This article is the second in a series of articles presenting personnel who served in the 32nd Station Hospital during World War II. When possible, each entry will include the subject’s service number, dates of birth and death, and a brief biography.
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.
Although I initially thought that this list will never be 100% complete due to transfers, in early 2020 I was able to obtain digital copies of the unit’s morning reports from 1942–1945, making it possible for the first time to keep track of personnel changes for the first half of the war. 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 data from unit records, the biographies are 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. 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 became Commanding Officer, Medical Detachment (enlisted portion of the unit) on October 9, 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 Craig Brenneman, O-1533741 (January 19, 1919 – January 18, 1983)
Brenneman was born in New Castle, Indiana, the son of Walter and Rachel Brenneman (née Craig). He graduated from Chrysler High School in New Castle, Indiana in 1936. He may be the Robert Breneman [sic] who was recorded on the census on April 22, 1940 living in Salem, Indiana and working as a clerk in a variety store. However, when he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, Brenneman was living in Troy, Ohio and working at the Morris 5 & 10 store. He was described as standing six feet, one inch tall and weighing 230 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes. The card noted that his “left arm [was] bent by accident” but that didn’t prevent him from being drafted before the U.S. entered World War II. According to a digitized enlistment card, he had completed one year of college and was working as a retail manager at the time he entered the U.S. Army. He went on active duty at Fort Thomas, Kentucky on March 6, 1941. As an enlisted man, his service number was 35119390. However, he was subsequently commissioned, most likely after attending Officer Candidate School at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, and assigned a new service number: O-1533741.
According to the unit’s morning reports, 2nd Lieutenant Brenneman was stationed at the Medical Field Service School at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania before he joined the 32nd Station Hospital at Camp Rucker, Alabama on September 5, 1942. Shortly thereafter, he was assigned the duties of supply officer as well as billeting officer. He departed Camp Rucker for Fort Benning, Georgia with Dr. Roettig and eight enlisted men on October 24, 1942, two days before the main body of the unit. Unit records show Brenneman was on leave November 9–15, 1942. During his leave, he married Margery Ruth Harvey (1915–1998) at the Carlisle Methodist Church on November 13, 1942 according to a newspaper article printed in the Harrisburg Telegraph the following day entitled “Miss Harvey Becomes Bride.” Presumably, the couple met while he was stationed at Carlisle Barracks.
A document from the collection of Master Sergeant Charles Ballard, entitled “Highlights and Shadows of the Thirty-Second” mentioned Brenneman. It is unclear who wrote “Highlights and Shadows of the Thirty-Second” but it was likely one of the unit’s officers. 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].
Indeed, he went on detached service (presumably to the New York Port of Embarkation) on December 26, 1942, rejoining the unit on January 13, 1943. That same day, he boarded the U.S.S. Ancon along with the rest of the main body of the unit, shipping out of the New York Port of Embarkation the following morning. He arrived at Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria on January 26, 1943. The following day, he disembarked and entered staging with the rest of the unit at Bouisseville, Algeria. He traveled with the rest of the unit to Tlemcen, Algeria on February 18, 1943 to begin operations.
He was relieved of the duty of unit supply officer on March 1, 1943. An April 17, 1943 morning report entry reported that he was promoted to 1st lieutenant per Headquarters North African Theatre of Operations, Army of the United Stated (with an effective date of rank of April 7, 1943).
An organizational chart in the collection of Dr. Gayland L. Hagelshaw (c. June 1943) listed 1st Lieutenant Brenneman with the following duties:
- Medical Supply
- Laundry Officer
On August 1, 1943, he and 1st Lieutenant Heim left the hospital compound to attend Booby Trap & [illegible] School, returning on August 4. He was relieved of the duty of medical supply officer on September 11, 1943, when he was assigned the duties of utility officer and transportation officer. He was transferred to the 33rd Field Hospital on September 26, 1943.
I don’t have many details about Brenneman’s subsequent military career or life. A 1946 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania directory listed the Brennemans, suggesting he might have been stationed back at Carlisle Barracks again. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. Death File, he left active duty in the U.S. Army on June 28, 1947. He and his wife raised one son. Brenneman was living in Seattle when he attended the unit’s 1982 reunion. The following year, he died in King County, Washington, aged 63.
