Laboratory, Chaplain, Dietetic, and Physical Therapy Officers of the 32nd Station Hospital

This article covers 32nd Station Hospital officers from a variety of sections not otherwise covered in the articles about administrative personnel, doctors, dentists, or nurses.  Names are listed alphabetically within each section.

Laboratory Service

Adam Ruiz Resendez, O-490904 (April 9, 1910 – March 4, 1969)

Resendez
Captain Lowell E. Vinsant (left), 1st Lieutenant Adam R. Resendez (center), and Lieutenant Colonel George F. Evans (right) in a detail from a photo taken at a 1945 party in the 32nd Station Hospital officers’ club in Caserta, Italy (Robert Silverman Collection)

Resendez was born in Texas, the son of Cleto and Mary Resendez.  He was living in San Antonio as of the 1910 and 1920 censuses.  Resendez was already in the military by 1940 when the census lists him as living in San Antonio, Texas with an occupation of “Laboratory Tech” for the U.S. Army.  Resendez married Lillian Cotter (1913–1975) on August 30, 1938.  They had two sons.

1st Lieutenant Resendez was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by December 24, 1942 when the unit was still stateside at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He appears on all three rosters (December 31, 1943, May 1, 1944, and December 31, 1944) as the sole officer in the Laboratory Service with the position of Laboratory Officer.  He transferred to the 64th General Hospital in April 1945.

After the war, Resendez served in the U.S. Air Force, leaving the military with a rank of captain.  As of 1960 he was working at Lackland Air Force Base.  He died in Texas, aged 58.  Captain Resendez is buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

 

Chaplains

Darius O. Blaisdell, O-471111 (almost certainly June 6, 1902 – July 21, 1985)

Chaplain Blaisdell joined the 32nd Station Hospital after December 31, 1943 but prior to May 1, 1944, replacing Chaplain John B. Shearer.  Chaplain Blaisdell appears on the May 1, 1944 and December 31, 1944 rosters with a rank of captain and the title of Protestant Chaplain.  He was transferred to the 300th General Hospital in March 1945.  Chaplain Blaisdell’s name is on a manifest for a ship arriving in New York from Naples on May 20, 1945.  The manifest lists him with an address in Corpus Christi, Texas.  An article in the November 11, 1947 issue of The Corpus Christi Times (Corpus Christi, Texas), “Assignment Of Officers Announced,” mentions Captain Blaisdell as being  assigned to the 476th Composite Group, Organized Reserve Corps.

It’s almost certain that the Chaplain Darius O. Blaisdell who was a member of the 32nd Station Hospital was a Baptist minister.  On the 1930 census, a Darius O. Blaisdell from Texas was listed as working as a janitor in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (presumably during his schooling).  On the 1940 census, he is listed as a Baptist minister back in Texas.  Other documents give his middle name as Othniel.  According to his Department of Veterans Affairs file, he joined the U.S. Army on May 27, 1942 and left active duty on February 25, 1946.  He was married to Lillie Mae Blaisdell (1901–1986), with whom he had three sons.  Later, he was married to Violet Katherine Frazier (1911–1977) and after her death, Freda Kaler Flood (1908–1979).  He died in Texas, aged 83.

 

Fabian P. Flynn (Philip Flynn), O-501418 (June 21, 1905 – January 28, 1973)

Chaplain Flynn was born Philip Flynn in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.  He later changed his name to Fabian upon entering the Passionist order and he was ordained as a priest in 1931.  Flynn’s service with the 32nd Station Hospital, though brief, is well documented due to research by his biographer, Dr. Sean Brennan, author of The Priest Who Put Europe Back Together: The Life of Father Fabian Flynn, CP.

Chaplain Flynn was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a 1st lieutenant on October 21, 1942.  After the completion of his training on November 28, Chaplain Flynn served in the 120th Station Hospital at Camp Barkeley, Texas, but in March 1943 he volunteered for service overseas.

Remarkably, Chaplain Flynn’s Monthly Report of Chaplains for April and May 1943 survived the 1973 fire which destroyed most of the U.S. Army’s World War II personnel records.  Dr. Brennan recently shared these documents with me.  Chaplain Flynn apparently joined the 32nd Station Hospital in April.  The exact date he joined the unit is unclear, but it was probably late in the month since his April 1943 report mentions he “Conducted Good Friday services at 1st [Replacement Depot]” and “Said Mass for various Units in MBS while awaiting permanent station.”  (Good Friday would have been April 23 that year, and M.B.S. stands for Mediterranean Base Section.)

