This article is the second in a series of installments that will list the names of known members of the 32nd Station Hospital who served during World War II. When possible, the entry will include the subject’s service number, dates of birth and death, and a brief biography. Officers are somewhat easier to keep track of than enlisted personnel, since there are three extant officers rosters (December 31, 1943, May 1, 1944, and December 31, 1944). In addition, Special Order 314, a document from the files of Dr. William A. Carey, Jr., contains a list of 31 commissioned officers and three non-commissioned officers who were members of the unit as of December 24, 1942 (albeit without the assignments listed in the official rosters).
After this article was initially published, I received a photo of an organizational chart from the collection of Dr. Gayland L. Hagelshaw, who commanded the unit from May 23, 1943 until June 23, 1943. This chart was different from the other documents in that it only listed ranks and last names (and only male officers, not nurses). Since there were no first names, middle initials, or service numbers, I had to cross-reference the names with other lists. One interesting aspect of the chart was that, unlike the rosters, which listed one assignment, the chart listed as many as four duties for a single officer, and sometimes the assigned wards in the case of the unit’s doctors.
Because of the numbers of personnel involved, the name entries are being sorted into different articles, each covering one or more sections of the unit. Within each section, officers are listed in alphabetical order.
Unfortunately, this list will never be 100% complete, since officers were constantly being transferred into and out of the unit. Until the 32nd Station Hospital’s commanding officers began submitting monthly reports in May 1944 (which included personnel transfers) there was no way to keep track of these movements, given the apparent loss of all the hospital’s records aside from some of the unit’s reports. For simplicity, officers assigned on temporary duty (TD) are omitted, as are officers assigned after V-E Day, when the unit experienced major turnover in preparation for its anticipated transfer to the Pacific Theatre.
Beyond the names listed, information is a patchwork based on research on Ancestry.com, newspaper accounts, and contributions by family members of 32nd Station Hospital personnel. Although I’ve made every effort to make sure the information presented is as accurate as possible, it is likely that errors will slip by undetected. Please notify me of any needed corrections.
Unfortunately, very few documents list both an individual’s service number and date of birth, which can make matching different sets of data very problematic (especially when a name is common). Furthermore, most of the U.S. Army’s personnel records from World War II were destroyed in a 1973 fire.
This particular section of the roster, the administrative officers (except commanding officers, who are covered in a separate article), proved particularly challenging. Although the unit’s commanding officers were doctors (members of the Medical Corps), the majority of the 32nd Station Hospital’s Administration were members of the Medical Administrative Corps (M.A.C.). The 32nd’s M.A.C. officers experienced a high turnover rate; only two listed on the December 1942 document were still with the unit in 1945. The tough conditions in Tlemcen, Algeria for mess officers (who had to deal with four separate facilities in the city) seems to have set a trend, as mess officers in particular seemed to last just a matter of months!
George Willard Blood (Willard George Blood), O-1543104 (January 9, 1906 – September 6, 1985)
1st Lieutenant Blood first appeared on the December 31, 1944 roster assigned as Commanding Officer, Medical Detachment (enlisted portion of the unit). I am unable to locate any mention of him transferring into the unit from May to December 1944, though his predecessor in the same position is recorded as leaving the unit in November 1944. 1st Lieutenant Blood was promoted to captain on July 27, 1945.
When this article was initially published, I wrote that I had been unable to learn anything more about him. In May 2019, I received a list of members of the 32nd Station Hospital compiled for the unit’s 1982 reunion. It listed Blood as someone who had lost contact with the rest of the unit, with a last known address in Joliet, Illinois. With that information in hand, I found a family tree entry on Ancestry.com for a George Willard Blood (1906–1985).
As of the 1940 census, a Willard G. Blood in Joliet was working as “assistant to owner” in the undertaking industry. A George W. Blood (listed with a civilian job of “Embalmers and undertakers”) born in 1906 was listed as enlisted in the U.S. Army in Chicago on April 22, 1941. Most likely this record is the same individual; if so, he must have been commissioned later. A portrait labeled “Italy, 1944” shows him wearing U.S. Army Medical Administrative Corps insignia and lieutenant rank. The Polk’s Joliet City Directory 1950 listed Willard G. Blood as Will County Coroner and working at Blood & Grant Funeral Home, with the same address as the 1982 32nd Station Hospital member list.
Robert C. Brenneman, officer service number unknown (almost certainly January 19, 1919 – January 18, 1983)
Brenneman’s name was did not appear on any extant 32nd Station Hospital roster and was not in this article as originally published. In June 2019, I received a photo of an organizational chart in the collection of Dr. Gayland L. Hagelshaw (from around May or June 1943) which listed a 1st Lieutenant Brenneman with the following duties:
- Medical Supply
- Laundry Officer
With this information, I searched a list of 32nd Station Hospital unit members compiled for the 1982 reunion. A Robert C. Brenneman of Seattle Washington was listed as having attended the reunion. Working backward from that, I found a likely match on an Ancestry.com family tree for a Robert Craig Brenneman (1919–1983). Brenneman was born in New Castle, Indiana, the son of Walter and Rachel Brenneman. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in Kentucky on March 6, 1941. He likely attended O.C.S. at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania, based on the fact that he married Margery Ruth Harvey (1915–1998) at the Carlisle Methodist Church on November 13, 1942. A newspaper article printed in the Harrisburg Telegraph the following day entitled “Miss Harvey Becomes Bride” stated that “Lt. Brenneman is stationed at Fort Benning, Ga.” The 32nd Station Hospital was also based at Fort Benning, Georgia at the time.
