CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
Richard C. Reed
War War II / Cold War Oral History Interview
US Army, Medical Corps
Date: November 6, 1983
Interviewer: 1LT Glenn MacDonald
Transcript: 1LT Glenn MacDonald
This is an interview with COLONEL RICHARD C. REED, recorded on November 6, 1983 at Clark, NJ for the National Guard’s Oral History Program. Original Transcript.
1LT MACDONALD: COL Reed, you enlisted in the Maryland State Guard on the 5th of August 1941, and you served in the Medical Corps. What was some of the equipment like that you had to work on in the days prior to the United States’ entry into World War II?
COL REED: Most of the equipment that we had was what was left over from World War I and what the Maryland troops had taken back from the campaign against Pancho Villa at the Mexican border. It consisted of old wooden litters, chests and containers, and the old fashioned iodine and argyrol preparate, the old battle dressings. In fact, all I can say, in modern standards they were extremely primitive pieces of equipment; old instruments. This is the type of equipment we had to work with.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, why did you happen to come into the National Guard in the first place and, looking at your records, I see that in a career which spans a total of 43 years, you served as both an enlisted man and an officer. Were you always in the Medical Corps? Why the Medical Corps?
COL REED: Lieutenant, it is a combination of reasons. 1. My father was a doctor, my grandfather and my great-grandfather. 2. I lived very close to the 110th Field Artillery, a National Guard Maryland Unit in Pikesville, MD. Then there was also the Confedearte Old Age Home which was just a short distance from the 110th Field Artillery. It was very common practice for us to put the family together and take a one hour pilgrimage up to Gettysburg. I became very enamored of the military and also my father’s work. Just let me add that there was a colleague of my father’s, CPT Bill May, World War I veteran who actually stimulated me to go in and take the physical and join the 10th Medical Battalion the Hospital Corp. of the Maryland State Guard. He was quite a character in his own right, “ear, nose and throat man,” the heavy handed type that one sees often in motion pictures.
1LT MACDONALD: COL Reed, two months, a little over 2 months after you enlisted in the Maryland State Guard, Pearl Harbor was bombed – that was Dec. 7, 1941. Can you tell us some of your thoughts and feeling on that particular day?
COL REED: I can remember the day very well. It was a Sunday and I was sitting at my desk studying when I had the radio on and heard the attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course almost simultaneously I received a telephone call to report to the 10th Medical Armory at Fayette and Packard St. in Baltimore, so I had to roll my blanket roll, take my equipment – which consisted of a campaign hat and an old knapsack and a musette bag and much of my own father’s medical instruments and equipment – and reported to the Armory for active duty.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, approximately 10 days after the United States entered the War you were deferred. You were a pre-med student at the University of Maryland and would you tell us what happened in the years between 1941 and 1943 when you were called to active duty?
COL REED: Well, I continued my participation in the Maryland State Guard, I was auditing an ROTC Course at the University of Maryland where I was the only medic by the way, with an Infantry ROTC Course and I was also in the Enlisted Reserve Corps. In fact, I was in three military units at the same time. Finally, the 5th of July ’43, I was called to active duty and had to report to Ft. Meade, MD.
From there, after being processed, they decided for some reason that I would make an excellent tank destroyer and I was sent to North Camp Hood, Tex. to train in a tank destroyer battalion. This was my first period really on active duty. This was the hottest month in the year. It was up near Waco, Tex., and for some reason I couldn’t understand why I was running around with a sock filled with mud chasing tanks along the trails.
Lieutenant, let me tell you the scene down there in North Camp Hood, Tex. In the morning hours, they had imprisoned, by the way, the Africa Corps. They had been brought to Texas from Africa, after our troops had captured them.
They would march out in the morning dressed in shorts with their campaign hats, singing their German songs carrying axes to cut the woods. We were marching out in old fatigues with 1916 M field rifles. We would sing the American songs and they would sing the German songs. I didn’t want to tangle with them at that time.
1LT MACDONALD: What was basic training like down there in Texas for PVT Reed?
COL REED: Well, the one incident that stands out most in my mind Lieutenant, I fell off on the obstacle course and I refused to go to the hospital – knowing being an old Guardsmen – I knew what it was to be called a “Gold Brick”.
Well finally, one day they insisted because my leg had swollen almost to twice its size and I was sent over to the first aid room. I went into the room and the doctor was busy shaving himself, and so I decided to whistle a couple of German tunes, hoping that it would draw his attention. It turned out to be that he was a German refugee, named CPT Angle. He came out cursing me for singing the German National Anthem. At that point, we became friends and he decided that the best thing for me was to go to the hospital.
Well, I was carted off to the hospital and no sooner I was in the hospital and lying in the bed then another another doctor came by and I remember him very well because he was wearing a World War I ribbon. He turned to me and said, “You damned gold-brick, get the hell out of that bed.” At that point, LT. Agnes Patrick, the nurse, had to grab me because I was going to put the doctor down, but I had already had enough military experience to know you just don’t go on sick call. It was a hot, horrible period in my life, at North Camp Hood, Tex.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, what about that famous incident you had with the General in the motor pool one cold night back there at Camp Hood?
