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Hospital in Bermuda until 1995
Last known as the
Naval Clinic before the bases departed from Southampton and St. David's
Archibald Forbes (see About
Us) exclusively for Bermuda
Army's 221st Station Hospital
which became the 1389th Army Air Force Base Unit Hospital and
then the USAF's 1604th
Hospital. Southside, St.
David's. Vacated when US
Military left Bermuda in 1995. Never re-tenanted. Photos by this author,
January 18, 2002, are of the fourth and last Kindley AFB/US NAS
Hospital. Now Historic photos as buildings were destroyed to
make way for the Bermuda Hospital Board's civilian Lamb Foggo Urgent Care
Centre at Southside, St.
David's, completed in April 2009.
April 1941. Medical
facilities for US forces in Bermuda began when the military ship transport
"American Legion" docked with the first US troops bound for what was
initially the US Army's Fort Bell. American troops who began their Bermuda
sojourn by staying at the Castle Harbour Hotel during construction from scratch
of the base brought with them the very first American hospital
facility to set up operations in Bermuda. They had a medical contingent of eight
officers and 64 enlisted men. What they established on the first floor of the hotel was in
reality an infirmary, not a hospital per se.
The American Government obtained a lease of the buildings and grounds of
the Bermuda Biological Station for Research at Ferry Reach (with the biologists
re-housed at the Government Aquarium, Flatts). A temporary American
military hospital was established there. It was staffed by four physicians, a
dentist and nurses, all US Army personnel. It was responsible for all members of
the US Army Engineers and the thousands of workers involved in the building of
the Fort Bell/Kindley Field Base.
Castle Harbour infirmary continued when a new 30-bed facility was opened in the Biological Station at Ferry
This 30-bed facility was soon taxed to its utmost within a month of its opening
when a plague of dengue fever laid low a large percentage of the engineering and
Work was begun by US Army Engineers on the building of an elaborate 150-bed
permanent US Army hospital at Fort Bell.
It was the same site on which the present,
much-newer, hospital, photographed above, stood until demolished in 2009.
April 19, 1942.
detachment of the US Army's Airways Communications Systems arrived in Bermuda.
It coincided with the decision taken to slow down substantially the building of
the Fort Bell/Kindley Field base hospital. Official American military accounts
state that the slow-down was due to the entry of the United States into the war
and the complex logistics involved in having too few men, machines and
transports to spare from other much more urgent duties connected with the
shipping and supply of war materials. Plans for the massive building were
stripped to the bone, as the entry of the United States in the war and
attendant shipping and supply difficulties called for
a drastic curtailment of all
construction. The base hospital
was intended to be camouflaged to look exactly like a large Bermuda hotel.
1943. The building of the hospital, continued on an
austere basis, was completed
but contained only the
bare essentials. But it cost
more than $1 million. At that
time, the hospital was run by U.S. Army medical people. In addition to
the big hospital, a dispensary was also operated in a
wooden building which stood opposite building Pó30.
The first base
hospital at Fort Bell was finally completed as the 221st Station Hospital, but
had only with the bare essentials,
notwithstanding its price-tag of more than $1 million. But there were sufficient
facilities at the new site to justify giving plenty of notice in advance
of the closure of the infirmary at the Castle Harbour Hotel and the
temporary hospital located at the Bermuda Biological Station.
onward. When the Riddell's
Bay Golf Club was a US Navy recreation centre during the war, a mobile hospital
for the war-wounded was established nearby. It saved the lives of many
brought in from torpedoed ships. Others were brought in to the Royal Navy
Hospital just outside Dockyard (now Lefroy House).
1943. With the final completion of the first purpose-built hospital at
Kindley, the infirmary that had been established at the Castle Harbour Hotel was
finally closed out and the hospital facility that had been in operation at the
Bermuda Biological Station was also shut down.