A document from the collection of Master Sergeant Charles Ballard, entitled “Highlights and Shadows of the Thirty-Second” indicated that Brenneman was a member of the unit by the time it was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. It is unclear who wrote “Highlights and Shadows of the Thirty-Second” but it was likely written by one of the unit’s officers some time after the war. The unknown author recalled:
On Saturday morning, December 20th, the officers assigned to the [Fort Benning] hospital were informed that their duties in the hospital would cease at noon of that day. With great curiosity then did we gather after dinner to hear what was up. Colonel Burstein announced the “Alert” and our probably departure for an unknown destination within a few days. The Supply Officer, Lt., Brenneman, set off for a P of E [Port of Embarkation].
His advance departure may explain why his name doesn’t appear on a list of 31 officers with the unit at Fort Benning as of December 24, 1942. (The list was not a formal roster.) Brenneman departed the unit prior to December 31, 1943. A September 25, 1943 from nurse Alice Griffin to her family suggested Brenneman’s departure occurred around that time: “Our mess officer & supply officer & chief dentist have gone & they say there are two more doctors going.”
Cyril Cole, officer service number unknown (probably December 14, 1909 – June 6, 1994)
Cole was not present in this article as initially published, since his name did not appear on any extant roster. An organizational chart from the collection of Dr. Gayland L. Hagelshaw (circa May or June 1943) listed a 2nd Lieutenant Cole as responsible for the following duties:
- Assistant Detachment Commander
- Post Exchnage Officer
- Assistant Censor – S-2
- Special Service Officer
- Unit Supply
Page 2 of the May 1, 1943 issue of the 32nd Station Hospital newspaper, known as The Weekly Diagnosis, listed 2nd Lieutenant Cyril B. Cole as the paper’s Officer in Charge. A list of members of the unit compiled for the 1982 reunion listed a Cyril G. Cole of New Bedford, Massachusetts as being unable to attend the reunion. The address listed for him in 1982 was identical for a Cyril G. Cole on the 1930 census, suggesting the middle initial of B. in the newspaper was a typo. Cole was listed as a teacher on the 1940 census. A Cyril G. Cole, who was listed as a teacher, enlisted in Boston on February 25, 1941. His enlisted service number was 31017784. Presumably he attended O.C.S. and was subsequently commissioned, but his officer service number is currently unknown.
It isn’t clear when Cole left the unit, although it must have been prior December 31, 1943. Dr. Lowell Vinsant took over as Special Service Officer effective November 23, 1943, so it might have been around that time.
Records on Ancestry.com suggest that Cyril Gerard Cole was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the son of William and Agnes Cole. He died in Yamhill, Oregon, aged 84. I have been unable to learn anything else about this officer.
Lawrence J. Davis, O-493807 (dates of birth and death unknown)
1st Lieutenant Davis apparently joined the unit after December 31, 1943 but before May 1, 1944 when he appeared on a roster as Mess Officer. The hospital’s July 1944 report mentions that he “was transferred on rotation to the 7th Replacement Depot, PBS [Peninsular Base Section], for transhipment [sic] to the U.S.” I have been unable to learn anything else about this officer.
Frederick J. Ferris, O-2047308 (almost certainly June 2, 1920 – October 13, 2002)
2nd Lieutenant Ferris joined the 32nd Station Hospital after December 31, 1943 but prior to March 15, 1944, when his name appears on Hospital Order Number 26, a document in my grandfather Robert Silverman’s files. He appeared on the May 1, 1944 roster as Assistant Registrar. He was transferred to the 300th General Hospital in August, 1944. His farewell message printed in the 32nd Station Hospital’s newspaper indicated he was from Albany, New York, and served as a member of the unit for “about six months”.
A likely match was mentioned in The Times Record (Troy, New York) in a story in the June 15, 1953 issue, “Former Trojan Gets Post At Boston College.” The story stated that he “holds a master of science degree from the new York School of Social Work at Columbia University.” The article also mentioned that he was in the army for 3½ years, including two years in the M.T.O., with a final rank of captain. The article reported he “has been appointed assistant professor of community organization at the Boston College School of Social Work.” The January 5, 1968 issue of the same newspaper listed him as “dean and professor of the School of Social Service, Catholic University, Washington D.C.” The article also mentioned that he enlisted as a private in 1942 before making his way up to captain.
