|Home State||Civilian Occupation|
|Mediterranean||Medical Detachment, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division|
|Purple Heart||North Africa, Italy including the Po Valley campaign|
Author’s note: Delaware’s World War II Fallen occasionally highlights men and women without any known connection to the First State. Private 1st Class Desorcy served with the author’s grandfather in the 32nd Station Hospital in Algeria and Italy. This article is an expanded version of a profile originally published on the 32nd Station Hospital website on September 30, 2021.
Early Life & Family
Raymond Vernon Desorcy was born on South Main Street in Millbury, Massachusetts, on March 28, 1924. He was the son of Alexander L. Desorcy (a wool weaver and later laborer, 1892–1955) and Mary Schofield Desorcy (1893–1987). Desorcy was recorded on the census on April 17, 1930, living on Main Street in the village of Saundersville in Grafton, Massachusetts, along with his parents, two sisters, and three brothers. His brother, Alfred, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
According to Desorcy’s enlistment data card, before he joined the military, he had completed grammar school, was living in Worcester County, Massachusetts—where both Millbury and Grafton are located—and was working in a textile factory. Military paperwork stated that Desorcy stood five feet, 6½ inches tall and weighed 132 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes, and that his religious preference was Catholic.
Training & Service in the 32nd Station Hospital
Desorcy volunteered for the U.S. Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in Boston on April 10, 1942, and was briefly stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. That same month, he transferred to the Medical Replacement Training Center at Camp Lee, Virginia. As of June 9, 1942, Private Desorcy was a member of the 9th Medical Training Battalion. He was briefly stationed at the Medical Replacement Training Center at Camp Pickett, Virginia, before he was assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital on September 4, 1942, per Transfer Order No. 978. Private Desorcy joined the hospital unit at Camp Rucker, Alabama, on September 10, 1942. The following month, on October 26, 1942, the unit moved to Fort Benning, Georgia. On December 27, 1942, the unit departed for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, by train, arriving the following day. Camp Kilmer was a staging area for the New York Port of Embarkation.
On the morning of January 13, 1943, the main body of the 32nd Station Hospital boarded the transport U.S.S. Ancon (AP-66) at the New York Port of Embarkation. The following day, the ship sailed for Algeria. After an uneventful sea journey, Ancon arrived at the port of Mers-el-Kébir, near Oran, Algeria, on January 26, 1943. The following day, the 32nd Station Hospital disembarked and went into staging in nearby Bouisseville. In Algeria, the hospital was part of the Mediterranean Base Section.
On February 18, 1943, the main body of the unit moved inland to Tlemcen, Algeria. The unit’s enlisted men were housed at the Grand Hotel des Voyageurs. The unit converted a pair of school buildings, constructing hospital wards, surgical facilities, a dental clinic, and a laboratory. The hospital’s first patients arrived on February 28, 1943. During 1943, the 32nd Station Hospital treated battle casualties from campaigns in Tunisia and Sicily, as well as sick or injured personnel from nearby military facilities, such as the Fifth Army’s Tank Destroyer Training Center in Sebdou, Algeria.
On November 28, 1943, the 32nd Station Hospital ceased operations in Tlemcen. On the night of December 7, 1943, the unit left Tlemcen by train and truck, going into staging outside of Oran. On December 15, 1943, the unit’s men shipped out for Italy aboard a British transport, H.M.T.S. Cameronia. Upon arrival in Naples on December 18, 1943, the men went into staging near Bagnoli. In Italy, the hospital was under the operational control of the Peninsular Base Section, which included many rear echelon support units. Private Desorcy went on detached service with the 23rd General Hospital on January 2, 1944. He returned to the 32nd Station Hospital on January 10, 1944, the same day that the unit moved north by ground to a compound in Caserta. The hospital began accepting patients on January 15, 1944.
Unit morning reports indicate that Private Desorcy had a troubled disciplinary record during his second year of service with the 32nd Station Hospital. Following a special court-martial on March 20, 1944, he was sentenced to the Peninsular Base Section Stockade. He returned to duty at 0900 hours on July 23, 1944, per Special Order No. 194, Headquarters Peninsular Base Section. On the afternoon of July 27, 1944, Private Desorcy went on detached service to the Prophylaxis Station in Caserta per verbal order of the Surgeon, Peninsular Base Section. He returned to the 32nd Station Hospital on August 22, 1944. He went on temporary duty to the U.S. Army Rest Camp, Rome, from October 27–31, 1944.
Service in the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment
Italy’s geography—a narrow peninsula, much of it mountainous—benefitted the German defenders from the beginning of the Italian campaign in September 1943. Repeatedly, Allied forces broke through one defensive line, only to see German forces withdraw north to another. Then, with the successful amphibious operations in Normandy in June 1944 and the South of France in August 1944, most Allied resources shifted to Northwest Europe. Though the Italian campaign had become something of a sideshow, bloody fighting continued there. Northern Italy had relatively little strategic value, though the offensives did tie up German divisions that could otherwise have slowed Allied advances on the Western and Eastern Fronts.
During the fall of 1944, apparently due to a manpower shortage, 61 enlisted men from the 32nd Station Hospital were dispatched to field duty in exchange for 61 reclassified men, largely wounded or injured combat veterans. As part of this process, Private Desorcy and 15 other men transferred to the 1st Replacement Depot on November 17, 1944. By March 30, 1945, Desorcy had been promoted to private 1st class and was a member of the Medical Detachment, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division. The regiment had arrived in Naples on January 13, 1945, and the following month, the unit participated in an offensive at Monte Belvedere in the northern Apennine Mountains.