Cyril G. Cole, O-1533989 (probably December 14, 1909 – June 6, 1994)
Records on Ancestry.com suggest that Cyril Gerard Cole was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the son of William and Agnes Cole. 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 to Cole’s address on the 1930 census. Cole was listed as a teacher on the 1940 census. A Cyril G. Cole, who was listed as a teacher, was drafted and entered the U.S. Army in Boston on February 25, 1941. His enlisted service number was 31017784. Presumably he attended O.C.S. and was subsequently commissioned.
2nd Lieutenant Cole joined the unit in Algeria on February 6, 1943. He was assigned the following duties:
- 1st Platoon Commander
- Assistant Detachment Commander
He was also given the duty of Assistant Unit Censor on February 23, 1943. Four days later, he was assigned the additional following duties:
- Athletic Director
- Recreation Officer
- Unit Supply Officer
On March 20, 1943, he was assigned the additional duty of Post Exchange Officer. 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 Exchange 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 him as the paper’s Officer in Charge (although it gave the wrong middle initial!).
He was the 32nd Station Hospital’s Transportation Officer for a period prior to September 11, 1943, when he was relieved of that assignment and reassigned as Personnel Officer and Assistant Adjutant. 2nd Lieutenant Cole transferred to the 12th General Hospital on October 14, 1943.
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)
Ferris’s farewell message printed in the August 10, 1944 issue of The Weakly Reaction (Courtesy of the Knitter Family)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 on August 14, 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.
2nd Lieutenant Graham joined the 32nd Station Hospital on October 14, 1943 (exchanging places with 2nd Lieutenant Cole). He was initially assigned the duty of Mess Officer, but on October 17 he was relieved of that duty and assigned to be Commanding Officer of the Medical Detachment (the unit’s enlisted personnel). He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on February 18, 1944 (with an effective date of rank of February 10, 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. He was replaced as C.O. of the 32nd Station Hospital Medical Detachment on October 8, 1944. 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-2114244 (August 12, 1919 – October 26, 1984)
Note: His service number was listed as W-2114224 on the December 31, 1944 and May 1, 1944 rosters, but based on the December 31, 1944 roster and morning reports, I believe that to be in error.
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
He was assigned the position of Assistant Registrar effective June 25, 1943. On the December 31, 1944 roster his position was 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.) Upon the unit’s arrival at the Boston Port of Embarkation aboard the S.S. John Clarke on October 8, 1945, he was transferred to the Reception Station at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts.
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 Henry Hanssen, Jr., O-1533800 (August 12, 1918 – July 12, 1963)
Albert H. Hanssen, Jr. was born in Baltimore, the third son Albert H. Hanssen, Sr. (a Baltimore City police officer) and Mamie Hanssen. Albert Hanssen, Jr.’s son told me:
Albert, Jr. graduated from Baltimore City College (a high school). In October 1937, at age 19, while an employee of the Davison Chemical Corporation, he enlisted in the Maryland National Guard. His unit, the 104th Medical Battalion of the 29th Infantry Division, was activated into the Army of the United States on 3 February 1941. Both Albert and his older brother, Herman, were enlisted as Medical Department Technical Sergeants. In May 1942, having completed training and maneuvers at the A. P. Hill Military Reservation in Virginia, Albert Hanssen, now a Master Sergeant, was sent to OCS at Carlisle Barracks, PA. He was subsequently commissioned and, as a 1st Lieutenant, transferred to the 32nd Station Hospital at Camp Rucker, AL.
2nd Lieutenant Hanssen joined the 32nd Station Hospital on September 5, 1942 and the following day was assigned to the duty of Adjutant. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on November 10, 1942 per War Department Special Order #301 (unknown effective date). He served in the 32nd Station Hospital in Algeria until he was evacuated to the Zone of the Interior on April 18, 1943. The January 1, 1956 Official Army Register listed 1st Lieutenant Hanssen as retired from the U.S. Army effective October 28, 1944 due to disability incurred in the line of duty. Hanssen’s son told me that his father
suffered bouts of acute kidney failure shortly after arrival in Algeria and was returned stateside for a series of surgeries, first at Valley Forge General Hospital and then at Walter Reed. Surgical complications ultimately resulted in a Medical Board finding of incapacitation from active service and Lt. Hanssen was medically retired in August 1944. He returned to Davison Chemical where he advanced to the position of Controller and General Credit Manager. He was a graduate of McCoy College, Johns Hopkins University, President of the Baltimore Association of Credit Management, Secretary of the Baltimore Rotary Club, and Treasurer of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.
