Dec. 7th, 1941, transformed responses to mass casualties

| December 2, 2016 | 4 Comments
The North Sector General Hospital in 1941. (Courtesy photo)

The North Sector General Hospital in 1941. (Courtesy photo)

1st Lt. Jason E. Kilgore
U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks
Public Affairs

Construction of the North Sector General Hospital at Schofield Barracks began in 1922, with buildings 678, 680 and 681. The three buildings were completed the same year, but weren’t occupied until later.

In 1926, construction on the rest of the facility resumed. In 1928, the 500-bed hospital was complete and operated as the largest medical facility on the island of Oahu.

The hospital is shown as it looked in December 1941. (Courtesy photo)

The hospital is shown as it looked in December 1941. (Courtesy photo)

In 1939, the hospital expanded, and buildings 672 and 673 were added to the facility. In 1942, the North Sector General Hospital, here, expanded the number of beds to 1,000.

Schofield Barracks was the largest post in the Army, home to over 40,000 Soldiers, including those in the Army Air Corps.

In 1941, the island of Oahu was nowhere as populated as it is now. Green lush fields, massive sugar cane fields and untouched land abundantly graced the island.

There were only a few military medical treatment facilities on the island. Tripler was a small wooden hospital on Fort Shafter, and the Navy station at Pearl Harbor had only a small hospital. These hospitals were about to experience something that no medical facility at the time was prepared for.

• The attack

On Dec. 7th, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked the island of Oahu. Wheeler Army Airfield was among the first post to be attacked.

The names in this picture are the personnel who were stationed at the North Sector General Hospital in Schofield Barracks during the attack on Dec. 7th, 1941. Courtesy photo)

The names in this picture are the personnel who were stationed at the North Sector General Hospital in Schofield Barracks during the attack on Dec. 7th, 1941. Courtesy photo)

Japanese bombers destroyed all the P-40s that were staged together on the airfield, a decision made the night prior, due to fear of sabotage and making the planes easier to guard. Schofield Barracks was strafed by Japanese Zero fighters. Immediately, the North Sector General Hospital at Schofield Barracks started receiving causalities.

Dr. Hardaway was the first physician to arrive at the hospital. He recalls an ambulance racing into the hospital filled with patients. When the doors of the ambulance opened, he saw four mutilated Soldiers, and one was already dead.

The number of casualties from the attack was so high that all 60 ambulatory patients in the hospital before the attack were called into duty to assist with the incoming casualties. While the clinical teams were treating patients, the Japanese continued strafing runs on the barracks less than a mile away. The planes turned and strafed the hospital. Fortunately, only one patient was hit, and he was fortunate enough to be hit in his cast resulting in no injuries.

Patients poured into the hospital with varying degrees of injuries, uch as trauma to the head – exposing their brain, ballistic amputations and compound fractures. There were so many casualties that medical staff treated casualties continuously for 48 hours.

At night, during mandatory blackouts, doctors performed lifesaving surgeries under a blanket with nothing but a flashlight to provide the surgical team light.

The hospital is shown as it looked in December 1941. (Courtesy photo)

The hospital is shown as it looked in December 1941. (Courtesy photo)

The hospital’s mortality rate was 20 percent. This high mortality rate was directly related to the poor treatment of shock from losing a high volume of blood. A lesson that medical providers learned in World War I was that a whole blood transfusion, and saline IV, are imperative in treating shock.

The Surgeon General ordered that plasma, not whole blood, was to be used in all transfusions. This was a recipe for disaster. The plasma was administered along with a homemade solution that substituted for normal saline solution. The supplies they used, other than tubing, were sterile. The tubes were filled with pyrogens, causing the patients to become very ill and run temperatures as high as 104 degrees. The plasma used in the transfer was not screened. This overlooked fault resulted in many patients becoming infected with the hepatitis virus.

When the flames went out and the smoke settled, a total of 117 wounded had been treated in the hospital. The death rate was significantly low when compared to the size and ferocity of the attack – with 38 dead.

The heroic actions taken by the hospital staff were recognized with the awarding of eight Legions of Merit.

Construction will begin on the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks parking garage in December. (Courtesy graphic)

The U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks will look as pictured, above, by December 2017. (Courtesy graphic)

Today, USAHC-SB serves as the premier health facility for Schofield Barracks. It houses many different departments to maintain the high medical readiness of the 25th Infantry Division.

The proud history of the clinic is carried with every employee, military and civilian, that works within its walls.

Take some time to view the historical documents and pictures that decorate the halls of the headquarters building and reflect on the values, traditions and sacrifices made that December morning exactly where you’re standing.

 

— Bibliography

Get more details from these sources:

  • U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks, Hawaii Clinic History & Background (2015, October 23). In US. Army Medical Department. Retrieved from https://www.tamc.amedd.army.mil/sbhc/history.htm.
  • Hardaway, R. M. (2015, October 23). “This is no drill”: Pearl Harbor as a mass-casualty event [Electronic version]. Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons,89(9), 22-26.

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Category: Education, Leadership, News, Observances, Special

Comments (4)

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  1. Pat Westcott says:

    My name is Pat. I am trying to find information on my father whom was apparently sent to North Sector General Hospital from New Guinea during WWII.

    His name is (was) Lieutenant HOWARD LESLIE WESTCOTT, He was wounded on New Guinea after being on Peleliu island. I have that information directly from him on a family recording.

    They way his military records were destroyed in the St. Louis fire. His didcharge has also been lost or destroyed.

    Is there any way you can help me or at least direct me to some place, some one that may be able to help me?

    Thank you for your prompt response.

    There was also a sailor with my last name killed on the USS Arizona.

    Pat Westcott
    Hereford, Arizona

    • haw says:

      Hello, Pat — You will need to contact the Soldiers Record Data Center to get information. Visit our website link here: https://www.garrison.hawaii.army.mil/contact/default.htm?tab=4. I’ll post details below:

      • Trying to track down a Soldier? If you have a social security number, you can find information about Soldiers online at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/scra/scraHome.do. While this is a free search, it does not help you locate a retiree, but it can tell you if the Soldier is active duty or not.

      If more information is needed such as current duty station or location, you can contact the Commander Soldier’s Records Data Center (SRDC) by phone or mail and they will help you locate individuals on active duty only, not retirees. There is a fee of $3.50 for businesses to use this service. The check or money order must be made out to the U.S. Treasury. It is not refundable. The address is:

      Commander Soldier’s Records Data Center (SRDC)
      8899 East 56th Street
      Indianapolis, IN 46249-5301
      Phone: 1-866-771-6357

      Aloha, HAW Staff.

  2. Lynda Fowler says:

    Hello! I’m Lynda,and I just came across your wonderful article and framed list of amazing medical personnel who were there that night. My Uncle was there, and this was one of the missing pieces I had been searching for. As with most soldiers from the war, they did not speak much about their time in the service, and for good reason.
    Do you have more photos from that evening and time?
    Thank you VERY much for your time and this article.

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