8th Evacuation Hospital collection
Scope and Contents
- 1941 - 2011
Language of Materials
Biographical / Historical Information
The 8th Evacuation Hospital was organized and staffed by University of Virginia physicians and nurses during World War II. In February of 1942, University President John L. Newcomb and Dean of the School of Medicine, Harvey E. Jordan, gave permission for the organization of a medical unit for war service designed to be an evacuation hospital for emergency surgical cases. In March of 1942, Dr. Staige D. Blackford was made director of the unit. Dr. E. Cato Drash assisted Dr. Blackford in organizing a staff of over four hundred people for the 750-bed evacuation hospital, including 47 commissioned officers and 52 commissioned nurses. Ruth Beery, a former instructor at the School of Nursing, was made the principal chief nurse. Organization was completed by May of 1942.
The unit went through basic training during the summer of 1942 and was activated on August 19, 1942 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Lincoln F. Putnam. In November of 1942, the men of the 8th Evacuation Hospital shipped out on the U.S.S. Santa Paula and went ashore at Casablanca where they set up a provisional general hospital at the former Italian consulate. Colonel John W. McKoan took over as commanding officer and oversaw the closing of the hospital four months after its establishment. During that time there were nearly 4,200 admissions and thousands of outpatients were treated in outpatient departments and the dental clinic.
On March 14, 1943 the 8th Evacuation Hospital moved to a new location on Anfa Hill where they were joined by 51 nurses and began to function as a convalescent hospital, caring for nearly 1,460 inpatients before being dismantled and parked in early June. The unit moved to a bivouac area at Camp Matifou, Algiers for six weeks until they were assigned to Salerno, Italy. After their arrival in Italy, they learned that all the hospital equipment had been lost, but they quickly managed to procure tents, a telephone system, generator and laboratory equipment. The hospital moved to Caserta and stayed there from October until December of 1943, and then spent three months in Teano functioning as a field hospital for combat operation. In Italy the hospital became very efficient at following the moving front line of the Allied forces. The Allied advance slowed in the fall of 1944 and the 8th Evac. was assigned to a muddy field in Pietramala, a mountainous area north of Florence, where they stayed for six months. The fall was wet and muddy and the winter cold and snowy. During this time the unit treated over 9,000 inpatients, of whom half were injured and wounded.
The end of fighting in Italy in the spring of 1945 meant that some members of the 8th Evac. were sent home, others to the Pacific, and others set up hospitals near Verona and Lake Garda. E. Cato Drash was made commanding officer as the 8th Evac. spent four months at Lake Garda treating almost 5,000 inpatients, mostly for disease. In the fall of 1945 the 8th Evacuation Hospital was demobilized after three and a half years of active duty. Over 48,000 patients, twice as many as were admitted to the University of Virginia Hospital in 1942-1944, were admitted to the 8th Evacuation Hospital in Africa and Italy over the three year period. Of those patients fourteen percent were injured, twenty-two percent were wounded, and sixty-four percent were sick. There were 253 deaths, or about half of one percent. More than 53,000 outpatients were seen in clinics.
The Hospital functioned in the heat of North Africa and southern Italy and in the rain, snow, and cold of the Italian mountains. At times the operating areas were all in use with a hundred men waiting for surgery, and at other times the staff had time on their hands and little to entertain themselves with. The unit received more awards, commendations, and decorations than most similar units and served longer in North Africa and Italy than any other American hospital. The men and women of the 8th Evacuation Hospital served their country well and were excellent representatives of the University of Virginia.
25 Linear Feet
- A Guide to the 8th Evacuation Hospital Collection, 1941-2011
- Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
- Language of description
Part of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library Repository
Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
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