Early Life, Being Drafted, Medic Training and Overseas Deployment
Chasing the Germans and Treating Wounded
Assault Toward Monte Cassino
Monte Cassino and Treating Wounded
Anzio, Being Wounded and Being Evacuated to Naples
War's End, Going Home and Coping with PTSD
Joseph Hochadel served in the 34th Infantry Division, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion as a combat medic. He was born in 1924 in Newark, New Jersey. He went through grammar school and got through three years of high school. Hochadel left school to support his family. His father got him a job helping an auto mechanic. Shortly after that he got another job working for a linoleum factory. After the factory Hochadel was drafted. Hochadel was born in December and two weeks after his birthday he got a notice from the draft board requesting that he report for a physical. Hochadel passed the physical then was indoctrinated and trained for about two weeks before heading off to Camp Pickett, Virginia for basic training. They thought Hochadel would be best suited for the medics. He took a course which was about eight to 12 weeks long which taught him how to be a combat medic. Hochadel did not have any qualifications except for the answers to his test. Hochadel's training was mostly in sterile techniques and bandaging. They taught him how to check the vital signs and how to apply a tourniquet. He was also qualified to drive a jeep. Hochadel was then sent to Pennsylvania for a brief stay and then on to a place near Boston. They were eventually sent back to Newport, Virginia to go overseas. It was April or May 1944. Hochadel was sent overseas on an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. He went over with the guys that he trained with. One guy was from Hochadel's hometown. They landed in Oran, North Africa. From there they went through the Straits of Gibraltar to Casablanca. From there they were put onto boxcars which took them across Africa. By that time, the 34th Infantry Division had chased Rommel across the desert. They had also accumulated about 10,000 German prisoners. All of the other Germans were trying to escape to Italy. Hochadel boarded a boat which was in the general vicinity of Kasserine Pass and ended up landing in Naples, Italy in roughly June 1944. The fighting had just ended in Naples. There was an explosion near the harbor and one of Hochadel's buddies yelled for Hochadel to grab a litter. They found a Catholic Priest who had his leg blown off by a mine. They put him on a litter and they all got out of there safely. That was the first gruesome experience Hochadel had. It was a scary moment. Hochadel had never been in a mine field. He did what he was supposed to do and it worked out. Right after that his squad leader passed out a piece of paper and he asked people to write down questions about combat. Hochadel told them he thought that all of the aid stations should have radios in order to expedite getting wounded men help. They all got radios in combat.
Joseph Hochadel was in combat shortly after patching up the chaplain. Hochadel recalls getting a call about some wounded GIs. He got about four guys together and they ended up getting pinned down by machine gun fire. He and the men decided to drop the litter. Hochadel jumped over a cliff and rolled down into a gulley and it was filled with dead Germans. They proceeded to chase and fight the Germans north. Hochadel entered combat just north of Naples. He knew that being a medic was his job. He could see how much some of the guys were suffering. Hochadel was told to not go up to the guys because there was a minefield. All of the soldiers were lying in the field and they were yelling at Hochadel to get back. Hochadel was never able to get those wounded guys. The guys were scared. The line moved on and they recovered. Hochadel recalls one time when the infantry guys told him that they were living in death. Hochadel retreated to his tent and it was raining and snowing. It was better than being near the farmhouse. They ate their meal and the next day they were told they were going to Monte Cassino. Hochadel found a foxhole on the line but there was a dead German in it. The next foxhole he got in was full of water. Hochadel managed to get an hour or two of sleep. The next morning they started off for Cassino. Hochadel remembers people shouting for medics. One of the guys that Hochadel had eaten Christmas dinner with was in a hole half buried and dead. Hochadel never got over that because he was not able to stop and properly grieve for his friend. They were able to move the wounded into a nearby farmhouse. A German pillbox was still causing problems for the infantry. Luckily, the American troops had passed them but the Germans were still in there calling in artillery. The Germans were able to shell the aid station. That night the call came in for wounded and Hochadel was asked again to grab a liter and get the wounded. They had been through a lot. Hochadel asked the chaplain to say a prayer for them. A GI warned Hochadel that there was a minefield they had to walk through. Suddenly, the wind messed up the markings in the mine field so Hochadel had to navigate it himself.
Joseph Hochadel and his squad started down the road and a German tank began to shell them. It was traumatic and they got down low on the ground to crawl. There were roughly 200 guys nearby. Hochadel and the other medics checked everyone's vitals but they were all dead. Hochadel saw a tank there and one of the fellows in there was burnt to a crisp. Hochadel thought he was hearing the Germans and it was pitch black. There was some light because a bush was on fire on the other side of the road. They got through the minefield successfully. Two days later they went back with their entire aid station. The Germans in the pillbox had been taken out and the Americans set up an aid station there. When Hochadel got a chance to peek around inside the bunker it amazed him that the apertures were perfectly covering their approaches. After that they started towards Cassino. They were shelled constantly because the Germans had superior artillery and spotting. The Germans used the 88 artillery piece [Annotator's Note: 88mm multi-purpose artillery piece]. The SS troops were tough and they would never give up. Hochadel remembers they caught a German SS soldier and he was incredibly adamant and proud. The 133rd [Annotator's Note: US Army's 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division] fought its way to the outskirts of Cassino. From there the fighting was building to building. Hochadel picked up one fellow on a litter and put some sulfa powder on his wound. The wounded man's intestines were hanging out. Hochadel told him that he would be alright but Hochadel knew better. The doctors did what they could for him but his chances of survival were zero. Hochadel saw the Allies bomb the monastery. It was a huge bombardment that ended up flattening the whole are. The Germans had tunneled underneath. In three weeks time the 34th Infantry Division lost half of their strength. Hochadel still has nightmares thinking about it. Eventually they were relieved by Indian troops. It took five divisions to hold the ground that the 34th had taken. The guys from the 34th were used in the second landing at Anzio. Near Cassino it was cold and either raining or snowing constantly. They almost froze to death. Hochadel was fortunate because he was in the aid station but the GIs were out on the line and in the elements. The evacuations were tough because they had to be done at night. It was an unbelievable mess. Hochadel remembers a house they stormed and the Germans were upstairs and the Americans were downstairs. It was a nightmare. Guys were saying how they could not take it anymore. The combination of the weather and the combat was tough on people. The Germans were fortified with excellent positions. The German artillery was brutal and their tanks were excellent as well.