COL REED: Lieutenant, it was a cold, rainy night and I was on guard duty with three live rounds and an old 1916 M Field. I was instructed that any vehicle that came in the compound – that anybody in the vehicle had to be dismounted and to be identified. Well, up comes this vehicle with a two-Star general. I stood in the middle of the road and ordered the vehicle to stop. The vehicle stopped, the driver got out and he said, “the general is not getting out of the car,”
I said, “the general will get out of the car.” I can tell you how scared I was when I opened my bolt and shoved one live round into the chamber. At that point, the back door of the vehicle opened up. The general came out and he said “Soldier, I want to compliment you.” I never was more scared in my life.
1LT MACDONALD: PFC Reed, in October of 1943 entered the Texas A & Mas an engineering student and that was the Army Special Training Program. Right Sir?
COL REED: Right.
1LT MACDONALD: Can you tell us what that program was like and what was some of the details of it?
COL REED: As usual I was a misfit. Most all the men in the group that entered Texas A & M already had their basic Bachelor Degree in Engineering. I had two Bachelor Degrees, but neither one was in Engineering, so I was the only one in the class who was not an engineer. Of the 32 men in my class, only eight passed the course. I spent the year in Texas A & M, and tutored Advanced Civil Engineering and Typographical Training.
Of the 8 men who passed, we stayed on for the year. The rest of the men who had Bachelor Degrees and had flunked, were sent off to the Pentagon to be carriers and to the Officers School.
It was up to April ’44, at the time when Salerno, where he took some of the Infantry casualties, that the Army Specialized Training Program collapsed and we were ordered to the Infantry. At that point, all of us, lock stock and barrel, were packed up and sent to Camp Howes, Tex., the home of the 103rd Infantry Division, Cactus Division, that had just come off Louisiana maneuvers. I was sent to an Infantry Company. May I continue Lieutenant?
1LT MACDONALD: Yes
COL REED: At that point I went to the chaplain, who was a Lutheran chaplain and told him I’d spent all my life trying to save life and I was a Medic by training. Of the 220 men that went to 103rd Infantry Division, I was the only one made a Medic and I was sent to the Medical Corps.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, while you were with the 103rd Infantry Division, also known as the Cactus Division, what kind of intensive infantry training did you have prior to shipping out for combat in Europe?
COL REED: This training consisted of everything from 25-mile marches to training under live fire repelling off of hills, moving patients across the old river there and essentially packing and unpacking in preparation, not knowing whether we were going to go to the Europe Theater or to the Pacific Theater, This is what it essentially consisted of.
Then – I have to tell you this – Lieutenant, the final review of the Division, which is most memorable in my life.
Many of you might remember Ben Lerr, I believe his name was, the famous “Yoo-Hoo” General. He reviewed the Troops – GEN. Heffner was the Commander of the 103rd Infantry Division. It brought back memories to me, having served under GEN. Record from Maryland, who was really a patriarch in the history of the National Guard, who lived to about 103 years of age. It was quite a nice afternoon when the entire Division took its final review before leaving for the APO in New York for overseas duty,
1LT MACDONALD: October 1944, you left Camp Shanks, New York, in a nine ship convoy across the cold Atlantic headed toward Marseilles, France. This was only a few months after the D-Day invasion in Normandy. Would you describe for us, what it was like aboard those troop ships during the six days you were on route?
COL REED: They were long tedious hours. The men would sit and clean their rifles. We were periodically allowed to go out to get a little fresh air on the weather deck. It was a very rough crossing; the men were constantly vomiting into their trays. They would eat and then vomit into the tray, go get another tray and come back and attempt it again. It was cold.
We spent our time taking care of a lot of sea-sickness, this is essentially what it was like. This continued until we got into the waters of the Mediterranean. The first sight of seeing the Rock of Gibraltar, it looked just like the “Insurance Policy”. I thought we were going to tilt the boat over so everybody could get a view of it, of Gibraltar, and we could see, on the opposite side, Oran and the African small sailing vessels. This we proceeded up to Marseilles. When we entered the harbor of Marseilles, it was like the World War I scene. There were balloons up, smoke generators, search lights, ships that had been, uh, it was actually D-Day plus four from Marseilles that we entered Marseilles. Part of the nine ship convoy was an Air Craft Tender and I noticed one morning that it was listing at 45°s and we all assumed that it had taken a shot while we made our entry into the Mediterranean, but it was on a 45° angle.
The U-Boats were very active in that area and of course, many of us, when we would get out on deck, we’d be looking for the periscopes, maybe perhaps identifying them before some of the ship members did.
1LT MACDONALD: This time, Colonel Reed, you were SGT, Reed, Technical Sergeant, I believe, they called it T4, you had three stripes and then there was a T underneath it. I don’t think they have that rank any more, do they?
COL REED: No they don’t.
1LT MACDONALD: Today they call them Specialists.
COL REED: That’s right.
1LT MACDONALD: In any event, what happened after the 103rd Infantry landed at Marseilles?
COL REED: Well, we landed in the dusk, it was getting near dark, the search lights were already on.
Old “Washing Machine Charley” was up above with a German observation plane and we had already heard some welcoming messages from the female German announcers. We disembarked about 7 o’clock in the evening; no fanfare, no bands playing and started our march through Marseilles, a very picturesque town – cobblestone streets, with beaded doors.
