When he was 18, longtime Dodgers team physician Dr. Frank Jobe was involved in the siege of Bastogne near the end of World War II. (Associated Press photo)
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Stan Conte was holding court with a group of reporters at Camelback Ranch on Friday, remembering Dr. Frank Jobe. The two knew each other well, the head trainer and the longtime team physician. They spoke often during their seven-plus years together in the organization about their profession, and about topics that went far beyond the scope of sports medicine.
Conte had been discussing Jobe’s impact on the profession Friday when he stopped to make a separate point.
“His World War II accolades are unbelievable,” Conte said, mentioning Jobe’s role in the Siege of Bastogne.
“Bastogne?” I asked, trying out a French word that I didn’t know how to spell because, well, it’s French. Conte said something about “kids these days” not knowing their history. Everyone had a good chuckle.
Here’s something you may or may not know about Dr. Frank Jobe and the Siege of Bastogne.
Jobe was 18 years old in the winter of 1944, a private sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division of the Army, Medical Company 326. He arrived in Europe just before the invasion of Normandy (June 6, 1944). Under the command of Maj. General Maxwell D. Taylor, the unit received telephone orders on Dec. 18 that it was to move north from its station at Camp Mourmelon in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. Bastogne was 100 miles away to the northeast. A total of 380 trucks were needed to move Jobe — and roughly 11,000 other men — that night.
The Allied stronghold contained a key network of roads that Adolf Hitler knew would be needed to advance his cause westward. According to authors Leo Barron and Don Cygan in their book No Silent Night: The Christmas Battle For Bastogne, Hitler planned a mission that was “more a punishment for the people of Bastogne. … Civilian targets would be hit indiscriminately and numerous Bastogne citizens would be killed on this Christmas Eve, buried in the rubble of their homes and shops. Collateral damage was not Hitler’s concern, but to him it was a fitting by-product for their support for the Allies.”
A total of 29 officers and 312 enlisted men in the 101st division perished in the attack. Another 103 officers and 1,588 enlisted men were wounded. Owing to the capture of a hospital, the 326th Medical Company recorded the largest number of missing troops of any unit at Bastogne, with 125.
Jobe’s role, according to Doug Miller of MLB.com:
Jobe assisted the doctors. Set back a ways from the front lines, with the sound of shells zipping by, they’d set up light sources and generators if they had to. That’s where they did the amputations. He saw blood, and it was just that. Blood. It was red. You needed it. He didn’t panic. He didn’t see any reason to. That’s just the way it was.
Bolstered by troops under the command of Gen. George Patton, the Allies ended the siege on Dec. 26. The Germans ultimately were forced to withdraw from the Ardennes region on January 7, 1945.
“That’s the reason you’re speaking English and not German,” Conte quipped.
When the larger Battle of the Bulge finally ended on Jan. 25, it was the costliest fight in Army history in terms of casualties.
I’ll have more from Dodgers camp later about Jobe, who died yesterday at age 88. Here’s a great read from Joe Posnanski about one of Jobe’s early non-Dodgers patients. Rob Neyer, writing for FoxSports.com, advocates for Jobe’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
So did many folks in Dodgers camp today. There will be a moment of silence in his honor prior to the Dodgers’ Cactus League game against the Texas Rangers.
Some bullet points for a National Cereal Day: