Chapter XIV
The Hospitals

Entrance Portico at the Dublin (Ga.) Naval Hospital
Entrance Portico at the Dublin (Ga.) Naval Hospital

As the enlisted and officer strength of the Navy steadily increased during the period of National Defense, and then expanded with unprecedented rapidity during the war, naval hospital construction followed the accelerating pace, providing an increase in the number of beds from 6,000 in mid-1940 to 72,000 in hospitals and 26,000 in dispensaries1 by mid-1945. From June 1940 to June 1945, the number of continental hospitals was increased from 14 to 45. The number of hospitals in 1945 included 13 special hospitals which had formerly been naval convalescent hospitals and three ex-Army hospitals. In addition, five separate units had been leased as annexes.

Two of the hospitals existing in 1940 had been built in the period between wars; San Diego, established in 1922, and Philadelphia, in 1935. A third designated as the Naval Medical Center, had been started in 1939 at Bethesda, Md., across the District of Columbia line from Washington. Seven of the older establishments served the existing navy yards, and the others served naval activities at Newport, Annapolis, Pensacola, and Great Lakes, and the Marine Corps station at Parris Island. The oldest hospital, established in 1830, was near the Norfolk Navy Yard, in Portsmouth Va.

At Parris Island and Pensacola, temporary hospital facilities built in World War I were used in World War II. Several buildings constructed during the earlier conflict as temporary facilities at Great Lakes, Chelsea, and Newport were also used. Until the completion of the Naval Medical Center, the old hospital at Washington was used.

In 1935, the hospital at Philadelphia was removed from the navy yard. Limited space at the yard and the proposed development of an airfield on the land occupied by the hospital had made it imperative that new quarters he found. The Bureau of Yards and Docks acquired an undeveloped piece of land, a mile and a half northwest of the yard, and on it erected the Navy's first multi-storied hospital. The main building had a central tower, thirteen stories high, flanked by four wings of four and five stories.

Money for the Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., was authorized in the 1939 Appropriation Act. For some time, construction of such a center, in or near Washington, had been contemplated, to replace the old and inadequate naval hospital at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue. In addition to a hospital, the new center was to include a hospital corps school, medical and dental schools, and a research institute. Original plans called for a tower-style building with a permanent capacity of 700 beds, but curtailment of funds necessitated the elimination of two wings and the reduction of bed capacity to 422. Construction began in 1939, and the building was usably completed by April 1943. During the war period, the corps school student capacity reached 500. The students were WAVES, for whom barracks also were constructed.

National Defense Construction

The first hospital financed by National Defense money was built at the Corpus Christi naval air station, where dispensary and hospital facilities were initiated on June 11 1940. All buildings were of wood-frame construction, and all except the two-story administration and operating buildings and quarters were one story in height. Two surgical wards were H-type buildings, connected with the operating building by enclosed passages. Other buildings included a sick-officers' quarters and two treatment wards.

It was not until after two increases in Navy personnel had been authorized and the Navy was expected to have achieved a quota of 172,300 men by June of 1941, that Congress, in the Second Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Act for 1941, appropriated more money for hospital expansion. The Navy requested $8,000,000, but because of financial limitations in the total amount


Sick Officers' Quarters, Charleston (S.C.) Naval Hospital
Sick Officers' Quarters, Charleston (S.C.) Naval Hospital
This building was of stucco-covered concrete-block construction.

set up for the emergency program, the appropriation was reduced to $3,355,000, of which $2,049,000 was for hospital construction.

The money was divided among four stations -- Great Lakes, Norfolk, Pensacola, and Mare Island. New construction on wards was undertaken at the first three, and at Mare Island a separate administration and subsistence building was constructed.

By January 1941, by virtue of increased personnel authorizations after June 1940, the Navy had a total strength of 210,000; the Marine Corps, 75,000. On January 6, the Greenslade Board submitted its report, advocating an ultimate hospital-bed capacity of 12,000 by 1946. This was in direct proportion to the board's suggested personnel quota, maintaining the four-percent ratio required by Navy regulations.

To support the newly established fleet operating base at Terminal Island, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in early 1941 requested authorization to construct a permanent hospital at Long Beach, Calif. This location met the Greenslade Board's stipulation that "hospitals should be located so as to conform to the needs of the personnel in each base area, with additional capacity generally to care for the fleet operations based in the area, yet should not encroach upon other activities." In addition public transportation facilities served Long Beach adequately.

In March 1941, Congress appropriated $1,600,000 for the Long Beach project, and in June a contract was let for a 30-bed hospital. The principal construction provided for a six-story administration building, flanked by two ward wings of three stories each, in the same general plan as the Philadelphia hospital. The hospital was commissioned December 15, 1942. Expansions were made in 1943 and 1944.