Most of us, with our French phrase books in our hand trying to say “Bonjour Madam” and we proceeded to march through Marseilles.
Well, the word got down the line; “two more miles, two more miles,” and we marched and marched. Then it began to rain.
A lot of the older men began to drop out and I myself was carrying packs for some of the other men. Little bonfires were being set up and then we proceeded up to the plateau above Marseilles, which was really a rock plateau and were told to dig in. Digging into rock is not very successful. We were told to pile up the rocks into piles in case the Germans would come in with gliders, so that it would upset their ships.
We set up camp on the top of the plateau. All night long people were going up and down the line, “Where’s Co C, where’s Co F”? It was utterly chaos and by morning hours we were drenched from the rain, most of the men had not broken out their tentage and we woke up to K-Rations.
1LT MACDONALD: COL. Reed, we’re both combat veterans; you from World War II and me from Vietnam and there is one thing that we never will forget and that is that first time that we came under enemy fire. Here you are, in Marseilles, France, the Germans are just a little ways down the road. Can you describe for us, would you please describe for us, what it was like the first time that the Nazis attacked?
COL REED: Well, Lieutenant let me back up just for a moment. We moved up from Marseilles in convoy. Initially when we left the countryside in Southern France, we were greeted with flowers and wine and then as we proceeded to the front, things begun to get quiet. A sense of apprehension was beginning to develop in the men.
We got up above Eppenol and then into a small town named Granvilleres. Actually our division took a position between the 3rd Division, the Rock of the Armarne and the Thunderbirds of the 45th.
As we went in to relieve the 3rd Division, we noticed most of their tentage was full of shell holes and their tentage was torn, they were extremely quiet, they told us to be extremely careful not to wander away from our unit at any time and to sleep on the trucks, but below the level of the metal portion in case someone might throw a bayonet into the tentage,
As we got closer to the line we could then begin to hear some of the artillery firing. It was early evening when we moved in and the flash and the burst of the artillery shells which were going overhead, we could begin to see. Then we encountered our first casualties and of course I can still remember the first group of men who came in was a turned over vehicle. IV and Surgical Techs sorted out the casualties and the first man I took care of – you won’t believe this – was a dead man.
He actually had a fractured neck and I was always taught to take care of the most seriously injured first, and of course, I was a standing joke for the rest of the Medics for the best part of that day. But we knew that when we saw the first man with a puncture from a bullet hole, that we were in action.
Some of the highlights Lieutenant, one particular incident when we talk about artillery, I remember a gun we had nicknamed “Alsace (Alsas) Alice”, It was a railroad gun, it would open fire in the evening hours. You could go up to the top of a building at a high point, see the flash of the gun, and run to the cellar before the shell got in. It would fire at 5 minute intervals and it was quite a frightening experience if you didn’t stay down below you had a good chance of being hit.
The only interesting cities in the Voj Mountains that we went through was one particular town called San Dies. It’s the home of America Vespucci, which our country is named after, America. This was on the Mereth River, one side of the river the buildings were burning; on the other side the buildings were intact. The 103rd Division took that particular area.
There is some other peculiar experiences we had; one in particular, we got into one town and our captain had been asked by several of the inhabitants, since these were Alsacian, and many cases they were German origin, whether we were going to leave town soon. Fortunately, the captain felt a little insecure, so we moved out of the town and the next thing we knew, was that most of the buildings had been mined and they blew up. So I went back and I can show you some pictures where before and after.
Fortunately, we followed our intuition, we got out of town just in the nick of time. Another great common experience was to be strafed by the Germans in convoy. I remember one particular instance, in the afternoon, all our batteries anti-aircraft were firing at the German planes and the one man that got hit was standing beside the road taking a pee at the time. But you had to dismount and you had to get into the wooded area very rapidly since these planes were flying at very low altitude as they came into our convoy.
1LT MACDONALD: Colonel Reed, what was some of the treatments that you used on men that were wounded in combat?
COL REED: Lieutenant, many cases we had to be innovative. We had a lot of problem with the plasma. If that darn plasma with the filter just didn’t flow properly and many times it just gave up and disgust and gave the men glucose and water. To treat shock this worked a lot better than the plasma because you could run the fluids very rapidly. In fact we would set up a rope across the tent and just hook up the glucose and water and as the wounded came in who were in states of shock, we’d start glucose and water immediately. The plasma we’d mix the two bottles that never flowed properly. It flowed very slowly and was inadequate to expand the extra cellular fluid compartment for the wounded soldier.
I had one particular frightening moment was; a German soldier had one of these small baseball shaped grenade. I noticed the peculiar looking ring in his hand and his hand was clinched. He was rather seriously wounded. As it turned out, it turned out to be a hand grenade, I guess as you call today a frag, that he had in hand and we were able to disengage it before it went off.
1LT MACDONALD: According to the Geneva Convention, of course, you were treating both American wounded and German wounded soldiers as well, but you had some problem with SS Troops. What was some of the things you feared from them?
COL REED: Well, the SS Troops did not respect the Geneva Red Cross rules, so when we got word that there was an SS Division in front of our Division we immediately armed ourselves, and we armed ourselves with German rifles, Czech rifles, and American rifles that were taken from the American wounded that came into our station.
