Standing around musical artist performing in the courtyard of the 12th General Hospital Unit facility in Rome

American Red Cross

Over the course of the War, there were fifteen civilians associated with the American Red Cross who served the patients of the 12th General Hospital. These Red Cross members set up recreation rooms, distributed razors, gum, candy and cigarettes, wrote letters on behalf of infirm soldiers, and often assumed the role of social workers in listening to the disturbing stories and concerns of wounded troops. It was the Red Cross who organized events like amateur shows, carnivals, and dances. Patients were so eager for diversions from lying in bed that as one doctor later recalled, “[they threw] away crutches on dance night like crippled pilgrims before the shrine of miracles.” Along with setting up classes for convalescents and arranging for patients and staff to visit attractions in nearby cities, the Red Cross coordinated USO entertainers such as Bob Hope and Bing Cosby as well as local singers who helped distract the invalids from the tedium of their recovery process and medical personnel from their overwhelming workload. In Rome, performers would play on a platform situated in the center of the hospital complex with medical activities continuing around them. Michael Mason, Chief of Surgery, commented after the War that “The red blotches around the temporary stage scarcely note the intrusion, a few turn about to look but most pay no attention and the show goes on despite the arrival of new patients.”