U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
Skip Navigation, go to content







AMEDD MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS External Link, Opens in New Window






Chapter XIX




The post hospital, as its name implies, is a fixed institution provided, primarily, for the peace-time care and treatment of the military sick occurring in the garrison of which it forms an integral part; in consequence it is controlled by the post commander.

The part played by the post hospitals in the care of the sick and wounded during the World War was, perforce, relatively small. During the earlier days of the war period, when troops were being recruited to augment the strength of the Regular Army, and prior to the provision of any of the large temporary war-time hospitals, use had to be made of those military hospitals existent at the time. This use necessitated increasing their capacities by the provision of additional buildings of temporary construction, and the personnel for their operation; but the management of them was essentially the same as during peace times; that is to say, the senior medical officer on duty at the post at which the post hospital was located discharged his duties in a dual capacity; he was post surgeon and he was also in direct charge of the hospital. The number of assistants which the post surgeon had depended entirely on the magnitude of the general activities of the post; and with few exceptions, there was little or no effort made to organize along the lines made requisite in the essential war hospitals. The exceptions to this statement include the post hospitals that were operated at the large recruit depots and at such other places as Fort Jay, Fort Leavenworth, Fort Monroe, and Vancouver Barracks. The subsequent enlargement of many post hospitals was effected when they were metamorphosed, in conjunction with the remainder of the buildings at a post, into general hospitals, as will be seen in connection with the separate histories of the general hospitals.


Angel Island is located in San Francisco Bay and is considered a part of Marin County. The nearest large city is San Francisco, which lies, at its nearest point-Fort Mason-about 3? miles from the southern shore of this island. Alcatraz Island, 12 acres in area, lies between these two points about 2 miles distant from this island. The Golden Gate entrance to San Francisco Bay is 6 miles to the southeast. To the west is a narrow strip of water known as Racoon Straits, being about three-fourths mile wide at the narrowest place. To the east the mainland is separated from this island by a stretch of about 7 miles of San Francisco Bay. Angel Island is about 1? miles long and 1? miles wide. With the exception of small beaches on each of the four sides of the island, the shore line is bold and precipitous. A narrow dirt road encircles

aThe statements of fact appearing herein are based on the "History, Post Hospital, Fort McDowell, Calif.," by Col. Powell C. Fauntleroy, M. C., U.S.A., while on duty as a member of the staff of that hospital. The material used by him in the compilation of the history comprised official reports from the various divisions of the hospital. The history is on file in the Historical Division, Surgeon General's Office, Washington, D. C.-Ed.


the island following very closely on the 160-foot contour above sea level, and was constructed by Infantry troops at long intervals in the past. On the north, the shore line is from 200 feet to 400 feet from this road; on the south, 400 feet to 1,000 feet; on the west, 200 feet to 1,200 feet; and on the east, 400 feet to 600 feet. The surface of the island is very broken. In a general way narrow, steep ridges rise from the four corners of the island and meet in a common center 776 feet above the sea. This high point is about 3,600 feet from the north, east, and west shore and 2,000 feet from the south shore. The ridges and deep ravines are on each of the four sides; but there are, especially on the west and south, wider, more gentle slopes leading to short strips of sandy beach.

Geologically, Angel Island is a tertiary, sedimentary formation uplifted and broken through by older series of serpentine. The basis of the island is an argillaceous sandstone interrupted across the western half by upturned strata of serpentine. There are also outcroppings of talc and small veins of flint. Overlying the sandstone are irregular and broken beds of brown, red, and blue shale, which are in turn overlaid with sand and black argillaceous loam. This loam is deep and rich, especially in the lower levels and ravines, and is capable, under irrigation, of great productiveness. The ravines and ridges, especially on the north and south, are densely covered with an underbrush of vines and briar bushes, poison oak, sage, greasewood, laurel, and elder. The principal trees are evergreens, scrub white oak, bay tree, pine, cedar, and eucalyptus; the latter three having been planted on the south and east side in 1905. On the west side there are a few cottonwoods, Normandy poplars, large cedars, and pines. The absence of fruit trees and grapes is particularly noticeable. There is a growth of plants and flowers, especially in and around the occupied portion of the island. The director of the Golden Gate Park has supplied this island with many beautiful plants, bushes, and trees, which have reclaimed and made beautiful what would otherwise be unsightly levels and slopes. The dust does not lie well on the roads and bare places during the dry season, and during the wet season the mud is of a gumbo stickiness, and easily carried on shoes. The seasons are divided into wet and dry. The former embraces the months from October to May, inclusive. The temperature of the wet season varies from 32? F. to 70? F. There is an annual rainfall of about 18 inches. From March to September, inclusive, the trade winds blow almost continuously night and day and are always very strong. During the other months there is always a stiff breeze. Cold fogs come up nearly every afternoon and are especially heavy on the south and east sides. During the wet season all plant life quickly becomes green, but by July the grass is brown and dry and the foliage becomes covered with dust, giving the island a parched appearance, relieved only by patches of evergreen trees. The continuous and heavy winds make it very difficult for flies and mosquitoes to live except in very sheltered places.

