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Skilled Staff Operates Hospital Trains
Carrying Wounded Veterans
The Falmouth Enterprise - June 1, 1945 - page 7
Hospital trains from Camp Edwards [Massachusetts] carry wounded soldiers to Army general and convalescent hospitals all over the country, using the most modern and advanced hospital cars in the world and utilizing a train detachment made up of more than 600 enlisted men.
The unit handling this tremendous task is the SCU [Service Corps Unit] 1114th Hospital Trains Detachment, which for the most part is made up of personnel highly skilled at two or more army assignments.
With the recent development of the Convalescent Hospital and creation of the U.S. General Hospital at Edwards, work of the Train Detachment has increased 300 percent. Enlisted personnel has increased from 170 to over 600. Previously the unit had 14 Army nurses. Now it has 30, and so great is the need for nurses that the unit frequently has to borrow some from other units to give adequate care and comfort to these wounded troops who are being transported to hospitals for definitive treatment.
Previously these wounded have been brought here by the same unit's hospital trains from hospital ships docking at eastern seaboard ports. The wounded were given a physical check-up at the General Hospital here, and their case history is reported to the Surgeon General's department in Washington. There it is decided to what hospital the wounded will be sent for more complete treatment. As nearly as possible the men are sent to some large hospital near their homes. The Trains Detachment here then receives a list of the wounded men to be shipped to various hospitals throughout the country.
Kitchen in Each Car
A modern kitchen with the latest equipment is part of each car. When the average train pulls out of Camp Edwards it has one main kitchen car staffed with three cooks and four men to do kitchen police work. They are under direction of a train mess officer. This kitchen servs all the patients on the train. Meals are served in six section metal trays. Prior to each meal the men are given plastic containers which fit into sections. Their food is then served into the plastic containers. Thus avoiding spillage.
Since every hospital car has its own kitchen and food supplies as well as an attendant who is a qualified cook, meals can be served on the individual car after it has been separated from the rest of the train. Many of the hospital cars are returned to Camp Edwards by being attached to passenger trains and so the kitchen is used to prepare meals for its crew on the return journey.
The patients eat the best on these trips and one meal recently served included: fried chicken, beans, corn, tomatoes, lettuce and apple salad, coffee, milk, and mixed fruits. Each patient has a backrest for use while eating.
The average hospital train has about 50 enlisted men on duty: three medical officers, seven or eight other commissioned officers handling mess, maintenance and other details; and four or five nurses.
Usually one of these new hospital cars has a staff of one nurse, utility man, and assistant utility man. Where sufficient cases require it a ward attendant is also carried on an individual car.
An idea of the versatility of the members of the hospital train crew can be obtained by reciting the duties of the utility man and his assistant. Both must be qualified medical technicians who can assist medical officers and nurses. They must also take care of the supplies for the train and they are responsible for seeing it is kept clean at all times. They must also be able to make minor repairs which might develop during the trip.
Trains Carry 15 Cars
Since a hospital train averages 15 hospital cars, several going to one hospital and others slated to be dropped off at various points along the way and attached to passenger trains going to hospitals in places off main railroad lines, the amount of clerical work to assigning the right patients to the right cars is heavy.
Other details which must be perfected include: setting up each car with the right amount of food, medicine and adequate personnel to take care of the patients. The unit maintains over thirty ambualances and many large buses to transport these wounded heroes to an from the hospital train.
Likewise the trains themselves have to be maintained. A crew of 30 enlisted men keep the trains clean inside and out, giving them a complete washing before each train departs from Camp Edwards. The windows and outside of the hospital cars are scrubbed with a special type of soap and water. The rugs cleaned and the floors waxed - the cars are spotlessly cleaned throughout.
The work of all these various sections has to be coordinated so that when a train movement is to be made the patients will be taken from the hospital to the trains comfortably and quickly.
One grasps the amount of work and how well this Train detachment carries it out when it is learned that in less than five days 17 trains carrying over 3,800 patients, were moved from Camp Edwards to all parts of the country without a hitch.
38 Berths in Car
The new hospital cars are masterpieces of modern railroading. Each has 38 berths for patients. Thirty of these are arranged in the central section of the car in three tiers on each side. There is also a section with six berths which could be used for isolation cases as well as private compartments for special cases. There is a shower room in each car. The trains are all ice air-conditioned and have virtually all the conveniences of a modern home. All repairs on these hospital cars, with the exception of removing and repairing the car wheels, are done by a maintenance section of the Train Detachment.
Major Arthur A. Coyne, MC, who prior to being called to active duty in January, 1941, was a practising physician in Northampton is the commander of the 1114th SCU Hospital Trains Detachment, of Camp Edwards. Besides his Executive Officer, Capt. Norman D. Kathan, MC, and his adjutant, 1st Lieut. F. R. Lintzner, Inf., he has a staff of officers handling such varied activities as medical supply, motor transport, rail transport, ambulance convoy, railroad maintenance.
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