US ARMY 4TH GENERAL HOSPITAL
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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visits since 30 March 2002

 

The organization of the US Army 4th General Hospital unit was begun in the Spring of 1940 at the request of the Surgeon General as the rumblings in Europe became more and more ominous. The unit was to be staffed to support up to 2000 beds. 

It was a unit from Cleveland, Ohio, USA. The unit was activated on Christmas Eve, 1941. Most of the members came from University Hospitals and the Medical School of Case Western Reserve University contributed staff. 

The unit left New York on 23 January 1942 and was established in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The 4th General had as a matter of course physicians and nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists, and enlisted men.

The 4th General Hospital disembarked in Melbourne on 27 February 1942 and learned that the new Royal Melbourne Hospital was under construction. The Australian authorities turned over the newly constructed buildings for the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Grattan Street, Parkville to the US Army. The 4th General Hospital was established in the Parkville buildings which it called home for the next 25 months. The Royal Melbourne Hospital continued to operate from their old premises on the corner of Lonsdale and Swanston Streets.


Photo:- via Piet Truren

The official caption on this photo reads as follows:-

AUSTRALIA TURNS OVER NEW HOSPITAL
TO U.S. FIGHTERS UNDER LEND-LEASE

This ten-story $3,000,000 hospital "somewhere in Australia" has been made available without cost to American soldiers, sailors and Marines as part of Australia's reciprocal contributions to lend-lease. The hospital as started as a civic project but was taken over, before its completion, for the American forces. Australia is feeding American forces stationed in that country, as well as some of the men stationed in various South Pacific islands, and is also supplying uniforms, barracks, airports, medical supplies and ships. Hundreds of wounded or sick Americans have recuperated at this hospital and have already returned to the fighting fronts. 8989-OF

A temporary tent colony was set up in Royal Park just north of the new hospital since it would not be completed for several months. The surgical service was set up under canvas at first. Construction of the Royal Melbourne Hospital buildings in Parkville went rapidly under pressure of the incoming wounded and as soon as service facilities were able to function, patients were moved in floor by floor. Within several months the new hospital was completed.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital buildings had an official capacity of 1,000 beds but most of the time operated at more that double this capacity. It was eventually expanded to 2,900 beds. The Hospital cared for American and Allied causalities from the early campaigns in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Patients were received from all the services of Army, Marines, and the Navy. Medical cases, especially malaria, outnumbered the surgical cases.

On 9 January 1942, the 4th General Hospital had 54 medical officers, 72 RN's from Cleveland which combined with 48 RN's who were transferred from various military hospitals for a total of 120 nurses.

While at Camp Jackson, Col. Frank Starnes of the regular Army had assumed command of the 4th General Hospital. Lt. Col. William C. McCally was Chief of Surgery and went on to become the Commanding Officer of the 4th General Hospital in April 1942. Donald M. Glover succeeded McCally as Chief of Surgery. When McCally returned to America in early 1945, Glover became the new Commanding Officer. Lt. Col. Joseph M. Hayman was chief of the medical service. Major Olga Benderoff was chief nurse. Henry J. Toomey was the Chief of Dentistry.

For the two years the Unit was stationed in Melbourne, it admitted more that 35,000 patients. Also during this time the 4th General Hospital participated in pioneering the Army's "Portable Hospital" concept. Two 25 bed hospitals each carrying light equipment and designed to be staffed by 4 officers and 25 men went out in September 1942 to receive causalities on the front lines of the battle during the New Guinea campaign. 

Two of their more famous patients were Mrs. MacArthur and her son Arthur MacArthur. General Douglas MacArthur and his family arrived by train from Adelaide at Melbourne's Spencer Street station at about 9.30am on 22 March 1942. They were exhausted after their gruelling escape from the Philippines and the long journey down from the Northern Territory to Adelaide and across to Melbourne. Mrs Jean MacArthur and son Arthur were admitted for observation.

Herb Jacobs was a Sergeant X-ray technician at the 4th General Hospital in Melbourne. He took some routine x-rays of Jean MacArthur and Arthur MacArthur during their short stay at the hospital. Shortly after doing these x-rays, Herb was asked to do routine x-rays on 2 US soldiers, who were brought to the hospital under Military Police guard. Herb asked them why they were under guard and they told Herb that they had been in the Philippines when General Macarthur gave the order to leave ..... "FEND FOR YOURSELVES".  They said that MacArthur then boarded his plane with his wife, son and Filipino maid, together with all his furniture, and departed for Australia. These 2 enterprising soldiers stowed away on the planes, and were then charged and incarcerated for overloading the aircraft.  

The US Army 4th General Hospital entered a team in the Victorian Baseball Association (VBA) first grade competition in 1943 and won the Victorian premiership. 

The 4th General Hospital relocated to Finschhaven after landing at Port Moresby in New Guinea in the spring of 1944. When the 4th General Hospital moved out in March 1944, the Parkville buildings were reconditioned and the Royal Melbourne Hospital finally moved into their "new" premises in December 1944.

