Recruiting Medical Officers
After the 12th General Hospital was made an inactive unit of the Regular Army on July 1, 1940, Michael Mason, a hand-surgeon who had fought in World War I, began to recruit Northwestern campus doctors and other colleagues who lived in Chicago. Initially, Mason received a lukewarm response from many who believed that the United States would never enter the War, but he quickly was able to assemble a nucleus of medical officers following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Recruiting Nursing Staff
Katherine Baltz, who served as Chief Nurse, had the more daunting task of recruiting 120 nurses in a span of three weeks. Every Army nurse had to be a member of the American Red Cross, under the age of forty, single, a citizen of the United States, a graduate of an accredited school of nursing, and able to comply with Army physical standards. From her office at Northwestern Medical School, Baltz conducted hundreds of interviews and made frequent calls to the American Red Cross Headquarters to process 12th General Hospital applicants as members. Through the help of the 12th General Hospital’s medical officers, consistent publicity in newspapers, and the cooperation of Chicago hospitals, Baltz recruited ninety-six nurses.
Enlisted men from all walks of life formed the backbone of the 12th General Hospital Unit. In February of 1942, the doctors and nurses were joined by 187 enlisted men from the 215th General Hospital and then later by 314 new Army recruits the following month.
(Right) Tree map visualization of the relative number of staff members in the 12th General Hospital Unit throughout the war. (Below) Tree map visualization of the approximate distribution of staff among departments of the 12th General Hospital Unit.
The 12th General Hospital also depended on locals to assist them with operating a large facility whether it be hiring civilians to pour the cement for buildings, level roads, clean the villas, attend to sewage, and fold surgical dressings in Ain-el-Turck or employing Italian women as laundresses. In addition to paid staff, the 12th General Hospital Unit relied heavily on the labor of its ambulant patients and German and Italian prisoners of war. The Alpini prisoners of war proved to be particularly instrumental in carrying patients to their various appointments in the five-story hospital compound in Rome where there were no elevators.