On May 15, 1943, Chaplain Flynn baptized William Oscar Larson (1921–2001, who was almost certainly an enlisted man in the 32nd Station Hospital).  During May, Chaplain Flynn recorded that he conducted 29 masses, 77 hospital visits, and participated in Memorial Day and Joan of Arc Day celebrations.  Regarding Memorial Day activities on May 30, Flynn wrote in his monthly report that it:

Consisted of Parade of detachment, local MP’s, men from hospital who are ambulant and others in motor vehicles together with nurses and officers.  This was followed by Military Mass in local Church.  Much enthusiasm evinced by participants and had deep effect on native population.  Had band play Marsailles [sic] before Star Spangled Banner at conclusion.

Chaplain Flynn’s career after leaving the 32nd Station Hospital was remarkable (perhaps too much to adequately summarize here).  In June 1943 he joined the 26th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division and participated in the invasion of Sicily.  He was wounded by a grenade on Sicily in July 1943.  Chaplain Flynn recovered from his wounds to storm Omaha Beach with his unit on June 6, 1944, where he administered last rites to fallen soldiers while under fire.  After the war ended, he served at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.  His decorations included the Silver Star, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, and the Purple Heart.

After leaving the military in 1946, Father Flynn directed relief efforts in Germany, Hungary, and Austria as a member of the War Relief Services (later known as Catholic Relief Services from 1955 onward).  He retired in 1972 and died the following year in Hoboken, New Jersey, aged 67.

 

William V. O’Connor, O-470963 (dates of birth and death unknown)

Father-OConnor-Jan-13-1945
Chaplain O’Connor in a detail from a group photo at the 32nd Station Hospital’s party celebrating two years overseas, January 13, 1945 (Courtesy of the Hills Family)

It is unclear when Catholic Chaplain William V. O’Connor joined the 32nd Station Hospital.  The only chaplain on the list of 32nd Station Hospital officers as of December 24, 1942 was 1st Lieutenant John B. Shearer, but that list isn’t a formal roster.  He may have arrived around June 1943, possibly succeeding Chaplain Fabian Flynn.

Needles-OConnor
Chaplain O’Connor in Algeria (Courtesy of the Needles Family)

O’Connor was in a photograph taken in Algeria, so he definitely joined the unit sometime in 1943.  Unless there was another Catholic chaplain briefly assigned to the 32nd, it was likely O’Connor who succeeded Chaplain Fabian Flynn.  Chaplain O’Connor was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster with a rank of 1st lieutenant.  He was promoted to captain as of January 17, 1944.

Dwight McNelly’s unpublished manuscript may well describe Chaplain O’Connor, who was the unit’s longest serving Catholic chaplain:

One of the better chaplains, a Jesuit, was writing letters home to tell the folks of their soldier’s brave and last moments.  Many times he had to sort out the things that were embarrassing and he felt should not go with his possessions.

Chaplain O’Connor presided over numerous weddings during his time in the 32nd Station Hospital, putting his Protestant counterparts to shame.

carey wedding
The Carey wedding party at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta, Italy on March 29, 1944.  From left to right: Thomas J. Hagerty, Ruby E. Milligan, Ina L. Bean(e) Carey, William A. Carey, Jr., Annie P. Barone, and William V. O’Connor. (Courtesy of the Carey Family)

He also stepped in to manage the 32nd Station Hospital baseball team, the Red Sox, after Captain Irving Weiner was transferred to another unit in August 1944.  A team roster describes him as follows:

He took over when Capt Weiner’s option was recalled by an Ack Ack outfit.  His fine coaching at third base brings plenty of Sox home.  And, he’s right in the middle of every argument…to settle it…you see he’s the Chaplain.

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

Chaplain O’Connor was transferred to Headquarters of the Adriatic Base Command in April 1945, but came back to the 32nd Station Hospital to perform at least two weddings and likely at least a third.  A man present in a group photo at the 32nd Station Hospital’s 1962 reunion (seated at back center table) resembles Chaplain O’Connor and is wearing a clerical collar, but the identification is not confirmed.

