Doctors of the 32nd Station Hospital: Part I (Surgical Service)

This article is the third in a series of articles about known members of the 32nd Station Hospital during World War II.  This list is based largely on rosters dated December 31, 1943, May 1, 1944, and December 31, 1944.  It will be expanded as new information comes to light.  Unfortunately, it 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.  For simplicity, officers assigned on temporary duty and after V-E Day are omitted.

In the long run, I hope family members searching for information may come across this page and be able to fill in the missing pieces.

World War II U.S. Army service numbers for officers are typically displayed in two formats (sometimes in the same report!): With an officer prefix and hyphen (O-______) or with no prefix and a leading zero (0______).  For simplicity, service numbers in this article are listed in the first format.

For doctors who were commanding officers of the unit (such as Theodore Burstein and Harold L. Goss) but were never assigned to another section, see the separate article about these men.  Separate articles will also be posted about doctors, dentists, and other medical officers in different sections.  Names are listed in alphabetical order within the Surgical Service.

 

Reddin Britt, O-480599 (March 28 1900 – July 12, 1978)

Needles-Britt-Eblen
Captain Redden Britt (almost certainly on the left) with Captain James Eblen (right) in Algeria, 1943 (Courtesy of the Needles Family)

Dr. Britt was born in North Carolina, the son of Henry and Rozzilla Britt.  He married Besse Lee Lunsford in Florida in June 1928.  By 1935 the Britts were living in St. Augustine, Florida, where Dr. Britt had a private practice as of the 1940 census.  His February 14, 1942 draft card lists him as 5 feet, 5 inches (165 cm) and 155 lbs. (70.3 kg) with brown hair and gray eyes.

It is unknown when he joined the military.  Captain Britt was already with the 32nd Station Hospital when the unit was still stateside, since he was one of 31 officers listed in Special Order 314 (Fort Bragg, Georgia, December 24, 1942).  He was listed as Assistant Chief of Service – General Surgery as of December 31, 1943.  As of December 31, 1944 his title was Assistant Chief of Service – Ward Officer.  He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal sometime in 1945.  Captain Britt left the 32nd Station Hospital in July 1945 along with many other longstanding members of the unit.  The January 1, 1951 Official Army Register lists him as having a retirement date of March 22, 1946 and a rank of major, Army of the United States.  His retirement code indicates disability in the line of duty.

I have not found any record of the Britts having children.  Dr. Britt died in Florida, aged 78.

 

Nace Ralph Cohen, O-356428 (December 28, 1913 – December 24, 1988)

Needles-Cohen
Captain Nace Cohen in Tlemcen, Algeria (Courtesy of the Needles Family)

Dr. Cohen was born in Montgomery, Alabama to Ralph and Sadie Cohen and grew up in Atlanta.  His father died during the 1918 influenza pandemic.  Dr. Cohen graduated from medical school at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.  His son recalls Dr. Cohen as having completed his residency at a hospital in New York.

Captain Cohen was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by December 24, 1942 and he accompanied the unit overseas to Tlemcen, Algeria.  According to an organizational chart (from the collection of Dr. Gayland Hagelshaw, circa May or June 1943), he was the unit’s Library Officer.  One story that Dr. Cohen’s son recounted to me involved Cohen and Dr. Louis Linn visiting a sheikh in Algeria.  The U.S. Army’s training emphasized that service members who were the guests of local residents should always accept any food and drink offered in order to avoid causing offense.  The host brought out tea which appeared so unappetizing that Dr. Cohen swore you could see the microbes swimming in it!  Dr. Cohen was a Sephardic Jew and spoke Ladino, which the host apparently understood. When the host was about to pour the tea, Dr. Cohen said something to him.  The host poured tea for everyone but Dr. Cohen, and Dr. Linn had no choice but to drink it.

Afterward, Dr. Linn asked Dr. Cohen what he’d said to the host.  Dr. Cohen explained that he had apologized to the host for not being able to drink the tea, but said that he had diabetes!  Dr. Linn did not end up getting sick from the drink and indeed lived to the ripe old age of 95.  If the story was embellished in any way, Dr. Linn offered no corrections when the story was retold in his presence when the Cohen family visited New York City!

Needles-Linn-FrAlg-Cohen
Dr. Nace Cohen (right) and Dr. Louis Linn (left) posing with a French-Algerian soldier and his pet goat in Algeria, 1943 (Courtesy of the Needles Family)

A clipping in my grandfather’s scrapbook from the company newspaper with a handwritten notation identifying it as being from the fall of 1943 mentions him:

The following night Rodger Bowers served the best hamburgers we’ve had since we left the “old country”.  They were abundant and Lt. Silverman stacked away the greatest number.  Due to rationing laws, and the morale of the home front, we cannot disclose the exact number.  Capt. Hall and Capt. Cohen were only also rans.

Dr. Linn’s letter to Willard Havemeier mentions that Captain Cohen suffered health problems in Algeria; he left the 32nd Station Hospital prior to December 31, 1943.  He married Myrtle Hannah Heiman (1922–2005) in South Carolina in 1944.  The Cohens raised a son and two daughters.  After the war, the Cohens returned to Montgomery. Dr. Cohen’s son recalls his father mentioning that he selected his specialty (ob-gyn) because he wanted to deal with death as little as possible!  He retired in 1988 after half a century practicing medicine and died later that year in Montgomery, aged 74.

 

Joseph Dolgin, O-0504576 (July 5, 1911 – August 11, 1994)

JosephDolgin
Captain Joseph Dolgin (Willard Havemeier Collection)

Dr. Dolgin was born in New York to Samuel and Lena Dolgin, who had immigrated from Russia.  He graduated from the University of Edinburgh medical school and worked as a pediatrician in civilian life.  When he registered for the draft in 1940, he was living in Washington, D.C., where he was a resident physician at Children’s Hospital.  At the time he was listed as 5 feet, 9 inches (175 cm) and 174 lbs. (78.9 kg) with brown hair and gray eyes.

Dr. Dolgin married Barbara L. Lake, a lawyer, in Phenix City, Alabama (near Fort Benning, Georgia) on December 20, 1942.  He was almost certainly already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital at this point, since 1st Lieutenant Dolgin appears on a list of 31 officers in the unit as of December 24, 1942.  He was promoted to captain sometime prior to December 31, 1943 when he was listed on the unit roster with an assignment of Ward Officer – Septic Surgery.  His title was listed as Surgical Service – Ward Officer on the May 1, 1944 roster and General Surgery – Ward Officer on the December 31, 1944 roster.

According to his obituary in The New York Times:

Dr. Dolgin practiced medicine on Staten Island from 1947 to 1986, first as the chief of service at Sea View Hospital.  Later he was the pediatrics director at what is now Staten Island University Hospital and was on staff at St. Vincent’s Medical Center on Staten Island.

While at Sea View Hospital in 1960, Dr. Dolgin led a team of physicians who successfully conducted trials of a new measles vaccine on 30 Staten Island children.  He also was a founder of the Staten Island Mental Health Society.

Dr. Dolgin was married to his wife Barbara for 52 years prior to his death; they raised two sons and a daughter.

 

Harold B. Eisenberg, O-492670 (dates of birth and death unknown)

Captain Eisenberg was listed on the May 1, 1944 roster with title of Orthopedic Surgery – Ward Officer.  He evidently joined the 32nd Station Hospital sometime after December 31, 1943, but prior to March 15, 1944 when his name appears on Hospital Order Number 26.  As of August 6, 1944, he was listed as Publication Officer for the hospital newspaper, The Weakly Reaction.  Dr. Eisenberg was transferred to Detachment of Patients, 300th General Hospital sometime during October 1944.  I have been unable to learn anything else about this doctor.

 

Norris C. Elvin, O-1690001 (circa August 2, 1901 – September 16, 1976)

Dr. Elvin was born in Russia but emigrated to the United States when he was very young.  According to his son, Elvin graduated from City College in 1923, followed by medical school at Tufts University in 1927.  Although he worked at his uncle’s drugstore to put himself through school, his education was also supported by his siblings (like several other 32nd Station Hospital doctors and dentists including Louis Linn, Robert Silverman, and likely Philip Opper)  He was an intern and later a resident in the ophthalmology department at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital.  He is likely the Dr. Norris Elvin mentioned in a July 15, 1928 article in the Sunday News (New York, New York), “Jaw Dislocated By Her Yawn” as being an “ambulance surgeon from the Jewish hospital” who responded to the unfortunate victim of, well, a yawn; his son recalls his father speaking about riding the ambulance as an intern at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital.  Dr. Elvin’s son wrote that Dr. Elvin “married my mother, Ruth Licht on April 30, 1936 in New York City (probably Brooklyn).”  (This article originally cited a record of a marriage license in a document on Ancestry.com that gave a date of April 26, 1937.)  The couple raised two sons.

Captain Elvin was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by December 8, 1942, when his name appeared on Special Orders No. 300 (Headquarters, Fort Benning).  He was also on a list of officers assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital as of December 24, 1942.  He accompanied the unit overseas to Algeria.  He left the unit prior to December 31, 1943 (no earlier than April and more likely July or later based on his name being on a list of buddies in the journal of Captain Lowell E. Vinsant).  Dr. Vinsant also mentioned that Dr. Elvin ran the unit’s ophthalmology department, so he was probably replaced by Captain Carl Tryggvi.  Dr. Elvin’s son recalls that circa 1944 or 1945, his father “was stationed at Fort Niagara and took care of German” prisoners of war.  Dr. Elvin’s name was on a retired list in the January 1, 1956 Official Army Register, with a retirement date of November 4, 1945 and a rank of captain, Army of the United States.  His retirement code is listed as disability incurred in the line of duty.

In 1948 the Elvin family moved to Hempstead, New York.  Dr. Elvin opened an office in the family home and another in nearby Levittown.  He retired sometime in the late 1960s and moved to Florida, where he died, aged 75.

 

Louis J. Goldstein, O-1690245 (dates of birth and death unknown)

Captain Goldstein was listed on the May 1, 1944 roster as assigned to E.E.N.T. Section.  He joined the unit sometime after December 31, 1943 and was transferred to the 6th General Hospital in June 1944.  I have been unable to learn anything else about this doctor.

 

Raymond A. Hall, O-209450 (probably June 28, 1906 – December 24, 1980)

The-Cooks
Taken in Algeria in 1943, Ruby Milligan’s caption reads “Bill, Tom, Capt. Hall – the Cooks”. Note the turkey at their feet, likely brought by 32nd Station Hospital’s supply officer, Captain William C. Sommermeyer. (Courtesy of the Hills Family)

Captain Hall appeared as an officer assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital as of December 24, 1942.  An organizational chart from May or June 1943 listed him as being assigned to E.E.N.T. duties in the 32nd Station Hospital’s Surgical Service.

A clipping in my grandfather’s scrapbook from the company newspaper with a handwritten notation identifying it as being from the fall of 1943 mentions him:

The following night Rodger Bowers served the best hamburgers we’ve had since we left the “old country”.  They were abundant and Lt. Silverman stacked away the greatest number.  Due to rationing laws, and the morale of the home front, we cannot disclose the exact number.  Capt. Hall and Capt. Cohen were only also rans.

Captain Hall signed a booklet from the unit’s Thanksgiving celebration in the collection of Dr. William A. Carey, Jr. and Ina Bean Carey, indicating he stayed with the unit until at least November 30.  However, Captain Hall left the unit prior to December 31, 1943 since he does not appear on the roster as of that date.

I initially failed to find any record of this doctor, until March 2019 when the daughter of Dr. Lowell E. Vinsant sent me a copy of her father’s World War II journal.  In the buddies section of the journal, Dr. Hall’s name appeared with an address in Youngstown, Ohio (also the hometown of Dr. William D. McElroy).  According to information on Ancestry.com, Dr. Hall and his wife Ruth (1906–1975) had one daughter and one son.

 

Hugh Wilson Heim, O-326794 (Aug 20, 1911 – July 1, 1952)

Dr. Heim was born in Pennsylvania to Dr. Lyman David Heim and Anna R. Wilson Heim.  A November 23, 1945 article in The Call (Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania), “Dr. Hugh Heim Elected Chief Surgeon at Hospital” provides a concise summery of most of his medical career as well as his military service.  Heim was a graduate of Schuylkill Haven High School (1927), Lafayette College (1931), and Jefferson Medical School (1935).  He completed his internship at Jefferson Hospital and a surgical residency at Ashland State Hospital.

He had been in the U.S. Army Reserve since 1935 and entered active duty on January 12, 1942.  He served at the Camp Lee (Virginia) Station Hospital for seven months, then served in the First Battalion, 18th Regiment of the First Infantry Division in Great Britain and Tunisia.   He joined the 32nd Station Hospital around May 1943.  He was overseas from August 1, 1942 to May 2, 1945.  As of December 31, 1943 he was listed as Ward Officer – General Surgery with a rank of Captain.  By December 31, 1944, he had assumed the position of Chief of Anesthesia – Ward Officer.  Captain Heim was transferred to Detachment of Patients, 45th General Hospital in April 1945.

He must have been back in the United States by the end of May 1945 when he married Margaret Christine Doerflinger (1914–2007) in Wilmington, Delaware.  He left the army with a rank of major, effective January 15, 1946.

Dr. Heim and his wife had a son and a daughter.  He was elected chief surgeon at Coaldale State Hospital in November 1945, effective December 1.  He then joined the Nanticoke State Hospital in June 1948; he was chief surgeon there when he became ill in 1952.  He died in West Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, aged 40.

 

William D. McElroy, O-481929 (April 22, 1901? – April 5, 1991?)

(This officer’s biography also listed in the Commanding Officers of the 32nd Station Hospital article.)

Major McElroy was a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by November 2, 1942, when his name appears on Hospital Order Number 15, a document included in my grandfather’s personnel file.  Dwight McNelly’s unpublished manuscript mentions that Major McElroy asked him to help out in sick bay of the Ancon during the 32nd Station Hospital’s crossing to North Africa.  Major McElroy was listed as Chief of Service – Orthopedic Surgery on the December 31, 1943 roster.  He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on May 7, 1944 but kept the same position (at least through the end of 1944).

Lieutenant Colonel McElroy actually assumed command of the 32nd Station Hospital on July 5, 1945 after Colonel Harold L. Goss was transferred to the 26th General Hospital on July 4.  However, Colonel William A. Smith took command on July 7, 1945.  Lieutenant Colonel McElroy left the unit that same month.

I initially struggled to find a record of McElroy in census or other records.  However, in March 2019 the daughter of Dr. Lowell E. Vinsant sent me a copy of her father’s World War II journal, which revealed that Dr. McElroy was from Youngstown, Ohio.  Using that, I was able to find that he was born in Ohio, the son of Charles McElroy.  By 1930 he was a doctor listed as working at the city hospital in Youngstown.  He also appeared in the 1940 census as a 39-year old doctor living there.  He married his wife Elinore (1911–1984) around 1928.  They raised one son.

Note about his dates of birth and death: Based on census records, Dr. McElroy being born around 1901 seems certain.  Likewise, Ohio birth records seem pretty clear that he was born on April 22, 1901, with his father’s name matching.   Once I knew to look in Youngstown, Ohio, I believed his dates of birth and death were April 22, 1901 – April 5, 1991 based on a Social Security Administration record for a William D. McElroy whose S.S.N. was issued in Ohio.  Then a new document came to light from May 9, 1981.  This document, part of a list of names assembled for an upcoming 32nd Station Hospital reunion, listed Dr. McElroy as deceased.  Short of it being a Mark Twain sort of situation, I am unable to explain the discrepancy.

 

Philip Opper, O-1692279 (February 26, 1913 – September 3, 1990)

Philip-Opper
Captain Philip Opper in Italy, circa October 1944 (Robert Silverman Collection)

Dr. Opper was born in New Jersey to Louis and Rebecca Opper.  He grew up and later spent his career working in Paterson.  His daughter wrote that to her recollection, “his family pooled its money to send him to college and Medical School” during the difficult years of the Great Depression.  Dr. Opper graduated from the University of Arkansas College of Medicine and completed his internship at Barnert Memorial Hospital in Paterson, New Jersey.

His obituary in The Record (Hackensack, New Jersey) lists his military service as 1942–1946.  Captain Opper joined the unit sometime after December 31, 1943; he was listed as Chief of E.E.N.T. Section on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters.  My grandfather described him as “The ever smiling, ever humorous Capn Opper” on the back of the photo displayed above.  Captain Opper departed the unit in July 1945.

Opper-Caserta-Palace
Captain Philip Opper on the grounds of the Royal Palace of Caserta in 1944 or 1945 (Robert Silverman 8 mm Film)

Dr. Opper married Sadie Hershorn, a nurse, in April 1941.  They raised three daughters.  Dr. Opper’s daughter recalls him specializing in ophthalmology after the war; his obituary states he “chaired the department of ophthalmology at Barnert in the Sixties.”  His daughter recalled that he also had an office in the family home in Paterson.  Dr. Opper died in Florida, aged 77.

 

Landon Timberlake, O-202587 (July 11, 1903 – Feb 27, 1979)

7 Timberlake 51st Sta
Landon Timberlake in Algeria, 1943 (Courtesy of the Hagelshaw Family)

Dr. Timberlake was born in Virginia.  He traced his lineage to Lieutenant John Timberlake, who fought in the American Revolution.  Captain Timerlake was already a member of the unit at Fort Bragg when his name appears on a list of officers in Special Order 314 (December 24, 1942).  He was promoted to major sometime prior to December 31, 1943 when he appears on a 32nd Station Hospital roster was a title of Chief of Genito-Urinary Surgery.  The May 1, 1944 roster gives his title as Chief of Urology Section.  His title on the December 31, 1944 roster is Chief of Urology Section – Ward Officer.  He left the unit in July 1945 along with many other longstanding officers.

Dwight McNelly’s unpublished manuscript mentions:

Our one Major Timberlake, in charge of the V.D. ward, asked [a patient he’d been examining why he] had been in for treatment for the third time.  The answer he got was, “Well Major, if I keeps getting it, I don’t have to worry about getting it.”

His 1950 application for membership to the Sons of the American Revolution provides useful information (including his dates of  military service, May 1942 to January 1946).  He wrote, “I was assigned to the 23rd [sic] Station Hospital and became Chief of Urology and Executive Officer.”  It’s unclear when he would have performed the latter role since the 32nd Station Hospital’s longest standing executive officer, Major Gerard Krueger, departed the unit the same month Timberlake did.  The application states that Dr. Timberlake left the U.S. Army with a rank of lieutenant colonel in January 1946.

Dr. Timberlake married his wife Mary in 1938; they had at least three children.  He died in Birmingham, Alabama, aged 75.

 

Carl Tryggvi (possibly Karl Baldur Tyggvi), O-338094 (probably July 17, 1902 – July 27, 1980)

Dr. Tryggvi was listed as Ward Officer – Orthopedic Surgery on the December 31, 1943 roster with a rank of Captain.  As of May 1, 1944, his title was Chief of Orthopedic Section.  He had basically the same title (Chief of Orthopedic Section – Ward Officer) on the December 31, 1944 roster.  Captain Tryggvi left the unit in July 1945.

The most likely match for this doctor was born in the Point Roberts, Washington (possibly with a birth name of Karl Baldur Tryggvi).  His parents, Jonas (a fisherman) and Solveig Tryggvi had immigrated from Iceland.  As of the 1930 census Carl Tryggvi was listed as a high school teacher, but must have entered medical school soon after.  He graduated from medical school at the University of Oregon in 1934 and did an internship at El Paso City-County Hospital in 1934–1935.  As of the 1940 census, he was living in Santa Monica, California and working at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital.  An August 8, 1940 newspaper article in the Alexandria Daily Town Talk (Alexandria, Louisiana) mentions that Dr. Tryggvi worked at the V.A. in Los Angeles, before joining the Veterans Hospital in Alexandria on August 7, 1940.

The Veterans Affairs record has Carl Tryggvi recorded as entering the U.S. Army on December 1, 1941 with a release date of April 22, 1946.  He apparently remained in the U.S. Army Reserve; the January 1, 1966 U.S. Army Register lists Lieutenant Colonel Carl B. Tryggvi (with a service number matching the 32nd Station Hospital’s rosters) as retiring on August 1, 1962 with a retirement code indicating that he was 60 years old with 20 years’ service.  I have been unable to learn any information about whether he married or had children. Dr. Tryggvi died in Washington state, aged 78.

 

Lowell Eugene Vinsant, O-382234 (October 28, 1912 – October 17, 1983)

Vinsant-Portrait
Captain Lowell Eugene Vinsant in Oran, Algeria in a photograph dated April 24, 1943 (Courtesy of the Vinsant Family)

Dr. Vinsant grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, the son of Dr. Charles Vinsant and Italy Vinsant.  He graduated from medical school at the University of Tennessee; he was an intern and resident at Knoxville General Hospital. Dr. Vinsant married his wife Mary on December 21, 1941.

Dr. Vinsant entered active duty with the U.S. Army on Jan 15, 1942, presumably at the rank of 1st lieutenant.  He was promoted to captain on January 6, 1943.  On February 14, Captain Vinsant received word that he would be going overseas shortly.  The following day, he learned his father, who had previously been diagnosed with a terminal illness, had only one or two months left to live.  The younger Dr. Vinsant was able to see his father (described in his journal as “my greatest hero”) one more time before going overseas.

5-Vinnie-village-near-Sorrento
Captain Vinsant making friends with Italian civilians during a visit to a village near Sorrento circa October 1944 (Robert Silverman Collection)

Captain Vinsant departed the United States on March 4, 1943, bound for Oran, Algeria.  After arriving in Oran on March 19, he was assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital on April 2, 1943.  According to Captain Vinsant’s journal, he was dropped off at the airport near Oran, where he took an ambulance back to the hospital in Tlemcen along with patients that had arrived by air.  He wrote that the following day he was “assigned to Orthopedic Service” under Major William McElroy.  A week later, however, he was returned to Oran on temporary duty and assigned to the 389th Port Battalion.  On May 5, 1943, Captain Vinsant learned by telegram that his father had died April 22.  A poem he wrote for his father did not arrive there in time.

Captain Vinsant weathered several air raids in Oran.  He wrote in his journal on May 19, 1943 that during one that night that he “heard an airplane come over, but did not see a plane, but I opened fire with a submachine gun into the air (which I borrow for medic’s [sic] get no weapons).”  After months of efforts to get himself transferred back to the 32nd Station Hospital, he was finally successful on July 2, 1943.  Captain Vinsant was assigned to the Surgical Service the following day.

Poss-Lee-Vinsant-Tlemcen
Two 32nd Station Hospital officers in Tlemcen, Algeria in 1943; I believe Captain George R. Lee is at left and Captain Lowell E. Vinsant is at right (Robert Silverman 8 mm Film)

On November 23, 1943, he wrote: “Today, I was appointed Special Service Officer, but I doubt that I can keep this group entertained.” (In addition to entertainment, he wrote in an entry on January 27, 1944 that, “The special service officer is called on for every type of job from arranging for showers & laundry to get the weekly paper for the personnel.”)After orders came for the 32nd Station Hospital to cease operations in Tlemcen, Captain Vinsant wrote:

On the 4 Dec 1943 we had a farewell party and to keep things going I finally got to reciting some poetry, which immediately took and everybody was making up rimes. [sic]  The party seemed a big success, altho our orchestra failed to come up from Oran.

He continued as S.S.O. until May 5, 1944.

Captain Vinsant was listed on the December 31, 1943 32nd Station Hospital roster with the title of Ward Officer – General Surgery.  From December 28, 1943 to January 9, 1944 while the 32nd Station Hospital was in staging in Terme di Agnano (near Bagnoli, Italy), Captain Vinsant and five other members of the Surgical Section were briefly assigned to the 225th Station Hospital.

After the 32nd Station Hospital set up in Caserta, Captain Vinsant wrote on March 12, 1944 that:

In 45 days I have done 93 operations, and assisted on many others.  I have 2 wards – 74 beds which have been kept full most of time – at present I have the largest percentage of op.

On the May 1, 1944 roster his title is listed as Ch of Septic Surg Section.  His title on the December 31, 1944 roster is essentially the same: Ch of Septic Surg Section – Ward Off.

Captain Vinsant remained in the unit until the very end of World War II; after numerous officers transferred out, he was reassigned to be Receiving and Disposition Officer on July 18, 1945, shortly before the unit ceased operations in Caserta.  On the 24th, he was reassigned to be the Assistant Chief of Surgical Service, but the hospital didn’t go back into operation before the unit was deactivated.

Captain Vinsant was evidently one of the last 32nd Station Hospital officers to leave Caserta; even after a detachment from the 300th General Hospital took over the compound on July 20, 1945, he remained there on detached service for another ten days.

Dr. Vinsant was reunited with his wife in Atlanta, Georgia in September 1945 and left the military effective February 14, 1946.  The couple had three children.  According to their daughter, after the war, Dr. Vinsant specialized in abdominal surgery.  She described him as someone who “loved to laugh.”  Dr. Vinsant died in Maryville, Tennessee, aged 70.

 

Candler Arthur Willis, O-1693062 (January 26, 1910 – December 25, 1983)

Candler-Willis
Dr. Candler Willis (Courtesy of the Willis Family)

Dr. Willis was born in North Carolina, the son of Dr. Arthur Ponder Willis and Eloise Candler Willis.  Candler was a fourth generation doctor.  Dr. Willis married Helen Gill (1911–1997), a teacher on December 28, 1935.  The couple raised a daughter and a son.  Dr. Willis graduated from medical school at Duke University in 1936.  After an internship at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin and a residency at Watts Hospital in Durham, he joined his father’s medical practice in 1938.  Dr. Willis recalled in a 1983 newspaper article that back then, a house call only cost $2!  Dr. Willis also worked at three other local hospitals: Aston Park, Memorial Mission, and St. Joseph’s.

When Dr. Willis registered for the draft in 1940, he was listed as being 6 feet, 2 inches (188 cm) tall and weighing 213 lbs. (96.6 kg) with brown hair and brown eyes.  According to his Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. file, Dr. Willis entered U.S. Army on July 15, 1942.  1st Lieutenant Willis was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by December 24, 1942 at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He accompanied the unit to Tlemcen, Algeria, where he shared quarters at the Hotel Transatlantique with Drs. Louis Linn, Nace Cohen, and Lewis McKee.  As of June 24, 1943 (when he sent a letter to The Enka Voice), he was still with the unit.  However, later that same year he left the unit due to poor health, and was discharged for medical reasons on December 26, 1943.

In an August 24, 1983 article in The Asheville Citizen (Asheville, North Carolina) “Crowfields Retiree Recalls Life As Country Doctor” by Nancy McGraw, Dr. Willis looked back on his career:

The question of why he wanted to study medicine is a difficult one, Dr. Willis said.  “I just wanted to be a country doctor. I enjoy medicine…I believe a doctor’s life has got to be like a pastor’s, service to the people.”

The article states “In 1947, Dr. Willis built the Enka Medical Center. He practiced there until his retirement.”  He retired on January 26, 1978 after spending over 40 years practicing medicine.  He died in Asheville, North Carolina, aged 73.

 

Ralph Reuben Zimet, O-467139 (August 20, 1908 – April 26, 1985)

(This biography also listed in the Administrative Officers of the 32nd Station Hospital article.)

Ralph-Zimet-Portrait-by-Gerard-Urgo-Retouched
Major Ralph Zimet in a Gerard Urgo portrait, probably taken in 1944 or 1945 (Courtesy of the Hagelshaw Family)

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.

zimetcaserta
Major Ralph Zimet at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta, Italy in the spring of 1944 (Courtesy of the Zimet Family)

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).

twinketoes
Major Ralph “Twinkletoes” Zimet in a photo dated August 20, 1944 (Courtesy of the Zimet Family)

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.

IMG_0125 Goss OConnor Zimet Drawing
A drawing, almost certainly by Don Sudlow, featuring Colonel Harold Goss (presumed), Chaplain William O’Connor, and Major Ralph Zimet (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

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.

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Last updated July 11, 2019

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