MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELLTHE
US ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. NORTH-WEST EUROPE

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GERMANY, SPRING 1945

1: 2nd Lieutenant, Army Nurse Corps

Some 60,000 nurses served in the Army during World War II, and many went into harm's way; for instance, about 200 served in the Anzio beachhead, where six were killed in action and four won the Silver Star. Nurses were fully commissioned in 1943 with the majority ranked as second lieutenants. This nurse wears the WAC issue two-piece herringbone twill fatigues, quickly identifiable by the slanted thigh pockets and the reversed buttoning. She displays her rank painted on her helmet and pinned to her right collar, balanced by the caduceus with superimposed 'N' of the ANC; like all medical personnel she is entitled to wear the red cross brassard. She carries a musette bag pressed into service as a medical haversack and roughly marked as such. US Army nurses played their part in the ghastly task faced by the Allied troops who unexpectedly found themselves liberating Nazi concentration camps as they rolled across Germany in 1945.

2: Rifleman, 89th Infantry Division

The 'Rolling W' division was one of the first across the Rhine; as it raced into Germany its advancing columns were led by captured Wehrmacht vehicles hastily overpainted with white stars, and two German fire engines with sirens blaring. As part of 3rd Army the 4th Armored and 89th Divisions found the first concentration camp liberated by the Western Allies - Ohrdruf, near Gotha, on 4 April. This typical infantryman of the last weeks of the war - here shown handling an M1942 litter - wears the new two-part M1944 'combat and cargo' pack standardised in July 1944 as the replacement for the old M1928. The lower, cargo bag for non-essentials could be unfastened easily from the upper, combat section holding the immediate necessities; the blanket roll and entrenching tool were attached to the upper bag. Another new item is the bag for the lightweight gasmask, worn on the left hip; the gasmask itself may have been dumped, however, as the bag made a handy repository for personal kit. Note finally that an elasticated band was now being issued for the small mesh helmet net.

3: Private first class, medical orderly, 45th Infantry Division

The 45th 'Thunderbird', along with elements of several other divisions including the 42nd 'Rainbow', liberated Dachau concentration camp and its satellites on 29 April 1945. This medic's left arm shows his divisional patch, rank and red cross brassard; the latter was individually numbered and registered to the wearer, as the status of those claiming the protection of the Geneva Convention was a serious matter (medics also carried annotated ID cards - 'Geneva cards'). Photos show a number of different styles of red cross markings used in the ETO; at Dachau medics of the 45th were photographed with this four-circle presentation under wide mesh nets. His pair of medical bags are carried on a special yoke harness with a very broad rear shoulder piece; the basic load in these included dressings and bandages of various types, iodine swabs, ointments for burn and eye treatments, a tourniquet, morphine syrettes, and a duplicate pad of labels for describing treatment given and attachment to the casualty. Besides a medic's ability to slow blood loss, his administering of morphine was perhaps the most important thing he could do to prevent a wounded man from going into potentially fatal shock. His nickname among front-line GIs was invariably 'Doc'. Other than knives, medics in the ETO went unarmed; they routinely carried two canteens on their belts. (Inset) Being non-combatants, front-line medics were not allowed the Combat Infantryman's Badge. After much lobbying, they were authorised the Combat Medic Badge in early 1945.

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