Dated: September 15, 2009
Tech-5 Raymond W. Abbey
Medical Detachment & HQ Divisional Artillery
|Tech-5 Raymond Abbey
served as an ambulance driver assigned to the HeadQuarters Company of
the 85th Division's Artillery. He was a member
Medical Detachment but reported to the Divisional Artillery. He
in the 310th Medical Battalion.
Raymond Abbey was born in
Hawarden, Iowa in 1919 and the family soon moved to Tripp County, South Dakota. When the war
started, Raymond was drafted and was ordered to report for induction
into the Army on May 19, 1942. On the day he was to report, the
weather turned from a rain to a heavy snow storm that dropped 16
inches. Needless to say, no one reported to the Draft
Board. The next day he was able to make the trip while the roads
were flooded with water from the melted snow. After his
induction, he traveled by bus from Winner, SD, to Fort Crook,
Nebraska. There he boarded a train for Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
Abbey arrived for basic training, he was assigned to the 910th Field Artillery Battalion
of the 85th Division. However, the HeadQuarters of the Divisional
Artillery sent a request to each of the field artillery battalions
asking for anyone who could pass the driver's test. Abbey went to
HQ and waited for further instructions. He waited and waited, a
common activity in the Army. Assuming that HQ was not interested
in using him, he returned back to the 910th Artillery Battalion.
They told him that his transfer has been approved and he was now a
member of the HQ Company
of the Divisional Artillery
of the 85th Infantry Division.
The 85th Infantry Division was an infantry fighting
unit that had 4
artillery battalions assigned to it. There were three medium
battalions that fired the 105mm Howitzers and one heavy battalion that
fired the 155mm Howitzer. These four battalion were commanded by
General Pierre Mallet and his staff and a company of officers and
a group photo of the 85th Division Artillery HQ taken at Camp Shelby,
click Divisional Artillery.
his driver's certificate test. He had many men from New York City
in his unit and they had never driven a truck. They couldn't back
up a truck hauling a trailer. Since Raymond was from a farm, this
was easy for him. Naturally he passed the test and was assigned
as a ambulance driver. He was sent to Springfield, Missouri for 2
months of Medical School. He was classified as a Medic Technician
and a Surgical Technician.
Raymond Abbey was technically assigned to the Medical Detachment of the
85th Infantry Division. The division had a 310th Medical
Battalion but this detachment was separate and performed a
role. His detachment included dentists and a doctor and ambulance
drivers. Three or four men of this Medical
Detachment were assigned to each of the artillery battalions. It
seems complicated as T-5 Abbey
reported to both the commander of the Medical Detachment and the
commander of the HQ Divisional Artillery.
While at Camp Shelby, Raymond recalls the surprise
visit by President Roosevelt.
T-5 Abbey completed basic training and the division participated in the
The division then went to the Desert
Training Center in southern California during the peak of the
summer of 1943. DTC was ideal for not only training for desert
warfare but it allowed for large-scale movement of troops on the
simulated battlefield. There were different ranges for firing
live ammo and grenades and practicing mine detection. The
division was then shipped by train back across the US to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where they
filled out their ranks prior to deployment to Europe. While
waiting to leave, many troops were given leave to go home and visit
their families. Raymond was married and had one child at this
Abbey with two of his buddies during training.
Georeg Littlefield, Bob Bjur and Raymond Abbey.
Photo probably taken at Springfiled during training for
Camp Shelby did not have this nice of buildings.
On 24 December, 1943, the 85th Division left Newport
News, Virginia on the USS
General Mann and 9 days later they arrived in Casablanca, North
Africa. They spent some days recovering from the trip and began
training for amphibious landing, which was additional training that was
never fully utilized. By April, the 85th Division was placed in
the front lines south of Rome, near the town of Minturno. Tech-5 Abbey served with the
85th Division through three major campaigns in Italy. He remained
during their advance north to the Alps by the time the war ended on May
War in Italy
duty was an ambulance driver. However, his unit did not get the
nice ambulances. Instead they were given the M-37 3/4-Ton Weapons
Carrier. The closest thing to this in civilian life is a pick-up
truck. He would drive to any of the artillery battalions to pick
up wounded soldiers. He was trained to give first aid and bandage
While in the area of Minturno, Abbey recalls a driver who was
hauling gasoline. He had picked up a hitch-hiker who road on top
of the gas tank. While passing through the crowded roads around
the town, the Germans shelled it. A shell exploded the gas truck
and threw the hitch-hiker 100 feet into a ditch. The medics
rushed to treat his burns. He had no wounds except he was blinded
by the explosion; either permanently or maybe temporarily. There
was a lot to learn during the early days of combat. HIs
set-up their aid station near the central square of a little
town. The Germans shelled the town and leveled a building only 3
from theirs. The Germans were good at registering their artillery
on central locations they had occupied. Then as the Americans
arrived, their guns could zero in on these targets.
Abbey recalls seeing the waves of as many as
bombers fly over the front lines. You could
follow their movement by the clouds of dust from their exploding
bombs. The Germans surrendered Rome on 4 June 1944 and
declared it an open city. However there was fighting right up to
the out-skirts of city. Abbey remembers driving into Rome and
the ruins of the Coliseum.
Abbey observed these German POW's being escorted to the rear by the 85th
Infantry Division. Photo taken during the last months of
The German POW's are
marching in a column and wearing their M-43 Caps. The Americans
are wearing helmets and riding in the Jeep. Italian Civilians watch
from the right side of the road. Photo
probably taken somewhere between Bologna and Verona,
Army Censors discouraged cameras at the front lines and they
confiscated any photos of Prisoners of War.
It was against the Geneva Convention to take photos of prisoners for
they could be used as propagander. So, except for
newspapers, these photos are rare.
war ended on 2 May 1945. Raymond
did not have the 85 points needed to
ship home. So he was transferred to the 380th Medical Collection
Company, which were responsible for collecting wounded men on
battlefield. For the first time, he was issued a side-arm as the
Japanese did not recognize medics and would shoot them. They were
preparing to ship to the Pacific Theater when the atomic bombs were
Japan and the war was over. He returned to the US on the Merchant
Marine ship General Solomon
and landed in New York in September. Tech-5 Abbey arrived at Camp
Wisconsin, where his wife met him. He was discharged on September
1945. Together, they caught a train to Fargo, ND, where he
returned to civilian
Raymond and his wife and first daughter Rae Brent taken after the war.
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Send any inquiries to Steve
|Special thanks to Donna Tyburec,
daughter of Raymond Abbey, for the photos and story contributed for
biography. Some information was obtained from an interview with
group photo of the 85th Division Artillery HQ taken at Camp Shelby,
click Divisional Artillery.
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