I think in many cases, we were better armed and had a better perimeter defense than some of the Infantry Companies.
There is one story that comes to mind, having been a member of the Essex people in New Jersey National Guard: We were in the town of Insming and apparently the Essex Troop was on a recon mission. I was in the front of the tent when they brought in some of the wounded and one man said to me, he said, “You know, with our recon cars, we just went into this town like a bunch of cowboys on a Saturday night, we shot it up.” He said, “By the way, I’m looking for my brother.” I said, “What is his name, maybe there is somebody else in the tent here might know him, what company he was with.”
Well, we identified a member of a company that knew this particular Essex Trooper’s brother. He told the story to the Essex Trooper that he had been with him the day before and they were on the side of the road, they got out of a ditch, stood up and his brother was killed. Well, the poor fellow went to pieces.
I remember there was snow on the ground. I took him outside the tent to comfort him and after I got him pretty well comforted, I said, “How about a snowball”? I grabbed some of the snow and with a little melted chocolate syrup, I made a snowball for him and we sat and chatted. I don’t remember the man’s name though.
Of course you know during that period of December was a time when the Germans were dropping into our lines in American uniforms and all of us were very up-tight, so that any time we were on guard duty or when we were road guide at the lead point when the trucks were moving, we would have to prepare questions in own mind, something that perhaps if they were Germans, they would not be able to answer. Most of them centered around baseball, and American personage, but many times Germans would come up dressed in civilian clothes and these were actually German soldiers who wanted to surrender and get out of the War even though it was still December of ’44.
1LT MACDONALD: 19th of December 1944, the Germans made their last major push in an effort to plunge through the American lines. What are your memories of that famous attack?
COL REED: The 103rd Infantry Division was at that time still a member of the 7th Army. Elements of the 103rd Infantry Division were put on a 300 mile march. What I mean, a motor march to form a corridor of the East Corridor for the defensive corridor of the arduous for Battle of the Bulge. We moved and we moved! Day and night! Until we became part of the Eastern Defense Line, most of which was our artillery that was participating and stopping the Rundstedt’s Troops. What I remember most about that was the days of mist and cold prior to our air attack. One clear morning, and I believe it was just after Christmas, we woke up with a hum and noise that was overwhelming. It rose to a crescendo. We came outside our tents to look up in the air and there were layers of planes; something which I’ve never seen at anytime in my life. This hum became just a storm of noise; the sky was litterly blackened with layers of planes going toward the Germans to attack them. We all jumped up and down in the snow and cheered at the sight of our planes going out to attack.
1LT MACDONALD: Massive German attack during the Battle of the Bulge was thrown back and in February 1945, American troops crossed the Rhine. At that point you began chasing the Germans all the way to Berlin. What happened COL Reed, back in Manheim – back in the Spring 1945?
COL REED: Well, we were set up across the Rhine at that time in the town of Ludwigshafen and we started a bombardment on the opposite side which was the great city of Manheim and burned and destroyed the city all the way down to the edge of the Rhine up to the railroad station in the Monhof and we watched this like a 4th of July ceremony. Our planes dive-bombed and artillery fired into the town of Manheim.
At that point, we then crossed the Rhine. Essentially, the fighting was sporadic at that point and very fluid. The Division moved rapidly towards Strasburg. At that time the French Second Army or Second Armored Division under General Leclerc was moved in front of the 103rd Division, I guess to perpetuate the history of the French Army and they were sent into Strasburg where actually the 103rd Division had cleared the way and Strasburg was made a free city.
Our introduction to our new Division Commander, (GEN Heffner was the Division Commander for the 103rd Division, he suffered a heart attack) and low and behold, who becomes the Commander for the 103rd Division, that great General, General McAuliffe, getting his second star. It was great to see him. He would come into our aid station. He could talk to any wounded soldier, tell him exactly what hill he was attacking or what machine gun he was attacking. It was miraculous that this man knew every detail of the units that were in the point of the division as it was moving.
1LT MACDONALD: This general was the same general, that when he was surrounded in the town of Bastogne by German troops and was given an ultimatum to surrender, gave back a note to the German officer that approached him, to take to his commander, which said one word, and what was that word, COL Reed?
COL REED: Nuts!
1LT MACDONALD: By April of 1945, the 103rd Infantry Division was moving toward the Brenner Pass, and I’m interested in what kind of reaction the liberated people gave to the American troops as they arrived in their sector.
COL REED: Well, actually we were moving through Austria, and we got mixed reactions. Sometimes we were almost greeted like liberators and many times the people were frightened of us.
We moved down from Ulm, just across the Danube and moved into, close to Oberammergau, the home of the “Passion Play”.
But the city prior to entering Oberammergau, was the town of Mittenvolv. There was a OCS school there made up of very young 14 to 16-year-olds who put up a fire fight and each of them had to be destroyed, so much so we took so many psychiatric casualties among our own men having to kill these young people.
We got into Oberammergau and I had one extraordinary experience. The leading department store there was Gaya Orglund’s Department Store, It so happened that the brother of Gaya Orglund, who owned the Department Store, (Brother) was a professor of German at Georgetown University and fortunate enough for me, I was standing on the side of the street as the Germans were coming in to surrender and a woman told me that she knew (she spoke good English) my professor at the University of Maryland, Dr. Brown, that taught me German. So it was like old home week there in Oberammergau, before we started to move toward the Pass.
