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8th Evacuation Hospital collection

Identifier: MS-5

Scope and Contents

The 8th Evacuation Hospital collection includes photographs, personal and official correspondence, reports, notebooks, purchase orders, citations, certificates, scrapbooks, newsclippings, insignia, and a manuscript of Byrd Stuart Leavell's book: The 8th Evac.: a History of the University of Virginia Hospital Unit in World War II (1970). Additional artifacts, including uniforms, plaques, and a replica set of Roman instruments, are in the artifact collection at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, Historical Collections, University of Virginia. A web exhibit on the 8th Evacuation Hospital, featuring content and images from the collection is available here:


  • Creation: 1941 - 2011

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may apply.

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


Of unique relevance to the University of Virginia Health System is the 8th Evacuation Hospital Collection. The "8th Evac." was organized and staffed primarily by University of Virginia physicians and nurses during World War II. The collection contains scrapbooks, memoirs, reports, and numerous photographs that recall the experiences of the men and women who provided medical and nursing care in North Africa and Italy during the war.

Related Materials

Related materials catalogued individually at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library:

  • The 8th Evac: A History of the University of Virginia Hospital Unit in World War II, by Byrd Stuart Leavell, [1970]; 260 p.; Health Sciences Rare Shelves: D807.U722 NO. 8 .L4 1970
  • C'est le Garre: Reminiscenses of a World War II Army Nurse, by Elizabeth Engleman Carter [edited by Caroline Carter Jones], 1992?; Typescript, 39 p.; Health Sciences Rare Oversize Shelves: D807.U722 NO.8 .C3 1992
  • UVA Goes to War: The Story of the 8th Evacuation Hospital in World War II, [sound recording]; Panelists: John L. Guerrant, M.D.; Elizabeth Drash, R.N.; William N. Thornton, M.D.; Moderator: John F. Harlan, 1989; Health Sciences Rare Shelves: D807.U722 NO. 8 U93 1989 [audio/visual material]
  • Also see other materials at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

Physical Description

18.25 linear ft. (38 boxes, ca. 18,000 items); correspondence, reports, photographs, 5 boxes of Byrd Stuart Leavell's manuscript, scrapbooks, and other archival material.

Processing Information

Finding Aid by M. Alison White; 2006, 2012, 2014 revisions by Janet Pearson.

A Guide to the 8th Evacuation Hospital Collection, 1941-2011
Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • Feb 19, 2014: 5. Additional material added, box 38
  • Jan 04, 2012: 4. Additional material added, boxes 35-37
  • Feb 15, 2006: 3. Additional material added, including boxes 9, 11-14,16, and 21-34
  • Feb 25, 2004: 2. converted to conform to eadVIVA.dtd by vivastrict.xsl

Repository Details

Part of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library Repository

Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
1300 Jefferson Park Avenue
P.O. Box 800722
Charlottesville Virginia 22908-0722 United States