Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia

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 Patrick Henry (Hampton Roads, VA): March 1944

 

The officers and enlisted men of the 51st Evac. Hospital were transported on a "Liberty ship", one of a 115 ship convoy, from Hampton Roads, VA to Oran, Algeria, the trip lasting 23 days.

 

Our nurses sailed on a fast troop transport to Casablanca, then across North Africa by troop train to Oran. I was assigned "detached duty" to be the medical officer aboard another Liberty ship carrying 550 Air Corps "casuals" from "E.C.P.C.", the East Coast Prison Camp, these men having had their sentences commuted when they volunteered for overseas duty. In the holds below our bunks, the ship was loaded with ammunition. To make the trip even more exciting, our ship was the last ship in the outside row—"torpedo corner".

 

Five days into the trip, the ship’s refrigeration failed, and all the fresh food had to be thrown overboard. Fortunately, a few of the "casuals" had worked in army mess duty and knew how to bake bread. But, for the remainder of the trip, we lived on very scanty rations.

 

On the evening of the 23rd day, we left the convoy and entered the port of Oran, Algeria.

As we approached the dock, a sudden, huge orange glow in the N.E. sky indicated that one of the remaining ships in the convoy had just blown up.
 

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