- February 1944. After
the arrival on a regular basis of the first units of the US Army Air Force
the first flight surgeon was assigned to the Bermuda US military hospital to
take care of the specialized field of flight medicine. For his first year,
he was definitely a man on the move. He first
set up business in a suite in
the hospital, but a month later it was decided to have his office in the
operations building as more convenient for flying
- During the whole
of 1944 and continuing through much of 1945, the United States' Kindley Air
Force Base in Bermuda was a major refueling and rest stop for hundreds of
medical air evacuation flights that carried wounded US servicemen from the
European battle lines back to the USA. Between 1,000 and 1,800 patients a month
were treated and housed temporarily at the Base Hospital - and attended to by
the 830th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron, members of the US Women's Army Air
Corps and American Red Cross representatives. Many of the air-evacuation
flights, complete with flight teams of nurses and skilled technicians, flew into
Bermuda from the Azores.
- July 1944. One of the more famous but in
many respects least known to the public patients at the new US Army and US Army
Air Force hospital in Bermuda, after his submarine U505 (now in a
Chicago museum) was captured by the US Navy and brought initially to
the Naval Operating Base in Bermuda, was its captain, Oberleutnant
Harald Lange. He incurred a broken leg in the capture of his vessel,
which had to be amputated. He spent some time at the Base Hospital and up to six months under special guard in
Bermuda. He was not even allowed to communicate with his anxious wife back home
in Germany. He was reported as having been very ashamed of having been captured
alive and took personal blame for allowing his crew and vessel to fall into the
hands of the Allies. His
U-boat was commissioned in August 1941. She was on her 12th patrol, having
sunk eight vessels over those voyages. In February 1944, Lange had taken the
U-boat south to the sea lanes off southwest Africa to prey on supply vessels
bound for Europe with supplies such as iron ore. On June 4, she was
intercepted by TF 22.3 under the command of Captain Daniel Gallery, USN and
was depth-charged. Lange brought the damaged boat to the surface to save his
men and thus surrendered, actions for which he was for a time after the war
ostracized at Hamburg, although they had taken all standard procedures to
scuttle the boat. Captain Gallery, USN, of Task Force 22.3 managed to get a
boarding crew onto the U-505 before it could sink and they saved the boat
intact. It was the first time since 1815 that the US Navy had captured an
enemy vessel at sea. The men of TF 22.3 were sworn in writing to secrecy and
the boat was towed across the Atlantic by USS Abnaki to the US Naval
Operating Base at Bermuda, accompanied by the ships of TF 22.3, USS
Guadalcanal, Chatelain, Pillsbury and Pope. The U-505 was destined to become
one of the most famous submarines of the war, not only for its capture with
secret code books and machines intact, but for its enduring presence as a
memorial to men lost at sea as a major museum exhibit. The U-505 departed
Bermuda for the Philadelphia Navy Yard on May 20, 1945 after 11 months
undetected in the Great Sound, the crew having left for POW camps in the
United States in the autumn of 1944. Oberleutnant Lange had been taken from
the water unconscious and severely injured and at Bermuda a leg had to be
amputated, so he remained here longer. While in Bermuda, Lange was cared for
by a young nurse of the Jones family of 'Inwood', Shirley, the late wife of
Lt. James Humphreys, USNR, of Paget.
- October 1944.
The Flight Surgeon moved to a room in one of the permanent barracks.
- December 1944.
The Flight Surgeon moved back to the hospital because of the ever-increasing
workload brought on by the growing number of transient aircrews coming
through Kindley, for which he needed more room.
- January 1945. The new 105-bed hospital at
Kindley was a Godsend and crammed to the rafters when the US Army hospital ship Charleston
ran aground on a reef north of Bermuda. But the military authorities were fully
prepared for such an event. More than 500 patients and crew were transferred
from the ship to the hospital, in a remarkable operation that occured without a
single loss of life.
- January 1946. Control of
the hospital passed from the US Army to the US Army Air Force when the
AAF took over the operation of the entire base. What had been designated as
the 221st Station Hospital became the 1389th Army Air Force Base Unit
Hospital. Army and AAF medical staff merged, with the Army people being
given indoctrination courses in the handling of flying personnel, and a familiarization
of AAF medical policies.