Based on the information from the newspaper articles, the most likely enlistment record is for a teacher named Frederick J. Ferris who enlisted on October 1, 1942 in Albany, New York. Dr. Frederick Joseph Ferris died in Washington D.C. in 2002. His obituary in The Washington Post listed a wife, Ellen, but no children. In March 2019, the daughter of Dr. Lowell E. Vinsant sent me a copy of her father’s World War II journal, which included a section for listing buddies. Frederick J. Ferris is listed with an address in Troy, New York, making it virtually certain that the biography listed above is correct.
Stuart Edward Graham, O-1534029 (December 24, 1904 – January 30, 1978)
Graham was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Edward and Sarah Graham. He moved to Wilkes-Barre in 1939 while working for the Hartford Insurance Group. According to his Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Application for World War II Compensation, he joined the U.S. Army on March 12, 1941. A scrapbook Graham kept indicated that he trained at Camp Lee, Virginia in the spring of 1941. He went on active duty on January 6, 1942 and went overseas on December 12, 1942, apparently with the 12th General Hospital.
It is unclear when Graham joined the 32nd Station Hospital, but it must have been sometime during 1943 (no sooner than September based on items from the 12th General Hospital in his scrapbook). As of December 31, 1943, 2nd Lieutenant Graham was listed as Commanding Officer, Medical Detachment. The Medical Detachment was the term used for the enlisted personnel assigned to the hospital. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on February 13, 1944.
On September 6, 1944, 1st Lieutenant Graham served as best man for 2nd Lieutenant Clarence W. Byrne (previously a patient in the hospital) when Byrne married one of the 32nd Station Hospital’s nurses, 1st Lieutenant Velma A. Drolet. In November 1944, Graham was transferred back to the 12th General Hospital.
Graham’s compensation application listed the end of his foreign service as Apr 20, 1945 and indicates he left army on January 8, 1946. His obituary in the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader on January 31, 1978 mentioned his service in Africa and Italy (finishing with a rank of captain), but the only unit listed was the 12th General Hospital. The obituary also stated that after the war, Graham founded his own insurance agency, though after a 1966 merger he ended up as a partner in the Graham-Rinehimer Associates Insurance Agency. Apparently putting his M.A.C. experience to use, he was also secretary-treasurer at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital until 1977. He married Ruth Anne Hourigan (a reporter) in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania on May 9, 1945. Graham’s obituary listed survivors as his wife, two sons, and three daughters.
Thomas Joseph Hagerty, W-2114224 (August 12, 1919 – October 26, 1984)
Thomas Hagerty was born in Massachusetts. He worked as a post office clerk before joining the U.S. Army in Boston on February 14, 1941. It is unclear when he joined the 32nd Station Hospital. Warrant Officer (Junior Grade) Thomas J. Hagerty was listed on the December 31, 1943 and May 1, 1944 rosters as Assistant Registrar. He was promoted to chief warrant officer as of August 24, 1944. An organizational chart from May or June 1943 lists his duties as:
- Personnel Officer
- Insurance Officer
- War Bond Officer
On the December 31, 1944 roster his position is listed as Adjutant.
Writing decades later, Willard Havemeier recalled:
He was a terrific baseball player and very good friend of mine. He was fun to have as a boss and had a good sense of humor.
The entry for him on the 32nd Station Hospital Red Sox roster gives his nickname as “Homerun” Hagerty, describing him as:
2nd Baseman, and one of the fastest men on the team. As soon as Tom gets on base he has everyone on his feet with his “Pepper Martin” dashes on the basepaths. He’s from Dover, Mass.
Chief Warrant Officer Hagerty married 1st Lieutenant Annie P. Barone (one of the 32nd Station Hospital’s nurses) in the hospital chapel on June 14, 1945. The officiant was Chaplain William V. O’Connor. (Although Captain O’Connor had long served as the hospital’s Catholic Chaplain, he’d been transferred to Adriatic Base Command in April 1945. He returned to officiate this and probably at least one other wedding.)
After the war, Thomas and Annie returned to Dover, Massachusetts, where they raised two daughters and a son. Thomas Hagerty served in the Dover Fire Department from 1949 to 1971, achieving a rank of deputy chief. He also served as Dover’s postmaster for many years.
Albert H. Hanssen, Jr., O-1533800 (almost certainly August 12, 1918 – July 12, 1963)
1st Lieutenant Hanssen is listed was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by December 24, 1942 when his name appears on a list of the unit’s officers as part of Special Order 314 (Headquarters, Fort Benning, Georgia). Unless he was transferred out of the unit in the three weeks that followed Special Order 314, he would have served with the 32nd Station Hospital in Algeria. He must have transferred out prior May or June 1943, since he does not appear on an organizational chart of 32nd Station Hospital officers in the collection of Dr. Gayland L. Hagelshaw. The January 1, 1956 Official Army Register listed 1st Lieutenant Hanssen (with matching service number) as retired from the U.S. Army on October 28, 1944. The retirement code indicates disability in the line of duty. Hannsen’s name appeared on a list of members of the 32nd Station Hospital that had lost contact with the unit by the time of the 1982 reunion, with a last known address in Baltimore, Maryland. Most likely, he had been deceased for decades by the time the list was compiled.
