32nd General Hospital Collection, ca. 1918-1997
World War I and World War II necessitated the expansion not only of the combat forces of the U.S. military but also of its medical services. To help meet this need, medical schools and the American Red Cross sponsored the creation of hospital units. The Indianapolis medical community followed this trend during both wars. In 1917, the Indianapolis Chapter of the American Red Cross established the unit eventually designated Base Hospital 32. Almost all of the doctors, nurses, and enlisted men originally assigned to the unit came from Indianapolis or central Indiana. In 1942, the Indiana University Medical Center set up the 32nd General Hospital. Named in honor of its World War I predecessor, this unit drew most of its original medical and nursing staffs from the IU Medical Center. Both units served in Europe.
The records consist of photocopies of unit files of the 32nd General Hospital; unit histories, scrapbooks, and personal reminiscences compiled after the wars; records relating to reunions held by members of the 32nd General Hospital, photographs, an 8mm film of the 32nd General Hospital and two videotape copies of the film.
This collection is open to the public without restriction. The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) govern the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.
Cite as: 32nd General Hospital Collection, ca.1918-1997, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
Presented by unit members, October, 1984-January, 1998.
Processed by Gregory H. Mobley, March 1998
World War I and World War II necessitated the expansion not only of the combat forces of the U.S. military but also of its medical services. To help meet this need, medical schools and the American Red Cross sponsored the creation of hospital units. The Indianapolis medical community followed this example during both wars. In 1917, the Indianapolis Chapter of the American Red Cross established the unit that was eventually designated Base Hospital 32. In 1942, the Indiana University Medical Center set up the 32nd General Hospital.
Base Hospital 32 sprang from an offer to the Indianapolis Chapter of the American Red Cross by Josiah K. Lilly, Sr., president of the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly & Company, in February 1917 to donate $25,000 to cover the costs of equipping a 500-bed hospital unit, to be known as the Colonel Eli Lilly Memorial Red Cross Hospital in honor of J. K. Lilly’s father. The Red Cross accepted the offer and in April 1917, following the U.S. declaration of war against Germany, the unit was organized with Dr. John H. Oliver as director and the Indianapolis City Hospital as the parent hospital. Almost all of the 29 doctors, 59 nurses, and 180 enlisted men originally assigned to the unit came from Indiana. The final cost of creating the hospital eventually exceeded $50,000. J. K. Lilly and his wife made a second donation of $15,000, and contributions by other Indianapolis residents covered the remainder of the expenses.
Base Hospital 32 was officially inducted into the U.S. Army on 1 September, 1917, and control of the unit passed from the Red Cross to the War Department. Dr. Oliver was disqualified for military service due to physical disability, and Dr. Edmund D. Clark replaced him as the hospital director. The officers and enlisted men entered Fort Benjamin Harrison, just outside of Indianapolis, on 1 September, 1917 to begin three months of military training. The nurses were sent to the Columbia War Hospital in New York City on 9 September, 1917 and later to St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken, New Jersey and then to Ellis Island to prepare for transportation to France.
The officers and enlisted men left Fort Benjamin Harrison on 1 December, 1917 for Hoboken, New Jersey. Rejoined by the nurses, the unit sailed from Hoboken to Brest, France on the ocean liner George Washington on 4 December, 1917. The ship arrived at Brest on 20 December, but Base Hospital 32 did not go ashore until 24 December. Leaving Brest by train on the same day, the outfit arrived at Contrexéville, a French town approximately 220 miles east of Paris, on 26 December, 1917.
Contrexéville had long been noted for the medicinal properties of its natural springs, and several resort hotels had been built to house visitors who came to town. Five hotels--the Cosmopolitain-Palace, the Hotel de Paris, the Hotel Royal, the Hotel de la Providence, and the Hotel de la Providence Annex--served as hospital facilities for Base Hospital 32, whose official capacity was increased from 500 to 1,250 beds. The unit used parts of other hotels for office and storage space and as living quarters for the personnel.
Following an inspection of Base Hospital 32 on 17 January, 1918, the senior staff was reorganized in preparation for the unit being placed on active duty. Maj. H. R. Beery was named commanding officer and Maj. Edmund Clark remained as director. Beery’s tenure as commander, however, was of short duration. The stress of his duties led to health problems, resulting in the decision in February, 1918 to relieve him of command and transfer him back to the United States. Maj. Clark served as acting commanding officer until Maj. H. H. Van Kirk, a career Army officer, assumed command in early March. Van Kirk held this position until 15 July, 1918, when he became the commanding officer of Base Hospital 18. Edmund Clark, recently promoted to lieutenant colonel, assumed command of Base Hospital 32.