1LT MACDONALD: Colonel Reed, in the last month of the war, you were promoted all the way up to First Sergeant, and you were only 25 years old. How did that come about?
COL REED: Well it came about by a series of things. We did have one man who went over the hill and we had several combat losses and I had quite a military background so the Commanding Officer felt that I could progress from Staff to Tech and eventually took command of the Company.
1LT MACDONALD: Was that unusual, being a 25 year old First Sergeant? It seems like prior to World War II, it would take a man almost 20 years to get First Sergeant.
COL REED: That’s true, Lieutenant,
1LT MACDONALD: COL Reed, the end of the war in Europe came on May 8 1945, also known as VE Day. Where were you and what memories do you have of that particular event?
COL REED: We had drawn back from the Brenner Pass to Innsbrook, Austria, and that day was a nice sunny day when we got word that the Germans had surrendered. Innsbrook is a beautiful city in the Austrian Alps and it was quite a joyous day for us all.
1LT MACDONALD: Now the troops at that time that were rotated back to the United States or were rotated on a point basis. Would you explain how that system worked and how many points you accumulated and how you happened to come back to United States?
COL REED: I don’t recall the exact number of points, but since I was such high rank of the list of ranks, I was transferred to the 5th Infantry Division, the Red Diamond Outfit, Pasound, near Czechoslovakia and I made a transfer at that time in the company of the 5th Infantry Division back being the First Sergeant for Company D 5th Medical Battalion.
1LT MACDONALD: In June of ’45 a veteran combat trooper by the name of Richard Reed who was a First Sergeant who’d gone over across that Atlantic Ocean just a couple of years earlier as a PFC was coming home, and as your troop ship came into New York Harbor passed the Statue of Liberty, what were some of feelings that were going through your mind?
COL REED: Lieutenant, you won’t believe this, but you must remember the war was still going on with Japan and as the ship began to approach the New York Statue of Liberty we could see the motor vehicles on the highways bordering the water and a terrible roar went up on the ship because all that gas was being used by civilians. But that soon gave way to the toots of the horns of the ships and the sight of the Statue of Liberty.
I can’t tell you the thrill that I had when I saw the Statue of Liberty and all the ships were tooting their horns. There were fire hoses from the ships and big banners hanging from all the buildings as you proceeded up the harbor.
1LT MACDONALD: After about a week with your family in Maryland, you shipped out to go to Camp (was it Camp Campbell I believe at that time or Fort Campbell?)
COL REED: Camp Campbell
1LT MACDONALD: Camp Campbell, Kentucky, with the 5th Infantry Division and of course the War was still going to on so you didn’t know whether you were going to have to go to the Pacific. What were your duties there at Campbell?
COL REED: Well, at Camp Campbell, I was a first sergeant with the 5th Infantry Division, 5th Medical Battalion.
We had a terrible problem with discipline. Many of the men were going over-the-hill. The discipline was poor… (of course you must remember, this is in June and the War with Japan didn’t end until the Atomic Blast in September). So we began to train the Division in preparation for the continuous war with Japan. It was a good duty.
Well, as you know, I wanted to be a doctor and here I was with the 5th Infantry Division. I was offered any recruiting job in United States I wanted and I kept telling them I wanted to be a doctor. Well, they declared me essential. They wouldn’t let me out of the Army even though I had the sufficient number of points.
Finally it came in February of 146, I really literally had to run away from the Army to get out to get to Medical School. I didn’t want to leave the Army, I wanted to be in the Army and to start Medical School in September of that same year, which I did later.
1LT MACDONALD: In February 1946 you finally were discharged and you were accepted by New York University Medical School
COL REED: New York Medical College
1LT MACDONALD: (New York Medical College) and when you attended the New York Medical College, you missed the military so much that you went to the 7th Regiment Armory in New York. Tell us about that.
COL REED: Well, I had a 10% disability given to me for a non-combat injury and I went over to the 7th Regiment Armory (having remembered the old 7th when I used to be a member of the Maryland Guard), and I tried to join the 7th which later went to Korea.
They couldn’t take me in unless I signed a waiver for my disability. I told them, “Could I just participate without pay?” , but they wouldn’t permit me to do that. I then attempted to join the Medical ROTC. They too wanted me to sign a waiver on my disability and the difference in money would prohibit me from going to Medical School since I was under PL 16.
I later joined the Guard after Medical School when I returned to Maryland to Hopkins for Surgical Training, At that time, I was scrubbed with COL, Bob Kimberly, who was Division Surgeon with the 29th Division, the Maryland Regiment and the Virginia Regiment. At that time Korea was on and I asked him if he was related to COL. Kimberly, the Division Surgeon and he said, “I am the Surgeon”. I said, “How about my joining the Maryland 5th Regiment?” He said, “Fine”, and I re-entered the National Guard,
1LT MACDONALD: So in May 1953, 1SGT Reed became 1LT Reed – a direct commission as a member of the Medical Corps, 175th Infantry Regiment. Now, at the same time COL Reed, you were a resident at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and where did your career go from there?