Hanssen married Dorothy Marie Henderson (1916–1991) in Baltimore, Maryland on December 20, 1941. Their daughter was born the following November, shortly before Lieutenant Hanssen went overseas to Algeria. They also had a son after the war. Hanssen died of a sudden illness, aged 44. His 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. However, he had been deceased for decades by the time the list was compiled.
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 joined the 32nd Station Hospital on September 6, 1942. The following day he was assigned the duty of Assistant Registrar. 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
On June 26, 1943, he was reassigned from Assistant Registrar to Registrar. 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). He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on February 18, 1944 (with an effective date of rank of February 10, 1944). He was transferred to the 45th General Hospital on June 28, 1945, but was assigned back to the 32nd Station Hospital on August 31, 1945, rejoining the unit shortly thereafter. Upon the unit’s arrival at the Boston Port of Embarkation aboard the S.S. John Clarke on October 8, 1945, he was transferred to the Reception Station at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts.
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 (February 19, 1912 – October 19, 1997)
According to the unit’s morning reports, Captain Ory joined the 32nd Station Hospital on November 28, 1942. He apparently served as commanding officer of the medical detachment (the 32nd Station Hospital’s enlisted personnel). After accompanying the unit overseas, while the unit was still in staging in Bouissville, Algeria, on February 4, 1943, he was transferred to the 12th General Hospital per Special Order 13, Headquarters Mediterranean Base Section, Office of the Surgeon. Interestingly, he returned to the 32nd Station Hospital over two years later, transferring from the 12th General Hospital to the 32nd Station Hospital effective September 15, 1945 (though he was attached to the unit a few days earlier). Now with the rank of major, he remained with the unit through its return to the United States. Upon the unit’s arrival at the Boston Port of Embarkation aboard the S.S. John Clarke on October 8, 1945, he was transferred to the Reception Station at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts.
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 mentioned Major Murphy A. Ory. The article stated 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 also stated: “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) stated 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, arriving on September 5, 1942. The following day, according to the unit’s morning reports, he was given the principal duty of “Mess Officer, additional duty Utilities officer.”
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.
1st Lieutenant Ponton 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 Sergeant Kenneth L. Goldy in particular with “one fine Easter dinner”. 1st Lieutenant Ponton was transferred to the 7th Station Hospital on September 26, 1943.
He apparently remained in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations for the duration of the war, 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.”
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 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 Columbus Ramspeck, O-1547427 (April 1, 1912 – November 12, 1967)
2nd Lieutenant Ramspeck joined the unit from the 2nd Replacement Depot on October 12, 1943. He was initially assigned the duty of Assistant C.O. of the Medical Detachment (enlisted personnel). He was relieved of that duty on October 17, 1943 and appointed Mess Officer. Alice Griffin‘s November 26, 1943 letter home mentioned him, regarding Thanksgiving: “We really had a very nice dinner – that new mess lt and the new sgt are sure on the ball.”
Just before midnight on December 7, 1943, the 32nd Station Hospital left Tlemcen by train and truck. He and the other male personnel arrived at Staging Area No. 1, Mediterranean Base Section (near Oran) on December 8. On December 15, 1943, he and most of the unit’s other male personnel boarded the H.M.T.S. Cameronia, which sailed that same day. He arrived in Naples, Italy on December 19, 1943 and arrived at the Peninsular Base Section staging area near Bagnoli. On January 10, 1944, he and the rest of the unit moved to the hospital’s new compound in Caserta, Italy. 2nd Lieutenant Ramspeck was hospitalized at the 300th General Hospital on February 27, 1944 and released from his mess officer assignment. He was transferred to the Detachment of Patients of the 300th General Hospital on March 15, 1944.
Ramspeck was born in Columbus, Montana, the 4th child of George and Carrie Ramspeck. He lived and worked in Mandan, North Dakota from at least 1938 to 1948. When he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was working at Kennelly Furniture in Mandan. He was described as standing 5 feet, 7½ inches tall and weighing 160 lbs., with brown hair and hazel eyes. A June 20, 1943 issue of The Billings Gazette mentioned: “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 mentioned him being “home on leave from active duty in north Africa and Italy.” After the war, Ramspeck worked as an embalmer and funeral director in Mandan. He died in Cook County, Illinois, aged 55.
When this article was first published, I labeled the biography above as a probable match, but I was able to confirm its accuracy on November 12, 2020. On October 15, 2020, military headstone applications from 1963 through 1970 became available on Ancestry.com, confirming the dates of birth and death above and providing additional information.
The paperwork was filled out by Ramspeck’s sister, Rena Wilcox and dated November 21, 1967. The data she supplied actually applied to his enlisted service and was therefore incomplete. This was fortuitous in a way; because Ramspeck’s enlistment data card was either lost or unreadable, I had no idea that he had prior service as an enlisted man. According to the paperwork, Ramspeck was drafted shortly after World War II began. He joined the U.S. Army on January 20, 1942 and was assigned service number 37082104. He reached the rank of corporal before attending “Class XVII” at Medical Administrative Corps Officer Candidate School. His sister gave his discharge date as June 8, 1943. However, additional notes were written on the application by an official on April 11, 1968. He wrote that Ramspeck was commissioned as 2nd lieutenant in the Medical Administrative Corps, with a new service number (O-1547427). He also stated that 2nd Lieutenant Ramspeck “entered AD [active duty] 9 Jun 1943, released from AD Jun 23, 1944 under OTH [other than honorable] conditions. Resignation was accepted July 14, 1944 (OTH)”. Ramspeck was buried at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Billings, Montana.
Milton Robins (Milton Rabinowitz), O-1534129 (May 24, 1918 – May 30, 1966)
2nd Lieutenant Robins joined the 32nd Station Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia on November 6, 1942. On December 7, 1942 he was assigned the following duties:
- Assistant detachment commander
- Platoon commander
- Pharmacy officer
He left Fort Benning with the rest of the unit by train on December 27, 1942, arriving at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey the following day. On January 13, 1943, he boarded the U.S.S. Ancon along with the rest of the main body of the unit, shipping out of the New York Port of Embarkation the following morning. He arrived at Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria on January 26, 1943. The following day, he disembarked and entered staging with the rest of the unit at Bouisseville, Algeria. Robins traveled with the rest of the unit to Tlemcen, Algeria on February 18, 1943 to begin operations. On February 23, 1943, he was released from the duty of assistant detachment commander and assigned to assistant mess officer and billeting officer. However, the same day he moved from the detachment to headquarters, and on the 24th he was officially released from the duties of assistance mess officer, platoon commander, pharmacy officer, and billeting officer. On March 6, 1943, he was assigned the duty of plans and training officer.
An organizational chart from May or June 1943 listed his duties as:
- Plans & Training
- Chief censor
- Billetting officer
- Asst mess officer
He was assigned the positions of assistant adjutant and personnel officer effective June 28, 1943. He was released from those assignments on September 11, 1943 and reassigned to be C.O. of the Medical Detachment (the unit’s enlisted personnel). On October 17, 1943, he was released from the assignment as C.O. of the Medical Detachment and assigned to the duty of assistant adjutant.
Just before midnight on December 7, 1943, the 32nd Station Hospital left Tlemcen by train and truck. He and the other male personnel arrived at Staging Area No. 1, Mediterranean Base Section (near Oran) on December 8. On December 15, 1943, he and most of the unit’s other male personnel boarded the H.M.T.S. Cameronia, which sailed that same day. He arrived in Naples, Italy on December 19, 1943 and arrived at the Peninsular Base Section staging area near Bagnoli. On January 6, 1944, he became the unit’s personnel officer. On January 10, 1944, he and the rest of the unit moved to the hospital’s new compound in Caserta, Italy.
Robins attended a Jewish service in January 1944 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. A record of the service stated that Robins had relatives living at 199 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.
Robins was promoted to 1st lieutenant sometime between January 1 and April 11, 1944. On April 11, 1944, his primary assignment was changed from assistant adjutant to adjutant. However, on July 17, 1944, when Captain Krueger became adjutant again, 1st Lieutenant Robins became assistant adjutant again.
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.
Probably due to his baseball injury, Lieutenant Robins was hospitalized at the 32nd Station Hospital on August 1, 1944 and released from the duty of assistant adjutant the following day. He was moved as a patient to the 17th General Hospital on September 13, 1944, and officially transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 17th General Hospital on September 17, 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 found a man on the 1940 census with an address that matched the one mentioned 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. Around December 2019, drafts cards from New York became available online and I was able to confirm that he was born in Brooklyn on May 24, 1918. Robins registered for the draft on October 16, 1940. He was described as standing 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 155 lbs., with blond hair and hazel eyes. The card had an annotation that Robins had been honorably discharged.
It is likely that he was the Milton Robins (service number 32173560) who was drafted before the U.S. entered World War II and joined the U.S. Army at Camp Upton, New York on September 12, 1941. If so, he must have attended Officer Candidate School prior to joining the 32nd Station Hospital.
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. Robins’s nephew later confirmed that Milton Robins did own a liquor store, though he thought he operated it with his brother Irving rather than his father.
A 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.'”
Robins married in Brooklyn in 1950. He and his wife had one son. Family members told me that Robins initially hoped to go to medical school, but the injury that caused him to be discharged from the U.S. Army prevented it. He went to law school instead. He died in 1966, aged 48. His body rests in the Mount Ararat Cemetery in East Farmingdale, New York.
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”)
1st Lieutenant Sommermeyer joined the 32nd Station Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia on November 28, 1942. On December 5, 1942, he was assigned the following duties:
- Assistant Detachment Commander
- Platoon Commander (1st Platoon, according to a February 1943 morning report)
Sommermeyer was promoted to captain on December 21, 1942, with an effective date of December 17, 1942. He was relieved of the two duties above and assumed command of the detachment (32nd Station Hospital enlisted personnel) on February 4 or 5, 1943 with the departure of Captain Ory. An additional duty of Officer of the Guard was added on June 6, 1943.
He was listed on an organizational chart from June 1943 with the following duties:
- Detachment Commander
- Guard Officer
He was given the added duty of Fire Marshal effective June 27, 1943. On September 11, 1943, he was released from the position of C.O. Medical Detachment (the unit’s enlisted personnel) and reassigned to the position of Medical Supply 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.
2nd Lieutenant Tarkington joined the 32nd Station Hospital from the 2nd Replacement Depot on October 12, 1943 and was assigned the duty of Transportation Officer. (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.) He took on the added duty of Utility Officer on October 15, 1943. 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. He was transferred to the 70th General Hospital on September 15, 1945, departing two days later.
Tarkington left the U.S. Army as a captain. As a Medical Administrative Corps officer during his military service, he presumably had not been directly involved in patient care, but 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)
2nd Lieutenant Walker joined the 32nd Station Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia on November 28, 1942. On December 5, 1942, he was assigned the following duties:
- Assistant Detachment commander
- Platoon commander
- Police officer
- Fire marshal
- Salvage officer
He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on December 12, 1942 with an effective date of rank of December 8, 1942. On April 15, 1943, he transferred from the Detachment to Headquarters 32nd Station Hospital and was released from his duties as assistant detachment commander and platoon commander.
He appeared on the organizational chart from May or June 1943 with the following duties:
- Salvage O[fficer]
1st Lieutenant Walker transferred out of the unit by July 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)
Weiss was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of David and Dora Weiss. When he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was living in Philadelphia and working at the Cayuga Pharmacy. He was described as standing 5 feet, 9 inches tall (175 cm) and weighing 138 lbs. (62.6 kg), with brown hair and blue eyes. At the time he was drafted, he had completed four years of college and was working as a pharmacist. He entered the U.S. Army in Philadelphia on October 24, 1942. His original service number was 33342226 (but replaced with the officer service number above when he was commissioned). His data in the Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards appears to include only information from his enlisted service. It stated he was discharged at the grade of corporal on September 14, 1943 from Company “K,” Class XXIV, Medical Administrative Corps Officer Candidate School. Based on similar records from other members of the unit who attended O.C.S., I believe he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant the following day, September 15, 1943. According to his Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Application for World War II Compensation, he went overseas on October 19, 1944.
2nd Lieutenant Weiss joined the 32nd Station Hospital in Caserta, Italy on November 25, 1944 via the 24th Replacement Depot per Special Order 121, Headquarters 24th Replacement Depot. His M.O.S. was listed as 0600 (motor transport officer). He appeared 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 overseas service ended on August 10, 1945 and he was separated from the service at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania on May 2, 1946. When he submitted his compensation application form on February 24, 1950, he was living with his wife Sylvia in Philadelphia. Weiss had at least one son.
Ralph Reuben Zimet, O-467139 (August 20, 1908 – April 26, 1985)
See entry in Doctors of the 32nd Station Hospital: Part I (Surgical Service) article. At various times, Dr. Zimet served as executive officer (Administration) and at other times, a surgeon assigned to the Surgical Service.
Last updated February 15, 2021