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Transcript: Lee D. Cady, 1972

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This is Oral History interview number 11, on Wednesday, May 24th, 1972 with Dr. Lee D. Cady.

This is an accounting of my return to the medical school on the fiftieth anniversary of my graduation.  I mention this because it is pertinent to the connection I had with the 21st General Hospital, A.U.S. [Army of the United States].  At that time, it was a continuation of Base Hospital 21, World War I, and in charge of, on paper at least, Dr. [Malvern] Clopton.  I came here irregularly in the first year of medical school, having a second lieutenancy in the infantry.

The professor of military science and tactics, Major Robert Kerr, evidently realized that I had a little more interest in military things than the rest of our ROTC class, which I continued even though I was a reserve lieutenant because I was in the medical ROTC.  When I graduated I had a first lieutenancy and went to work keeping the records as so-called executive officer for Dr. Clopton to keep this regular army inactive unit of the 21st General Hospital in existence, which was a paper existence, of course.  It remained that way for many years but it was a job with all the changes in our headquarters, to keep it together in that respect.

[In answer to] this first question:  “On your trip to Washington, D.C. in December 1939 did you find that there were any plans to activate the 21st General Hospital?”  Definitely there were.  Because of the situation in Europe they were anxious to have these affiliated hospitals filled up, even to the extent of having a person like myself, not actually in command but a director, so-called, to keep recruitment up.  They were giving commissions, much to the disgust of the regular army, regardless of military service but in consonance with the medical capabilities of the officers.  This was where I could recruit.  I could recruit a staff that was young enough that they had no laurels to rest upon, professionally.  But they were capable of performing professional duties, which I considered a little bit unusual because the faculty:  Dr. [Philip] Shaffer, Dr. [Evarts] Graham and others, who were interested, agreed with me, or at least they permitted me to go ahead and do this.

I went to Washington on my own and I called twice because Dr. John R. Hall, a colonel, who had been Professor of Military Science and Tactics here, was interested in these affiliated hospitals.  He was interested in ours.  He later told me, just before we were called back to duty, that they expected me to command the hospital.  That’s another story and eventually I came to temporary command of the hospital and nobody ever changed that.  As far as I know, nobody ever gave me an order putting me in command of the hospital although I had it for over three years.  [Next few words are unintelligible – something about “a quirk of administration.”]

The Table of Organization called for a certain number of officers and I recruited them.  Then they increased the table of organization and I filled that up. That’s one of the reasons that we were called out fairly early, because we were filled up.  We came out on the same order – we were called back to duty – as previous hospitals like Harvard and Johns Hopkins.  Those were the former Red Cross hospitals [from] World War I.  So, we went out almost fully-recruited although we were alerted on December 24 [1941] just before noon.  Our officers knew that we were going to be called.  When January 10th came, we were ready and loaded up a couple of Pullman cars and went down to Fort Benning, Georgia.  The nurses came down two or three weeks later.  Nobody seemed to know what we were supposed to do but we did some training there.  I saw to it that our officers got review in schooling the soldier and things of that sort.  But we were too idle and I can’t say that we were welcome to the regular army officers at the post, the commander of the school, and so on.  It was a new experience for all of us.

About February 12 they sent in a commanding officer, an elderly – I thought he was [elderly], fifty-six or so – lieutenant colonel who took his promotion board [examinations] and was promoted to colonel.  He was regular army.  Most of these men, this man was a psychiatrist I think, were a bit reluctant, but still they had to perform the duty and whip these green units into shape for service.  I don’t know why we were held there instead of going to the South Pacific like some of the others did.  Anyhow, during this wait that we had until October, they decided that our Table of Organization was top heavy and that they would take twenty officers out.  I didn’t make any selection because I was no longer commanding officer.  I was Chief of Medical Service, with two caps on [for] the station hospital and our own hospital, of course.  Efforts were made to see if I would transfer to the station hospital, but I felt my duty was to the unit that I had organized.

I don’t know why, but Colonel Robert E. Thomas was transferred out as commanding officer and was replaced by Charles F. Davis.  He [Davis] was a fiery little fellow who increased his stature by a little extra height in his cap, and was emanating hostility from the time he got there.  In about two weeks or so, we had our orders to entrain for Camp Kilmer and to go on to England.  This was in October [1942].  Meanwhile, all these months our nurses and officers had been on duty in the hospital.  We had two or three other units there [including] a Tulane/LSU unit, and I put them on a training schedule.  They’d sign up with me; I called it my training merry-go-round, which gave them some experience in all departments of the military hospital.  If a medical officer knew his way around, or at least where the supply officer was, which was always a pain in the neck, then he could do his job better.  So I put them around in these offices for various degrees of experience.

We were separated from all this rather suddenly.  We stayed at Camp Kilmer, picked up a few nurses there to go out and made a run without escort on the S.S. Mariposa.  Troubles with other units started there with Col. Davis.  He was the ranking officer of six medical units, so whatever he said went as far as medical authority was concerned.  The ship commander, the commander of troops, didn’t agree with that.  Col. Davis was in hot water from fighting all the way across to keep his position of dominance.  The staging area in England was called Pheasey Farms Estate.  It was a building development, small, uncomfortable apartments with little fireplaces.  We had little fuel, so it was an unpleasant existence while we were getting ready to go wherever we were going.  They didn’t tell us where, but it turned out that it was Operation Torch that went to North Africa.

Our equipment, according to the table of equipment, didn’t reach us.  It either wasn’t sent or the Germans sank it.  Any equipment and supplies that reached England were unloaded and put in supply depots, and then reissued.  Col. Davis sent our supply officers down to Bristol where they were supposed to cooperate with him to get our supplies to follow us or [go] with us wherever we were going.  Well, that didn’t work out.  I don’t know if it was his inefficiency or whether something else went wrong.

Anyhow, about Thanksgiving Day we were loaded aboard the Monarch of Bermuda, a British ship, and shoved off.  We thought we had our supplies coming along with us but we didn’t know.  Col. Davis was again the ranking medical officer.  We had two or three other medical units on [board] and we had a lot of line officers.  Col. Davis was not kowtowing to any line officer, either, although a line officer usually took precedence over a medical officer of the same rank.  At least he had command.  He [Col. Davis] had difficulties with the ship’s commander and the commander of the troops, starting in the mess, where he insisted on having his officers at his own table, including our chief nurse at the time, Lieutenant [Lucille] Spalding.

The commanding officer wanted the nurses to be at his table; I mean the commander of the troops.  But [Col. Davis] had a very proprietary interest in the nurses and he resented the attention that [the commanding officer] gave them.  He made some indiscreet remarks, not about nurses but about officers.  That really started things off that [led to] his change later on.  The chaplains were on his back and there was an artillery brigade represented on the ship and those officers resented [him].  They didn’t like Col. Davis and they were out to get him.  I was having a very difficult time being loyal to my commanding officer and trying to be loyal to the unit that I’d organized.  This was a most distressing time for me.  It continued right up to the time when there was an inspector general’s survey of the unit and [Col. Davis] was sent to a hospital for observation and treatment.  This was on January 20.  I felt sorry for him, actually; at least I made notes to that effect in my diary.  I went through the usual procedure of writing in the orders, assuming temporary command during his temporary absence.

As far as I know, they [the orders] were never changed so I remained in command thereafter, but understand, these [hospital] units were supposed to be in command of a regular army officer.  Although I had been assured on this side that I would be in command of the unit, I knew that my officers expected it, and if I didn’t produce and didn’t outdo that I would be superseded by somebody.  Later on, the Mediterranean base general told me he made fifty trips to [Gen. Dwight D.] Eisenhower’s headquarters to keep them from replacing me with a regular army colonel that they’d sent over for that purpose.

Col. Davis was at that period [sent] back to the zone of the interior in the United States and he was eventually put in training command of two or three other hospitals.  They put him in long enough to whip them into shape and put them overseas and give them to somebody else.  He never got back over.  He died later of a coronary out in Kansas someplace while the war was still going on.