A hospital was set up by the 4th General Hospital in Finschhaven and within several months had a capacity of 2,000 beds. The 4th General Hospital absorbed the 63rd and 126th Station Hospitals. The 4th General Hospital treated approximately 11,200 patients in Finschhaven. The base at Finschhaven was closed on 23 July 1945 and moved to Manila but by this time Japan had surrendered so much of the unit was demobilized from Manila. . 

The unit tended more surgical cases in Finschahaven than it had in Melbourne as well as medical and psychiatric cases. 

Arthur C Rutan's sister was assigned as a 2nd. Lieutenant in the US Army 4th General Hospital. She retired as a Major in the ARNC, (Army Nurse Corps Reserve). She arrived in Melbourne with the 4th General Hospital Unit on 28 February 1942. 

Herb Jacobs was a Technical Sergeant with the 4th General Hospital since its inception as the 56th General Hospital in Fort Jackson in May 1941. Herb worked as an X-ray Technician.  Herb Left for Australia in Jan 1942 and for New Guinea in March 1944. Herb left New Guinea in August 1944 for further duty in England Gen Hospital until the wars end.  Herb indicated that they never landed in Hollandia. They went directly from Townsville to Port Moresby.

Her Jacobs gave me his following potted history of his time with his unit:-

I enlisted in May 1941.  Trained as x-ray technician in Fort Jackson, South Carolina (56th General Hospital) which became 4th Gen. once war was declared. Left early Jan. from New York with convoy to Panama Canal (joined by officers and nurses from Cleveland in civilian clothes) where officers and nurses picked up uniforms. (they were mobilized so quickly from Lakeside Hosp in Cleveland they had none.) Once in the Pacific, the Barrys' scuttlebutt was that we were headed to the Philippines, which then changed to Darwin and then to Melbourne. After 32 days in the Pacific, low on fuel and rations (we had stopped in Bora Bora for refueling). On landing in Melbourne, after a fierce storm in the Bass Straits, many of our perennial seasick enlisted men were taken off by ambulance We were stationed in the Zoo not far from Royal Melbourne then under construction. Then on to Finschaven.


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Colonel Henry Toomey

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

56th General Hospital, the predecessor to the 4th General Hospital
Fort Jackson, South Carolina May 1941 to January 1942.

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

4th General Hospital in convoy on board the
USS Thomas H. Barry 10 Jan to 20 Feb 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Bora Bora, US Navy Refuelling station January 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Pacific Convoy Australia bound January 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Guards at the Panama Canal January 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Panama Canal transit to the Pacific Ocean in January 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

First view of hospital taken from campsite
in Melbourne Zoo, February 1942.

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

4th General Hospital Nurses on Inspection Parade

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Artie Shaw entertaining patients in 1943

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Eleanor Roosevelt visiting troops at the hospital in 1943

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Under Construction in March 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

4th General Hospital under construction in March 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

4th General Hospital under construction in March 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

4th General Hospital under construction in March 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

4th General Hospital under construction in March 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

4th General Hospital under construction in March 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

4th General Hospital under construction in March 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Officers in the Dental Department. Colonel Toomey is at center and seated.

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Melbourne (can anyone please confirm the location?)

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Melbourne (can anyone please confirm the location?)

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Melbourne (can anyone please confirm the location? Is it the War Memorial)

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Sergeant Herb Jacobs

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Sergeant Herb Jacobs

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Ola Cohn, Sculptor at work, "The Fairies Tree", Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Mechanised delivery, Melbourne about 1942

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Australian versus American Baseball Game in Melbourne September 1942

 


via Herb Jacobs

American Sports Day ticket, at Amateur Sports
Ground, Batman Avenue, Melbourne

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Melbourne (can anyone please confirm the location?)

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Victorian Policemen and a Melbourne Tram

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Rowers on the Yarra River, Melbourne

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

 

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

 

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

 

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

 

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

 

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

 

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Joan Morcombe a lady friend of Herb Jacobs.  Herb would like to locate
anyone from the Morcombe family which lived in Melbourne during the war.
Herb last saw Joan when she visited in New York in1947, on her way home
from England, where she worked as an airline stewardess for BOAC.

 


Photo:- Herb Jacobs

Joan Morcomb

 


Photo:- Monica Lynch Kickham

At the 4th General Hospital in Melbourne

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Arthur C. Rutan of the 475th Fighter Group, Gwen Goss, Dianne O'Malia and Gabriele Haveaux for their assistance with this home page.

I'd also like to thank Herb Jacobs for his assistance with this web page. Herb was a Technical Sergeant with the 4th General Hospital in Melbourne.

I'd also like to thanks Piet Truren for his assistance with this web page.

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2003

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This page first produced 30 March 2002

This page last updated 23 August 2008