United States Naval Hospital, Farragut, Idaho

Idaho historian Gayle E Alvarez tells us that because of concern about “coastal bombings” at the onset of U S involvement in World War II, civil authorities sought naval training facilities well inland.(1) I’ve already written about the Naval Hospital associated with the training facility at Sampson in upstate New York (September and December 2010). The other site, chosen by a panel of three senior naval officers (a venerable myth holds that Eleanor Roosevelt suggested the site after she flew over the area), was at the south end of Lake Pend Orielle (“pond array”) in northern Idaho.

Construction of the training base began in April 1942. A month later, President Roosevelt named the base after Civil War hero and the U S Navy’s first Admiral, David G Farragut. The base hospital, initially intended to care for recruits undergoing training, was commissioned 15 January 1943. Original construction provided for 44 wards of 46 beds (2024 patients) and several service buildings. Fourteen more wards and civilian care facilities came on line in the autumn of 1944. Late in the war, as training activity cut back, the hospital absorbed 1600 more beds in nearby Camp Bennion (previously a part of the Naval Training Center) to accommodate convalescents and neuropsychiatric patients transferred from other naval hospitals.

Image from "Bedside Examiner"--the Naval Hospital Farragut Newspaper. Source: Library of the Office of the Historian, U S Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

From the outset, the hospital had an active surgical service. Up though the first half of 1944, 400 beds accommodated recruits receiving hernia repair, pilonidal cyst excision surgery, removals of sites of infection and similar relatively minor operations. Starting in the latter half of 1944, surgical bed capacity expanded to over one thousand, and the patients were almost exclusively servicemen wounded or injured in theaters of war. One ward was dedicated exclusively to patients suffering from severe chest wounds. In all, surgeons at Farragut performed more than 10,800 separate operative procedures from opening until a month after VJ Day.

The historical review’s author was moved to comment “[s]tartling clinical pictures appeared in view of previous experience in traumatic surgery. One view gained was that of the magnificent task performed in the forward areas on the array of patients, who, judging by previous standards of treatment, should never have survived.”(2) He mentioned in particular patents suffering extensive boney damage who arrived in Farragut with minimal infection.

The medical service of the hospital demonstrated a similar shift from acute infections (pneumonias, streptococcal infections, measles and mumps) among recruits until mid 1944, when the patient population gradually changed to consist mostly of chronic cardiac, lung, neurological and other diseases. The hospital commander remarked that the death rate from pneumonia was markedly less that expected, especially after the introduction of sulfa and penicillin therapy.

Hospital authorities established a Hospital Corps School at Farragut. Initially commanded by the hospital commander, Captain Harry S Harding, Medical Corps, USN, it stood up on 4 January 1943. More than more than 17,000 Corpsmen passed through its portals before its 31 October 1945 decommissioning.

Both the Naval Training Station and the Hospital were decommissioned on 15 June 1946. In October, the Farragut College and Technical Institute opened its doors and utilized most of the Training Station’s buildings. This educational enterprise mainly served veterans learning new civilian skills. By 1949, these educational needs had been met, and the facility closed in May, leaving the structures once more empty. Today, Farragut State Park occupies most of the Training Station property and only a handful of the original 667 buildings still stand. Among these is the Training Station brig, which serves as a small museum.

(1) Alvarez, Gayle E, and Dennis Woolford, “Farragut Naval Training Station”, Charleston, South Carolina, Arcadia Publishing, 2009.
(2) “U S Naval Hospital, Farragut, Idaho-Historical Review”, typewritten,?1945. These notes are in the Historical Library, Office of the Historian, U S Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Washington, DC. This review bears no date of publication, but by taking clues from the text, I believe it was written in the last quarter of calendar 1945 or in the first half of 1946. While the document lists no author, the tone of some of the commentary leads me to attribute its authorship, or at least direct authority for authorship, to the hospital’s final Commanding Officer, Captain A C Smith, Medical Corps, U. S. Navy.

©2011 Thomas L Snyder

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Comments

  • lily k  On 28 May 2012 at 16:01

    My dad was an operating room technician at Farragut. He was just recounting his Navy memories today, Memorial Day 2012. He’s 91, and marvelous.

