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U. S. Naval Convalescent Hospital, Santa Cruz, CA (Hotel Casa Del Rey) (NARA College Park, MD) Of Ships & Surgeons Notes on the History of Naval Medicine Sponsored by the Society for the History of Navy Medicine The U. S. Navy’s “Phantom” World War II Hospitals in California, Part II In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the Navy’s four “temporary” new constructions in northern California, which were part of Navy Surgeon General Ross McIntire’s program to provide hospital care for the casualties of war. But even these new beds were not enough to supply the needs for an expected million casualties if the expected invasion of the Japanese home islands took place. War time hospitalization came under the oversight of the Federal Board of Hospitalization, an independent executive agency established in 1921 to coordinate the hospital programs of the military services, the public health service, Veterans Administration and Indian Health Service in order to avoid duplication of services and overbuilding of facilities.(1) Every proposal for new Navy beds went through this body, and there were inevitable bureaucratic delays in getting beds approved. In January 1943, the 12th Naval District Medical Officer wrote We will undoubtedly need a number of places for convalescents. If possible, I think M & S should get direct appropriations from Congress to take over hotels, call them hospitals, leave the entire management and staff with the exceptions of bell-boys, chambermaids, etc. as is. We to pay the flat rate per man per day. This will be cheaper and the contracts can be made much more easily and quickly.(2) U. S. Naval Convalescent Hospital, Santa Cruz, California 12th Naval District medical authorities sought facilities that were “especially desirable … for convalescents and … also well suited for recreational purposes”. The Santa Cruz resort hotel Casa Del Rey fit the ticket, and could be made ready to receive 500 patients within 2 weeks of lease signing. Retired Medical Corps Captain Frederick E Porter was detailed to command the hospital, which he commissioned on 9 March 1943. The hospital experienced its busiest year in 1944, when 8099 patients were received. In all, more than 18,000 men received convalescent services before the hospital was decommissioned 1 April 1946.(3) The old hotel then went on to serve as senior citizen housing in its later years. It sustained serious damage in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. It has since been demolished. (1) United States Government Manual, 1945, First Edition, “Federal Board of Hospitalization”, found at http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/ATO/USGM/FBH.html, accessed 23 April 2011. This appears to be a direct transcription of the titled government document, transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancy of the Hyperwar Foundation. (2) National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD (“Archives II”), Record Group 52, Records of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Headquarters Records, Correspondence 1842-1945, Entry 15B, File NH70-7 – 7/A1-1, letter Inspector of Medical Activities, Pacific Coast, to assistant chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, RADM Luther Sheldon at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, 29 January 1943. (3) Administrative History of U. S. Naval Special Hospital, Santa Cruz, California, 30 June 1946. This file is in the “Santa Cruz” folder in the History Library at the U S Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (“BuMrd”), 2300 E Street, NW, Washington, DC.
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