The GIs would direct Joseph Hochadel to where the wounded were and then he would apply aid and do what he needed to do. Sometimes they would have to organize a litter because they were not able walk. In the mountains and the hilly areas they had mules that they were able to put guys on. The chaplain wrote Hochadel up in a positive way because Hochadel had devised a device to put a litter on a mule. Besides the mules they had litter teams. If the aid station was far from the lines they had a relay system set up. Hochadel feels that the mule system was successful. Sometimes the men were not able to carry all of the supplies they needed so the mules helped out tremendously. It was too much sometime for a few guys to bring someone back so the mules helped out. Sometimes when they were shelled the mules would take off because they were startled. The mules did a fantastic job and they could not do without them because of the steepness of the mountains. Hochadel was right at the base of the abbey [Annotator's Note: the abbey on top of Monte Cassino, Italy]. The bombers hit the target right on the button. Hochadel was fairly close to the bombing. The abbey was completely covered in smoke and dust. Shortly after that they tried to storm the abbey but the Germans had tunneled underneath it which made it hard to take. Hochadel could not physically see any of the Germans. The Germans were under complete cover. Hochadel experienced a lot of trauma in Italy. He did his best to do his duty. He did not have time to reflect on what was going on at the time. It was his job and it had to be done. Afterwards Hochadel was shaken and it sunk in. When he was out there doing what he had to do he just did it. His training did not fail him. Hochadel did run across a German who was wounded. A shell hit the man and his whole face and jaw were hanging by one bone. Hochadel wrapped him up as best as he could. Hochadel continued on treating his troops. Hochadel was wounded about six or seven months later and he was flown back to Naples. The German that Hochadel had saved was back there but he did not talk to him. The German was not thankful that his life was saved.
Joseph Hochadel landed in the second wave at Anzio and they unpacked their aid station into a jeep. They commandeered the first farmhouse they could find. The beachhead was only ten miles long and the Germans had excellent visibility. The farmhouse they set up in was U shaped and it had an outhouse in the backyard. The Germans began to shell the outhouse and Hochadel dove for the outhouse. The shelling lasted about 30 seconds and Hochadel had a premonition to run away from the outhouse. About 25 seconds later the outhouse took a direct hit from the shell. It was the grace of God. The 34th Infantry Division had more days in combat in Europe than any other division in Europe. At Cassino they lost half of their division in three weeks. They lost a lot of medics as well. They got into the lines at Anzio and they set up another aid station. Hochadel would go out every night in a jeep and visit the various company casualty collection points and round guys up. He was also responsible for bringing supplies up to the front. They were not able to move in the day time because the Germans had perfect visibility. The German artillery shelling was bad and most of the fellows who were wounded in the daytime could not move. A lot of the guys were slaughtered because they could not be rescued during the day. They had a coordinated attack and they broke through. The 34th Infantry Division had cut off Route 6. They had the English with them as well and the Germans retreated. They knew they would be surrounded eventually at Anzio. It took five divisions to push through Cassino. After Cassino they were on the attack to Rome. When they entered Rome people were superbly happy. It was wonderful. Above Rome they had to set up a line. Hochadel visited the Basilica in Vatican City. After Rome, there was fighting all the way up to Northern Italy. They fought all the way up to Pisa. Hochadel was wounded in Northern Italy. It was one of the last offensives in Italy and they were attempting to push the Germans back through Austria. They were going through a mine field and a tank hit a mine which wounded Hochadel in the leg. Hochadel was eventually flown back to Naples. It was an incredible effort for Hochadel to get back to Naples. The mine shrapnel almost took his kneecap off. They were able to reattach it but it still bothers him to this day.
Joseph Hochadel was wounded in his left leg and had one surgery to fix it. He was in the hospital for approximately a month. From there they asked him where he wanted to go but he realized the war was almost over so he volunteered to go back with his outfit. The war was over when he rejoined it and it was nice because he was able to hang out with his buddies. Hochadel had enough points to go home and he was sent to an embarkation spot for the trip home. The war ruined Hochadel's life. The war made it impossible for Hochadel to continue on with his life. His memories were too strong and he just could not cope. The first six months Hochadel was home he was drunk. Eventually Hochadel's father got him down to the VA [Annotator's Note: Veterans Administration] and got him trained up for a vocational job. They taught him how to be an electrician. Hochadel went to school for six hours a day and he ended up getting a job to try to stay sober. He went from seven in the morning to 11 at night. He realized he had to earn a living so he really applied himself and tried his best to study. He got a job working for a licensed electrician. Hochadel realized that he was more intelligent than his boss so he went out and started getting work on his own. Hochadel's wife can tell you that he still has nightmares and he ends up hollering at night. For awhile they had Hochadel on valium. He was on valium three times a day and his daughter told him it was bad. His doctor got upset by it. Hochadel gave up the valium and he tries to not take it at all. Hochadel got a new psychiatrist.
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