- January 1946. Staff at
the 150-bed hospital found themselves with a serious problem. Their
building, completed in 1943, was physically deteriorating. An engineer who
inspected the hospital stated that the life span of the unit would be short
because of a weakening of the basic structure. Walls and ceilings were
cracking and chunks of concrete were falling away to expose rusting
reinforcement rods. It was determined that one cause was the brackish water
used for the preparation of concrete during construction. It was later also
determined that galvanized iron was not used on the reinforcing rods as should have been the
construction, only the reinforcing rod holders. Putting the
combination of metals in contact with each other, along with the presence of
some salt as a catalyst, caused a reaction which speeded up the
oxidization of the ungalvanized metal. While all buildings on the base had
some measure of salt in their concrete from brackish water or use of dredged
materials, none had the mixture of metals the hospital did. Some rusting
action had been obvious before the building had even been completed.
- March 23, 1946. When
the SS Charles Carroll docked in St. George's with mechanical problems, the
base hospital was called on to resolve a problem. There were 116 dogs on
board, suffering from a distemper epidemic. They were disembarked and taken
to Kindley. They were put in a stockade formerly used by members of the K-9
corps during the base construction and during World War 2. With no
veterinarian then at the base, the medical staff elected to be medically
responsible for the dogs, with excellent results. When the veterinarian
arrived by air at the base a week later, 60 dogs had recovered or were doing
well. When the veterinarian took over, all recovered except one that died.
- April 1946. An
obstetrical department was installed at the hospital, with the furnishings
supplied by the Officers' Wives' Club.
- April 16, 1946. The
first baby was delivered in the new obstetrical department, a 7 lb 2 oz son
born to Lt. and Mrs. Stong. It is believed this was the first baby born to a
mother authorized to join her husband at an overseas Air Force station.
- June 1946. A small
pediatric ward was set up, with the furnishings supplied by the Officers'
- October 1946. The obstetrical department
recorded its first premature birth. The child weighed 1 lb 14 oz at birth,
but survived and did well.
- December 1946. The
obstetrical department recorded its first Caesarian section.
- 1947. The deterioration
of the hospital building had advanced so much that the south wing was
condemned. It had housed medical detachment personnel on the first floor,
and one 36-bed ward and one 42-bed ward on the second floor. Plans were
started for the remodeling of Building 200, at a cost of $219,000, for use
as a 50-bed hospital. This building originally housed the medical detachment
- September 1947. At the height of
an industrial dispute in Hamilton led by Dr. Gordon that led to all
electricity being cut off island-wide including at Kindley and
its hospital, a base surgeon successfully performed an emergency
appendectomy on a 10-year old Kindley boy.
- Late 1947.
A crash and
convalescent ward was established in Building 200, as a 30-bed unit.
- 1947 to 1954. Hundreds of
US babies, children of USAF personnel based in Bermuda were born at this crumbling base
hospital, the only North American military
hospital in Bermuda. If with a Bermudian parent, the child was Bermudian. If
without a Bermudian parent, the child was not a Bermudian and American parents
were given a document issued by the US Department of State stating that the
child was American, born on a US military base in Bermuda.
- 1949. It was not until
then that authorization and funds for the complete conversion of Building
200 were received.
- October 1950. The job
of converting Building 200 into a 52-bed hospital was complete. Patients,
supplies, equipment and staff made the move in November 1950 from the 7-year
old hospital building whose state of deterioration was advancing rapidly.
That big structure stood empty for more than three additional years.
- December 1953. The old
hospital was finally demolished, at a cost of $265,000. It had become too much of a liability.
beams, concrete and other structures were riddled with rust and
related problems, not only apparently with sea water instead of fresh water used for
building, but also using shoddy construction techniques.
New Kindley Air
Force Base Hospital 1956. The black and white USAF photographs above are from US
National Archives and kindly sent in February 2012 by the family of Captain
Christian M. Cotham, Jr, USAF, stationed at Kindley AFB Bermuda 1952-55.
- July 1954. Work began,
on the same site as the demolished hospital, of a new 50-bed hospital, at a
cost to US taxpayers of $1.70 million. It was of modern design, up to latest
US military hospital standards, expandable to 100 beds in an emergency. 70%
of the area directly serving patients was air-conditioned and the latest of
inter-communications systems was installed.