COL REED: Well, I joined the Maryland 175th Infantry Regiment and continued my surgical training, which at that point required four years at John’s Hopkins and later two years at University of Pennsylvania. A few years later I moved to Philadelphia, but I didn’t like the Yankee Regiments, so the boys used to put nickels, dimes and quarters in the hat; and once a week I would travel back to Baltimore to stay with the “old Dandy 5th”. I continued that ’til 1956 at which time I then took a fellowship in pediatric surgery at the University of Louisville, Kentucky and transferred from the Maryland Guard 175th Infantry Regiment to the Kentucky National Guard, at which time I joined a battle group there as the only doctor in the Army National Guard of Kentucky.
1LT MACDONALD: Where ever you went COL Reed, whatever State that you were working in as doctor, you stayed with the Guard. Why was that?
COL REED: Well, I guess it’s the tradition of being a citizen soldier. The tradition of the Guard serving both the President and the Governor in contra distinction to just serving the President. I thought that was the highest calling for a soldier and a surgeon.
1LT MACDONALD: All this time that you were in the various National Guards, whether it was Maryland, or Kentucky, you were of course a medical doctor and a lot of doctors make a pretty good living on the outside and have no real financial need to go into the National Guard to make extra money, and yet, you were willing to make that sacrifice. How difficult has it been during your career and your experience to get good qualified medical doctors to come in the National Guard and give those two weeks during the summer and one weekend a month?
COL REED: Except for the draft, it’s always been an extraordinarily difficult job to get doctors to serve in the Army National Guard. It really requires, I guess to use that old phrase, “Patriotism”, for people to participate. I would say most of the physicians who join the Army National Guard, are unique to that experience.
1LT MACDONALD: From 1956 until 1958, CPT Reed served in the Kentucky Army National Guard and what were some of your accomplishments during that period, Sir?
COL REED: It was an extremely difficult period for me at that time. I was doing a fellowship in Pediatric Surgery, which required me to do Cardiac and Theoretics Surgery.
I couldn’t get the two weeks off to take care of my four Tank Battalions, but what I worked out with the Kentucky National Guard, for those of you who remember that Ft Knox area being an armor, I would fly every afternoon at 6 o’clock to Bowman Field down to Gyland Field at Ft Knox; take care of my tank battalion, stay over-night and return to the operating theater in Louisville, the following morning by eight o’clock. I did that for 2 consecutive weeks and I was honored by the Kentucky National Guard, receiving their Medal of Merit and several other awards.
1LT MACDONALD: At the end of your two year duty with the Kentucky Guard, you returned to the State of New Jersey and this time you were the doctor, I think the Chief Doctor at Babies Hospital in Newark?
COL REED: Yes sir
1LT MACDONALD: And you became one of the surgeons at the New Jersey Army National Guard.
COL REED: At that time I joined the Babies Hospital staff at Newark, New Jersey and wanted to continue my National Guard duty and across the street from my office was the 2nd Squadron of the 102nd Armored Cav, the Essex Troop.
I remember the Essex Troop having been a member of the Maryland 5th because we used to be participants in the old Centennial Legion in New York in which the 7th Regiment of the Connecticut Foot Guards, the 1st Troop Cav. of Philadelphia were all members. I was enlisted by Colonel Ed Lilly into the New Jersey National Guard.
In October ’58, I joined the 2nd Squadron in West Orange of the 102nd Armored Cav. At that time COL Billy Mitchell was the Commander of the squadron and COL Skidmore was a Regimental Commander. I spent several years there, the Regimental Surgeon, at that time, who is now since passed away was COL Dick Alquin, who later went to the SHMA Unit, the Surgical Hospital Mobile Army Unit in the National Guard and then after a period of time, as the 2nd Squadron Medical Officer, I then rose to be the Regimental Medical Officer for the 102nd Armored Cav.
1LT MACDONALD: Colonel Reed, what is some of your memories of the former Chief of Staff of the National Guard, Major General James Cantwell?
COL REED: Well, at that time, being a young medical officer I was very anxious for the Adjutant General to know my presence and he was a very astute man, and when I met GEN, Cantwell, he said he already knew enough about me and that I was doing a good job and just to continue to do what I was doing. I also met at that time, the retired GEN. McGowan who later passed away and also COL. Albomony who was the Division Surgeon, who also later passed away.
1LT MACDONALD: By 1962 you are a major and the draft is still part of the system and so you didn’t really have a problem getting medical officers, did you, at that point?
COL REED: No, the medical officers were astute enough, and they flocked to the Guard to escape Federal Service and I was fortunate to get some pretty fine young men to help serve in the National Guard,
I used to be a rather innovator at that time and when we would go to camp, in order to enhance the number of doctors that I had, I run orientation programs for the Army Reserve, giving them a chance to participate with Combat Units. So when we’d go to Camp or to Camp Drum at that time, I would have a four day program during our active fire periods and young physicians from the Army Reserve would come out and serve along side their counter-parts in the Army National Guard. There were several interesting experiences.
One was operation “Anita Bear” which was an active maneuvers in April of one year in which we participated in War Games with the unit that I had served with originally, the 5th Mechanized Infantry. They were subsequently, that particular unit that we participated in active maneuvers with, went to the Dominican Republic.
lLT MACDONALD: In 1967, the Newark riots broke out and GOV. Richard Hughes of New Jersey called the Guard to active service. What are some of your recollections of that period?