Another West Coast project started in 1941 was the addition of a ward and a temporary administration building to the facilities at Mare Island.

Under the same appropriation act which authorized the Long Beach hospital, Congress appropriated an additional $1,840,000 for hospital construction to alleviate the strain imposed on existing facilities, particularly at training stations. A 60-bed ward was added at Newport, and facilities at San Diego were expanded; the aviation training program was supported by construction of additional hospital facilities at Corpus Christi and Jacksonville. Temporary 200-bed hospitals were opened at each station, and expanded to 400-bed capacity within the year.

The regular appropriation bill for 1942 came before the Congressional committees in the spring of 1941. The Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery estimated that an increase of more than 1,000-bed-patients would occur in the daily average occupancy during 1942. Congress, in May, appropriated $1,270,000 for hospital construction, the largest part of which was specified for an extension to the Annapolis hospital. An additional wing also was added to the main building at the Chelsea hospital, and personnel facilities were provided at Norfolk.

Neutrality patrol operations in the Atlantic caused Key West to be reopened as a patrol base early in the period of National Defense. For the construction of hospital facilities at Key West, $800,000 was allotted in July 1941. A permanent 150-bed unit was constructed and received its first patients on October 21, 1942, six days after commissioning.

At the time the Key West appropriation was authorized the Navy's strength had reached 250,000 men, and a further expansion to 369,000 within a year had been authorized. To meet this new increase, Congress provided expanded training facilities and the concomitant hospital increases.

A traditional function of the established naval hospitals was the training of corpsmen. The hospital corpsmen, pharmacist's mates, and hospital apprentices performed many of the duties which nurses performed in private hospitals, and pharmacist's mates aboard small ships often had sole charge of sick bay. The Navy had always been able to train its hospital corpsmen at the established hospitals, with basic courses at Norfolk and San Diego. In 1941, however, it became necessary to establish several hospital corps schools as separate entities. In October 1941, work was begun at Great Lakes on a temporary hospital corpsmen's school with a capacity of 400 men. An administration building, an instruction building, two standard H-type barracks, and a subsistence building were constructed.

A school at Portsmouth Va., was begun that same month under a contract which provided one H-type barrack and an instruction building of brick veneer construction.

Meanwhile, relatively small additions were being made at the various hospitals. The old Merchant Marine hospital group at Chelsea, adjacent to the grounds of the naval hospital, was taken over by the Navy and remodelling was begun in September 1941 to fit the buildings for use as quarters for hospital corpsmen attached to the main hospital.

At Bremerton, work was begun on an additional two-story wing to the main hospital building.

In 1941, eight and a quarter million dollars was expended on hospital construction, a sharp increase over the previous year although the sum was only about one-eighth the amount which would subsequently be spent in 1942.

1942 Construction

In January 1942, a contract was awarded for an additional three-story H-type brick-veneer barrack for the hospital corps school at Portsmouth, Va.

The constant rise in personnel passing through the training station at Hampton Roads had proved a strain on the Portsmouth hospital, where limited grounds all but prohibited expansion. Moreover, transportation facilities were anything but adequate; patients from the Norfolk side had to be transferred by ferry or small boat to Portsmouth, where the hospital was located. The Navy acquired part of the World War I Army base, situated 2 miles south of the Norfolk operating base, and in January 1942, construction was started on a 750-bed hospital, which became the Norfolk naval hospital. Work included six two-story H-type wards, connected with an administration building. Surgical laboratory, X-ray, subsistence buildings, and a storehouse were also built. Although classed as temporary, this construction was of brick veneer, to permit the use of two-story wards, thereby effecting an economy in utilization of the site.

Except for alterations to provide dependents'


facilities at the Pensacola hospital, the rest of the work initiated during January was on the West Coast. At San Diego, a hospital corps school to provide training facilities for 600 men was started. Under the same contract, three temporary H-type wards were begun. Four temporary wards were undertaken at Bremerton.

During February, new work was concentrated at Newport and Chelsea. On the second day of the month, construction was begun at Newport on three one-story H-type wards each with a 60-bed capacity. On the 15th, under the same contract, nurses' quarters were begun. Work at Chelsea included a group of six one-story half-H-type wards, each with a solarium.

In March, most of the contracts awarded were for construction at East Coast hospitals, although by far the greater expenditures were made for West Coast facilities. A tract of land suitable for hospital purposes was acquired in Oakland, with the intention of relieving the strained facilities at Mare Island. Work was begun on an administration building, nine wards, and one sick-officers quarters. All the buildings were of wood-frame construction, and all were usably complete by June 26, 1942, four days before the hospital's commissioning.

Little had to be done in preparing the site, which formerly had been used by a country club. The club house and new buildings provided 500 beds, a capacity which, under seven additional authorizations, was ultimately increased to 2,400 beds.

At Oakland, as time went on, war activities in the area drained the labor reservoir and gave unskilled labor a chance to learn a trade sufficiently to be classified by the unions as journeymen. By January 1943, most of the unskilled labor had either advanced to journeymen or migrated to other areas, so that common-labor procurement became a perplexing problem in the later stages of construction.

At Seattle, construction was begun in March 1942 on a 500-bed hospital. It included two surgical wards and two eye-ear-nose-and-throat wards, each with 34 beds; a surgery building with four operating rooms; one laboratory unit; an X-ray unit; and a physiotherapy unit. The subsistence building accommodated 780 men, including enlisted personnel and staff officers.

Provisions were made for additional housing for corpsmen at Newport and Portsmouth, N.H. At this latter station, too, a temporary ward provided additional bed capacity.

Expansion of the initial permanent construction at Bethesda was begun in 1942, with the addition of two wards which provided 242 beds.

On the West Coast the Norconian Club at Corona, Calif., 55 miles from Los Angeles was acquired by the Navy and remodeled for hospital purposes, the buildings being usably complete by October 1942. Construction was also begun on three permanent multi-storied wards, and personnel quarters were constructed. All the buildings reached a state of usable completion by April 1943.

On another area of high and well-drained land at Corona, six more wards, an administration building, two sick-officers' quarters, and personnel and utility buildings were constructed to house a tuberculosis unit. These buildings were designed as semi-permanent structures, of characteristic California architecture, one-story wood frame and stucco with tile roof. By the spring of 1943, there were 240 beds available for patients.

Meantime, the need for expansion was being felt in the New York area, where the existing hospital reservation was separated from the navy yard by an old city market. Expansion of the hospital grounds was impossible, so the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery sought a new hospital site. Pre-war plans called for a permanent 1,000-bed hospital, but in development the plans were revised to obtain 250 permanent and 1,250 temporary beds.

The Navy finally selected as a site a golf course at St. Albans, farther east on Long Island, but still within New York city limits. The site had the advantage of being removed from the general congestion of the city, yet convenient to it. Situated as it was, on the main line of the Long Island Railroad, transportation of material and labor was relatively simple.

On April 7 1942, a letter of intent was mailed, and construction was immediately begun on some auxiliary buildings. Only the foundations of the permanent administration building, a subsistence building, and two wards had been completed before the contractor received new plans, calling for completion of temporary construction only.

In less than six months after breaking ground the hospital was usably complete, making it one of the most rapidly constructed hospital projects. A six-ward addition, authorized during the initial construction, increased the capacity to 1,350 beds in the spring of 1943.


U.S. Naval Hospital, Key West, Fla.
U.S. Naval Hospital, Key West, Fla.

In May, two H-type wards of temporary wood frame were being constructed at Bremerton and ten half-H-type wards, also of wood frame, were placed under construction at Bethesda. On May 25, both a supplemental agreement and a change order were signed for work at the hospital in Seattle. Four H-type wards and recreation and laundry buildings were the major structures undertaken. A wing was added to the nurses' quarters; and three sets of officers quarters were begun.

In August 1942, a letter of intent was issued for the construction of a temporary 400-bed hospital at New Orleans, where a large repair base, detention camp, receiving barracks, and other facilities were in operation. Here, as at other temporary installations, half-H-type wards were utilized, and all buildings were connected by covered passageways. Additional expansion in 1944 and 1945 provided medical wards, treatment wards administration, subsistence, and service buildings for a capacity of 845 beds.

Bordering Lake Ponchartrain, on land reclaimed in the mid-thirties, the New Orleans naval hospital construction was dogged by ill luck from the day ground was first broken. A high water table and surrounding terrain on a higher level than the hospital site made it difficult to remove storm water. Soggy conditions of the soil made it necessary to use spread footings, in some places as


Nurses' Quarters New Orleans Naval Hospital
Nurses' Quarters, New Orleans Naval Hospital
This photograph shows the completed wooden building and the graded ground ready for sodding,

wide as 3 feet, to support one-story wood-frame buildings. Moisture caused green timber, the only type available in sufficient quantities, to warp and shrink. In some buildings, timber structural members had to be replaced to avert failure.

At Seattle, another change order was affixed to an extensive 13th Naval District contract on September 19, 1942 authorizing the construction of three special wards and a sick-officers' quarters.

In late 1942, the Philadelphia hospital received an allotment for four and one-half H-type buildings, one-story, of wood-frame construction.

Hospital facilities were still inadequate for the operations of the fleet out of California ports. During the first week of December 1042, a contractor was directed to begin construction on an 850-bed hospital on property at the outskirts of San Leandro, contiguous to the Oakland hospital. It was to comprise 18 convalescent wards, four psychiatric wards, and a treatment building, 4 sick-officers' quarters, an administration, and various personnel buildings. The contract also included authorization for construction of quarters and the many service buildings necessary to a hospital of such capacity.

Hospitals at new training stations. -- The year of 1942 was also the year of major expansion in personnel training. In March, the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, realizing that the existing training stations would become unwieldy with further enlargement, recommended the establishment of four new training stations, each with a capacity of 20,000 men.

One of the stations proposed became an extension of Great Lakes. The others were located at Farragut, Idaho, Sampson, N.Y., and Bainbridge, Md. Farragut and Sampson eventually accommodated 30,000 each; Bainbridge, 20,000, Hospitals were built at each of the new stations.

In November of 1941, the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation recommended that the training stations at Great Lakes and San Diego be enlarged to meet the training needs, which were still increasing. The estimated need for mid-1942 was 369,000 men.

In January 4, 1942, a letter of intent was mailed from the Bureau of Yards and Docks, instructing the contractor to begin construction of an 800-bed extension to the hospital at Great Lakes and enlargement of the corps school. By September, the buildings were ready for occupancy.

Further work was done on the Great Lakes expansion program with the construction of 12 new


Hospital Corps School, Portsmouth, Va.
Hospital Corps School, Portsmouth, Va.

wards at Camp McIntire, which subsequently was placed under hospital command.

Extensions were made constantly at Great Lakes to keep pace with the rate of expansion taking place at that training center. On May 28, a change order was signed, providing for work that already had been started on four H-type ward buildings and a bag-storage building. On June 20, work was begun on ten additional H-type ward buildings, providing for 840 more beds.

A letter of intent was mailed on April 10 to the construction company selected for the work at Farragut, and by the time the formal contract was issued, toward the end of July, work was well under way. Second largest of the new wartime training stations, Farragut, situated on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, 2,500 feet above sea level, was commissioned September 15, 1942, just 145 days after ground was first broken. Four months later, the 1,500-bed hospital unit was commissioned. By January 1944, the 48 wards had become inadequate, and a contract was let for a 500-bed expansion. Other work included quarters for nurses and corpsmen and a hospital corps training school comprising three two-story barracks and one instruction building. Construction, like that throughout the station, was generally of wood frame on concrete footings.

At Perryville, Md., a boys' preparatory school was taken over by the navy as the nucleus of the Bainbridge naval training station. Construction of the 1,000-bed hospital was started soon after April 10. The unit comprised 62 buildings and provided not only the hospital facilities but also a school for corpsmen and living accommodations for personnel attached to the hospital.

The wards were built in three groups. The first group consisted of eight typical awards. The second


Hospital Administration Building, Farragut, Idaho
Hospital Administration Building, Farragut, Idaho
Wood-frame building on concrete foundation, constructed in 1944.

had seven typical wards, two sick-officers' quarters, and one eye-ear-nose-and-throat ward The third was made up of two typical wards, four neuropsychiatric wards, one dermatology and syphilis ward, and one urology ward. Each ward was of the standard 28-by-198-foot plan, with porches and sunrooms.

Two buildings for quarters and a mess hall were provided for the medical officers; for the nurses, two residence buildings and a dining-hall capable of accommodating 128 persons. In another group of three barracks, 700 corpsmen were housed. Instruction buildings were included in this group.

Ground was broken on June 1, 1942, for Sampson, the third of the new training stations. Although the contract was not signed until mid-October, a letter of intent was mailed to the contractor on May 23, and work had begun on that date on the hospital group which eventually was to accommodate 1,500 patients.

Sampson training station was located on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, about 17 miles from the city of Geneva, N.Y. In selecting the site, consideration was given to accessibility both by railroad and by highway, and to an inland location as a precaution against possible bombing. The construction was temporary and, with few exceptions, non-fireproof. The original contract included 39 wards, six special wards, and two sick-officers' quarters.

