One of the joys of being the Executive Director of the Society for the History of Navy Medicine is that, on occasion, a person will find me on the internet and offer to share something about a relative who served in the Navy, typically, in World War II.
Such was the case when I received an email from the daughter of Ken Crawford, PhM2, USNR. Ms Crawford made mention that she held her dad’s “Anniversary Booklet” for the United States Naval Receiving Hospital, San Francisco, and asked where she might donate it. I referred Ms Crawford to the archivist at the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, in Falls Church, VA. But first, I asked if I might have an opportunity to see the booklet for my own research purposes. The little treasure arrived in my mail today.
According to the Booklet, the hospital was originally assembled at the Medical Supply Depot in Brooklyn, and later expanded “in echelons” at the Naval Supply Depot in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Shipped to California in September, 1944, the hospital’s 61 “task force-type” buildings found their home in Crocker Amazon Park, at Geneva Ave and Moscow Street in San Francisco. Commissioned on 9 December 1944, the hospital staff included 11 medical officers, 4 dental officers, 50 nurse corps officers, 11 hospital corps officers, 10 pharmacists, 2 chaplains, 2 supply officers and a Marine Corps officer and more than 600 enlisted people including (more than 500) pharmacists’ mates, storekeepers, seamen, Marines, and 43 cooks. The number of patients this seemingly ample staff served is not noted in the Anniversary Booklet. The hospital’s missions were to receive overseas casualties, provide hospital services for nearby naval activities and “to act as a training center for newly indoctrinated medical officers and hospital corpsmen”.
As Robert C Fenning, LT (jg), Chaplain Corps, USNR wrote in the booklet, “To the returning casualty Fleet Hospital 113 was a pause for adjustment. On home soil again, he could offer thanks…” The hospital offered a full agenda of entertainments and activities including stage shows, celebrity visits (Walter Winchell, Jack Dempsey, Helen Hayes and Eddie Foy, Jr. are specifically mentioned), dances and sports activities.
With the war over and patients eager to go home, the hospital was scheduled for decommissioning on 15 December 1945, just a year and a week after its commissioning. According to the ParkScan website, the Navy vacated the site in 1946, and the structures turned over to the San Francisco Housing Authority for use as veterans’ housing during the post-war housing shortage. The park returned to recreational usage in 1957.
©2012 Thomas L Snyder