The United States Government first took possession of the island on September 12, 1863. On this date Lieut. John L. Tierson, in command of Company B, Third United States Artillery, landed on the west side of the island and established a camp which he called Camp Reynolds, on the site of what is now known as the west garrison, Fort McDowell. This old post was renamed Fort McDowell by General Orders No. 43, A. G. O., 1900.


The east garrison, Fort McDowell, was established by the erection of concrete barracks and quarters on the opposite side of the island between the years of 1905 and 1910. From the beginning, Angel Island has been the recruit depot and casual camp for the United States forces west of the Rocky Mountains. Prior to the completion of the transcontinental railroads recruits were sent by way of the Isthmus of Panama from the East and distributed to the posts in the Western Department. Since 1898 all casuals and recruits destined for garrisons in Hawaii, the Philippine Islands, and China have been sent here prior to embarkation. The casuals from these oversea garrisons are sent here on their return to the United States for discharge or assignment to other posts.

From 1909 the island had been purely a recruit depot and casual camp, the garrison being only depot recruit companies. A frame 150-bed contagious?disease hospital was built in 1918 on the west side; and the old hospital, 30 beds,

FIG. 121.-East garrison, Fort McDowell, Calif.

on the west side was repaired. All the sick were cared for in these two hospitals together with one of the old frame barracks on the west side. The concrete, Medical Department, buildings on the east side were constructed at about the same time as the other similar buildings on this side of the islands. The concrete hospital, however, was never completed as a hospital, but, by order of the Secretary of War, was left uncompleted and converted into a barracks for casuals and depot company troops. By order of the Secretary of War, on April 20, 1918, this hospital building was formally turned back to the Medical Department for occupancy and, together with the concrete annex hospital building, was used for recruiting purposes and for the care of personnel so engaged, as well as Medical Department recruits and casuals.

In 1918 a large frame mess and dormitory building was constructed by contract on the west side. Prior to the erection of this building the proper housing and care of the Medical Department personnel had been very difficult and unsettled. At the same time a milk house, containing apparatus for cooling


milk and the disinfection of milk cans and bottles, and an automobile garage were constructed by Medical Department personnel on the west side. All these buildings were connected by an intercommunicating telephone system as well as with the general telephone system of the island.

The old post brick hospital, in the west garrison, was of the standard type as provided by plans from the Surgeon General's Office. It was heated by means of a hot-water system of its own. By means of labor furnished by the Medical Department personnel, this old building was repaired, recalcimined, and painted. The old system of lighting this hospital by means of an acetylene plant was supplanted in 1918 by an electric lighting system. The new frame 150-bed contagious-disease hospital had a separate steam-heating plant. The wards were heated by means of direct radiation from radiators. The ventilation was by means of perflation through the windows and doors and

FIG. 122.-Post Hospital, Fort McDowell, Calif.

lattice ridge openings. This hospital consisted of three large buildings, with screened verandas on one side of each building, utilized for the care of appropriate bed cases. There were small isolation wards for diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and meningitis; and a receiving and distributing ward in connection with which provision was made for the administration of prophylactic treatments. This hospital also had its own dispensary, kitchen, and dining rooms for nurses and patients. The new frame dormitory and mess building, for the accommodation of the personnel of the Medical Department, lay just north of the brick hospital.

There was only one main road, a narrow, dirt road which encircled the island. It was so steep and winding on the south side that practically all the travel from the east and west garrisons was over that portion of the road around the north side of the island. It was necessary during the dry season to sprinkle the roads through the garrisons in order to keep the dust down. There are no streams, fords, or bridges on the island. There were wharves upon which


vessels discharged cargoes and from which passengers were taken on and off the tugs and vessels, at the east and west garrisons.

The water supply of this island was partially from local springs and bored wells. The amount of water thus obtained, however, was less than one-third of that used. The other sources of water supply were the Spring Valley Water Co., San Francisco, and the Presidio system of water supply. Water thus obtained was brought to the island in a combined water and freight boat, and also a water barge exclusively used for this purpose, and was pumped up to wooden water tanks on the high levels at the east and west garrisons by pumps installed on the respective docks.

There were two deep, driven wells on the west side, which supplied a portion of the water used; but the greater part of the water used was brought in barges from Sausalito, the source of which was the Marin County Water Supply Co. The plant was located near San Rafael. Samples from all of these sources were repeatedly analyzed, and while at times they showed colon bacilli, they were pronounced by the laboratories as good and potable.

The disposal of sewage was by means of modern water-closets and urinals connected with concrete and cast-iron sewers, which emptied into the bay near the east and west side docks.

Statistical data United States Army Post Hospital, Fort McDowell, Calif., from April, 1917, to December, 1919, inclusive


TABLE NO. 20.-Consolidated numerical reports of sick and wounded, and strength of personnel at United States Army Post Hospitals