COL REED: At that time, we were on active duty and were training at Camp Pickett, Va, Blackstone, VA. We were ordered forced march with all our equipment to South Jersey in which we bivouacked overnight there and then force marched to South Orange, New Jersey up to the West Orange Armory in preparation to being reserved to the units that already had entered Newark.
It was rather chaotic during that period because most of our information was coming from the newspapers and television at that time, we prepared for further action while Newark was burning and other cities throughout United States, but we only remained on active duty a short period of time before we deactivated.
1LT MACDONALD: After your promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1968, what was your next assignment sir?
COL REED: My next assignment was again to become the First Brigade Surgeon in Woodbridge, and I took on that new assignment, while continuing my military studies for Command General Staff School to qualify for full colonel.
I served under COL Oday, and at that time our present Chief of Staff, COL Bob Katz was the S3. After my assignment as Brigade Surgeon, COL Tankin called me in to interview me as the possible medical battalion commander, he so decided that I would take the command and relieve COL Albanon who than retired as the Medical Battalion Commander for the 50th Medical Battalion of the 50th Armored Division.
This began a whole new experience, at that time we were still fresh from the riots and it was decided that the National Guard would do an operation within the State Prisons, which perhaps even led to my present position as the Medical Director for the Department of Corrections.
We were at Ft. Drum we brought our Medical Personnel enhanced by other medical officers and dental officers and went into the Rahway and the Trenton State Prisons to do histories and physicals on all the inmates,
Subsequent to that, there was the need for an oversees operation and Operation “KOKEY”, named after the Puerto Rican frog “KOKEY” was decided upon, we made several forays into the Puerto Rican woods.
Subsequently after a long preparation, a year of preparation we air lifted two of our Medical Companies and Battalion Headquarters to operation KOKEY, this was quite an experience, not only for myself but for all the troops that went with me. We went into four or five of the small villages in Puerto Rico, examined people treated people for emergency conditions and spent a weekend there in the mid winter when there was snow on the ground in New Jersey. This was done by flying on a Friday night. The Oklahoma Guard flew us in to Raindy Air Force Base, and with the help of the Puerto Rican National Guard, we were able to accomplish an excellent program and by Sunday evening we were back in our homes in New Jersey.
1LT MACDONALD: By 1972 you reached the rank of full Colonel and you became State Surgeon of the New Jersey Army National Guard, what was some of the highlights of that period?
COL REED: One of the differences during that period was the fact that they no longer have a draft for Doctors, and the number of doctors began to dwindle in the Army National Guard. I started a program in conjunction with GEN Menard of active recruitment by mass mailing techniques and introduced the concept to my colleagues in the other 49 States. This took much of my time trying to recruit positions essentially we were fairly successful in the initial basis of this program.
I also at that time then participated in the lesson course for the Command General Staff School, and took a series of Educational Courses, additionaly to my normal AT active period, I put in other active periods to cover up for the shortfall of physicians in other units.
Weekends were sometimes spent covering the Armored Cav on its movements to Fort Drum, and aiding and assisting other units that were without positions. Some of my duties even carried me over to the Army Reserve and I aided and assisted the 78th Infantry Training Division at Ft. Kelmer. Much of my other duties were involved with active participation at that time, as president of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the Association of the United States Army and this is carried on to the present time, serving both as President for the Northern New Jersey Chapter and as the State Vice-President for the AUSA.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, in 1976 you became the first Army National Guard Officer to serve as a Medex Surgeon at the US Army Military Academy at West Point. How did you happen to be chosen for this honor?
COL REED: Being qualified as Qualified Surgeon there was a Medex facility at West Point, and I must tell you there was National Guard Officer – that a fellow American College Surgeons to the need for a vacation for then surgeon of the General Berry was the Commandant at the time a lot of anxiety on my part – being the first I be the perfect example.
I lost 35 pounds before I went there and spit polished my shoes which I remembered to do as a First Sergeant. I don’t believe the Colonel who was in charge of hospital could keep his eyes off my shoes, I even had cards printed up and read all the curtsies that are normally performed by an officer.
I was asked several times what class of West Point I was from and I probably told them I was a National Guardsmen. After ’76 we still had a short fall on positions, which required me to give up more time in the sense of serving the time with the National Guard. Consequently I served as the Surgeon for the OCS Academy at Sea Girt in addition to my annual two weeks AT which carried me both to Sea Girt and to Fort Drum.
Fort Drum brings back one experience when we used to do what we call an “open cardiac massage” rather than close CPR as we do today. There was a regular Army sergeant one time when I was with the Essex Troop who was out in the woods and suffered a heart attack. I had to use my hunting knife to open his chest. It was at night time and all we had was jeep lights. I had to massage his heart. Unfortunately he had a massive coronary thrombosis and didn’t survive the resuscitation. It was one of the more dramatic periods in my life.
1LT MACDONALD: Being a First Sergeant prior to becoming a Commissioned Officer, how do you feel about the caliber of officers? Both you and I, of course, were NCO’s and Colonel Geiger and many other people – how do you feel about officers who did do time as enlisted men and NCO’s? Do they make particularly good leaders?
