United States Constabulary

John Hankins

124th Station Hospital, Linz, Austria
Medical Detachment, 4th Constabulary Regt., Horsching, Austria

By John Hankins

I regret not having been able to attend-- other than through moral support--any of the reunions, but I might be able to sometimes in the near future.  It seems I belong not only to Army veterans organization, but three other services which followed in this order:  Merchant Marine at age 16, with 17 to 18 being made on Saipan and Okinawa respectively, and upon return to the US finally old enough to join the Army.

My entry to Europe was through Bremerhaven, then the Repo Depot at Marburg after landing at Hamburg, with a final assignment at Linz, Austria, via all the connections to Munich, then on to Austria in what I considered to be a cattle car.

My arrival for duty in the 124th Station Hospital, Linz, Austria; Hitler's home town. I was as a patient, with acute pharynngitis, bilaterial tonsillitis. Boy was I sick. The 124th Station Hospital was originally designated the 124th General Hospital. It had its origin in England. Records of personal property losses by casualties involved in various battles that the hospital took care of as it moved across the continent was still part of its inventory when I got there. I was given the difficult task of trying to sort out a bunch of mixed up records. 

We occupied what had formerly been called a "Frauenklinik", Women's hospital, that might very well still be there from what I can tell after studying a recent map of the city. It was quite old, still had the body of women preserved in formaldehyde or something like that in its basement. Enlisted personnel and officers occupied some part of the hospital as a barracks, with the rest occupying former civilian apartments (which made life more pleasant). Denton Cooley and I served in the same hospital about the same time, except I got there about a year before he did. Col. Thom was the Hospital commander at that time. Lt. Williams, Capt. Scanlon, Lt. Samuel L. Crook, and a number of other names comes to mind as being there when I was still going up through the enlisted ranks.

Our location was a few block away from the Danube and we served U.S. civilian and military personnel (including dependents) assigned to Linz and various outpost. I won a jeep in a private lottery while there and managed to travel extensively through our Zone. How long the hospital stayed in operation I do not know because I was transferred out of town to Hoersching (later Camp McCauley), to the Medical Detachment, 4th Constabulary Regt. at Horsching, Austria, with  many unexpected events occurring: from Russian pilots escaping by plane to our base and the like.  I subsequently became first Sergeant, and was proud to have brought my previously ill-respected unit into shape when in the middle of Winter of 1948, on the snow and ice-covered tarmac which represented part of a world war II military airstrip, where every unit competed for the outstanding position, the MEDIC's won the day and was the first to march off the filed, their heads high.

. An incident on the Danube took place while I was there, wherein once of our excursion paddle-wheel boats had engine trouble and the boat drifted to the Russian side. They attempted to board, asked my Sergeant friend to take down the flag, and when he refused to do so, the Russian Lt. decided to do it himself, our battle decorated sergeant (Anzio) pushed a 45 against his head with words to the fact that he did that, he'd have his damn head blown off. The young Lt. and his small cadre of troops quickly retreated and thus began a standoff. It gained international attention at that time, then without fan fare the Americans were suddenly allowed to throw a line and pull it back to Linz. Sgt. Druschel (the man referred to) just died recently and I wrote a testimonial for his daughter to use before the American Legion gave him a gun salute and played taps. I was honored to do so.

A lot of interesting things happened while I was there, from the landing of a Russian aircraft with three souls on board (two of which were defecting, which left their Sergeant confused). I was there moments after it overran the end of the field, and finally came to a rest after one of its landing gears broke after hitting railroad track at the end of the field. Most interesting. Days later, we let the Russians disassemble their plane and truck it back across the Danube. Of interest is the fact that Russian officers forbade their troops from receiving cigarettes from the G.I.'s., yet they didn't mind participating in American luxury hospitality for themselves.

One thing I am particularly proud of, is the fact that just before I left in Jan of 1949, sometime after taking over a pretty unmilitary and slovenly group of medic enlisted personnel as their first sergeant, I was to whip them into shape so that when it came time for an all unit inspection by the commanding General, the MEDIC's (out of thousands of men), to everyone's shock were the proud winners and were given the honor of being the first to march off the frozen winter airfield, followed by all the other units! I left Horesching and my friend with a heavy heart, but with the satisfaction of knowing that a once slovenly unit was proud of themselves and did not hesitate thanking me for caring so much. While at Horesching, we did go out on a number of maneuvers through the snow-bound mountains, over hills and dales, under treacherous conditions. I still remember being cold and getting a slight touch of frost bite because we did not have sufficient winter clothing (like shoe packs); had to double as ambulance driver, sleep in snow, and a host of other things. I'm still bothered by the cold. Another incident I recall, is the unexpected explosion of an ammo destruction dump some miles away (in one of Austria's many districts Bezirks?). A number of military and civilians were killed and/or seriously burned. Ammunition was still going off when we arrived. It was crazy, but I did manage to pull a body back after crawling on the ground to where the unknown person lay, burned beyond recognition. The badly burned American (though he didn't appear so) died days later at the 124th, from kidney failure, a complication of burns.

Later on, I decided to return to the U.S. where I continued my service and education.  After 11 years of work, I acquired everything from my high school diploma, AA, BA and MHA degree, plus my commission until finally retiring in 1968. Since that time I have managed and consulted on hospitals throughout the U.S. and abroad, and even ran for Governor of the State of Hawaii [where I was raised by my Army dad].  I even went to school on Ford Island with a lot of other army and navy kids, before Hickam was built and things changed. We left Hawaii months before the war started and never returned except when my ship passed through on its way to the south pacific.  A lot of interesting experiences!

I eventually finished up with the Air Force as a Major, USAF, MSC, retired.n I shall never forget my experiences in Austria, nor my many friends.n I still miss the civilian [formerly military] jeep I won in a lottery, and only recently resurrected it's memory as a model.  Photo's recently taken of it, along with what I could find to make a shadow box of ribbons and medals earned in the various services.

Photo of Jeep
The picture will be posted soon.

Photo of medals
The picture will be posted soon.

My books are doing quite well.  Cayman Gold, the title of one, should be of interest to everyone because it deals with the last days of Hitler's Third Reich, the removal of gold and other treasures from the Reichbank bank by U-boat, days before the war ended, carrying escaping Nazi criminals, then to a time and place 50 years later [in the Caribbean] where it is rediscovered and all hell breaks loose.

It is carried in books stores like Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Borders, or can be ordered through my site..  My other publications are also listed on the site and can be viewed at anytime to those who have computers.  Besides marketing my various novels, the screenplay to Cayman Gold, has been under consideration by Hollywood.

About the aurthor.
Email (personal): johnhankins@sbcglobal.net
Web site featuring my books:  www.writersbookclub.net
Ph.  (713) 541-1743

John Hankins on RT
Letterman Gen. Hospital
San Francisco, CA
Prior to Austria                                        John Hankins, 124th Station Hospital 1947 Linz, Austria  US Constabulary

 John Hankins with gun and Marines friends who will go to Iwo Jima               John Hankins on top of Amphibious Vehicle used in Caman.

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Page update  Feb. 1, 2007