|Battalion Surgeon, 1LT Harland Hermann: "War Experiences Are Not Anything I Recommend"|
|Finishing medical school in time to see action in Italy, Dr. Harland Hermann never lost his interest in the psychological effects of combat. His own experiences as first a Battalion Surgeon for the 442nd Infantry and then a psychiatrist for the VA provide an insightful 60+ year perspective on the evolution of "Combat Neurosis" to "PTSD". And if you meet Dr Hermann today, I guarantee he'll pull a tiny notebook out of his shirtpocket and make notes to research later! His experience with the Nisei Soldiers of the 442nd Infantry paints a picture of an unusual unit in combat, poised for victory but still at war. It's an amazing story from an amazing man.|
|Harland remembers Pearl Harbor as the day that "changed everything, all at once". He was a freshman in medical school at the time and found his education chaotically accelerated; by September 1944 he was in uniform as a 1LT in the Medical Corp, Army of the United States. The new inductees deduced they were going to the European theatre when they didn't receive a yellow fever immunization! A zigzag voyage across the Atlantic culminated in a plane/truck/jeep journey to one of the most unusual units in the Army: the 442nd Infantry.
This highly decorated "Go For Broke" unit was comprised of Asian American soldiers, mostly Japanese. In fact, many of Harland's hard-charging US soldiers had families "behind barbed wire in a dozen different concentration camps scattered in the hinterland of the U.S., victims of prejudice and fear." On young Dr. Hermann's arrival, the presiding Battalion Surgeon promptly headed to Rome on leave. Old-timers congratulated him on arriving after the action had cooled but thumping artillery fire reminded him he was "really there". In fact, future Senators Bob Dole and Daniel Inouye had been severely wounded in the area just before Dr. Hermann's arrival.
Soon the days blended into a string of mental snapshots: constant relocations up and down the Italian coast, gifts of flowers and wine from the civilians, the medical needs of 400 men, looking west near La Spezia and thinking "over there lies home." With intense recall and no chance of closure, he remembered a 19 year old German soldier shot in the chest and left for dead along the road. Dr Hermann treated him as best he could, talking with the wounded man in German about his home in Hamburg. Sixty years later, Dr Hermann wondered if the soldier somehow survived; "there was nothing more I could do for him but send him back by our ambulance". Eventually Dr Hermann's unit processed over 80,000 German POWs in one month: "they looked pretty good soldiers, actually. It was good we didn't have to fight them any longer than we did."
Six months later Dr. Hermann was back "eating hamburgers and real ice cream" in the USA, assigned to a year in the chest disease ward at Fitzsimmons Army hospital. The names of the 442nd comrades in his address book, "forever important to me", brought back memories during his years in practice as a psychiatrist at the VA. "I suspect that people are fascinated with the tales of war if old soldiers will reveal them - they are secured with misery." Dr Hermann, you are absolutely right.
|Excellent 8 minute video tribute to the 442nd Infantry from the Go For Broke National Education Center|
|More memories and photos of Dr Harland Hermann|