During this same period, the Marine Corps training program was being carried on with an intensity that soon overtaxed the training areas at Quantico and Parris Island. At the former, a new hospital group had been begun in 1939, on a point overlooking the Potomac River. Of brick, with white wood trim, the buildings were of colonial architecture. A temporary wood-frame H-type building was begun to add 60 beds to the capacity. No work was done at Parris Island, a new hospital of permanent


Typical Wards, U.S. Naval Hospital, Sampson, N.Y.
Typical Wards, U.S. Naval Hospital, Sampson, N.Y.

construction being postponed until after the war.

At Camp Lejeune, N.C., drainage and clearing was begun in mid-April at Hadnot Point, the selected hospital site. As the reservation was to be a permanent Marine Corps training center, the construction was permanent. Brick walls with slate roofs, conforming to the colonial architecture typical of the camp were used. In addition to the 650 beds provided in the main hospital, a 40-bed family hospital was constructed. Other facilities, such as a laundry, medical storehouses, and maintenance shop, were separately housed.

Hospitals at air stations. -- At Pensacola, two new medical wards and their accessories were added to the hospital facilities, under a contract let on April 21, 1942. At the Jacksonville naval air station, extensive construction was put under way on May 10 to provide seven additional wards. The X-ray and treatment rooms, laundry, garage, storehouses, power plant, galley, and messing facilities were also extended. In December, three additional wards were begun.

July found the hospital at Corpus Christi being extended from 400 to 600 beds. On the 4th, a contract was let for the work entailed by this expansion. A contagious and a medical ward, each with a capacity of 34 beds, a 20-bed ward, and a two-story convalescent ward were included. This last ward contained 92 beds.

As the air training program was enlarged, consideration was given to the construction of hospitals to meet the added demands. When contracts were let for new air stations at Memphis, Tenn., and Norman, Okla., provision was made for the establishment of 500-bed temporary hospitals.

Work begun at Memphis in mid-July consisted of an administration building, 4 treatment buildings, 4 medical wards, and 15 special wards.

The main construction impediment characteristic of the site of the Memphis naval air station and naval hospital was the presence of unstable pockets of clay muck, varying from 2 to 12 feet in depth. Because the material could not be stabilized, it had to be replaced before construction of foundations in the unstable areas could be begun.

The wards were strung along either side of connecting passageways which extended from the administration building. From its original 500-bed capacity, the hospital was expanded in the late fall of 1943, with the addition of typical wards, to a 700-bed capacity.

A letter of intent for the development of Norman was mailed just four months after Pearl Harbor, stating that speed was paramount in the


1,000-bed Unit Added to the Corona (Calif.) Naval Hospital in 1943
1,000-bed Unit Added to the Corona (Calif.) Naval Hospital in 1943

construction of necessary facilities. Accommodations for 600 patients were included in the original agreement. The unit comprised 19 one-story wards and 4 treatment wards, in addition to subsistence, recreation, and administration buildings, all of which were connected by covered passageways.

As the base at Norman and the gigantic Army air base at Oklahoma City were constructed simultaneously, they naturally vied with each other in procurement of labor and materials. Nails and lumber were at a premium, and much of the lumber was so green that considerable trouble was encountered later by shrinkage, warping, and splitting. Because of severe dust and wind storms, cracks thus left around door and window frames proved more perplexing than in most other regions. High winds, in several instances, blew off numerous sections of roofing. Bermuda grass was eventually used advantageously to alleviate the dust problem within the station grounds.

Another difficulty was the quicksand encountered in some basement excavations. To combat this, wood sheathing was used and reinforced-concrete mat floors were laid in continuous pours. The entire project was handicapped by a shortage of skilled labor, and because of this fact most of the carpenters and carpenter foremen were imported from Texas.

1943 Construction

Until well into April 1943, the Navy's attention was fixed on the West Coast as far as hospital construction was concerned. New hospitals at Camp Pendleton and at Shoemaker and San Leandro, and extensive additions to the Long Beach, Oakland, and Corona hospitals increased facilities in California alone by more than 6,000 beds.


At Oakland, it was determined that additional construction, which it was already evident would be needed, should be conducted under a new contract. On January 5, before the original buildings were usably complete, the new contract was signed. It authorized a 500-bed expansion in part of 29 new buildings. Seven wards, quarters, a dental building, and two storage buildings were included, and extensions were to be made to the service buildings and treatment wards.

In connection with the construction of Camp Pendleton, authorization had been given the contractor in November 1942 to proceed with construction of 20 wards and other buildings so that provisions for a 600-bed group were well underway by February 4, 1943, when the change order for the work was formally signed. Shortly after, it was decided to increase the capacity to 1,200 beds, and early in April an authorization for additional work was mailed to the contractor.

