Camp Cooke, California

Recollections of the 51st Evacuation Hospital in World War II

by E. T. Rulison, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S.

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Camp Cooke (Lompac, CA): Jan. – Feb. 1944

Camp Cooke is now Vandenberg Air Force Base, but was a "staging area" for us as we awaited our overseas orders.




We lived a "barracks life" with more hikes, the hikers here are [left to right] Chaplain Father Thomas Markham, Capts. Stukenborg and Damerow.
Also, [left to right] Major Dudley Saeltzer and W.W. I veteran, Maj. J. Roy Jones. 
I have to interject a comment here about these last two gentlemen officers. Maj. J. Roy Jones was well beyond draft age for doctors, but he volunteered anyway, providing excellent care for patients with E.E.N.T. problems. But, beyond his medical service, "J. Roy" was such a wonderful, caring person that personnel with problems came to him and, more often than not, he was able to work out a solution. He was like our unofficial third chaplain. "J. Roy" and Orrin Cook were the two universally loved and respected members of the 51st.

Maj. Dudley Saeltzer was the "brains" of the 51st, providing solutions to administrative and logistic problems that arose during the planning stages of the hospital’s operation. His administrative skills were demonstrated again after the War when he, Andy Henderson and Jim Yant founded the Sacramento Medical Foundation Blood Bank, and Dudley Saeltzer was also served as president of the Sacramento County Medical Society.


Before "shipping out", the unit had photos taken of the 43 officers, the 50 nurses and with our 243 enlisted men.





In early March ’44, a troop train pulled into Camp Cooke to take the entire unit cross-country to Camp Patrick Henry at Hampton Roads, Va. A baggage car was converted into the hospital mess.


We assembled for boarding, but then, the usual army "hurry up and wait".

Here are Chaplain Father Markham and Lt. Col. Cook. 

We finally pulled out of Camp Cooke (photo) to make the long cross-country trip, made longer and slower by derailments we encountered and stopovers.


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© Copyright 2005, E. T. Rulison, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S., All rights reserved.