The most likely match is a Albert H. Hanssen, Jr. who was born in Baltimore, son of Baltimore police officer Albert H. Hanssen, Sr. He is recorded as enlisting in the U.S. Army on February 3, 1941 in Baltimore, Maryland. He apparently was already in the National Guard at a rank of technical sergeant. If this is the same individual, he was commissioned at some point.
Hanssen died of a sudden illness, aged 44. His obituary in The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) on July 13, 1963 doesn’t mention any military service. The article states Hanssen graduated from Johns Hopkins University and was “general credit manager of the Davidson Chemical Division of W. R. Grace & Company” at the time of his death. He and his wife, Dorothy Henderson Hanssen had a daughter and a son.
Charles Koerner, O-480750 (June 23, 1908 or June 23, 1906 – October 22, 1983)
Captain Koerner transferred into the unit from the 12th General Hospital in December, 1944. He was listed on the December 31, 1944 roster as Mess Officer. Koerner was transferred to HQ, 15th Army Group in June 1945.
Koerner was born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. He was the sixth child of William (a baker) and Mary Koerner, immigrants from Germany. He appears on the 1940 census in Oswego, New York with his occupation listed as “Soldier (N.C.O.).” He and his wife Margaret had a son and two daughters at the time, and apparently had another son circa 1942. It’s unclear how the marriage ended, but later, Charles remarried on December 30, 1946 to Eileen Cockell in Salzburg, Austria. Eileen’s home was listed as Oswego, but it is unclear if they knew each other before the war. Charles and Eileen had at least one son together.
His Application for World War II Compensation form in Pennsylvania indicates he joined the U.S. Army on August 11, 1927 and worked his way up from the enlisted ranks to warrant officer and finally commissioned officer. His date of birth on this form is listed as June 23, 1906 (not June 23, 1908 like other records) but his officer serial number matches the 32nd Station Hospital roster. He listed his overseas service as December 12, 1942 to November 14, 1945 (and then again from January 19, 1946 to March 2, 1946). On the other hand, his Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. record gives an enlistment date of September 16, 1939, and a release date of April 30, 1955. The discrepancy might be due to service in the National Guard or U.S. Army Reserve as opposed to active duty.
His obituary in The Evening Phoenix (Phoenixville, Pennsylvania) describes him as a veteran of World War II and Korea with 28 years of service, retiring with a rank of major. It states: “During World War II, he served with the 12th General Hospital in Italy, North Africa and Austria.” After retiring from the army, he owned a vacuum cleaner business.
Gerard Krueger, O-274456 (May 14, 1904 – December 31, 1973)
Krueger was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was listed on a 1943 National Guard register. If I’m reading the document correctly, he enlisted on Jan 31, 1924 as a private and made his way up to master sergeant before he was eventually commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant on March 27, 1930. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on June 11, 1931 and captain on June 30, 1932. As of 1939 he was in the 108th Medical Regiment, headquartered in Chicago.
It’s unclear when Captain Krueger joined the unit, as he was not among the 31 officers listed as members of the unit as of December 24, 1942. However, he must have joined by May or June 1943, when his name appeared on an organizational chart in the collection of Dr. Gayland L. Hagelshaw with the position of Adjutant. On the December 31, 1943 roster, Captain Krueger was also listed as Adjutant. On the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters he was listed with the position of Executive Officer. He was promoted to major on March 27, 1945. He left the unit in July 1945 along with many other longstanding officers.
Willard Havemeier recalled: “Krueger was a pleasure to know in that he liked to tell a good joke and was terrific at any party. ”
He was listed on the January 1, 1966 U.S. Army Register (with matching serial number) as retiring from the U.S. Army Reserve, with a retirement date of June 1, 1964 and a rank of major. His retirement code was listed indicating he had reached age 60 with 20 years of federal service. On a 1972 U.S. Army retired list he was also listed as a major but with a retirement date of November 1961.
According to his obituary published in The Daily Dispatch (Moline, Illinois), he was a “supervisor with the Veterans Administration [in Chicago] until retiring in 1969.” He died in Chicago, aged 69. He had two sons.
Oliver C. Mitchell, O-269117 (probably August 28, 1905 – December 27, 1986)
Captain Mitchell was transferred into the 32nd Station Hospital in September 1944. He was transferred to the 12th General Hospital in December 1944. It’s strictly speculation on my part but he may have been one in a long line of mess officers who frequently transferred in and out of the 32nd Station Hospital at regular intervals. If so, there must have been someone on temporary duty covering after 1st Lieutenant Davis’s departure in July 1944; the next known mess officer, Captain Charles Koerner, arrived in December, which fits. My theory is supported by a short article in the Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) on February 13, 1945 which states:
Capt. Oliver C. Mitchell, son of Mrs. William A. Mitchell, 1803 San Antonio Avenue, Alameda; assigned as mess officer at a station hospital in the Italian theatre of war.
