company, 78th Armd Med Bn, 8th Armd Div, ready to accept casualties. Wounded German PWs on litters are waiting for treatment.

Partial display of basic equipment of two Mobile Surgical Trucks, set up in the appropriate Tent

Again, from the Field Manual:
Each surgical unit contains an operating table with operating lights, cabinets for supplies, instruments and sterile dressings, hot water heater with boiler, a supply of cold water, a sterilizing unit and facilities for ventilation and heating. Electric power is furnished by a gasoline-operated generator. Each surgical unit includes a specially constructed blackout tent to provide additional space for the treatment of casualties. One surgical unit has in addition the necessary items of equipment to treat gas casualties. In the event of an enemy gas attack, this unit operates for the emergency treatment of systemic symptoms incident to toxic gases and the emergency treatment of chemical burns. It is equipped to perform essential decontamination of personnel and equipment. (Field Manual)
As I mentioned above, part of the reason we will see in the coming weeks for the splitting of the clearing station into platoons or sections (both words are used to describe them in the morning reports) is for the efficiency of collecting and clearing the wounded. The Field Manual makes sure this is covered.

An essential for the proper functioning of the clearing station is the ability to move on short notice. This capability is dependent upon whether the accumulated casualties are being promptly and continuously cleared from the clearing station by corps or army medical units. Constant liaison by the supporting medical unit is necessary to insure prompt evacuation of the clearing station. Liaison is established and maintained by the supporting medical unit charged with the evacuation of the medical company. (Field Manual)
One other note during this brief break from the war from reading the Morning Reports:

When someone either joins the company or is transferred to another company, in most instances they indicate their race.  Race is almost always listed as “W”. This one was different:

    ✓    Company C Morning Report
    ✓    13 March 1945
Manygoats, Raymond Pvt. Reasgd and jd 13 Mar 45 from… HQ 53rd Reinforcement BN, 17th Reinforcement depot. MOS 303. Semi-skilled. Race Amer Indian. (MR)
MOS 303 was the duty code for "hospital orderly."

And on the homefront:

75 years Ago Today
March 16, 1945:
President Roosevelt said at a news conference that as a matter of decency, Americans would have to tighten their belts so food could be shipped to war-ravaged countries to keep people from starving. (Link)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Finding Peace in a Pandemic

The spread of this disease can be prevented by personal behaviors.

So said an Alabama State Health Department spokesman this morning. That statement is true on many levels. Not the least of those is the mental health and attitude we bring to the situation. I heard this as I was just finishing making a list that I called Finding Peace in a Pandemic.

·      Do what’s right. Always!
·      Don’t take undue risks.
·      Think about others and how we all impact each other.
·      Keep informed, but don’t obsess.
·      Turn off the constant news chatter for at least several hours at a time.
·      Take a walk outside or read a good book.
·      Keep in touch with family and friends.
·      Trust God and let go- whatever that means to you.
·      Take care of yourself and your family.
·      Keep engaged, or get reengaged with hobbies.
·      It is not the end of the world.
·      Meditate on the beauty of the world even when it feels dark.
·      There is light out there- and within you.
·      Maintain your spiritual, emotional, and physical balance.
·      Be wise, not rash.
·      Don’t judge- we all cope in our own ways.
·      Don’t deny what you’re feeling. Talk about it but don’t obsess on it.
·      If you can’t do something about the situation, don’t try to.
·      Practice and live peace and mindfulness in all that you do as much as you can and let the rest just be there.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Buddy's War #54- Beyond Trier

    •    Thursday March 8
Got up at 10. Felt bad so I am not doing anything. Received a letter from Ruth. Wrote to  her. It is a spring day.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
The 10th Armored and Company C of the 80th Medical Battalion remained at Trier from 2 March through 15 March. It was a clean-up time around and northeast of Trier. Originally, Nichols tells us, the plan was that the 10th just clear the Saar-Moselle Triangle. Their efficiency and speed achieving that goal led to the capture of Trier as well. That then was to be the end of the mission until the actions of Col. Richardson’s Task Force captured the Romer Bridge. Again the combat operation was extended to crossing the Moselle and heading north to Wittlich.

8 March 1945- After capturing Trier two Tiger forces crossed the Moselle and were within six miles of Wittlich, 20 miles north of Trier.

10 March 1945- Task Force Cherry entered the city and kept moving another 12 miles toward Bullay to seize the bridge there. They were not to be successful as the Germans had already destroyed it.

12 March 1945- The mission ended and TF Cherry rejoined the rest of the 10th in Trier.

At the same time, CC B and CC R drove the Germans back just a few miles north of Trier at Ehrang. Unfortunately, work on repairing the bridgehead at Ehrang was slowed allowing the Germans to mount a specific attack on the infantry battalion and the battalion’s captain was killed among heavy casualties. A Task Force of CC R managed to cross the river and pushed the Germans from the hills on the high ground overlooking the town of Schweich.

Schweich was declared an “open city”. The Germans, according to Nichols, told the Division in a message that the town was
“undefended and sheltered 3,000 wounded Germans.” But when Task Force Chamberlain entered Schweich, they fond a devastating array of 88s, [88mm German anti-tank and anti-aircraft gun, perhaps the best overall and most feared of the German arsenal] mined streets, and instead of 3,000 wounded- they found but two German casualties. Nettled by the big lie, the tankers quickly seized Schweich. Shortly afterward, the acerbic Germans rained a steady stream of shells into that “open city”… resulting in heavy Tiger casualties there as the bombardment took its toll.
11 March- after two days of fighting the TF had neutralized the German threat and they returned to Trier.

By March 12 the Division was back together in Trier. They were resting in preparation for the move toward the Rhine.

Co C was assigned in support of CC B during this time. Looking at the battalion’s end of March After Action Report, the capture of Trier and the move toward Ehrang and Wittlich are reflected in the admissions to the three clearing stations. Between 1 March and 9 March over 1,300 admissions are listed, an average of 145/day. The numbers drop beginning on 10 march with less than half that- 615 admissions, 56/day- through 20 March.

    •    Sunday March 12
Got up at 10. Changed the beds. Washed some. It is a rainy day.
Diary, Beula Keller Lehman
In following my dad, Buddy, through the war I have also read a number of books by others who were in similar situations in World War II. One was the book Battalion Surgeon by the late Dr. William McConahey from Mayo Clinic. Captain McConahey was part of an infantry battalion surgeon medical corps from D-Day through the end of the war. I will be quoting him again later, but this particular quote from the preface of his book struck me at this point.
My horizon was quite limited. The war fought in division, corps, and army headquarters, where personal danger and discomfort were slight, was one of maps and lines and pins and shifting troops here and there- more like a fascinating game of chess. But the war I saw was one of mud and discomfort and suffering and death and terror and destruction.
I have the advantage of books and the Internet to put these stories in some semblance of order. As I read I can find out what happened when and in what order. Even in Nichols’ somewhat over-hyped prose, it all sounds clear and directed. I also know the end of the story. Through it all, though, I keep looking for ways to describe what my dad was going through. This quote does it as well as any. I am sure that the “mud and discomfort and suffering and death and terror and destruction” McConahey describes were real for Dad. Perhaps the transformation in him that war must exact on one’s soul, was why he may have been “Buddy” to his mother, but he was no longer simply a mother’s son.

We are now just shy of 8 weeks until the end of the war in Europe. There is still more of the chaos and destruction to come.