Recognizing the military service of men and women from Arenzville, Illinois.
John Roegge served 32 months overseas with the 15th Evacuation Hospital Unit, where he worked with the sterilization unit and operating room.
As the first hostilities of World War II began, the 15th Evacuation Hospital was again activated in a training status at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. Shortly thereafter, the hospital was alerted for overseas deployment. Preparations for this move included the assignment of new personnel and equipment. On 8 February 1943, the 15th sailed aboard the Susan B. Anthony, a converted passenger and cargo liner designed for 300 passengers, but redesigned to accommodate 2,700 troops. At this time, the unit had an assigned strength of: 39 officers, 48 nurses, 1 warrant officer and 248 enlisted men.
Three days into the trip, the 15th learned that its destination was North Africa. On 21 February, the ship docked in Algeria, where the 15th unloaded its men and equipment and went into a staging area to await its first operational assignment. On 10 April 1943, the unit moved a distance of approximately 600 miles east to Tunisia, where it set up and began receiving patients.
The 15th operated in a number of locations within the North African Theater until just prior to D-Day, 10 July 1943. At this point, the hospital sailed for the southern coast of Sicily, where it supported the beach-head established by allied forces. At one point during the Sicilian Campaign, the patient census rose to an astronomical figure of 978 inpatients. It is interesting to note that during this period (3 August 1943), Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Commanding General, 7th United States Army, paid a thirty-minute visit to the hospital. From that visit the often talked about "slapping incident" materialized. The general later apologized to the soldier, but his reputation was stained by the behavior.
The hospital moved to Italy, and participated in both the Salerno and Anzio beach-heads. It was during the Anzio beach-head that the 15th came under heavy artillery attack, suffering numerous casualties. Several members of the unit were decorated for heroism during that period.
The 15th continued to move north through Italy, and on 10 June 1944, established itself in a schoolhouse near Rome. This was the first permanent- type building the 15th had operated out of in over 18 months. The hospital's comparatively comfortable life in Rome was short lived, and on 21 June 1944, the 15th moved north in support of combat operations through Florence and the Po Valley into Milan, where it served until the end of hostilities.
In addition to several campaign streamers, including: Tunisia, Naples-Foggle, Rome-Arno, Po Valley, and North Appennines, the 15th Evacuation Hospital received the most prized award of all, the Meritorious Unit Citation, for its outstanding performance during World War II. Having served honorably and well, the unit was deactivated on 8 September 1945.
On February 16, 1944, John was stationed in "Hell's Half Acre" at Anzio when the hospital’s position came under attack and the place was “like the 4th of July.” They were shelled 31 times in less than five minutes. In the days afterward, John wrote these letters home to his parents:
I suppose you haven’t heard from me for several days but during that time I was having a short furlough which is the first I’ve had since I’ve been in the army. I went back to see Bob, Charlie, and Bill and I had a swell time. It was a great relief to get away from this for a while but now I’m back and going strong. Maybe things look pretty black to you folks at home, it’s always dark before the dawn.
April 30Received a box of cookies from you today so I put some in my pocket when I went to eat and had fresh cookies and coffee for a change.
May 14Well, I won’t be able to write as good news this year as last – remember Tunis and Bezerte had just fallen and four days later the war in North Africa was over. Today there isn’t much happening, but maybe things will start moving soon.
You asked me about General Clark – well he walked past in front of me the other day and I should have saluted him, but he’s just another soldier, so I didn’t. He’s a nice fellow, talks to the soldiers like anyone else would.
May 18Just heard this morning about Casino falling. Hope those boys keep up the good work, maybe they will be up here pretty soon and have those Germans chased back so they can’t shoot at us anymore. Believe me, that will be a great relief.
You said you had received the clipping I sent you. Well, I was about 70 feet from where the shell that hit that killed those fellows, but don’t worry, that was nearly two months ago. I’ll tell you more about it when I get home. You don’t know how lucky you are that the war is being fought over here. From the sound of things it won’t be too long ‘till Hitler’s “goose is cooked.”
May 21So you saw an L.S.T. boat in Beardstown. Well, I have seen a lot of them. Altogether I have rode on four different kinds of ships, the only boat ride I want now is the one that will take me past the good old statue of Liberty.
May 29Don’t you like the news? Now that the other front has reached this one we feel like we are still in the world anyhow. I have never been off the hospital area except on that leave. I didn’t want to go up town because you could never tell when those shells were coming in. You can see how close I stayed to my “den.” I hope to see Germany before this is over, but they may send me back before I go because I’m getting pretty tired of this. Well, it is getting late and we’ve been pretty busy, so I’m tired. Tell everyone hello and we’re giving them all we’ve got. Goodnight and write when you can.
P.S. Mail means more to us on the beachhead than anything. Chin up and don’t worry.
John Roegge died October 22, 2003 in Columbia, Missouri.