The number of personnel assigned to Base Hospital 32 increased on 13 March, 1918 when Hospital Unit R joined the unit. Hospital Unit R was organized in southeastern Iowa in the spring of 1917 by Dr. James F. Clarke of Fairfield, Iowa. The unit had 12 doctors, 21 nurses, and 50 enlisted men. The officers and enlisted men underwent military training at Fort McPherson near Atlanta, Georgia from December, 1917 to February, 1918 while the nurses were trained on Governor’s Island, New York during the same period. The officers and men joined the nurses in early February, 1918 and on 16 February the unit sailed from New York for Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard H.M.S. Carmania. On 21 February the Carmania sailed from Halifax for Liverpool, arriving in the English port on 4 March. The outfit arrived at Le Havre, France on 10 March and joined Base Hospital 32 at Contrexéville on 13 March, 1918.
Base Hospital 32 received its first large contingent of patients on 23 March, 1918. The hospital continued treating patients until it closed on 7 January, 1919, two months after the armistice ended the fighting. During its term of service, the hospital treated 9,698 patients, and only 118 died.
With the end of fighting, the outfit began preparing for its eventual return to the United States. As the number of patients dropped, equipment in the unused hospital areas was packed up. Many officers and nurses either returned to the United States for discharge or were transferred to other units in France. Edmund Clark was relieved of command on 22 January, 1919 in preparation for his departure for the U.S., and James F. Clarke of Hospital Unit R became the commanding officer of Base Hospital 32.
Base Hospital 32 left Contrexéville on 20 February, 1919. The unit’s nurses sailed from Brest on 4 March, 1919 aboard the transport ship America. They were discharged from the Army following their arrival in New York on 13 March. Most of the officers and enlisted men returned to the United States aboard the U.S.S. Zeelandia, arriving in Charleston, South Carolina on 17 April, 1919. They were then transferred to the discharge camps nearest their homes. The remainder of the unit sailed from St. Nazaire, France to New York City aboard the U.S.S. Freedom, arriving on 28 April. Many of these men arrived in Indianapolis in time to take part in the Victory Parade held on 7 May, 1919. The men of Hospital Unit R were discharged in Des Moines, Iowa on 12 May, 1919. Base Hospital officially ceased to exist on 10 May, 1919.
The 32nd General Hospital began when Willis Gatch, dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine, asked Drs. Cyrus J. Clark (son of Edmund Clark of Base Hospital 32) and Charles F. Thompson to organize a hospital unit late in 1941. On 13 May, 1942, 47 doctors and dentists and 72 nurses were formally inducted into the United States Army during a special convocation held on the grounds of the IU Medical Center in Indianapolis.
The unit was officially activated on 15 January, 1943 at Camp Bowie near Brownwood, Texas under the command of Lt. Col. Frank Alexander, a career Army officer. The doctors and dentists from Indianapolis arrived at Camp Bowie on 18 March and were joined by the nurses on 5 May. The enlisted personnel assigned to the unit came from all parts of the United States. Lt. Col. Cyrus Clark was named chief of medical service, Lt. Col. Charles Thompson became chief of surgical service, and 1st Lt. (Later Maj.) Aurelia Willers served as chief nurse.
The outfit trained at Camp Bowie until August, 1943 when it received orders to move to England. The medical officers and enlisted men sailed from New York to Swansea, Wales aboard the S.S. Borinquin. The nurses first sailed from New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia on the S.S George S. Simmons and then to Scotland aboard the Queen Mary. The unit then reassembled at Fairford, Gloucestshire.
The 32nd General Hospital remained at Fairford from 16 September, 1943 to 9 May, 1944. From 28 September, 1943 to 20 January, 1944, a group of doctors and nurses from the unit, designated as Detachment A, operated a station hospital at Ullenwood, Gloucestershire under the command of Lt. Col. Clark. On 31 January 1944, Lt. Col. Alexander was transfered to the 68th Station Hospital, and Lt. Col. Clark assumed command of the 32nd General Hospital. The unit was stationed at Minchinhampton, Gloucester from 9 May to 27 July, 1944, then shipped out for France.
The 32nd General Hospital was the first Allied general hospital to arrive in France after the D-Day landings. Stationed at La Haye du Puits in Normandy, the unit handled 5,350 patients between 17 August and 22 November, 1944. The 32nd was then placed on inactive status and transferred to Belgium, where it remained until early 1945. During this time, 3 officers and 27 enlisted men of the unit were slightly injured by V-1 and aerial bombings.
The unit became the first U.S. Army general hospital stationed in Germany when it moved into a civilian hospital in Aachen, Germany early in 1945. From 5 March to 30 July, 1945, the hospital treated 41,797 patients. The hospital was closed on 30 July and moved to Mourmelon, France on 12 August, 1945. Most of the personnel then left France at Marseilles aboard the S.S. Marine Angel on 3 October and arrived in New York 12 October, 1945. Other members of the unit sailed from other ports, and some of the officers flew back to the United States. The officers and enlisted men were discharged from the Army at Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh, Indiana in late October, 1945 and the 32nd General Hospital was officially deactivated.