This Marine Corps service hospital was located about 35 miles north of San Diego, on the former Santa Margarita ranch. At the corner of the naval ammunition depot at Fallbrook, which occupied the southeast section of the area, the shores of Lake O'Neil afforded an ideal site for a hospital, the land between it and the Santa Margarita River being spacious and elevated well above the floodplain of the river. Less grading was required here than at other sites within the camp.

During January 1943, a major rainstorm, accompanied by high winds reaching a velocity of 70 miles per hour, caused a cave-in of the excavations and the forms and reinforcing steel for the boiler house. This mishap and a shortage of labor caused some delay in the work, although the latter difficulty was partly overcome by providing transportation for men procured in Los Angeles.

Shoemaker, the second of the new West Coast hospitals, housed 1,000 beds in 31 ward buildings, arranged in four radial groups, with all buildings connected by passageways. The supplemental agreement under which these wards were authorized was signed the last of February.

Commissioned on October 1, 1943, the hospital was designed to serve the Construction Battalion Replacement and Recuperation Center at adjacent Camp Parks, 20 miles southeast of Oakland. Like Camp Parks, the hospital was a temporary installation. All buildings were diagonally end-braced to resist any seismic disturbance for although no great local damage was anticipated from earth movement, records showed the region to have been affected by numerous small quakes. Buildings were of temporary frame construction similar to that at Camp Parks.

The strain on comparatively new facilities at Long Beach continued to increase as the fleet operating base at Terminal Island, which the hospital serviced, expanded. This strain was somewhat alleviated by the construction, which began in March 1943, of 24 ward buildings which provided 850 additional beds, nurses' and Waves' quarters, and a storehouse.

A 1,000-bed addition at Corona, begun in the spring of 1943, was of a temporary nature, the buildings being of one-story frame construction. They formed an independent unit in a far corner of the main area, a site which had been selected because it was fairly level and therefore would allow rapid construction. Despite its distance from the main group, the unit was connected to the main group by means of covered passages.

After plans had been consummated for a 500-bed expansion at Seattle, which comprised a sick-officers' quarters and seven H-type wards, and for four wards to provide 200 additional beds at Corpus Christi, attention turned to the East Coast. At St. Albans, 31 ward buildings, with connecting corridors, were authorized the first part of May, and nurses' and Waves' quarters and a recreation building were provided in July under another contract. These were the first of the major lump-sum hospital contracts to the awarded after the beginning of the war-construction program.

No new work had been started at Norfolk since the authorization for the hospital at the naval operating base in January of 1942. Under a contract let on September 13, a wing was added to the south side of the main building of the old hospital in Portsmouth. Other work there included the construction of a dental clinic and a mental ward. On the 20th, an additional contract made provision for a six-ward unit, a sick-officers' quarters, and a ships' service building.

It had been stressed at the Congressional committee hearings for the 1944 appropriation that existing facilities and current construction were to provide 40,000 beds in naval hospitals by June 30, 1943. For the ensuing year, 20,000 additional beds were proposed. It was felt that any new construction should be considered in the light of possible post-war use by the services or by the Veterans' Administration, even though such a program would


entail more expense, and the committee declared itself "prepared to recommend the appropriation of funds necessary to provide for a permanent type of construction to the extent that such a course might be found to be practicable."

The new hospital at Dublin, Ga., was affected by this decision. A lump-sum contract was let in September 1943 for the preliminary work of grading and building a railroad spur to the site. A month later, the first major allotment was made and work was begun on eight 2-story wards, of colonial architecture, with brick walls and slate roofs. This hospital was to have a permanent capacity of 500 beds and temporary facilities for an additional 500. Because of the station's remoteness from population centers, it was difficult to obtain sufficient labor.

With the Dublin project under way to provide additional permanent hospital facilities on the East Coast, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery once more turned its attention to western needs. Hospital facilities were begun at Astoria, Ore., where six medical wards and eight special wards had been authorized, in addition to four treatment buildings, all connected by covered passages. Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, the hospital was the hub of such naval activities in the area as the Astoria air station, a radio station, auxiliary air facilities at Tongue Point, and a section base.

1944 Construction

By the end of 1943, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery had passed the critical stage of its hospital expansion program. Facilities built or under construction with appropriations made during 1942 and 1943 would provide beds enough to meet most needs which could be foreseen, as far as war casualties were concerned. After 1943, the work consisted of rounding out the program and preparing for post-war needs. Expenditures dropped considerably in 1944, though the number of contracts did not show an appreciable change with respect to that for the previous year.

The first expansion begun in 1944 was the 500-bed increase at Farragut. At Astoria, a contract was let January 24, to obtain quarters for the hospital staff and personnel, together with subsidiary buildings. All the buildings were of temporary construction to match the previous work.