- May 1956. New hospital
was completed after taking nearly two years to build, with the move from
Building 200 finished by May 12. The dental clinic remained in Building 200.
- June 21, 1956. KAFB celebrated a major event, with Bermudian help. The occasion was the
official dedication of the brand-new base hospital (see photos at top of this
file) just west of what used to be the Kindley AFB
school. At this time it had
an authorized staff of seven physicians, four dentists, nine nurses, one
veterinarian, 72 medical airmen and four Medical Service Corps officers. Vanguard Construction of the USA built the new
building. It had taken almost two years to build,
mostly with Bermudian labor, with the complete interior decoration work
undertaken by the Front Street, Hamilton firm of A. S. Cooper & Sons Ltd.
The grand opening was held under sunny skies outside the hospital's main
entrance. It was attended by His Excellency, Governor Sir John Woodall; a delegation from the
USA including Dr. Frank B. Berry, then Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health
and Medical); Major General W. H. Powell, Jr., Deputy Surgeon General, United
States Air Force; and the Honorable J. B. Pine, the United States Attorney
General. Also in attendance were the Hon. Sir John Cox, then the Speaker of the
Bermuda House of Assembly, the Venerable Archdeacon Stowe, who performed the
Invocation and the Right Reverend Robert S. Dehler, Roman Catholic Bishop of
Bermuda, who performed the Benediction. It was designated
as the USAF's 1604th Hospital. Speaking after the Governor's
remarks, Dr. Berry stated it was a pleasure to see the hospital completed
and said: "I hope it will become a symbol of mercy to you in Bermuda.
We will always provide for you as for our own in case of need, although we
pray it may never happen. I am sure we will always be willing to render aid
to you in Bermuda and to the United Kingdom military, our brothers in
arms." The attending guests were entertained at tea and then toured the
three floors of the new hospital.
Kindley Air Force Base Hospital
completed in 1956. The
black and white USAF photographs above are from US National Archives and kindly
sent in February 2012 by the family of Captain Christian M. Cotham, Jr, USAF,
stationed at Kindley AFB Bermuda 1952-55.
From 1956 until
it wound down in 1967, hundreds of USAF (to 1970) or US Navy or US Marines or US
Coastguard babies were born at this base hospital, the only North American
military hospital in Bermuda. If with a Bermudian parent, the child was
Bermudian. If without a Bermudian parent, the child was not a Bermudian and
American parents were given a document issued by the US Department of State
stating that the child was American, born on a US military base in
1962. It received its Certificate of Accreditation
from the Joint
Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals in the USA.
1966. The Dental Clinic received its accreditation from the Council on
Hospital Dental Services of the American Dental Association.
Although the hospital continued to give modern and efficient care to Kindley
personnel, it was downgraded to a 25-bed hospital.
The new hospital was downgraded to a dispensary. After that, the
medical doctors and nurses were withdrawn, all births of the Kindley Air Force
Base personnel stationed there were sent to the civilian King
Edward VII Memorial Hospital in Bermuda.
MSgt Maurice J. Thibeault was stationed at Kindley AFB with the 1604th
Hospital Unit. He was accompanied by his British-born wife Shirley and their
three children. Their son Greg wrote this on March 1, 2019: "My parents
lived being stationed in Bermuda. They have said it was their favorite
assignment together. We lived on a hill next door to the NCO club.My father
retired from the USAF in 1982 after serving for 30 years. Unfortunately, he
passed away in 2001. My mother resides in Fitchburg, MA. She and I plan to
visit Bermuda in a few weeks. The highlight of the trip will be going to see
the former base area and reminisce. "
Clinic in 1993
Annex Clinic closed earlier that year. This clinic lasted until 1995 when it too
closed when the two bases were closed.
The premises have
since been demolished by or on behalf of the civilian Bermuda Government and replaced by the all-civilian Lamb Foggo Urgent Care
Centre (see St. David's Health
October 14, 2019
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