Oliver C. Mitchell is listed at that location on the 1930 census as a 24-year old clerk living with William A. (also a clerk, who had immigrated from New Zealand) and Edith A Mitchell. He was a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army reserve when he was called up for active duty on June 17, 1941. A Major Oliver C. Mitchell (with matching service number) was listed in the January 1, 1966 U.S. Army Register as retiring on September 1, 1965 with a retirement code indicating he was age 60 with 20 years’ service. This is almost certainly the Major Oliver C. Mitchell (1905–1986) who is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California. He was married to Marcia R. Mitchell (1908–1988). It is unknown if the couple had any children.
Herman Carter Needles, O-1533875 (February 7, 1922 – July 17, 2015)
Needles was born in Pennsylvania to Herman J. and Ruth L. Needles. He attended Ephrata High School and enlisted in the U.S. Army in Harrisburg on December 31, 1940. Private Needles was assigned to the Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania when he was mentioned in a January 15, 1942 story in the Harrisburg Telegraph (he was an usher in a wedding). He had been promoted to corporal by June 8, 1942, when he started Officer Candidate School at Carlisle Barracks along with four other non-commissioned officers. After finishing O.C.S., he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant on August 25, 1942. He married Isabelle Gier soon afterward. According to Willard Havemier, his nickname was Bud.
2nd Lieutenant Needles was already with the 32nd Station Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia on December 24, 1942 when his name appears with a list of other officers on Special Order 314. His Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Application for World War II Compensation form gives his dates of overseas service as January 14, 1943 until October 8, 1945. An organizational chart from May or June 1943 lists his duties as:
- Asst. Registrar
- C.O. Detach[ment of] Patients
- Graves Registration
He was listed with the title of Registrar on all three extant 32nd Station Hospital rosters (December 31, 1943, May 1, 1944, and December 31, 1944). Based on the rosters, he was promoted to 1st lieutenant sometime between January 1, 1944 and May 1, 1944. Willard Havemeier wrote that at the very end of the war, Needles was transferred to a unit in Bari, Italy, but ended up on the same ship home to the United States as Havemeier.
Needles left active duty on January 19, 1946 at Indiantown Gap. He returned to college and graduated from Drexel Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce in 1950. On the 1956 Official Army Register, he was listed as having reentered the U.S. Army on October 20, 1950.
A February 25, 1957 article in The Honolulu Advertiser mentioned Major Needles had been recently promoted with several other officers; the officers and their wives threw a party at the Tripler Army Hospital officers’ club. U.S. Army registers indicate he was still active as of 1972, having been promoted to lieutenant colonel on June 28, 1962 and colonel on December 26, 1968.
Colonel Needles and his wife raised two daughters and a son. After leaving the U.S. Army, he lived in St. Petersburg, Florida. He helped organize the unit’s 1982 reunion there. When he died in 2015 at age 93, he may have been the last remaining member of the 32nd Station Hospital from World War II. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Murphy A. Ory, O-348261 (possibly February 19, 1912 – October 19, 1997)
Captain Ory appears as a Medical Administrative Corps (M.A.C.) officer assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital as of December 24, 1942. If he accompanied the unit overseas, he must have departed it prior by around June 1943, since he does not appear on the organizational chart from Dr. Hagelshaw’s collection.
The most likely match was apparently a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve by April 6, 1937, when his name appears in the Pensacola Journal (Pensacola, Florida) on a list of members of the Reserve Officer’s Association. Based on his Department of Veterans Affairs record, he entered active duty on August 15, 1940. An August 20, 1946 article in the Pensacola Journal mentions a likely match, Major Murphy A. Ory. The article states that he was currently serving “at Mayo General hospital in Galsburg, Ill.” but was “formerly an employe [sic] of the Gulf Power company here”. The article states: “He served 33 months overseas in Iran, North Africa, Naples, Rome and Leghorn, Italy as adjutant of the 12th General hospital.” A July 10, 1953 article from the same paper states now Lieutenant Colonel Ory “has been assigned to duty as chief of the personnel division of the 3rd Army Medical Section, at Ft. McPherson, Ga.”
Ory’s Department of Veterans Affairs file gives a release date as August 31, 1960 (the January 1, 1961 U.S. Army Register gives his retirement as the following day, with a rank of colonel). Colonel Ory’s obituary in The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) states that he and his wife Bernice had a son and a daughter. His headstone at Chattanooga National Cemetery in Tennessee lists him as a veteran of World War II and Korea.
James Leonard Ponton, O-1533889 (February 10, 1918 – August 28, 1993)
Ponton was from Bakersfield, California. When he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was working for the 7-Up Bottling Company. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 24, 1941. A January 1, 1943 article in The Bakersfield Californian announced that Ponton had been promoted to 1st lieutenant. It described him as the 32nd’s “mess and utilities officer” and stated that after enlisting he was assigned to the 56th Medical Battalion at Ford Lewis, Washington prior to attending officer candidate school at Carlisle Barracks. The article stated he was commissioned on August 25, 1942 and immediately thereafter joined the 32nd Station Hospital.
A December 26, 1942 article in The Evening Sentinel (Carlisle, Pennsylvania) announced Ponton’s engagement to Martha Jane Koontz, who he apparently met during O.C.S. at Carlisle Barracks. Apparently, the couple did not wed.