Hitz, Benjamin D., ed. A History of Base Hospital 32 [Including Unit R]. Indianapolis: Edward Kahle Post No. 42, American Legion, 1922.RELATED MATERIALS
Thompson, Joseph F., ed. Projects & Expeditions: The Letters of Charles F. Thompson, M.D., Lt. Col. Med-AUS, March 1943-July 1945. Indianapolis: By the author, 1992.
Woolley, Alma S. "A Hoosier Nurse in France: The World War I Diary of Maude Frances Essig." Indiana Magazine of History 82 (March 1986): 37-68.
RG 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917- , National Archives.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The collection consists of materials relating to the 32nd General Hospital, with the exception of one photograph from Base Hospital 32. These materials include copies of official unit records supplied by the National Archives and Records Administration, brief histories of the 32nd General Hospital written by members of the unit, items from a scrapbook compiled by a member of the 32nd General Hospital, newspaper clippings, items relating to reunions held by members of the 32nd General Hospital, photographs from Base Hospital 32 and the 32nd General Hospital, and audiovisual materials relating to the 32nd General Hospital.
There are four series: Unit Records, Histories, Reunion Records, and Photographs/Audiovisuals.
Unit Records, 1942-1945, contain photocopies of annual reports, daily activities reports, and general orders compiled by the headquarters staff of the 32nd General Hospital, and records relating to individuals assigned to the 32nd General Hospital. The annual reports were prepared by various senior officers of the 32nd General Hospital and sent to the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. The reports include information on activation and early history, operations, problems of redeployment, military and civilian personnel, training, equipment and supplies, housing and water supplies, improvisations, food and messing, sewage and waste disposal, venereal disease control, medical and surgical services, nursing and dental services, evacuation of patients, and welfare, social service and recreation. There is also a report about Detachment A when it was assigned to the station hospital at Ullenwood, Gloucestershire.
The daily activities reports cover the period 15 January, 1943-31 December, 1944. The reports list individuals’ change of duty status on a daily basis (i.e., assigned to unit, active duty to leave, detached service, or sick in quarters or hospital, return to active duty, etc.). The reports refer only to the duty status of officers; enlisted men are not included in these reports.
The general orders cover December, 1943 through November, 1944, but some of the orders are missing. General Orders 1-8 and 11 for 1943 are missing, as are General Orders 1-2, 4-8, 16, 27, 43, and 47 for 1944. These general orders list patients at the 32nd General Hospital who have been awarded either the Purple Heart or an oak-leaf cluster to the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. A few rescissions of medals awarded are also listed.
The personnel records are a pass for S/Sgt. Raymond Ruffing, a photocopy of Maj. William Gambill’s certificate of service, and a photocopy of T/5 Steve Glozer’s immunization register and troop assignment card. Glozer served with the 56th General Hospital after serving with the 32nd General Hospital.
Histories, 1942-1945, contain reminiscences about the 32nd General Hospital written by Marian (Fry) Ohmer, a nurse, and Mark Gill, an enlisted man. The reminiscences concern the unit’s movements and activities from 1942 to 1945, but the date they were actually written is unknown. The series contains photocopied pages of a scrapbook from Sarah Carr and both photocopied pages and original items from a scrapbook donated by Dr. Robert Rang. Rang was an original member of the 32nd General Hospital but was transferred out on 27 April, 1943. He later served overseas with the 50th Medical Battalion. Many of the items in his scrapbook come from the period after he left the 32nd General Hospital. Photocopied newspaper clippings contain information about the 32nd General Hospital from the induction of the doctors and nurses in May, 1942 until the outfit’s return to the United States in 1945. Finally, the series includes a map showing the movements and stations of the 32nd General Hospital from 1942 to 1945. Robert B. Peck of the John Herron School of Art prepared the map at an unknown date.
Reunion Records, ca. 1950s-1997, contain a roster of members of the 32nd General Hospital, photocopies of newspaper articles about reunions of the 32nd General Hospital, letters about the 1983 reunion in Texas and the 1984 reunion in Indianapolis, a press release about the 1986 reunion in Texas, and a souvenir T-shirt and handcrafted memento from the 1997 reunion in Indianapolis.
Photographs/Audiovisual Materials, ca. 1918-1997, contain an 8mm film, two videotapes, and photographs. The 8mm film, shot by Lt. Col. Charles Thompson, shows the special induction ceremony for the doctors and nurses of the 32nd General Hospital on 13 May, 1942 and scenes from Fairford, England in 1943 or 1944. The two videotapes are copies, made in 1997, of the film. One oversize photograph is a posed shot of some of the officers of Base Hospital 32 (ca. 1918). Some of the photographs are mounted in an album donated by Anna Corbin (1942-1945). Some photographs are from the scrapbook donated by Robert Rang (1942-1945); not all of these photographs relate to the 32nd General Hospital. The remaining photographs are of the 32nd General Hospital (1942-1945), but some are not individually identified. Some of the photographs are posed shots of various personnel, both officers and enlisted men. Other photographs show training activities at Camp Bowie, Texas or buildings and locations where the 32nd General Hospital was stationed during the war.
Last updated by on 03/22/2009