You have asked “How did Maj. Ben H. Charles earn a Bronze Star medal?”  When we arrived overseas with six medical units in the midst of one of the V-2 bombings that the British had, we were taken care of and fed a couple of meals a day by the British and told that we were expected to take care of ourselves just as quickly as we could.  Col. Davis was the ranking medical officer.  Our mess officer had a few misassigned men in order to have them on hand.  Ben Charles was at that time our mess officer.  He was the ranking mess officer of this conglomeration.  He did such a good job – a quick job – of whipping our mess, [consisting of] mostly our own men, into shape so that he was feeding us very well indeed.  That was something that was so unusual that when I got time later on I recommended him for a Bronze Star and he got it.  That was his first one; he got another one later because of the excellence with which he managed the prisoner-of-war medical service.

The S.S. Monarch of Bermuda took us to Algeria.  We went in a convoy this time.  We got in just a week or ten days after the actual invasion of North Africa.  We landed at Mers-el-Kebir.  It is now a Russian place.  There are too many details to tell about, but Col. Davis was going to have everybody march from Mers-el-Kebir to the 77th Evacuation Hospital, which was south of Oran in a mud flat.  Our enlisted men did have to walk, but I persuaded the colonel to take all of their bags and everything that they would have to carry – this was a twelve-mile or so march – in trucks, and the officers could ride on top.  So we didn’t have to do it the Boy Scout, hard way.

The men got into this camp after dark.  Col. Davis knew that this was going to happen and he wanted to be nice to the men so he had all of us open up the baggage, knapsacks and whatnot, and set up the pup tents.  But nobody knew which [end] was which, so it was a mistake, and besides that it rained – a deluge that night.  There was this cold rain and it was a mess.  It took quite a while before it moved out.  That can be skipped over and covered in more detail later.

The operation of the 21st General Hospital was set up in Bou Hanifia.  I went with Col. Davis to inspect this place.  It was a warm water spa, a watering place.  From that standpoint it was a godsend.  At least we had water and it was warm.  The problem was getting cool water.  We let our canteens sit out in the [cold] to get a cool drink.  I was the first one there.  My college French was twenty-five years old.  I was there for two or three days getting myself [used to] the place.  The colonel had managed to get himself in bad with his new base section— [inaudible].

[In answer to] what were our immediate problems encountered after landing in Africa: I’ve touched on some of those.  Your next question is [to] describe the operations of the 21st General Hospital.  It was set up in Bou Hanifia.  It was in the department of Mascara in Algeria, south of Oran, the port.  It was quite a complicated setting.  When I got acting command of the hospital I had started a policy of doing all we could to increase our service and not being too hidebound by so-called regulations and limitations.  My policy was to do the most we could, with or without regulations, as long as we were doing the right thing for the patient.

I might say that in the course of the year that we were there, we had expanded this general hospital up to 3,000 beds or so in a place where there weren’t supposed to be any beds.  But we did it and we did a tremendous amount of good medical work.  We were popular for various reasons.  We entertained and we fed well.  We fed well because I stopped the racket the cooks and the Arabs were in – the cooks throwing out our waste grease, for example.  [They used it] to cook doughnuts and piecrusts and cakes.  The patients liked it, so did our personnel and so did the visitors.  We had visitors from everybody from Gen. Paul Hawley down, the Surgeon General down.  I guess that’s the reason I wasn’t replaced by a regular army officer.

You asked why, in my opinion, were five valuable officers lost after the Inspector-General’s report.  I can [talk] now that two of them are deceased.  Louis Tureen, a psychiatrist, had nothing to do with this investigation, I know because I looked it up.  He kept out of it; he made no statements to anybody at first.  The other major was pretty plain about it.  Then there were two chaplains, of course.  They were quite plain about it.  But there were a number of officers, I don’t know how many, that really wanted in on this investigation.  I was called but I was very careful to explain that I knew that in everything that Col. Davis did, in his own mind he thought he was doing the right thing.

This investigation was about Col. Davis?  They were investigating him?

Col. Davis, yes, his fitness [to command].  I could check off a list of a number of officers who were called to give statements.  I was called.  I didn’t volunteer, but I was called.  I was very careful not to go out of my way to make any unqualified or adverse statements, although I did recognize that he was in difficulties.  It was likewise difficult for me, but I was trying to do my duty as an officer in the situation.

Were the five men transferred as a result of what they said at the investigation?

This other major was Leo Gottlieb – he died several years ago.  And there was a Lieutenant Nie, a medical administrative officer.  There were two chaplains.  Actually, the colonel was paranoid.  He had an idea that these people were going out of their way to make adverse comments.  Some of them did, but I don’t know what the statements were.  Some of these other officers volunteered; I don’t know what they said.  Anyhow, the upshot of it was that [Col. Davis] was sent to the 12th General Hospital for observation and treatment, so called.  That was their way of doing it.  These other men were pulled out because the army has a curious way, when there’s squabbling in an outfit, they just eliminate both sides.  That accounts for why these other officers [were transferred] that I didn’t want moved at all.  They were valuable officers.

Were these five officers transferred to other hospital units?

They were transferred to other units.  That’s the army’s way.  I expected to be moved, too, but it didn’t turn out that way.  A man was verbally admonished for trying to scrounge supplies and equipment at another port.  This officer that I sent up to _____(?) was our supply officer, the one who managed to get our supplies from the Bristol depot with us when we landed in Africa.  I don’t know whether it was his fault or not because so many things went wrong.  However, the 24th General Hospital’s supplies did arrive and they weren’t ordered into Africa.  I couldn’t convince anybody in headquarters [that] “Now here you’ve got one unit without supplies and equipment, ready to work, and here you’ve got supplies and equipment for another unit, without the unit.  Now do something sensible about it.”  I couldn’t prevail upon them to “marry” the equipment and the unit.

So I sent this supply officer up to _____(?).  I said, “If you can find anything around there with our marking on it, raise enough sand to get it.  Bring it to us.”  When we got there we only had enough surgical instruments in the officers’ own personal kits to do an appendectomy or something of that sort.  It was a needy situation.  And the man who admonished him, who threatened him with a court martial, was the man who in the London office told me, “You’re going to have all your equipment arrive there [in North Africa].”  When we got hold of equipment we hoarded it.  We weren’t supposed to hoard things, but we did – we hid things.  We managed to be able to do our job well, and that was part of our success in later years.

There is a long list of important official and social visitors.  That’s one reason that I started this mythical order of Honorary Arabs of Bou Hanifia and actually gave out certificates.  I kept records of this.  These visitors, like General [Paul R.] Hawley or General [Norman T.] Kirk, the Surgeon-General, or General Albert Kenner – he was the first surgeon in Eisenhower’s headquarters – when they’d come around I’d give them not only their piece of pie, whatever we could do for them, but also would make them an Honorary Arab.  I had different ranks, everything from bashaga down to a sheik.  It was always a conversation piece.  When I went in the summer of 1945 to the Paris office of General Hawley, just before he came home to take over the V. A. reorganization, here in his office behind him was his certificate, framed.  I felt very flattered indeed about my Honorary Arabs.

You asked what promotion did I receive on November 24, 1943.  That was my promotion from lieutenant colonel to colonel.  This big hospital was under the command of a lieutenant colonel, U.S. army reserve.  All the other hospital [commanders] over there were full colonels, regular army.  There are two different [aspects] about a promotion.  In the army there’s an administrative promotion.   I was in command – I had the full duties and responsibilities of a colonel, the commander of the unit.  I had the rank, but not the grade.  So this evened things out.  I had the grade and the rank when I got this promotion.  Part of that, I think, occurred because of this controversy.  I know they suspected the colonel that was sent over to replace me.  My general didn’t like this a bit – he wasn’t at all anxious to have me replaced by this particular colonel.

My own promotion policy was somewhat original.  I wanted all my officers promoted as fast as they were able to be promoted.  I studied very hard not only to promote them on their capabilities but on their value to the unit as a whole.  I remember two officers; one was a major and [the other] one was a bright young fellow who was good in his own line and also a good organizer and socializer, and just a little more valuable in that respect than a man five years older and with one week more actual official service, which outranked him, you see.  Date of service was important.  But I gave it to the younger officer, nevertheless.

Then I had an experience with our enlisted men.  I studied the enlisted men’s Form 20.  The army’s general classification numbers are on there, which are [set] by psychologists in personnel.  We were having some trouble among our enlisted personnel; we were getting some frictions developing.  We had a certain number of vacancies occurring for one reason or another, and I asked for a recommendation from my chiefs of service.  [The men] came in and they were even trying to make deals among themselves.  I said, “Wait a minute.  There are going to be no deals about this at all.  Here’s what was developed after I’ve studied this thing, and here is a situation that is going to be bad for this unit.  There will be no deals – let’s have that understood.  Each man is going to be promoted on his own for what he’s worth.”

We had men who had had two years of service, non-coms – corporals and sergeants – and they are good and faithful men.  I’m not criticizing that at all.  But they aren’t too smart.  They know their jobs but they aren’t smart enough to get promoted beyond where they are.  Some of the problems the rest of the men were having [was because they] were men who had more intellectual capacity than the ones who were in command of them.  Now, the only deal that I’m going to make is that I’m going to allot half of these promotions to the group that should be promoted because they are good and faithful servants.  I agree with that.  The other half of them [promotions] are going to some of these problem men: the smarter men, more capable men [who are] causing problems because of that – because they’re more capable than the men who are in charge of them.

I was doing this [in order] to keep from developing a crust of mediocrity in our enlisted personnel.  Later on, the army actually adopted that sort of a policy in the promotion of officers.  They would promote the best qualified officer over a fully-qualified officer.  These non-coms forming a mediocre crust were fully-qualified in time, in service, except intellectually they didn’t have quite the drive.  The best-qualified were [the ones] I was insisting on getting promoted.  Two days later I re-tested some of these men that I had refused to promote, and they didn’t test out a bit better, but they were doing good jobs all this time.  Some of the other men were already lieutenants and whatnot.

Now the next question was:  “Describe the voyage of H.M.S. Cameronia to Naples, Italy.  This general took a fancy to me and wanted to make me his surgeon.  I didn’t want to leave my unit.  He didn’t take that adversely, but he did do something which was unusual.  The Cameronia was a British troopship.  They had had a cargo of Canadians, which evidently they thought repellent; British was British, you know.  They were wondering if our Yankee troops might even be worse.  I was sent on board the night before and to my surprise I was designated by the general as commander of troops.  Now, a medical officer in command of line officers and men was quite unusual.  We probably had about 200 replacements, everything from lieutenant colonels on down to enlisted men.  [We had] a couple of companies of WACS and some high-ranking Italian officers, and, to my surprise when I got there, 400 tons of ammunition up front – and a medical officer in charge of this situation.

My staff was well-whipped into shape by this time and we organized.  I cooperated with the British officer-in-command, the British O.C.  I still correspond with him after all these years.  These replacements weren’t very willing to go over and get into the fighting over there.  One fellow said he wasn’t going to be down there in a hole [ed. note: This refers to assignment as duty officer in the enlisted men’s compartment below deck] and I told him he’d better be because I was going to have somebody visit him frequently and if wasn’t there in charge of the men in this hole in case of an emergency, that he would regret it.  This was in front of two or three hundred officers that I’d called in.  The young fellow got the point all right; so did everybody else.  Even though I was a medic, I was going to be tough when it was necessary to be tough.

We got to Naples, which was bombed-out and in bad shape.  They quartered officers and nurses in another spa which was a salt-water spa, sulphurish-smelling and about seven or eight percent salt water – hot.  [There was] no fresh water.  It was a mess.  We couldn’t even make ourselves comfortable.  The nurses were complaining, everybody was complaining.  They wouldn’t give us enough coal to keep ourselves warm and it was a miserable situation.  In the Mostra Fairgrounds, where all this medical center activity went on, we had some of the worst [conditions] to clean up.  We had to repair roofs and set up wards.

Now in all this time I had only been away from my unit two nights in that whole year.  I saw that we had a good outfit and that I should delegate more and get around more.  I stopped in to see the base surgeon.  He [was] characterized recently by Dr. Edward D. Churchill, the surgeon consultant at NATOUSA as a “wise, kindly man” or something like that.  I had a far different opinion because I went around to pay a courtesy call with my executive officer and he was sitting there literally glowering.  I started to tell him if there was anything that we could possibly do to [help out] to let us know.  He said, “Cady, I know all about you.  You’re not going to get big any more.”  He was referring to the 3,000-bed hospital that we’d had.  He said, “There will be no empire building.”

I’d never heard this term “empire-building” used before.  My exec, Truman Drake, [asked], “What in the hell did he mean by ‘empire-building’?”  I said, “I don’t know, but I suppose he means that somebody has built up an organization for his own self-glorification rather than for the purpose that the organization ought to be serving.  He’s a smooth-bore or small-bore as far as I’m concerned, and I think we’ll make him eat his words before this thing is over.”  We did, because he needed 1,000 beds later on with no space for them, and we had the beds already anticipated and set up for him.  Incidentally, he euchred me out of a civilian-type car when we arrived there.  So, I never liked this fellow too well, although he was always considered (quote) a damned good field officer (unquote).  He was a II Corps surgeon, but when II Corps went on he was pulled out and put into surgery in our base section.  Which, in a way, was sort of a demotion.

Tissue paper orders, so called: While we were in Algeria, rather than go to headquarters to get permission to give my officers and nurses regulation orders, I’d give them passes [for whatever] they were planning to do.  My passes were irregular in that I wasn’t too specific about where they were going, how they were going, or anything except that they had so many days.  In this way I was developing quite an intelligence system.  My nurses would travel every place – Cairo, Gibraltar, and so on.  One of them came in and said, “I know where we’re going.  We’re going to Italy next and we’re going to put up in a fairgrounds.”  I said, “How do you know?”  [She said] “General So-and-so told me so.”  So, I began to value my “tissue paper orders.”

Later on, the surgeon at the base, whose name was [Col. Richard T.] Arnest, said, “Cady, how do you do it?  Your personnel are running around all over hell.  How do you do it?”  I said, “I give them passes and I can’t help it if the nurses or officers get in planes that take them someplace.  I don’t have any way of controlling that.”  Regular army commanders never really got on to that sort of thing, but I was developing quite an intelligence system because my personnel on these so-called flimsy orders, “tissue paper orders” were not only developing heightened morale themselves, but they were also bringing back a lot of information that was valuable to me as commanding officer of the hospital.  So that’s the story of tissue paper orders.

The lettre de felicitations by General Alphonse Juin, commander of the French forces – that was in France when I got my Croix de Guerre with palm.  I have that framed in my den right now.  That happened in France, however.  When we were going to France we were on the troop list of the same General [Arthur R.] Wilson.  He liked us and wanted us because he could depend on us.  I found out – this is all hearsay, headquarter’s gossip – that we were probably going to Southern France.  Either that or go to China, Burma, or India, where nobody wanted to go.  So I hunted up the general and he said, “Yes, you’re on my troop list.  I said, “I have been told that our equipment will be picked up on beach depots.  I don’t know what a beach depot is; I never heard of it before.”  He said, “Well, what the hell does it mean, anyhow?”  He didn’t know.  He said, “What do you want to do?”  I said, “I want to supervise our own loading and packing and I want to take our 3,000 beds that we’ve been expanded to officially up there.  I want to take another 1,000 cots and equipment to go with them, tents and so on, and a 90-day supply of everything.”  That was irregular because the supply service was supposed to supply you with what you needed.  [Gen. Wilson] said “That’s a damned good idea.  I’ll fix it so you can do it.”

We did that.  We supervised our own packing and we packed beds, twin units we called them, with everything that a patient would need, including a toothbrush.  [They were] two beds, packed, covered, waterproofed, and so on.  Everything that could be packed in such a fashion we did.  Then we took a 90-day supply of drugs and whatnot.  After we landed, we were 10 days ahead of schedule.  They didn’t take our trucks.  They were taking every unit’s trucks and running them up to the lines to try to catch up with the Seventh Army.  They didn’t do that with us.  They wanted us up there so badly that they didn’t interfere with us at all.  We unloaded directly from ship to railroad car.  But that’s another story.

Within less than a month we saw patients in France.  The place wasn’t too badly bombed-out.  It had been sabotaged by the French.  [This was] Mirecourt.  We accumulated at the rate of 100 patients a day, I guess.  In a month we had a thousand patients and we had turned out a thousand.  We were close enough [to the front] to see the artillery flashes.  It’s too long a story to go into all the setting-up problems at Mirecourt.

How did four Americans handle 500 to 600 P.O.W. patients?  That’s an interesting story.  We were getting some badly shot-up German prisoners-of-war, patients.  I resented using our American officers and nurses to handle them.  Not that they shouldn’t have care, but I resented it.  I made a deal with a young M.A.C. coordinator.  I said, “You get me some doctors and nurses.  I don’t care how you get them, but get them from Strasbourg.”  Well, it happened that the Americans were in, then they got pushed out, and then they got back in.  He went to a hospital there and brought me ten [German] doctors and fifty-five so-called nurses, technicians and whatnot.  We put those people to work handling our German prisoners-of-war.  They got up to six or seven or eight hundred [prisoners-of-war] at one time, the four or five Americans.  Ben [Benjamin H.] Charles was back again and he got his second Bronze Star for the way he handled these jobs.  His nurse got a decoration, too, and there were a couple of key non-coms who got decorated.  So that’s how they handled [it].

It so happened that at headquarters back at Dijon they said, “What’s going on up there?  What are they doing taking care of Germans that way and using German nurses for them?  They’re liable to sabotage things.  Don’t let them take care of any Americans.”  Well, I could have won the war with my German prisoners.  They liked the setup and they worked.  We had them carrying litters around the hospital, but of course they weren’t actually taking care of patients.  I had 1,100 or so non-patient POWs working around the hospital.  They were extending my American hospital to where it got up to actually handling 4,000 patients, which is equivalent to a hospital center: four hospitals.

When the general sent around his exec and wanted to know if he could promote me out of the hospital again, I said, “No, I prefer to stay right here.”  I sort of hinted that he might get me promoted to Brigadier General or something of the sort, but I wanted to stay with an outfit that could do things.

The bombing and strafing: This happened December 26 [1944], as I recall, the day after Christmas.  We had this big hospital establishment there and we didn’t have blackout material.  We were lighted up like a Christmas tree, although we had Red Crosses on our roofs and all that sort of thing.  So, our own aviators and the Germans, so I found out later, used to use this as an orientation marker.  We had air superiority, but the Germans would dash around.  I found out later that the ones who came around us and dropped a couple of bombs were hunting a powerhouse.  They thought that all these tank trucks that were running around were handling gasoline.  As a matter of fact they were handling water.  We were so short of water that we had these tank [trucks].  Later on, they told me at headquarters that the two planes that did the bombing didn’t get back.  They knocked them down.

A day or so later, another plane was strafing the road and killed one of our sergeant drivers and blew up a truck or two.  They struck a tree and got shattered all over the hillside.  I found the maps [scattered] out there.  Our site was on one of these maps.  It had a little red circle on it.  I think they were as much interested in us as they were in trucks.  Anyhow, we had no more trouble with bombing after that, but it took a long time for us to quit waking up when we heard this unsynchronized German plane flying around.  It took months to get over that.

The lectures I received at Dijon about handling POWs was on the basis of their fear that I wasn’t handling them properly, that’s all.  I was keeping track of what was going on in the field as best I could from any source I could get, patients, officers coming back.  Any information [helped] me to anticipate what our hospital needs were going to be.  Whenever some of the higher-ranking officers would come around I’d quiz them about it.  I’d say, “So-and-so is doing thus and so.  What is that going to do for us?  Are we going to get a flood of patients?”  I’d quiz them myself, debrief them.

About parallel training: I think it was the officer, Col. Harry Bishop, that the general didn’t want to replace me.  I’ve always suspected it was he.  He followed us up and the general actually did have to take him as his surgeon in the headquarters there in France for a while.  He would come around and make suggestions.  Like, some other hospital could come into this site with us and we’d share a big mess hall.  All of this was impractical.  You can’t have two _____(?) on the same thumbnail you know, Chaucer says.  One of them is going to kick the other off.  It was the same story [here].  You couldn’t have two commanding officers competing in the same installation.

That was where this parallel training came in.  They were sending over hospitals that had been assembled and never worked together.  They pulled their [personnel] cards out and made up a hospital and sent them over.  Some of them weren’t complete.  In other words, the [local] theatre had to supply key officers.  They wanted to pull my well-trained men out to put them in these incomplete hospitals.

I really started raising the roof about it.  I said, “Why are you going to cripple us?  We’re doing all right.  We’re doing a hospital center’s work here.  Now why are you going to cripple us by pulling out our key men and trying to get a hospital that’s going to have trouble anyhow shaken down?  Now – let’s call it parallel training – give me a whole hospital.  I’ll take any of your men that you want to train.  I’ll take any men that you want to send in here and give them all the experience that they can possibly absorb to take back to their own hospitals.”  I said, “I can take a whole hospital; put them down in the center of us, put them to work actually taking care of patients, and supervise them.  Now, that’s what I would call ‘parallel training.’  They work alongside us, they’re doing real work, and they’re being supervised by fully experienced, capable officers.  Let me take this and I’ll give them parallel training.”  That’s where the expression developed.

