WW II Hospital Trains
Wounded are being placed in berths of U.S. Army Medical Department Hospital Ward Car on Pier 5, Newport News, VA, 29 May 1943. The kneeling Army nurse is Viola Heydens. The soldier in the berth is Pvt. N. J. Jubinville, Lowell, MA, 62nd Engineer Co., who was wounded 40 kilometers from Bizerte on 17 April 1943 by land mine, necessitating amputation of his right hand. Standing is Army nurse Marjorie E. Mattson, with Pvt. W. A. Short, 1st Armored Regiment, 1st Division, Mt. Airy, NC, whose right leg was broken in collision of two motor cars. These wounded were taken on this hospital car to Valley Forge General Hospital, Phoenixville, PA.
World War II Hospital Trains
Diagram of military hospital train as used in World War II.
In the 1940s, during World War II, rail was still the most important mode of transportation for longer distances on land. Although Army aircraft were being used for aeromedical evacuation, capacity was quite limited and trains were heavily used for evacuation from Echelon II to and between higher echelons of medical care.
When evacuation was indicated from Collecting Stations or Clearing Stations (Echelon II) to Mobile Hospitals (Echelon III) or rearward to static hospitals (Echelon IV), the patients were brought to the nearest railhead for transfer by hospital train. Transfers between hospitals or from ships returning to CONUS with transoceanic evacuees were also accomplished by these trains. Transfers from interior combat zones, and their Echelon III Evacuation Hospitals, involved using trains to take patients to a coastal port where hospital ships took them onward.
Col. T. M. Lowry, Port Surgeon, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, standing beside Medical Dept. Hospital Ward Car, USA 8906, on Pier 5, Newport News, VA, 29 May 1943. The car is standing by awaiting debarkation of 204 wounded American soldiers from Tunisia. Two of these hospital cars transferred the patients to the Valley Forge General Hospital, Phoenixville, PA.
Hospital trains were ultimately replaced by modern air transportation as higher capacity aircraft became capable of handling the load. The greater speed of air evacuation, beginning to be realized in WW II, and the gradual decline of rail transport in general, made the hospital train obsolete.
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