McNellyWedding
Wedding of T/Sgt. Raymond Plzak and Harriette Ryan, June 1945. The other men listed on the back are “O.R. Sgt. Williamson” and “Catholic Chaplain”.  It appears to be Chaplain O’Connor, but he would have had to have returned temporarily from Adriatic Base Command to officiate; he did so in at least two other cases. (Dwight McNelly and Dorothy Eggers Collection. Courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

Outside the information in 32nd Station Hospital documents, it has been difficult to find any definite information about Chaplain O’Connor.  An October 5, 1944 article (“Rexburg Officer Marries Nurse in Chapel in Italy”) in The Post-Register (Idaho Falls, Idaho) about the wedding of Velma A. Drolet to Clarence W. Byrne stated “The Rev. William O’Connor, hospital chaplain, of New York City, officiated.”  One possible match appeared on the 1930 census, a William V. O’Connor listed as a 29-year old Catholic priest living in Richmond, New York.  He was also born in New York state.  Perhaps less likely to be a match is the 52-year old Father William V. O’Connor (originally from Rhode Island) listed on the 1940 census as working at a boys’ school in Fremont, California.

Complicating my research effort is the fact that there was another Chaplain William V. O’Connor (originally from Connecticut) who served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II; it appears this William V. Connor stayed in the military and was a colonel by 1972.  One of the Chaplain O’Connors was a chaplain at Fort Riley, Kansas as of July 1, 1942 and attended a chaplains school at Harvard University in September 1942, but it is uncertain which one.  He died prior to May 9, 1981, when his name was on a list of 32nd Station Hospital members who had died (presumably since the last reunion).

 

John Byars Shearer, O-276988 (August 14, 1899 – February 21, 1984)

Chaplain Shearer was born in Mississippi, the son of Edward and Henrietta Shearer.  He served in World War I; his Department of Veterans Affairs file lists his dates of service as June 30, 1917 through September 27, 1919.  He graduated from Millsaps College (Jackson, Mississippi).  By 1930 he was a minister in New Orleans.

It is unknown when he rejoined the U.S. Army as a chaplain, but 1st Lieutenant John B. Shearer was already with the 32nd Station Hospital as of December 24, 1942.  He accompanied the unit overseas to Tlemcen, Algeria. Chaplain Shearer was promoted to captain sometime during 1943 and was listed as the unit’s Protestant chaplain as of December 31, 1943.  He was replaced in that role by Chaplain Darius O. Blaisdell on an unknown date prior to May 1, 1944.

Shearer was mentioned in a May 19, 1943 article in The Shreveport Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), “Chaplain Overseas”:

   CHAPLAIN JOHN B. SHEARER, former member of the Louisiana Methodist conference, is serving with a hospital unit in North Africa.  A veteran of World War I he participated in three major campaigns as an enlisted man is wearer of the Purple Heart and Fourragers [sic].

Shearer married Helen Louise Kearney (1900–1937) on August 14, 1924.  The couple had had two daughters and two sons.  After Helen’s death, he married Glennie Burkhalter (1915–2006) with whom he had another son.  Reverend Shearer died in Ruston, Louisiana, aged 84.

 

Dietetic Section

Julia Lembkey Brosius (Julia Lembkey Brosius Dobell), R-000602 or R-000802 (July 16, 1920 – December 13, 2012)

2nd Lieutenant Julia R. Brosius [sic] (R-000602) was listed as the unit dietician as of December 31, 1943.  She most likely joined the unit in Tlemcen, Algeria sometime during 1943.  She most likely replaced the unit’s unknown first dietician, who was mentioned in Dwight McNelly’s unpublished manuscript:

Almost at first we heard that the dietician was pregnant.  She had been flown over and joined us soon after we came to Tlemcen.  It seems she had told them she was pregnant but they had their orders to send her anyway.  I don’t think she was with us more than three months total.

If McNelly’s recollection was correct, 2nd Lieutenant Brosius would have joined the unit around May 1943.  Brosius transferred out of the unit sometime after December 31, 1943 but prior to May 1, 1944, when 1st Lieutenant Mary L. Gill was listed as the unit’s dietician.  Puzzlingly, there 32nd Station Hospital’s 1944 monthly reports record 2nd Lieutenant Julia L. Brosius (R-802) as a dietitian assigned on temporary duty from the 36th General Hospital from July through August 1944.  It seems extremely unlikely that there would be two dieticians named Julia Brosius with similar serial numbers both serving in Italy at the same time.  More likely, there was a typo in one of the serial numbers and some sort of liquid consonant confusion (for lack of a better term) with her middle initial on the first roster.

I found records of several women named Julia Brosius.  The most promising match was the Julia L. Brosius born in Michigan circa 1919 to William (a physician) and Julia Brosius.  She grew up in Detroit, Michigan and attended Michigan State University.   I also found a November 15, 1947 article in The Corvallis Gazette-Times (Corvallis, Oregon) about a marriage license being issued “to Joseph Porter Dobell, geologist, of this city, and Julia L. Brosius, student at Oregon State college.”  With that, I was able to find her obituary in The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon).  The obituary confirmed that she was a “military dietitian during WWII”.  The Dobells raised three sons and a daughter in Washington, Michigan, Wyoming, and Oregon.  She died in Bend, Oregon, aged 92.

 

Mary L. Gill, R-000005 (dates of birth and death unknown)

Hospital-Dietitian
This detail from a photo from a party commemorating two years overseas held in the 32nd Station Hospital officers’ club in Caserta on January 13, 1945 may depict 1st Lieutenant Mary Gill.  That’s based on the fact that she is wearing the insignia of the Hospital Dietician Corps and there was only one dietician assigned to the unit.  However, guests from outside the unit were known to attend these parties, so the identification is not confirmed at this time. (Robert Silverman Collection)

1st Lieutenant Gill joined the 32nd Station Hospital in Italy on an unknown date after December 31, 1943 but prior to May 1, 1944.  She was listed on the latter roster as the unit’s sole dietitian, replacing 2nd Lieutenant Julia Brosius.  She was decorated with the Bronze Star sometime in 1945.  1st Lieutenant Gill left the unit in July 1945.

Jan-13-1945-Party-Large
The full picture from the January 13, 1945 party. Seated from left to right: Unknown, probably Joan Taafe, Morris Weiss, Eleanor O’Leary, unknown, Dr. Robert Silverman, unknown, Dr. George Lee, unknown, likely Mary Gill. The identities of the men standing in the background are unclear but the one on the left is likely Colonel Harold Goss (Robert Silverman Collection)

Although Mary L. Gill is a very common name, I found a Mary L. Gill who was listed as a dietitian in a Jacksonville Florida directory in 1935–1936.  I also found newspaper articles which mention a Mary L. Gill who was a dietician in Mississippi after the war.  An April 16, 1947 article in the Greenwood Commonwealth (Greenwood, Mississippi) states: “New President of the Mississippi Dietetic Association today is Mary L. Gill, Vicksburg Hospital Dietician, elected to the post at the Organization’s Annual Meeting in Jackson yesterday.”  Regardless of whether those two records are the right individual, I have been unable to locate any subsequent record of her.

 

Physical Therapy Section

Lila S. Fruechtel (Lila Scott), M-000658 (February 2, 1907 – October 22, 1981)

McNellyFruechtel
1st Lieutenant Fruechtel is at right.  The other woman is unidentified. (Dwight McNelly and Dorothy Eggers Collection. Courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

1st Lieutenant Fruechtel appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster as one of two physical therapists assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital.  Dwight McNelly described her as “My first P.T. Boss” on the back of one of his photos.  She evidentially transferred out of the unit after March 1944 (when she appears in one of Dwight McNelly’s photographs) but prior to May 1, 1944, when 2nd Lt. Mildred E. Truitt is listed as the sole officer in the section.

Dwight McNelly spent most of his time in the 32nd Station Hospital as a P.T. technician.  His unpublished manuscript mentions:

Within a few weeks of our opening, I was assigned to work in the Physio-Therapy clinic.  I had an officer, a woman therapist that came from Maine.  She was a tall lady and very nice to work with.  Together we held down the clinic.  She instructed me in massage and exercise, technique, plus general treatment of mending broken bones.  Besides exercise wheels and pulleys, we had Sitz bath and whirlpool equipment.  We soon had five tables and infra-red lamps, plus one standing ultra-violet ray lamp.  Bakers: which held 60 watt light bulbs finished out our available equipment.

(Three minor typos corrected for clarity.)  Although the manuscript doesn’t name her, given the caption on his photo and the fact that 1st Lieutenant Fruechtel does seem taller than anyone else in McNelly’s photographs, it seems likely that the passage refers to her rather than 2nd Lieutenant Wenhart, who was also in the unit by late 1943.

McNelly-Unk-Nurse-and-Fruechtel
Dated March 1944 and taken at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta, Italy, 1st Lieutenant Fruechtel is at right. McNelly only identified the woman on the left as “First nurse I worked for in N.A.” (Dwight McNelly and Dorothy Eggers Collection. Courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

Initially, all I found at all for Fruechtel was a directory that lists her as working as a physiotherapist at Wyandotte General Hospital in Michigan in 1941.  Looking at the back of one of McNelly’s photographs, it looked like he had written “Mrs. Fruechtel”.  This was unusual, since most women in the unit were unmarried.  Returning to Ancestry.com with that in mind, I found a family tree for a Lila Scott who was born to John (who had immigrated from Canada) and Jessie Scott in Paris, Maine.  As of 1920 she was living with her family in Hartford, Connecticut.  By 1930 she was working in the physical therapy at a U.S. Army hospital in Sable, Colorado, presumably Fitzsimons Army Hospital.

She applied for a marriage license with Albert G. Fruechtel (1889– 1961) in Ohio on June 17, 1939.  The couple lived in Michigan, at least until the war.  Her Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs records are under her maiden name, so it’s unclear if the marriage lasted.  Her dates of active service are listed as April 1, 1943 through February 9, 1945.  The start date would seem odd if McNelly’s recollection is correct that he began serving under her within a few weeks of the hospital opening in February 1943.  Either McNelly or the V.A. dates must be in error unless she was working in the hospital prior to being commissioned in the U.S. Army.  She died in Everett, Washington, aged 74.

 

Mildred Esther Truitt, M-000777 (October 6, 1916 – March 16, 1999)

NIH-National-Library-of-Medicine-Truitt
Mildred Truitt at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta, Italy, probably in November or December 1944. Identification provided by Willard Havemeier. (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Truitt was born in Iowa to Lloyd D. (an oil field superintendent) and Ethel Truitt.  The family moved to Oklahoma by 1920.  She was living in Helena, Oklahoma when she joined the U.S. Army.  An April 20, 1943 article in The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), “Miss Truitt Is Hospital Aid” states that:

After completing her training at Walter Reed hospital early this year, Miss Truitt was assigned to the station hospital at Camp Harahan, New Orleans.

Upon completion of her probationary service of six months, in July, Miss Truitt will be commissioned a second lieutenant in the army and probably will be sent abroad to assist in rehabilitation of wounded service men.

Miss Truitt is a graduate of Northwestern State college, Alva, and has done graduate work at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.  She was for four years physical education instructor at Lorsdburg, N. M. high-school.

McNellyandTruitt
Dwight McNelly and 2nd Lieutenant Mildred Truitt outside the Physio-Therapy building in Caserta. Dated June 1944, text on the back reads “Miss Truitt and staff Ha – Really good – Crew -” (Dwight McNelly and Dorothy Eggers Collection. Courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

Truitt was promoted to 1st lieutenant as of February 7, 1945.  She left the U.S. Army with a rank of captain.  A September 29, 1946 photo in The Daily Oklahoman refers to Chief Physical Therapist Mildred Truitt operating a machine at a “temporary veterans hospital at Will Rogers field”.  An August 30, 1947 article in the same paper states Truitt had departed to earn her master’s degree in physical therapy at New York University.  After her return, she continued working as a physical therapist in Oklahoma City.

Truitt-Dancing
2nd Lieutenant Truitt (left) dancing with an unidentified captain from another unit at the 32nd Station Hospital’s Christmas dance in 1944 (Courtesy of the Hills Family)

A November 27, 1975 article in The Daily Oklahoman stated that Truitt was teaching Encore exercise classes to breast cancer survivors at the Y.W.C.A. in Ione.  Even after retiring as a physical therapist, she continued teaching Encore classes.  It’s unclear just how long she taught the classes in total, but it was at least ten years (based on another article in The Daily Oklahoman on October 20, 1985).  For her work at the Y.W.C.A., she was named the 1989 Volunteer of the Year “by the volunteer action committee of the Community Council of Central Oklahoma” according to a May 18, 1990 article in The Daily Oklahoman.

Captain Truitt died in Oklahoma, aged 82.  She is buried at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Enid, Oklahoma.

 

Elizabeth S. Wenhart, M-000659 (possibly May 27, 1911 – March 6, 1995)

2nd Lieutenant Wenhart appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster as one of two physical therapists assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital.  She evidentially transferred out of the unit prior to May 1, 1944, when 2nd Lt. Mildred E. Truitt is listed as the sole officer in the section.

The only potential match I came across during my research was an Elizabeth Susanna Wenhart born in Ohio.  She apparently grew up in Akron.  By the 1940 census she was a nurse living in New York City.  The census indicated she was living in Massillon, Ohio as of 1935.  A September 11, 1942 story in The Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio) states that five nurses who had graduated from nursing school at Massillon City Hospital including Elizabeth Wenhart were already serving on active duty in the military.  She died in Hendersonville, North Carolina, aged 83.  Nothing in these limited sources of information identifies this woman as a physical therapist rather than a nurse, though conceivably she could be both; for instance, the 32nd Station Hospital’s Catherine H. Houlihan was listed as both nurse and x-ray technician during her civilian career.

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Last updated May 8, 2019

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