Nurses preparing supplies in Rome


The 12th General Hospital Unit that was comprised of Northwestern University Medical School physicians and dentists, Chicago-area nurses, dietitians, and physical therapists, and enlisted men from all over the country was officially activated on January 28, 1942. Following  nearly a year of military and medical training at Fort Custer (Michigan), Fort Benjamin Harrison (Indiana), and Camp Kilmer (New Jersey), the Unit was deployed first to the Algerian seaside resort, Ain-el-Turck, and then went on to treat patients in Naples, Rome, and Leghorn until the Unit was deactivated on September 15, 1945. Personnel from the 12th General Hospital Unit treated more than 29, 799 patients over the course of World War II. Along with performing emergency surgeries, staff contended with outbreaks of infectious diseases like typhus and malaria, dealt with chronic medical issues aggravated by war, and addressed the high number of cases of venereal disease among American troops. For their exemplary work, several members of the group were individually recognized for their service and the Unit as a whole was awarded the Meritorious Plaque. 

This digital exhibit, predominately drawn from the collections of Michael L. Mason and James A. Conner held at Northwestern’s Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center, highlights the recruitment, training, and medical experiences of those in the 12th General Hospital Unit. The exhibit also provides a window into the types of leisurely activities that bonded such a diverse group of people together and touches on how these servicemen and women, many of whom had never ventured far from their hometowns, explored their surroundings while abroad.  

(Click on the red stars on the maps to find out more about the destinations where the 12th General Hospital Unit was stationed.)