Sabbatical in Washington DC; Naval Hospital Corona

Your correspondent was on the road last week–in DC–to cheer his younger son Jason in his eighth Marine Corps Marathon, and to enjoy Hallowe’en with our four year old grand daughter recently come to DC when our older son and his family returned from 6 years in Brussels. Both sons / families in the US at the same time! We don’t expect this to happen again for several years, as they are both married to Foreign Service officers who rotate out to U S Embassies on a roughly two year schedule.

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I’ve been invited to speak at a Pearl Harbor event–7 December–at the former Naval Hospital in Norco, California.

Naval Hospital, Corona, California, undated (U S Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Historical Office Collection)

The Norconian, a resort popular with movie stars in the 1920s, had fallen on hard times as the Great Depression dragged on. Navy Surgeon General Ross McIntire, eager to find additional beds for casualties from the expected war in the Pacific, hit upon the idea of leasing or purchasing hotels for this use. The Norconian was the first of these to be purchased–on 9 December 1941– and converted, quickly, to hospital use. Originally designated as U S Naval Hospital Norco and renamed U S Naval Hospital Corona, the facility received its first staff of Naval Reserve physicians from the Mayo Clinic by the time the first patients arrived in April 1942. By the time the second contingent of Mayo doctors arrived in June, just 18 patients occupied the huge and luxurious hotel. When this Mayo group began to break up in March 1944, the patient census stood at around 2,000. [1]

Originally designated a convalescent hospital, taking advantage of the Norconian‘s spa facilities, NH Corona received the bulk of its early patients from Naval Hospitals at San Diego, later, Long Beach. [Coventry, cited above]. Later, the hospital received more direct admissions, especially after it was designated the Navy’s western poliomyelitis treatment center in February 1944, and as rheumatic fever research and treatment center in April 1944. In March 1945, the hospital’s specialty portfolio expanded to include designation as a tuberculosis treatment center, and in October, a regional center for the management of patients with abnormalities of bladder function as a result of spinal injuries. [2] On VJ Day, the hospital patient census stood at more than 3600. [3]

At war’s end, the Navy, responding to patients’ desires to be moved near their homes, quickly demobilized patients. Despite its designation as a TB and polio treatment facility, the hospital’s census was down to around 500 by 1947. By January 1949, only 150 patients remained, and the facility closed its doors to patients on 1 November.

The Korean Conflict brought about a brief reprieve as the hospital reopened to care for casualties near the end of 1951. [4] Budget cuts and reductions in force led to the final closure of NH Corona in October 1957. [5]

 

[1] “Mayo Naval Medical Units in World War Two – Reminiscences of Mark B Coventry, M.D., May 1970” by permission of Mayo Historical Unit, Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota

[2] “Historical Supplement to Fourth Quarterly Sanitary Report – Cumulative Report for Period of World War II, U S Naval Hospital Corona, California”  [undated, but after October 1945], U S Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery History Office Library, file “N H Corona”.

[3] “The History of the Medical Department of the United States Navy in World War II – A Narrative and Pictorial Volume” ; Navmed P-5031, Volume I. Washington, DC, GPO, 1953, p 1.

[4] Bash, Kevin, and Brigitte Jouxel, Images of America – The Navy in Norco”, Charleston, South Carolina, Arcadia Publishing, 2011.

[5] “Corona, M. I. Hospitals Told to Stop Accepting Patients”, Vallejo Times-Herald, Friday August 16, 1957.

© 2011 Thomas L Snyder

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Comments

  • Charles J. Roth  On 26 Jun 2012 at 20:48

    I was a patient in the polio ward in Corona Naval Hospital, 1945 to 1946 and am curious to know if there are any of those patients still alive . . . . it was a very good facility and the corpsmen and corpswaves were excellent . . . .

  • Denis Paz  On 05 Dec 2012 at 21:55

    My father, George Louis [Jorge Luis] Paz, was a Pharmacist’s Mate, 3rd Class, at the Naval Hospital, Corona, California, in 1944 and 1945. He told a few stories about the Bataan Death March survivors, Japanese prison survivors, and Marine island-hoppers whom he treated during his service. He mentioned a survivor called Gene Allison, who contracted polio while in a Japanese prison camp. Allison was my godfather for baptism; Allison was wheelchair-bound, and I was laid on his lap, or so the story goes. I would be very interested in learning more about this facility, about the people it served, and about my father’s service in this facility,

  • Being Woven  On 20 May 2013 at 17:39

    My father, Capt. Ralph D. Ross, was Chief of Medicine at Corona NH from summer 1953 to October 1957 when it closed. We lived on the base and it was just about the best part of my childhood…not only the base but Norco itself. I loved being in that town and still have friends from that era. LInda Ross Gill

    • Aurora Kelly  On 18 Jun 2013 at 16:35

      I was born in in Corona NH and am very curious about it

  • Denny Allman  On 22 Jul 2013 at 08:59

    my son was born Aug 9, 1953 at Corona NH. He was delivered by a Dr. Johnson who delivered something like 25 babies in 24 hours. Anything in the archives on this?
    Denny Allman
    abbadenny@yahoo.com

  • Charles Roth  On 25 Jun 2014 at 19:20

    Gene had been on a Cruiser when he got polio and went to the hospital in Manila and 2 weeks later Manila fell and he spent the rest of the time in prison . . . there were about 30 patients in the polio ward and Gene was about the most disabled. He had a good sense of humor and very congenial person . . .Our corpsmen and corpwaves were excellent . . . treatment fine . . . .I was there for about a year, I had what is called post polio about 18 years ago and am still using a wheel chair . . . I haven’t heard from any of the guys on the ward for years . . . we just all got old . . . .

  • Dave  On 08 Jul 2014 at 06:16

    I was born at Corona Naval Hospital on May 6th 1953. My birth certificate was signed by W.A. Johnson, probably the same Dr. Johnson mentioned by Denny Allman above.

  • Mary Snow  On 25 Feb 2015 at 21:02

    My daughter La Vae Marie Drinovsky Aguilar was born at Corona Naval Hospital May 4th 1955. I love this site as I am going to print info for a “My Life” book.

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