More WWII Questions

A few more random WWII questions I am having trouble finding answers to…

  1. In general did the Allies avoid bombing enemy field hospitals if they knew they were there? Did the Axis armies in general avoid bombing Allied field hospitals if they knew they were there?

  2. Would a soldier on either side wearing a red cross on their helmet have a better chance of not being shot than someone not wearing a red cross on their helmet?

  3. If you were an American and going to enlist into the armed services during WWII would your chances of survival have been better enlisting in the Army, Navy or Air Corp? What about the Coast Guard, if that was an option?

  4. Was there any way to enlist in the armed services knowing that you would never be shipped overseas because you were needed to do something like train other soldiers etc.

  1. Generally
  2. It’s not the bullet with your name on it that mattered, it was all the ones addressed “To Whom It May Concern” that were the problem. They didn’t care what you had on your helmet.
  3. Depends on whether you mean percentage-wise or absolutely.
  4. No. Never has been, never will be. You can request, and they can promise, but the Big Green Machine makes its own decisions.
  1. The Red cross makes for a better target.

Also as silenus noted, the bullet being sprayed out of a machine gun doesn’t know about the Red cross. Neither do mortars, land mines, etc. It might help if an enemy soldier had only you in his sights.

There is this rather astonishing wiki on WWII casualties

US 418,000 dead incl 1700 civies .32% of total population

Germany 10+% of total population

USSR 15% of total population

I know that doesn’t actually answer your question but it is a start


oops my estimates were a little high upon re read

Farther down the wiki it does answer some of the statistical questions

Rather mind boggling


The main killer in WW2 was pretty much the same as WW1, artillery so the idea of frontline medics having any protection by red cross markers is unlikely.

For US forces, your survival rate was best in the Navy (except the submarine service) and worst in the Marines. Army and Air Force were somewhere in between.

And you couldn’t just pick a service during WWII, there were slots. My dad knew some folks that helped him enlist in the Navy where he could get radio operator training. That eventually got him into a career as an electrical engineer.

But when he enlisted they lined everyone up that day and two Marines came in and picked the two or three biggest, toughest looking dudes in the line up and off they went. They didn’t get a choice in the matter and my dad said they didn’t seem all that pleased that they were chosen.

Well, they did get pretty frisky with mrAru’s grandfather. Apparently he pretty much wrote the book on hard rock mining and some other allied stuff and he kept trying to enlist and they were set to make him an officer and ship him out with the SeaBees until they looked up his name and qualifications. Then they promptly told him they needed him here in the US doing war related stuff making sure the raw materials for the war effort were produced.

Unlike what most people believe, there were a fair amount of young healthy men that never made it overseas - they were needed on the farms, in factories and running transportation [busses, trains, local shipping]

Slightly off topic but these are claimed losses of equipment from WWII

Russia lost almost 100,000 tanks!


(Bolding mine)

Yes, they did. There’s a famous example that a town in France was being bombed and someone put a red cross of bloodied sheets on the roof of a makeshift hospital and the building was spared. The guy who did it got the Croix de Guerre if memory serves.

In some circumstances it might help. In Citizen Soldier (I believe) Stephan Ambrose relates a story about an American Red Cross truck/jeep that gets lost and pulls up to a German road block, not realizing it’s German. When both sides realize what’s happened there are some awkward stares before the truck turns around and drives off without being shot. Later on another RC truck stops, silently unloads a few crates of cigarettes, and drives off again.

Funny you should mention that…my FIL was trained in the Navy as a Medic, but then was attached with the Marines in the South Pacific in 1944 and finished up in Nagasaki after the bomb was dropped, screening American POWs before they boarded ships home and the civilian population for a few months.

The red cross was an internationally recognised symbol and the western Allies (and Germany) officially followed the Geneva Conventions of 1927. Any breach of these was treated as a crime by the Allies, although it did happen.

Japan and the USSR were not signatories. On the western front in WWII there were pauses in firing to collect the wounded. Such truces were observed between the British and Germans in Arnhem and between the Americans and Germans in the Hurtgen Forest

I read an account once of an ambulance in, I think France, stumbling into Panther. The black-clad tank commander waved them on. On the Eastern front so such mercies were found. Prisoners, wounded or not, died in their millions.

The specific parts of the Geneva Conventions covering medics and field hospitals;

Recognising the Red Cross or other symbols as designating medical personnel;

(Per Paul Fussell) American medics wore red crosses inside white circles on their helmets, and matching armbands, both difficult to keep clean and visible. Germans wore full white tabards with red crosses, like the Queen of Hearts’ playing card soldiers. It was easier for American medics to be shot by mistake.

Chaplains had it worse, although I’m only familiar with WWI: British were only different by their “dog collars;” while German chaplains wore feldgrau capes and flat, wide-brimmed hats; an entirely unique silhouette. (France was going through an anti-clerical phase and had no official chaplains, although conscripted priests were allowed to serve as medics.) I once read a WWII memoir describing a German chaplain Catholic bishop taken prisoner, so the American chaplain priest reverently bowed to kiss his ring, to the astonishment of the GIs present.

I read a book a few years ago by a marine. He stated that the Japanese would aim for the medic, having a dead medic would effect the moral of the marines fighting them.

My uncle once mentioned that the draft board in his area (rural county in western Minnesota) took those known to be bad farmers, while keeping the good ones (those with highest crop yields) working the farm lands. And apparently it was pretty well known in the area just whose farms had the best yields.

This. The Germans could generally be counted on to respect the red cross, however the Japanese would specifically aim for and kill medics. As mentioned, the loss of a medic was devastating on the moral of the troops.