Although he left the unit prior to the earliest 32nd Station Hospital officer roster, 1st Lieutenant Ponton’s name did appear on a December 24, 1942 list of 32nd Station Hospital officers. He also appeared on an organizational chart from May or June 1943 with the following duties:
- Cust. of Hosp. Fund
A March 9, 1943 article in The Bakersfield Californian mentioned that 1st Lieutenant James L. Ponton had written his mother from North Africa and that he “is in charge of mess for his men, and is also the censoring officer.” The second page of the May 1, 1943 issue of The Weekly Diagnosis (the 32nd Station Hospital’s newspaper in Algeria) credited him and a Sergeant Goldy in particular with “one fine Easter dinner”. 1st Lieutenant Ponton departed the unit prior to December 31, 1943. His name appeared on a list compiled for the unit’s 1982 reunion as someone who had lost contact due to an outdated address, with a last known residence in Bakersfield, California.
He apparently remained in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations after departing the 32nd Station Hospital, since another article from June 9, 1945 stated that he “is a member of one of the first classes of officers to graduate from the army education staff school in Italy.” He was back in California on terminal leave in November 1945. He married Jeanne Dickinson on September 20, 1947. He was a member of I.O.O.F. I was able to find very little about his later years. He and Jeanne appear as late as 1975 on a Bakersfield directory. However, his headstone lists another wife, Ruby M. Ponton (1911–1994).
Chester C. Ramspeck, O-1547427 (probably April 1, 1912 – November 12 1967)
2nd Lieutenant Ramspeck was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster as Mess Officer. He apparently joined the unit while they were in Algeria, since he is not on a list of 31 officers assigned to the unit as of December 24, 1942. He also doesn’t appear on the organizational chart from May or June 1943. Ramspeck likely replaced 1st Lieutenant James L. Ponton as mess officer, and apparently transferred out of the unit himself sometime prior to May 1, 1944. Alice Griffin‘s November 26, 1943 letter home might have mentioned him regarding Thanksgiving: “We really had a very nice dinner – that new mess lt and the new sgt are sure on the ball.”
The military sometimes mismatches civilian skill sets with military occupational specialties, but the only Chester C. Ramspeck I’ve been able to locate records for was an undertaker in civilian life! This individual was born in Montana and worked in Mandan, North Dakota. A June 20, 1943 issue of The Billings Gazette does mention: “Chester Ramspeck, second lieutenant of the army medical corps, of Camp Barkeley, Texas is visiting his parents, Mr. and Mrs. G. F. Ramspeck.” The July 2, 1944 issue of the same paper mentions him being “home on leave from active duty in north Africa and Italy.” That’s odd considering he would have been overseas for less than a year before getting leave, while some of the 32nd’s officers didn’t get rotated home even after 2½ years of service! Ramspeck died in Illinois. I have been unable to learn anything else about this officer.
Milton Robins (possibly Milton Rabinowitz), O-1534129 (likely 1918 – ?)
2nd Lieutenant Robins was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by December 24, 1942 when his name appears on a list of 31 officers assigned to the unit as part of Special Order 314 (Headquarters, Fort Benning, Georgia). An organizational chart from May or June 1943 lists his duties as:
- Plans & Training
- Chief Censor
- Billetting Officer
- Asst Mess Officer
He was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster as Assistant Adjutant. He attended a Jewish service in January 1944 (which lists some relatives living at 199 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn) with other members of the 32nd Station Hospital including Dr. Joseph Sorett, Dr. Isadore J. Wessel, Dr. Irving Weiner, and my grandfather, Dr. Robert Silverman. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant and given the assignment of Adjutant sometime prior to May 1, 1944.
A sports item in the August 6, 1944 issue of the 32nd Station Hospital’s newspaper, The Weakly Reaction mentioned him as a member of a softball team called the Brittle Bones. (The 32nd Station Hospital had another softball team, the Psychosis Kids, but whereas the Psychosis Kids were undefeated in four games as of August 6, the Brittle Bones had lost three in a row):
The BRITTLE BONES had a most unfortunate week. It was a tough break for Lieut. ROBINS to suffer a broken arm (Honestly! No pun intended.) especially since he was recovering from a fractured finger. We wonder which fortune teller named the team.
Possibly due to that injury, he was transferred to Detachment of Patients, 17th General Hospital in September 1944. His name appeared in the January 1, 1956 “Official Army Register” on a retired list, with a retirement date of February 9, 1946 and a rank of 1st lieutenant, Army of the United States. His retirement code was listed as a disability in the line of duty.
I thought I had found a promising match for a Milton Robins (1920–1996) who was born in Connecticut and died in California. Despite the lack of obvious connection to Brooklyn, this possible match was listed in the initial published version of this article. In March 2019, I contacted his daughter, who advised me her father served as an aircraft navigator during the war, ruling him out as a possible match.