It appears that by mid-April 1945, Private 1st Class Desorcy was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment aid station. On April 13, 1945, the Fifth Army launched its final offensive of the war. The objective was to smash the German defenses of the Gothic Line (Green Line) in the northern Apennines and break out into the Po Valley, allowing the Allies to encircle most of the remaining German forces in Italy.
The Fifth Army history described the terrain that the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment would be facing:
This Green Line consisted of 3 wooded hills over 2,000 feet high, Mounts Pigna, M’antino, and Pero, forming a wide arc open to the south and commanding the entry into the Samoggia Valley. A northern extension of the Belvedere ridges, these hills constituted the first line of enemy defenses before IV Corps and would be taken by the 10th Mountain Division, attacking on the left of the main Corps thrust, and by the 1st Armored Division[.]
According to Captain George F. Earle’s book, History of the 87th Mountain Infantry in Italy, on the afternoon of April 14, 1945, 2nd Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment was ordered to take Monte Pigna. The following morning, April 15, 1945, Company “E” led the assault on Monte Pigna, supported by Company “F.” The battalion dislodged the German defenders.
Earle wrote in his book:
Early in the day the battalion aid station had moved to Mo. Dozzone, southeast of Mt. Pigna. From here they handled the large number of casualties of the day over a litter haul of three difficult miles. Prisoners were used to carry many of the litters because of the shortage of litter bearers.
By the afternoon of April 16, 1945, the 2nd Battalion aid station had moved up to Monte Pigna. Although the Americans had taken the mountain, Pigna was still within range of artillery. Earle continued:
During the afternoon the advance 2nd Battalion aid station was hit and suffered six killed and nine wounded. Killed from the 2nd Battalion were Pfc. RAYMOND V. DE SORCY, Pfc. WILLIAM G. MILLER, Pvt. SAMUEL L. IRVIN, and Pvt. GEORGE SMITH, JR.
In addition to four men from the 87th Infantry Regiment killed in the attack, Corporal Fields C. Cox and Private 1st Class Clark F. Walker of Company “C,” 10th Medical Battalion, were also killed.
The spring offensive was successful, but costly: The Allies suffered over 16,000 casualties. Of the 16 men transferred from the 32nd Station Hospital to the 1st Replacement Depot for eventual field duty on November 17, 1944, three were killed during the offensive: Private 1st Class Desorcy, two men assigned to the 473rd Infantry Regiment. Private 1st Class William H. Kreis was killed in action on April 13, 1945 and Carmon C. Lewis (described as a private 1st class or a technician 5th grade in various sources) on April 14, 1945. German forces in Italy surrendered on May 2, 1945, less than a week before the final capitulation of the Nazi regime.
An inventory of Private 1st Class Desorcy’s personnel effects following his death recorded his possessions as one toilet article bag, one cigarette holder with case, one roll of film, four letters, and eight photographs.
On June 27, 1945, Private 1st Class Desorcy’s remains and those of five other men killed in the explosion at the aid station were buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery, Castelfiorentino—located near Florence—in Plot Z, Row 70, Common Grave 3575. Individual identification proved impossible and on January 10, 1950, they were reburied in Arlington National Cemetery in Section 34, Graves 4923 and 4924.
Special thanks to the Denver Public Library for their collection of 10th Mountain Division photographs.
32nd Station Hospital morning reports, August 7, 1942 – November 11, 1944. National Personnel Records Center at St. Louis, Missouri.
“Alexander Leion Desorcy.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/144940217/alexander-leion-desorcy
Earle, George F. Imbrie, Barbara, ed. History of the 87th Mountain Infantry in Italy. http://www.sulleormedeinostripadri.it/images/Traduzioni%20download/87thhistory.pdf
Fifth Army History Part IX: Race to the Alps, Chapter III (Diversion and Break-Through). Publisher unknown, circa 1945. https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/1571/rec/3
Goss, Harold L. “Medical History of the Thirty Second Station Hospital.” December 31, 1943. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army). National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://32ndstationhospital.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/32nd-sta-hosp-1943-report.pdf
Goss, Harold L. “Medical History of the Thirty-Second Station Hospital 1 January 1944 to 31 December 1944 incl.” Circa December 31, 1944. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army). National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://32ndstationhospital.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/32nd-sta-hosp-1944-report.pdf
Index to Births in Massachusetts 1921 – 1925 Conpe – Durham. Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, Boston, Massachusetts. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/3928/images/41263_2421406273_0304-00391
Interment Control Forms, 1928–1962. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2590/images/40479_2421402106_0460-02778
Raymond V. Desorcy Individual Deceased Personnel File. National Archives.
Raymond Vernon Desorcy Return of a Birth, March 1924. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QHV-L3JR-W9XJ-H
Silverman, Lowell. “Introduction to the U.S. Army 32nd Station Hospital (1942–1945).” 32nd Station Hospital website. https://32ndstationhospital.com/2018/11/07/introduction-to-the-32nd-station-hospital-1942-1945/
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4607699_00874
World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=11050624&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=398059
Last updated on October 19, 2021
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