Buchenwald concentration camp was the worst sight Tim Kiniry has ever seen. That is saying a lot considering he spent World War II as part of the 45th Evacuation Hospital, witnessing the horrors of war up close and personal. Tim says he normally fainted at the sight of blood so working in a hospital would not have been his first choice, but “That is what I was ordered to do so I tried to do the best job I could.”
The 45th landed on Omaha Beach on DDAY plus 10. It took them about a week to gather their equipment and set up their hospital 6 miles inland. Tim was briefly assigned to the 618th Medical Clearing Company – a neuro-psychiatric unit that treated combat fatigue and shell shock. He will never forget one soldier who made all four of the invasion landings up to that point in the war.
The 45th would often set up wherever they could find suitable space. In Eugen, Belgium they set up in a school and treated over 7,000 wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. They had several near misses including when the Germans bombed an ammo dump set up a couple hundred yards from their hospital.
Tim says the weather during the Battle of the Bulge was brutal and many of their cases were for frostbite. They also treated German prisoners and he says overall they were grateful except for one young patient who spat in the doctor’s face. Despite this, Tim says in his entire time deployed he never once touched a weapon.
Tim’s unit was assigned to set up inside Buchenwald to treat 600 critically ill tuberculosis patients. They had to bathe and delouse all the patients. The prisoners were initially afraid to use the showers Tim’s unit set up because entering the German “showers” meant death.
TAKEAWAY: “I don’t have any secret to living to 101 years old. I just lived”