Returning the focus to New York, I found another man recorded on the 1940 census. The address on the census actually matched the one listed in the January 1944 Jewish service, 199 Atlantic Avenue. This Milton Robins was a 21-year-old man, the son of Morris and Sadie Rabinowitz (who had immigrated from Romania). In 1940, he was an assistant at a restaurant. An earlier census record indicates he was born as Milton Rabinowitz. He was 20 months old when he was recorded on the census during January 3, 1920, which would have placed his birth around April or May 1918. It appears Robins later owned a liquor store at 196 Flatbush Avenue Extension, which was listed in a November 5, 1952 article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporting a robbery there during which his father Morris was injured. Even that detail isn’t certain, since in a city as large as New York it isn’t inconceivable that there might have been more than one Morris Rabinowitz whose son anglicized his name to Milton Robins.
A Dr. Milton Robins appeared on a list of 32nd Station Hospital members compiled for the unit’s 1982 reunion who the unit had lost track of due to outdated addresses. His last known address was listed as 15 Park Row in New York City. A 1960 New York City directory listed a Milton Robins at that address with the occupation of attorney. This is likely the same lawyer mentioned in an August 30, 1962 article in the Daily News (“Mom Wins Son, Beats ‘Supernatural’ Charge”) as unsuccessfully representing a woman who had been fighting to gain custody of her 10-year-old grandson from her daughter. In this bizarre case, Robin’s client claimed the daughter was under the influence “of a former doorman who ‘pretends to have metaphysical powers which permit him to commune with the dead and has practiced this art many times on my daughter.”” I have been unable to learn anything else about this officer.
William Clifton Sommermeyer, O-395329 (March 30, 1912 – January 14, 1998)
William Clifton Sommermeyer was born in Ramsey, Minnesota to William H. (son of German immigrants) and Mabel Sommermeyer (daughter of English immigrants). He had at least one sister, Ivy. William H. Sommermeyer bought a farm in Glasgow, Delaware in August 1920. Known as “Home Farm”, it was located “on the West side of the Public Road leading from the Village of Glasgow to Summit Bridge”.
The family was still living in Delaware in 1930 when the younger Sommermeyer graduated from Newark High School. A November 10, 1932 article in the Wilmington Morning News (Wilmington, Delaware), “‘Exams’ for West Point Taken by Guardsmen” indicates that Sommermeyer was a corporal in the 198th Coast Artillery of the Delaware National Guard and had taken an exam to try to attend the United States Military Academy, though evidentially he was unsuccessful. The Sommermeyer family moved to Wisconsin by 1933, although the farm in Delaware wasn’t sold until 1939, after William H. Sommermeyer’s death. (Mabel Sommermeyer later returned to Delaware sometime in the 1940s, ran a giftshop in Newark, and in 1949 remarried, to Dr. G. Burton Pearson, Sr.)
William C. Sommermeyer married Julia K. Winscher (1911–1994) in Burlington, Wisconsin on August 5, 1936. According to the 1940 census he was living in Sparta, Wisconsin with his wife and mother. The census lists his occupation as clerk, but he evidentially went on active duty with the U.S. Army later that same year. As of July 31, 1941, 2nd Lieutenant Sommermeyer appeared as a 2nd lieutenant in the Medical Administrative Corps assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia (per the “Army Directory: Reserve and National Guard Officers On Active Duty”)
Captain Sommermeyer was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by December 24, 1942 when his name appears on a list of 31 officers assigned to the unit as part of Special Order 314 (Headquarters, Fort Benning, Georgia). He was listed on an organizational chart from May or June 1943 with the following duties:
- Detachment Commander
- Guard Officer
He was listed as Supply Officer an all three extant officer rosters (December 31, 1943, May 1, 1944, and December 31, 1944). Since there is no record of him transferring out of the unit during 1945, it appears he may have been one of the few officers who served with the 32nd Station Hospital during the entire time it was overseas during World War II.
Willard Havemeier wrote decades later that in North Africa, Sommermeyer “did a splendid job under very difficult circumstances in that our supply depot was 100 miles away on treacherous two lane roads which required a 2½ ton truck to make this trip almost every day.”
After World War II, Captain Sommermeyer remained in the military. A January 18, 1955 photograph printed in The La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wisconsin) features a photo of him taken by the U.S. Army. The caption stated:
A Member Of The Tokyo Army Hospital bowling team in Japan, Maj. William C. Sommermeyer (right) of Sparta, receives a second place singles bowling trophy from Maj. Samuel G. Trask, commanding officer of the enlisted detachment at the hospital. Maj. Sommermeyer, whose wife, Julia, lives in Sparta, is chief of supply division of the hospital at Central Command Headquarters. He began his Army career in 1940 and has been in Japan since September 1952.
There was a W C Sommermeyer in the January 1, 1966 U.S. Army Register (with matching service number) listed as retiring October 31, 1960 with a rank of lieutenant colonel, U.S. Army Reserve. He died in Sparta, Wisconsin, aged 85. His obituary (printed in the La Crosse Tribune on January 15, 1998) has virtually no information; Julia’s (printed in the same paper on May 19, 1994) did not list any children.
