The 676th Medical Collecting Company - 1st Airborne Task Force
he 676th Medical Collecting Company of the 164th Medical Battalion arrived in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) on 30 April 1944. The company operated from Naples,Italy, Marseille and Dijon in Southern France where the unit obtained campaign credits for Rome-Arno and Southern France (Operation Dragoon) campaigns.
By the middle of July nearly all the airborne units to be employed on Operation Dragoon had been assembled in the Rome area. An intensive final training program had begun by the 1st ABTF in conjunction with the Airborne Training Center. Of the Airborne units to be used in the operation, only the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion and the 2nd British Independent Parachute Brigade Group had received any recent combined airborne training with the Troop Carrier units. The 517th PRCT had just come out of the line with the Fifth Army as had the 463rd parachute Artillery Battalion. Other units, such as the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion and the 550th glider Infantry Battalion had but recently arrived overseas and had been given a course in ground and airborne refresher training at the Airborne Training Center.
An immediate priority was the training of the newly chosen glider-borne troops. A combined glider school was set up and instruction commenced in the mechanics of loading and lashing for the units involved. The units involved in this difficult last minute procedure were the 602nd Pack Field Artillery Battalion, the 442nd Infantry Anti Tank company, the 887th Airborne Aviation Engineer Company, Company A, 2nd Chemical Battalion, Company D, 83rd Chemical Battalion, and the various other units such as the Division Ordnance Detachment and the 676th Medical Collecting Company.Once these troops had finished the course in loading and lashing, they were given orientation flights and finally one practice operational landing on a simulated LZ.
To serve the whole task force, the 676th Medical Collecting Company of the 164th Medical Battalion, with clearing elements attached, went through special glider training. Six officers, a technician, and a team of the 2d Auxiliary Surgical Group constituted the medical support for the 1st Special Service Force (FSSF). 25 gliders were allocated to the company which is composed of 104 officers and enlisted men under company commander, Major Smith.
Training of medical troops followed techniques similar to those used in earlier amphibious operations, including waterproofing of vehicles and equipment, shore-to-ship evacuation, and ambulance and litter carries under simulated combat conditions.
The 1st Airborne Task Force was supported initially by parachute medical troops making up the parachute infantry detachments. Personnel of the 676th Medical Collecting Company began landing in the vicinity of Le Muy by glider about 0800 on D-day with the fifth and last wave of gliders at 6:00 PM on the day. They landed at 6:51 PM and consisted of 14 Waco gliders carrying the A Cmpany of 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, 8 Wacos carrying the 512nd Airborne Signal Company and 25 Wacos carrying the 676th Medical Collecting Company of 164th Medical Battalion responsible for establishing a field hospital in Mitan. It departed from Canino, Italy from the LZ O . Medical supplies and equipment, preloaded in 12 jeeps with ¼-ton trailers, were landed safely. A collecting station was established in a barn at Le Metan soon after the first wave landed, personnel and equipment being added as they arrived. The station moved to larger quarters on 16 August. In all, 227 casualties were treated before evacuation to the CAMEL beaches by Army transportation was possible on 17 August.
Evacuation of casualties to larger medical facilities started with patients being transferred to a provisional hospital operated by the 514th Medical Clearing Company (parent unit: 58th Medical Battalion) in Nice, Southern France. The remainder of the 164th Medical Battalion landed with the "CAMEL" Attack Force led by the 36th Infantry Division.
THE 676th Medical Collecting Company finished serving the First Airborne Task Force at the end of October 1944 and transferred to European Theater of Operation (ETO) jurisdiction 20 November 1944.
(Source: Alex Cross)
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