Construction undertaken in March was confined almost exclusively to the East Coast, though four wards and two hospital corps barracks of temporary construction were installed at Norman.

No bed expansion had been authorized at Bethesda for nearly 18 months and the existing facilities were proving inadequate to serve the increased personnel in the area. On the 13th of March, a contract was let for a 500-bed temporary addition.

Construction at Chelsea was resumed in May, with work which included five temporary one-story wards and a subsistence building. During the same month, construction was begun on five new buildings at the naval operating base hospital at Norfolk, and alterations were specified for three of the existing buildings. Additions also were made at Corona and at New Orleans. On May 8, a 250-bed expansion to the tuberculosis unit at Corona was authorized. Construction comprised six wards, a sick-officers' quarters, and accessory buildings. All construction was earthquake-resistant in design.

Rehabilitation studies had been made during the previous months, and provisions were planned for this work at some of the hospitals. New Orleans was the first to receive funds from the appropriations under which this work was considered, and the contract, let May 9, which authorized three medical wards, a neuro-psychiatric ward, and two sick-officers' quarters to accommodate a 200-bed expansion, also directed the contractor to construct an occupational-therapy building.

On the West Coast, construction of a recreation and welfare building was begun in June at Mare Island. This was to be a permanent and complete unit including under one roof an 826-seat theater, five bowling alleys, a ping pong and billiard room, a ships' service store, a gymnasium, welfare offices, and a library.

Seven one-story buildings were placed under contract at Long Beach in September, to provide space for dependents' facilities such as an out-patient clinic, an obstetrical unit, a surgery unit, three wards, and a subsistence building.

Meanwhile, at Chelsea, a dependents' hospital unit had been placed under construction in mid-August. It was a permanent structure of brick with limestone trim to match the other buildings.

At Memphis, four new wards were authorized toward the end of October to increase the total bed capacity to 845.

On November 13, the sum of $959,000 was allotted for an annex to the research building and a new animal house at the Medical Center in Bethesda. Each building had three stories, a basement,


U.S. Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland
U.S. Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland

elevator machinery, and a pent house. The research building annex was designed to allow the addition of a fourth story.

The Philadelphia hospital, having been used before the war for the hospitalization of veterans, was selected as a rehabilitation center for deaf and amputee patients. To provide for the former, a contract was let in December 1944 for an acoustic clinic. Other work included nine convalescent wards, a clinic for the rehabilitation of the blind, an occupational therapy building, and the accessory mess hall, laundry and connecting corridors. The structures were of temporary masonry construction, because of the critical shortage of lumber.

On the West Coast in December, a contract was signed for six new wards, with connecting corridors, and alterations to three of the medical buildings and the administration building at Oakland. At Long Beach, a 500-bed expansion was begun under a contract also signed in December. In addition to 14 wards and subsidiary structures, three occupational-therapy buildings were constructed.

1945 Construction

More and more, the emphasis was shifted from training needs to operational needs and to the rehabilitation program. The last hospital construction to come under the war expansion of training stations took place at New River. There, in January 1945, construction was begun on four additional wards. At the comparatively new hospital at NOB, Norfolk, a ward and a ships' service store were added in January and another H-type ward in July. In each instance, the contract called for additional passageways and related work.

Under the Navy rehabilitation program, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery obtained funds for a recreation building and an occupational-therapy building at the Medical Center in Bethesda. The


General View of the Naval Hospital at St. Albans, N.Y.
General View of the Naval Hospital at St. Albans, N.Y.

recreation building, which was of permanent construction, contained lounges, gymnasium, swimming pool, and ships' service store.

After authorization had been granted in March for a five-wing building at Seattle, to accommodate a dependents' hospital unit, attention was devoted to Dublin and Houston, where permanent hospitals were being constructed. A 40-bed expansion at Dublin was authorized. Personnel facilities, placed under contract on March 28, included a Waves' barrack and an addition to the corpsmen's barrack, each two-story structures of reinforced concrete. A contract was let in May for ward buildings, an animal house, and a cold-storage building. The wards were two stories high, with full basements; the other two buildings were one story.

During the Congressional committees hearings for the 1945 appropriation bill, a permanent hospital in Texas, to serve the 8th Naval District, was proposed. The Veterans Administration had a 250-bed hospital at Dallas which they were anxious to enlarge, and as the unit built under Navy auspices was to be turned over to them after the war, Dallas was studied as a possible site. After 92 proposed locations had been viewed by a board, five were named for the President's final selection. Houston was suggested as the one best adapted to meet the needs of the Navy and the Veterans Administration,


and Houston was selected. Shortly after construction had begun, the Federal Hospitalization Board reassigned the hospital for permanent Navy retention.