  • PAMELA A BROWN/ KOVARIK  On 24 Jun 2012 at 17:01

    MY FATHER WAS A PATIENT IN FARRAGUT, NAVAL HOSPITAL IN JUNE 10, 1945. HE CAME HOME TO DEARBORN, MICHIGAN AND DIED MAY 10,1945. IF ANYONE HAS INFORMATION OR MAY HAVE SERVED WITH MY FATHER. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME TO FIND OUT ANYTHING I CAN CONCERNING HIS DEATH OR HOSPITAL STAY. NEED HOSPITAL RECORDS AND DO NOT KNOW HOW TO OBTAIN THEM.

    PLEASE CONTACT
    PAMELA A BROWN/ KOVARIK
    4826 STILLMEADOW DR
    HOWELL, MICHIGAN. 48843
    PHONE 248-5140498

    • Kelly Kitchen  On 30 Sep 2015 at 04:40

      Hello, saw your post of June 2012. No info but my father Charles Kitchen was from Dearborn, Washington Street. Was wounded at Okinawa April 1945, and also spent time at USNH Farragut. Maybe they crossed paths ?? Dad served on USS PC 563 at the time of his injury. Just a note because there is so much in comon. Sincerely Kelly Kitchen

  • Helen Holder  On 18 Sep 2012 at 08:34

    My dad is William C Jones (Bill) , he went through corps school at the naval hospital between March and April 1945. Then stationed at hospital until Feb. 1946. If anyone would like to get in touch with my dad, you can contact me at hholder28@yahoo.com
    Helen Holder
    Helena, Alabama

  • Lea Richmond Jr. MD  On 28 Dec 2012 at 11:25

    I trained at the hospital and worked as an operating room tech. Learned valuable lessons in sterile technique which carried over into my subsequent medical-surgical career. I along with many others contracted a streptococcal infection. The Indians had referred to the site as fever valley. Strep was in the soil. the government had no clue.

  • Jack Wise  On 05 Jun 2013 at 13:07

    My father, Eugene Wise was in the 3rd Marine Division and was sent to Farragut Naval Hospital in 1945. My mother, Garcile Boday, was a nurse (WAVE) there. If anyone has any other photos of the hospital area, I would certainly like to hear from you as I am writing a book about that time period.

    • thomaslsnyder  On 05 Jun 2013 at 13:20

      Mr Wise,
      Thanks for your comment on “Of Ships and Surgeons” concerning the Naval Hospital at Farragut, ID. In the past, there was a website just loaded with images of the Training Center and the Hospital, but it seems to have disappeared. Perhaps if you do a persistent Google, it may pop up. Idaho historian Gayle Alvarez has produced a photo essay of the Training Center for Arcadia, http://www.amazon.com/Farragut-Training-Station-Images-America/dp/0738570966, which may be of interest to you. Good luck– Tom Snyder, MD

  • Gene Buckley  On 30 Jun 2013 at 04:37

    My dad, John L. Buckley went through bootcamp and the medical corps school approximately June 1943 at Farragut. He still has his Medical Corps book that he received during training. Shipped out to Guam Island a few months later.

  • Alan Shaw  On 24 Jul 2014 at 16:56

    I am looking for any information on a Donald Wolfe that served in the Naval Hospital in Idaho in 1944/45. He spent some time in Sun Valley, Idaho.

    • Alan Shaw  On 07 Aug 2014 at 08:43

      Alan Shaw here, Thanks for the information that there was not a Donald Wolfe that was a patient at the convalescent center in Sun Valley, Idaho, but he worked there and was serving at the time in the US Navy.

  • Marjorie Walsh  On 14 Sep 2014 at 12:37

    My Father served at the Naval Hospital at Farragut as a physician during the last year the base was in service. We lived close to the base in Coure ‘d Lane during this time. He had served in the South Pacific for 42 months and then as a physician at Farragut. His name was Dr. George T. Royse, MD. He achieved the rank of Captain while at Farragut. He died in 1973 at the age of 70. Thank you for confirming my memories of Farragut. Marjorie Walsh

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