COL REED: Lieutenant, you’ve surfaced some prejudice on my part, but one conclusion I have often made is that the best officer is one who’s been an enlisted man.
There is a marked difference in performance, and the carrying on of the traditions of the service by men who have served as enlisted men prior to becoming officers. They understand – you have to live the experience of an NCO or enlisted man to understand the Army – becoming an officer because you are qualified without having served that period of apprenticeship does not give you that benefit.
By the way. at my many meetings at the Army Management Conferences I found out the State of Massachusetts did not have a shortage of positions, so I volunteered for service in another state with permission from the Army National Guard of New Jersey.
The past five years I’ve been serving additional AT’s with the Massachusetts Army National Guard, much of the service was given to their Infantry Brigades and Army Units serving at Camp Edwards.
I must tell you about the fact that they didn’t know what to do with me, they felt that I was deserving of some kind of an award, so the MAJ GEN, the Adjutant General, Spadorka of Massachusetts issued the Muster Service Medal to me for my service because of the fact that I always responded to each and every request for support for the Massachusetts Guard.
I’m now their first recipient of an Award reserved only for Members of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
1LT MACDONALD: Speaking of decorations COL Reed, you’re well known for those rows and rows of ribbons that you have, all that fruit salad. I’d like to ask you what some of those medals are?
COL REED: Well let me tell you, I think I’ve accumulated something like 24 ribbons by now, four or five of them came out of the State of Maryland, they didn’t know what to do with me, except keep awarding me ribbons. They cover a period of pre-Pearl Harbor to service ribbons for service in that particular state.
Kentucky has been generous with a couple of ribbons and so has Massachusetts and of course my beloved State of New Jersey. I’ve received many ribbons and awards, including this past September with the Legion of Merit from the State of New Jersey and the Pentagon.
The Bureau has given me several awards, the commendation certificate from the Army Surgeon. I’m full of plaques and awards.
1LT MACDONALD: You’re being a little modest, but during World War II you also won the Bronze Star as well as several campaign ribbons.
COL REED: The World War II period also produced three Battle Stars, a Bronze Star, the Combat Medical Badge and the various theater ribbons and service ribbons, and victory ribbons and a ribbon from the Liberation of France. They’re quite a number.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, who is the most memorable person that you remember in all those years of Military Service?
COL REED: I guess you have to go back to your first impression, there’s a picture hanging at the museum in Washington. There’s a special room for this Gentleman I’m going to mention and that was Major General Record who was the leading National Guardsmen for many, many years from the the State of Maryland. As a young man I gathered my first impressions from him which lead to my whole career. Next to General Record of course would be General Cantwell, who was a National Leader, a State Leader, and a Leader of many of the units in the New Jersey National Guard. I would rate him next.
COL Reed, what‘s the most memorable moment in the many years of your military service?
COL REED: It was in the town of Marmalawn in France, prior to the return from Europe when we stood for memorial services for those we left behind in Europe. To the man, tears were running down the eyes as we stood there as they blowed taps in this small town below Reims, France before our departure from Europe.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, if you were recruiting a young intern to enter the Army National Guard as a doctor, what would you use as a selling point?
COL REED: I better say this Lieutenant, I recruit all the time, everywheres, every time I meet a young physician today, the need for these people to serve in the Army National Guard whether it be in the operating room or being at the patients bedside, if he’s a young doctor, I talk to him – I want him to serve.
1LT MACDONALD: COL Reed, you retired from the Army National Guard in June of 1983, and I understand that you’ve continued to serve the Guard however, that you’ve even volunteered for duties without any compensation. What are your present activities?
COL REED: Well my present activities is looking to the welfare of some of the retirees, but at the same time we’re on the prospect of forming the State Defense Forces – as General Gerard’s hope and prayers that maybe by May.
This new organization which will be a full circle for me, having started with the Maryland State Guard, to begin a new career in the State Defense Forces for the State of New Jersey. This is the Force that would replace the National Guard were it to be mobilized and carried on to active duty.
Presently something like 12 States have already formed these Forces and it’s a matter of Legislative Action, I assume that this will come about shortly, and will draw from those who are young retirees and young people who want to continue to serve or to serve their State and their Country It’s a very necessary force and will be put in place as it was done in 1940.
1LT MACDONALD: One postscript that I’d like to add if I may sir, is I remember one summer camp when I scored the winning run in a softball game at Sea Girt. I slid into home plate, and as I did that, I tore the skin off my knee, It was quite a painful wound.
A medic on duty took care of me and I remember that several hours later when I was down in the Medic Station and was having antiseptic put on the cut and bandages were being changed, who was there standing in his bath robe and slippers but COL Richard Reed. He’d gotten up out of his bed to come and make sure that I was ok. Now I think that is indicative of the type of dedication that you showed to your men, no matter what their rank and why in my opinion, and I’m sure any opinion of many others, that you were and always will remain one of the most popular and highly respected officers ever to serve the New Jersey Army National Guard.
This is First Lieutenant Glenn MacDonald of the New Jersey Army National Guard and this is the conclusion of an interview with COL Richard C. Reed for the Oral History Program of the Jersey Guard.