January 2011 Archives

67 Years Ago This Month...

Sixty-seven years ago this month, the Ninth General Hospital (an image of which was featured recently as a "Treasure of the Week") suffered through a massive monsoon while stationed on Goodenough Island off the southeastern coast of New Guinea. The Ninth General Hospital, a medical unit staffed primarily by New York Hospital and Cornell Medical College physicians and nurses, served in the South Pacific from 1943 through 1945. Archives staff recently processed the Records of the Ninth General Hospital and are eager to share its story.

The Ninth General Hospital unit was formed by New York Hospital and Cornell University Medical College during World War II and served from 1943 through 1945 as a military hospital in the South Pacific. The unit was called to active duty on July 15, 1942. Female members of the Ninth General Hospital were sent to Fort Devens, Massachusetts; male members to Fort Banks, Massachusetts and from there to Fort Andrews on Peddock's Island in the Boston Harbor. One year later, the men and women of the Ninth General Hospital were transferred to California where they boarded an army transport ship headed for Brisbane, Australia.

The Unit arrived in Australia by the end of the summer, though their stay there was short lived. Orders changed and the original hospital site assigned to the Ninth General was reassigned to the 42nd General Hospital, a similar unit formed by medical professionals from the University of Maryland. On October 18, over 500 Ninth General Hospital doctors, officers, and administrators boarded the "Black Dog," a Dutch freighter bound for Goodenough Island off the southeastern coast of New Guinea. The nurses and female personnel remained in Brisbane. The Ninth General was the first general hospital unit stationed in the South Pacific's combat zone. The unit immediately set to work outfitting the hospital wards, securing fresh water, and erecting telephone poles to facilitate communication.

Changes in battle plans and a shift in military operations lessened the need for an army hospital on the island. The Ninth General Hospital personnel were once again transferred, this time to Biak, an island northwest of New Guinea, then occupied by Japanese forces. By the middle of September, the island was under Allied control and by the end of October, the hospital unit had admitted its first patients. By July 1945, the Ninth General Hospital had treated roughly 23,000 patients.

Military operations shifted and the Ninth General Hospital was called to duty at Luzon in the Philippine Islands. They arrived on August 14, the same day the Japanese army surrendered. Plans to set up a hospital on the island were discontinued and the unit was officially disbanded. The Ninth General Hospital received the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque in recognition for their heroic efforts during the war.

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