Charles Newell Tarkington, O-1547474 (May 12, 1914 – January 16, 2001)
Tarkington’s calling was medicine, but it evidentially took him a while to discover that. He was born in Kentucky to Irvine and Ethel Tarkington. According to his obituary in The Advocate-Messenger (Danville, Kentucky), after graduating from Moreland High School in 1933, Tarkington “studied accounting at Bowling Green Business College then transferred to the University of Kentucky where he graduated with a degree in farm management in 1938.” Following one year at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he joined the U.S. Army. After graduating from Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant.
It is unclear when he joined the unit, as his name is not on the list of officers from December 24, 1942. He apparently have joined the unit in Algeria sometime during 1943, but does not appear on an organizational chart from the collection of Dr. Gayland L. Hagelshaw (undated, but presumably from May or June 1943). His obituary states he “went from Casablanca to Naples and Caserta, Italy”. If he was indeed in Casablanca during his time in the military, it would have been prior to his service with the 32nd Station Hospital. 2nd Lieutenant Tarkington was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster with the position of Transportation Officer. His assignment was unchanged on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters. (His obituary states he also served as Registrar at some point.) He was promoted to 1st lieutenant as of December 25, 1944.
Tarkington left the U.S. Army as a captain. Although as a Medical Administrative Corps officer during his military service, he presumably had not been directly involved in patient care, after the war he returned to the University of Kentucky for pre-med and eventually graduated from St. Louis University School of Medicine. He practiced as an ob/gyn in Lexington, Kentucky.
Henry W. Walker, O-1533465 (possibly April 29, 1918 – March 3, 2009)
1st Lieutenant Walker was listed as a member of the unit as of December 24, 1942. He appeared on the organizational chart from May or June 1943 with the following duties:
- Salvage O[fficer]
He must have transferred out of the unit prior to the officer roster from December 31, 1943. A Henry W. Walker from San Antonio, Texas was on a list of members compiled for the unit’s 1982 reunion, though he was unable to attend. Based on that information, he might be the Colonel Henry W. Walker (1918–2009) buried at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery whose headstone lists service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. I have been unable to learn anything else about this officer.
Morris Barney Weiss, O-2048518 (December 21, 1914 – August 9, 2002)
2nd Lieutenant Weiss joined the unit in November 1944. He appears on the December 31, 1944 roster with a title of Assistant Transportation Officer (under 1st Lieutenant Charles N. Tarkington). He was transferred to Headquarters, 1st Replacement Depot in March 1945.
His Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Application for World War II Compensation and his draft card provide some useful information. He was born and lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As of 1940 his height as 5 feet, 9 inches (175 cm) and weight 138 lbs. (62.6 kg), with brown hair and blue eyes. He was working as a pharmacist before enlisting in the U.S. Army on October 24, 1942. He didn’t go overseas until October 19, 1944. At some point during his service he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant. His overseas service ended on August 10, 1945 and he was discharged on May 2, 1946. When he submitted the form in February 1950, he was living with his wife Sylvia in Philadelphia. He had at least one son.
Ralph Reuben Zimet, O-467139 (August 20, 1908 – April 26, 1985)
(This biography also listed in the Doctors of the 32nd Station Hospital: Part I (Surgical Service) article.)
Dr. Zimet was born in New York, the son of Victor and Betty Zimet, who had immigrated from Austria-Hungry. He graduated from the University of Michigan, followed by Long Island College of Medicine. He was a urologist.
He was not a member of the 32nd Station Hospital stateside; his family has photos of him in England, but he ended up in North Africa during Operation Torch. Captain Lowell E. Vinsant mentioned in his journal that Captain Zimet joined the unit from the 151st Station Hospital; though Dr. Vinsant didn’t list when the transfer occurred, it must have been at some point during 1943. Captain Zimet was listed as the 32nd’s Executive Officer as of December 31, 1943.
Dr. Zimet was promoted to major on February 13, 1944. His assignment was listed as Surgical Service – Ward Officer on the May 1, 1944 roster (with Captain Gerard Krueger assuming the X.O. post).
Major Zimet was a member of the 32nd Station Hospital baseball team, the Red Sox. A team roster gives his nickname as “Twinkletoes”, describing him as:
Right Fielder, hails from Scarsdale, N.Y. Is the best hustler on the team, can play any outfield position, also take a take a turn on the mound. [sic] His fine spirit has turned more than one defeat into victory.
The 32nd Station Hospital’s November 1944 report mentions that Major Zimet was “Reld from duty to TD to US for rotational purposes effective 15 October 1944.” It doesn’t appear he ever returned to the unit, because in December 1944, the 32nd’s monthly report mentions he was “reld from TD to U.S. for rotational purposes to reld from assignment and assigned to MD Replacement Pool, Tilton General Hospital.” (Tilton General Hospital is at Fort Dix, New Jersey.)
Dr. Zimet and his wife Nadine (1915–2009) raised three daughters in Scarsdale, New York. He worked at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, followed by White Plains Hospital (in addition to running a private practice). Dr. Zimet died in Sarasota, Florida, aged 76.
Last updated November 17, 2019