On April 10, 1944, a contract was signed for construction of the medical buildings, a subsistence and welfare building, an administration building, and four wings furnishing ward space for 5600 beds. The buildings were of reinforced concrete and steel frames, with brick and hollow-tile walls and cut-stone trim. In addition, 500 beds were provided in temporary wards of tile, concrete, and light-weight steel. Personnel facilities, comprising three sets of quarters, quarters for officers, nurses, and cooks, accessory buildings, and services, were placed under contract on April 30th, bringing the estimated cost of the facility to more than $7,000,000.

Between April 1944 and the surrender of Japan, except for miscellaneous rehabilitation and occupational therapy facilities at various hospitals, no major hospital construction was accomplished. Plans were under way, however, for post-war permanent hospital construction to replace temporary wartime facilities at St. Albans, and at Beaufort, S.C., to replace the temporary Parris Island facility. Preliminary study was also being given to the provision of new hospitals at Austin and Marlin, Texas.

Special Hospitals

As established during World War II, the Navy's special hospitals marked a new departure in naval hospitalization. The original designation had been convalescent hospitals, but by June 1945, the range of functions was so wide that the title was changed to that of special hospitals. In general, the patients sent to these hospitals required little treatment other than rest, salubrious climate, diet, psychotherapy or physiotherapy, before being discharged or returned to duty.

By the end of August 1945, the total rated capacity of these hospitals had reached a peak of more than 18,000 beds. These hospitals, which the Bureau of Yards and Docks leased and converted for use, were a part of the general program for rehabilitation and relieved to a great extent the load on the government-owned naval hospitals. The rehabilitation program was generally reflected in the regular hospitals by the construction of occupational therapy buildings, recreational facilities, special wards for psychiatric patients, and similar facilities.

Late in the fall of 1942, use of the Harriman estate in the Bear Mountain Range of the Catskills was donated by the owner for convalescence. By the following spring, the need for augmented facilities of this type resulted in the Navy leasing a beach hotel, built in 1912 at Santa Cruz, Calif., 74 miles south of Oakland, on Monterey Bay. By July 1943, four other institutions had been leased and commissioned. These were situated at Asheville, N.C., Glenwood Springs, Colo., Sun Valley, Idaho, and Yosemite National Park. Five others -- at Arrowhead Springs, Banning, and Beaumont, in California; Sea Gate, in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Springfield, Mass. -- were leased and commissioned in 1944. In 1945, the Navy took over the group of buildings at Asbury Park, N.J., formerly used as a receiving ship by the British Royal Navy; the Palm Beach (Fla.) facilities used by the Coast Guard for SPAR training; and two Army camps -- Camp White, near Medford, Ore., and Camp Wallace, at Galveston, Texas.

The plan was to take over civilian institutions, such as hotels and schools, which could be used with a minimum of conversion construction, the total cost, exclusive of rentals, being a million and a half dollars.

Early in January 1944, a combination lump-sum and unit-price contract was signed for the construction of a Marine Corps recuperation barracks near Klamath Falls, Ore. This contract called for facilities which would provide for an initial occupancy of approximately 3,300 troops and would accommodate an expansion for an additional 200 men. The mess hall, laundry, bakery, and maintenance shops were designed to accommodate the requirements for a 5,000-man development. Field work was begun January 19, 1944, and completed a year later, at a total cost of three million dollars. A subsequent lump-sum contract, dated November 27, 1944, provided for additional buildings and facilities costing another million dollars.

The need for starting the work at the earliest practicable date did not allow time for detailed topographic studies, sub-surface exploration, or the detailed planning for work involving sub-surface installation. Consequently, all sub-surface work was paid for on the unit-price basis.

Sub-surface conditions involved unusually heavy rock excavation in some places and unstable seeps and springs in others. Road-grading uncovered a substantial amount of chalk-like diatomaceous material


Wards at the Norman (Okla.) Naval Hospital
Wards at the Norman (Okla.) Naval Hospital

which was hard when dry, but erodible and unstable when wet. To meet the need for a suitable rock aggregate for concrete, unavailable locally, the materials engineer for the officer in charge of construction developed an acceptable cinder aggregate, which could be processed from locally available volcanic cinders. The resulting concrete proved to be of excellent quality and suitable for all types of construction except structures designed to contain fluid materials.


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1. These figures are based on 9-foot space of bed centers. During the emergency, close bed-spacing resulted in increasing the bed spacing by several thousand.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation