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)

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Captain Reddin Britt (left) with Captain James Eblen (right) in Algeria, 1943 (Courtesy of the Needles Family)

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.  When he registered for the draft on February 14, 1942, his card listed him as standing as 5 feet, 5 inches (165 cm) and weighing 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.

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Probably taken in 1945, the man in this slide is almost certainly Dr. Britt, seen standing at the entrance to a ward building in Caserta, Italy. (Courtesy of the Hagerty Family)

Decades later, Willard Havemeier recalled:

I attended autopsies under the direction of captain Ridden [sic] Britt. He was a surgeon from an old southern town and always bragged about how a good mint julep was his favorite drink.  Even though he was an officer and I was an enlisted man, we were friends.  I would take notes while various parts of the body were examined and then type the notes up for the final report for our registrar’s office.

Ruby-Milligan-Xmas-1944-Retouched-Britt-Detail
Detail from a group photo taken in the 32nd Station Hospital officers’ club during their Christmas 1944 party in Caserta, Italy.  Ruby Milligan (Hills) identified the individuals in the photo.  Standing (left to right): Dr. Redden Britt, Dr. George R. Lee, Lunger.  Seated: Erwin “Larry” Laurence, Ruby Milligan. I don’t believe Lunger or Laurence were members of the 32nd Station Hospital; Laurence was listed as a captain in the Quartermaster Corps elsewhere in the album. (Courtesy of the Hills Family)

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 listed 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)

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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!

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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)

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Dr. Joseph Dolgin in his U.S. Army uniform, likely taken in the United States before he went overseas (Courtesy of the Dolgin Family)

Dr. Dolgin was born in New York to Samuel and Lena Dolgin, Jewish immigrants from Russia.  He was something of a polyglot, learning English, Yiddish, and Hebrew while growing up, Latin in college, and French and Italian during his overseas service.  Dolgin’s siblings worked to help put him through school (as was the case with several other members of the unit, known to include Drs. Linn, Opper, and Silverman).  Dolgin graduated from the City College of New York, followed by the University of Edinburgh medical school.  He 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.

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Portrait of Dr. Dolgin dated 1942 (Courtesy of the Dolgin Family)

Dr. Dolgin married Barbara L. Lake (1919–2018), a lawyer, in Phenix City, Alabama (near Fort Benning, Georgia) on December 20, 1942.  Barbara recalled in her memoirs (dictated to oral historian Alice Popovici from November 2017 until her death in February 2018) that they originally met through a mutual friend; the couple began dating in 1942 and were engaged that fall.  They decided to marry before the 32nd Station Hospital shipped overseas.

1st Lieutenant Dolgin appeared on a list of 31 officers in the unit as of December 24, 1942, though he was undoubtedly a member prior to that date.  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.

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Dr. Joseph Dolgin (left) with Dr. Lowell Vinsant at a tea party before Dr. Isadore Wessel‘s wedding in Tlemcen, Algeria, in October 1943. (Robert Silverman 8 mm Film)

Barbara recalled of Dr. Dolgin’s postwar career:

Joe was a pediatrician and he worked all the time.  He saw patients in his office all day, and most days, he worked late into the night as well, making house calls—like all doctors did in those days.  He would come home for dinner, and then the five of us would pile into the car and drive around with him while he made house calls.  I didn’t like him going out alone at night.

Most of Joe’s colleagues stopped making house calls sometime in the ‘50s, but Joe did not.  He thought it was his duty, and he was very determined to take care of his patients.  He loved all the children that came into his office; he had a nickname for each of them and a little poem that went with the nickname.  And that was one of the things that I loved about him.

Many years later, a former patient recalled how much he enjoyed visiting Joe’s office as a child.  He said he wanted to see Joe even when he wasn’t sick, and he would push peas up his nose so his mother would have to take him to the doctor.

Indeed, Dr. Louis Linn recalled in his 1998 letter to Willard Havemeier:

Dr. Joseph Dolgin was a much loved pediatrician on Staten Island.  On the occasion of his retirement hundreds of families and children assembled to honor him.

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 almost 52 years prior to his death; they raised two sons and a daughter.  He died on Staten Island, aged 83.

 

Harold B. Eisenberg (Harold B. Eiber), O-492670 (March 29, 1915 – December 21, 1982)

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Dr. Harold B. Eisenberg sitting on the turret of an M-5 Stuart light tank, presumably taken in Italy in early 1944 (Courtesy of the Mann Family)

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.

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Dr. Eisenberg is most like the captain standing next to one of the dud bombs that fell on the 32nd Station Hospital the night of April 24, 1944. (Courtesy of the Mann Family)

When this article was first published, I wrote that I was unable to learn anything else out about this doctor.  In July 2019 I received several photos of Eisenberg from the collection of Frances Rubin (Mann).  The man pictured above does resemble the photo of a Harold B. Eisenberg in the 1936 New York University yearbook.  Research on Newspapers.com and Ancestry.com suggested that this doctor, who graduated from N.Y.U. and then medical school at University of Edinburgh, changed his name to Harold B. Eiber during or shortly after the war.  I was able to confirm that Eisenberg and Eiber were the same person in correspondence with his niece.  He had two daughters and a son.

It seems a story about Dr. Eiber made it into newspapers across the nation on October 31, 1949.  While waiting at Jewish Hospital in Brooklyn for his wife Audrey to give birth to their first child, Dr. Eiber apparently made a nuisance of himself.  According to “Nail-Biting Doc Gets Assist From Mr. Stork” in the Brooklyn Eagle: “Finally the nurses could stand him no longer and he was shooed outside for a breath of fresh morning air.”  While he was outside, a police car pulled up.  The officer yelled for a doctor because a woman was about to give birth in his patrol car.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle story continued:

Dr. Eiber was about to go inside to summon a doctor when he realized he was one—not an obstetrician, to be sure, but nevertheless a physician.  And he had delivered a baby to an Arab woman Nov 8, 1942, in North Africa while he was in the Army Medical Corps.

Dr. Eiber successfully delivered the baby.  Then, while carrying the baby boy inside, he learned that he had missed the birth of his own child when the “first nurse he met whispered in his ear: ‘It’s a girl, 5 pounds, 5 ounces.'”

Eiber’s obituary in The New York Times listed him as serving in North Africa but didn’t mention Italy.  It stated that he was “an internist and cardiologist who was one of the main contributors in the preparation of radioactive heparin, an anticoagulant used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis”.

 

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)

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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)

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Presumably taken in Algeria late in 1943 from left to right: Captain Irving S. Weiner, Major Robert O.Y. Warren, and Captain Hugh W. Heim. (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

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 in 1935 and a surgical residency at Ashland State Hospital in 1940.  He continued as a surgeon there until he went on active duty in 1942.

Dr. Heim had been in the U.S. Army Reserve since 1935 and entered active duty on January 12, 1942.  After several months at the Camp Lee (Virginia) Station Hospital, at the end of July he was ordered to join the First Infantry Division at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.  On August 1, 1942, he boarded the R.M.S. Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic Ocean with the rest of the division.  He would remain overseas until May 2, 1945.  During the voyage, Dr. Heim learned he was being assigned to the 18th Infantry Regiment.  After a little over two months in the United Kingdom, his unit departed for the Mediterranean on October 26, 1942.

According to a transcript of Dr. Heim’s journal, sent to me by his daughter, Dr. Heim participated in landings near Arzeu, Algeria just after midnight on November 8, 1942 during Operation Torch.   The following day was undoubtedly the most harrowing of Dr. Heim’s life.  After landing, he came under fire from Vichy French forces.  Inland, he recounted another close call:

As we enter the village of St. Leonie – 3 French cavalrymen ride us down pistols in hand.  I smile and gulp and point to my Red Cross.  They continue on.  We decide to wait for rifle protection.  Just beyond St. Leonie, an armored car scatters us into the fields.  Up and onward, outside Renan – a F.W. 190 drops a bomb 100 yards from us.  It’s a dud!

After surviving French artillery and sniper fire (and treating a few patients in the process), Dr. Heim reflected: “I am so thankful to be alive – a day that will live in my memories forever!”

1st Lieutenant Heim was transferred to the Mediterranean Base Section (to which the 32nd Station Hospital was assigned in Algeria) on March 19, 1943.  From there, he was assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital on April 10, 1943 and joined the unit three days later.  (Unfortunately, his journal ended soon after.)  By the end of the year, he had been promoted to captain; as of December 31, 1943 he was listed as Ward Officer – General Surgery.  On the May 1, 1944, roster he was listed as Chief of Anesthesia.  His title was similar on the December 31, 1944, roster: 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?)

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A photo of what looks like some sort of ceremony, taken at Building A at the 32nd Station Hospital in Tlemcen, Algeria in March 1943.  From left to right: Major Robert O.Y. Warren, Colonel Theodore Burstein, Chaplain John B. Shearer, Major William D. McElroy (Courtesy of the Mann Family)

(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.  A July 12, 1928 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer listed him as one of “244 students announced today who passed the Ohio State Medical Board examination and are authorized to practice in Ohio.”  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)

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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.  According to a January 4, 1967 article in the Paterson News (Paterson, New Jersey) which announced his election as secretary-treasurer of Barnert Memorial Hospital Center, Dr. Opper “did post graduate work at Columbia University, New York University, Bellevue Medical Center, and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.”

Dr. Opper’s obituary in The Record (Hackensack, New Jersey) listed his military service as 1942–1946.  The 1967 Paterson News article stated that during the war, Dr. Opper served “two years overseas as chief of eye, ear, nose and throat services with the 28th field hospital, the 118th and 32nd station hospitals.”  Captain Opper joined the 32nd Station Hospital 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.

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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)

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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 B. Tryggvi (possibly Karl Baldur Tryggvi), O-338094 (July 17, 1902 – July 27, 1980)

Tryggvi 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.  Tryggvi played football in high school.  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.

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.

His Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. record recorded Tryggvi 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 listed Lieutenant Colonel Carl B. Tryggvi (with a service number matching the 32nd Station Hospital’s rosters) as retiring on August 1, 1962.  His retirement code indicated that he was 60 years old with 20 years’ service.

Dr. Tryggvi lived in Seattle after the war, where he worked at the Seattle Veterans Administration Hospital.  An April 3, 1964 article in The Seattle Daily Times stated he had been honored for 25 years of service there.  His obituary in The Seattle Daily Times listed only siblings as survivors. Dr. Tryggvi died in Washington state, aged 78.

 

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

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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.  He left the unit around September 1, 1943; he was discharged for medical reasons on December 26, 1943.  A September 1, 1943 letter by Alice Griffin to her family stated:

One year in the army today– does it seem possible?  We are having a celebration tonight– there are 14 of us.  Lt Linn heard yesterday that his wife delivered a baby girl – we’re celebrating that – Lt Willis is going back to the states – – a farewell party and it’s Ivy Bosworth’s birthday – so you see we have quite a lot to celebrate.

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.

Meet-the-Soxers-Chaplain-Zimet
A drawing by Don Sudlow, featuring Colonel Harold L. Goss (presumed), Chaplain William O’Connor, and Major Ralph Zimet (Courtesy of the Knitter 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 October 17, 2019

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