Photo gallery: Looking back at U-M’s World War II hospital
Seventy-eight years ago tomorrow, on June 27, 1942, a train loaded with U-M physicians, dentists, nurses, technicians and dietitians left Ann Arbor bound for Arkansas. A crowd gathered at the train station on Depot Street to see them off, as they deployed for World War II volunteer service six months after the United States entered the war.
The seeds of this massive effort had been planted two years before, when the U.S. government officially asked the U-M Medical School to sponsor a military hospital company. Dean Albert Furstenberg had begun working toward that goal even earlier, encouraging preparations and training starting soon after the German army invaded Poland in 1939.
The men and women of Michigan’s 298th General Hospital joined up with others at Camp Robinson in Arkansas, and trained for four months before sailing to Bristol, England to establish their first hospital location in November 1942. Although the Blitz of London did not yield as many casualties as had been expected, leading their first few months to be uneventful, the 298th soon began caring for wounded troops from battles in the Mediterranean and North Africa.
While in England, the hospital team had visits from Queen Mary and Bob Hope, among others. But by July 1944, a month after the D-Day invasion of France, the hospital company was packed and ready to redeploy to Cherbourg, to treat casualties from the ongoing battles.
By the end of October, the hospital moved again, to a place called Alleur outside Liege, Belgium. Though the area was in Allied hands, the hospital experienced a constant threat of bombing. It also saw its busiest times, treating 22,983 patients by the time it was decommissioned in September 1945, four months after the war in Europe ended.
The team sailed back to the U.S. in October and returned to civilian life. Their history was preserved by Harry Towsley, M.D., in records now stored at the Bentley Historical Library. Towsley and his wife became major donors to U-M, and the Towsley Center on the main medical campus is named for them.
In 2012, a monument to the 298th was installed near Liege.
Learn more about the 298th from Medicine at Michigan magazines:
And from the World War II Medical Research Center: https://www.med-dept.com/unit-histories/298th-general-hospital/
Learn more about Michigan Medicine’s history at http://uofmhealth.org/history or by searching for #MichMed150 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
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