We got such a situation.  It had its problems, too, but it worked in spite of the problems.  They ended up handling 700 patients or so, which is almost a full [complement], before they were sent out on their own.

This Unit Meritorious Service plaque – it’s nothing but this oak plaque.  Incidentally, ours was made by German prisoners-of-war.  It was authorized because of our general meritorious service.  It was right at the end of the war, really after V-E Day.  Nobody in the regulars was interested at all in this except for one man.  One man whom we had supported all the way from Africa up there.  He helped us get this thing at the last minute.

Who was this man?

Colonel Joseph C. Cox.  He was a major when we first met him and he didn’t like our commanding general.  I asked him what we should do about it.  Cox said, “You do the best job you can for him.  Do the very best job you can, because he means well.  Keep him out of trouble and he’ll probably keep you out of trouble.  You do the job I know you can do.”

(Dr. Cady addresses the interviewer)  Are there any other records that you think we should try to obtain?  You have a list somewhere of former officers around here.  I would suggest that you make it a point to talk with these gentlemen.  Write up a brief summary or go through those two red  volumes of mine [ed. note: refers to the written history of General Hospital 21], and attract their interest.  Many of those men may have things that would be valuable contributions to the collection here.  For example, I kept a lot of pictures – wall pictures – of our officers’ club in France, the one we made out of a mud hole under the administration building.  Before I left St. Louis, I gave them to John Patton, who was our former chief surgeon.  He went back into the regular army.  I don’t know if he kept those or not.  Maybe he gave them to somebody else.  Those were interesting pictures; one of the sergeants was an artist. 

Almost anybody may have something he doesn’t know exactly what to do with, or maybe his wife would like him to get rid of it.  They have to be reminded of it.  I gave you a list of those who had received duplicate copies of the monthly histories that we were asked to write.  I believe Major [Lucille] Spalding, our chief nurse, got it set up.  The sergeant-major of the hospital sent you the alternate copies of reports.  He may have a bunch of stuff.  I think I sent him copies of the historical report.  He had an accident recently and lost his wife, so he may be changing his household and might run across something he’d like to get rid of.  It’s like gold; it’s where you find it.

I have in my den a lot of newspaper clippings.  In the next few months I propose to go through those and put them in order.  I probably don’t need them at all, I may send those here for you.  My wife collected a lot of them while we were overseas.  I don’t know whether I sent you my bound copies of the first sergeant’s reports or not.  I still have and will keep – although I suppose my heirs won’t care anything about it – a bound master volume of copies of the recommendations for medals and awards.  Every one of those [honored] has something representing this award in their folders, which I’ve sent you.  For example, if you wanted to look up why Ben Charles got two Bronze Stars, pick up his folders and you’ll probably find copies of his exploits during the war.

Did you keep a personal diary when you were in France?

Yes.  That’s where this other third-person diary came from.  It was irregular; I had to get a date and go back two or three days and figure out if it was Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to get [events] in proper sequence.  This third-person diary that I finally managed to write was because I would get so angry re-fighting these old battles trying to write something like the complete story, at more length.  I had my daily strains in my work, just as much as I’d had overseas.  By going back and re-living and re-fighting all these overseas battles I’d get my stomach upset and get myself stirred up.  So I quit; it wasn’t worth it.

Finally, I decided that if I could detach myself enough from these things that had upset me and write it in the third person that I could probably hack it.  It worked, but it took over ten years for me to do that.  I think it was 1955 before I sent this third-person draft to the surgeon-general’s historical division and they made copies for me.  I took one of those for my original, which I still have, unbound.  I revised that to make this bound copy that you have. That’s the story incompletely told.

I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to quit living in the past.  I’ve got other things to do.  I’m seventy-five now and should be doing other things.  But I think the suggestion should be made that a professional historian, perhaps somebody like you, should be subsidized [to do] a dissertation and really write a history of this outfit.


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