| Cpl. Mitchell
D Company, 345th Infantry, 87th Division
In the snow of Germany
When we crouched down, we could immediately spot a pool of blood
that was dammed-up by the casualtys coat collar. Unlike veterans,
replacement troops often wore the uniform that was issued to them,
including bulky wool overcoats that they soon discarded. The medic
leaned down and peeled back the young GIs coat plus two wool
shirts, administering a shot of morphine near the chest wound. The
casualty was a rifleman from C Company, and he had apparently been
in action only a few weeks. A quick referral to his dogtags revealed
the name Gerald G. Juergens, and his blood type was O Positive,
a rare strain.
Not far to our rear, artillery
and mortar shells were crashing, including several rounds that sounded
like duds. Lacking a foxhole, the two of us kept hitting the ground,
then looking around to see if anyone, including the wounded man,
was hit. Emerging in one piece, we knew we had to urgently move
this young casualty to a hospital. If we could find a litter it
would be an exhausting trudge down that hill in the Schnee Eifel
(snow ridge) region of Germany.
The medic ran to his Battalion
Aid Station, and in 20 minutes was back with another litter bearer,
as well as an olive drab canvas litter. Now we were three, and we
faced not only getting that casualty down that hill, but locating
a jeep to transport him back to an Evacuation Hospital. After the
medic packed morphine and an injection needle, we started slip-sliding
down the hill, whose slope was thickly shrouded by trees, brush,
plus a heavy overhanging mist. What remained to be determined was
how far it was to the bottom and whether the three of us carriers
had the strength to make it.
If we got to the bottom,
wed have to rush him to a hospital. As the medic stood by,
the litter bearer and I started the carry, immediately learning
that in late January in the Schnee Eifel, the snow underlayment
melts and turns the mud to soft putty. Carrying this burden of almost
200 pounds, we faced a long slip-slide rather than a hike down that
ridge. And though the three of us wore only light field jackets,
our galoshes repeatedly jiggled over our GI shoes and made the footing
even more uncertain. Within a few minutes we were forced to call
timeout and doff those galoshes, to try new tactics to lean uphill
and slide and bump sideways in our combat boots. But within half
an hour of sliding both upright and half-seated, I caved in and,
struggling, let go of the stretcher handles, forcing the other bearer
to drop his end, tumbling the moaning casualty face-up in the snow.
He lay there while the medic tried again to stem his blood flow
with fresh bandages.
Picking up our burden once
more, the brush began to thicken as we slid, so, for another two
hundred yards we were forced repeatedly to duck under or circle
around thick stands and around boulders. Then we did it again -
one of us slid faster than the other and the litter flew out of
our hands. This time our C Company casualty flipped and landed mostly
on his stomach and face. By now the casualtys moans were becoming
more labored and more subdued. As we steadied the young GIs
head, the medic reached into his bag and withdrew another morphine
shot the last in his bag. Then we resumed slipslidding, straining
toward a covering of heavy brush that stretched up to meet us. Trying
to circumvent that and to steady our load, we learned that we could,
occasionally for short distances, lean into the thick brush for
But when the brush began
to thin, the mud started to slump unevenly, causing one of us bearers
to slide faster than the other. When that happened, there were more
upsets, again flipping the young soldier on his face. By this time
the grip in my hands was lost, the hands would no longer stay closed.
Then I got an idea. I removed the young casualtys overcoat,
explaining to the other litter bearer and medic that I wanted to
try something. My idea was to wear his heavy woolen overcoat and
stick the litter handles into the outside pockets.
It worked for a few feet
or yards until the pockets began gradually ripping, splitting stitch
by stitch by stitch on both sides. By then the coat was useful mostly
as tattered rags, so we threw the coat over the young casualty.
There followed struggles and halts, and occasionally moans from
the young GI before we finally slip-slid about fifty feet to the
bottom. Reaching the road, we laid the wounded man at roadside,
and, breathing hard, hands utterly powerless, sat in the snow waiting
for an American vehicle to pass.
But the shelling on top
of the hill was evidently choking off traffic below, and, after
an hour, the medic informed us that the Co. C youths breathing
was becoming even more faint. So picking him up again, we resumed
trudging still having very little grip left except when we briefly
folded our elbows as grips or tried to steady the litter on our
shoulders, certain only that we didnt know where we were going.
But in 15 minutes an American
jeep, windshield and top down, came ripping through, providentially
equipped with a litter mount. Waving the driver down, we found he
had been ordered by an officer to head somewhere else. So again,
hands virtually useless, we picked up the litter and resumed trudging.
Ultimately, with starts and stops every few feet and past dusk,
we staggered toward a tent hospital.
Somewhere before this point
the medic had exhausted his morphine, and the young soldiers
moans had virtually stopped. A Captain, equipped with a stethoscope,
was shouted for and walked out of a large pyramidal tent. We exchanged
a few words, and he leaned over and examined the young C Company
soldier, leaned back, then once more examined the soldier.
Forget it, the Captain finally said, putting away his
stethoscope. Hes gone.
For taking part in this mission on Jan. 30, 1945, Cpl. Mitchell
Kaidy, Co. D, 345th Infantry, 87th Division, was cited for the Bronze
From left to right, S/Sgt.
Al Holland, supply sergeant; Pfc. Talley F. Kelley, machinegun platoon;
Mitchell Kaidy, assistant company clerk/mail clerk; Pfc. Howard
Hager, jeep driver; Pfc. Joseph DeMasi, machinegunner.
Mitchell's army pay record
Cpl. Mitch Kaidy (left) and T/Sgt. Willie Cohen,
both of Co. D, 345th Infantry, taken in Germany in April, 1945