Valley Forge General Hospital

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Aerial photograph of the Valley Forge General Hospital, a United States Army Hospital that operated from 1943 to 1974 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Date of photo is approximate

Valley Forge General Hospital is a former military hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. The hospital was near both Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Valley Forge. It was the only United States Army General Hospital named for a place.


World War II[edit]

The hospital was built in 1942, and opened on Washington's Birthday in 1943 to care for the wounded of World War II. It became the largest military hospital in the United States. Eventually, the hospital had well over 3,000 patients and over 100 separate buildings. One feature of the hospital was its design of primarily two story buildings, interconnected by corridors. There were very long ramps leading from one floor to the other, to facilitate movement of wheelchairs and gurneys. The architecture was designed by Matthew Bookler.[1]

By early 1944, Valley Forge General Hospital had been identified as one of two general hospitals—the other being Letterman General Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco—which specialized in the treatment of patients who had suffered blinding eye injuries. The Army's goal was to get newly identified cases of blindness to one of those hospitals as soon as possible, and if the patient could not be moved, to send a representative from the hospital to the patient's location to begin coordinating care as soon as possible. In addition to physical treatment, the centers also focused on "social rehabilitation," helping the patients to adjust to their new condition before handing them over to the Veterans' Administration for further care—holding them past the point of "maximum medical benefit," in other words, in order to complete their social training.[2]

By 1945, three dentists were assigned to Valley Forge after the Surgeon General discovered that their independent work had developed a new type of artificial eye which was described as "superior in every way to the current glass eyes." After perfecting their production techniques and teaching the staff at Valley Forge how to fabricate the eyes, the three dentists, Captain Stanley F. Erpf, Major Milton S. Wirtz, and Major Victor H. Dietz, were all transferred to other hospitals where they could further expand the number of people using their new techniques.[3] They were also each awarded the Legion of Merit for their work, and published their procedure in the Bulletin of the U.S. Army Medical Department, further spreading knowledge of the procedure.[4]


As the Army medical Department moved to increase residency-trained physicians throughout the Medical Corps, the Valley Forge General Hospital was identified as one of the sites to host residency programs. This decision was deferred in early 1948, however, because the post-war patient mix and numbers were insufficient to properly support a residency program.[5]

In July 1949, Valley Forge General Hospital joined 8 other Army general hospitals in offering internships to newly graduated physicians. The program was open to civilian providers as well as those in the military. Between the nine hospitals, 232 new interns were expected to start training in 1949.[6]

Because of manpower shortages within the Army Medical Department, Valley Forge was one of four placed in an inactive status in Spring 1950 —the others being the Murphy, Olivier, and Percy Jones General Hospitals. Three of the four (Olivier remaining closed) were reopened in the fall of 1950 to help care for casualties from the Korean War.[7] In August, the three newly reopened hospitals were renamed as army hospitals, and the Valley Forge General Hospital became the Valley Forge Army Hospital.[8] This brought them in line with the other general hospitals in the Army, all of which had been renamed in the same manner in July.[9]

In 1959, the hospital was host to a platoon from Fort Meade, Maryland's 3rd Surgical Hospital (Mobile Army), which set up a display of their field equipment for visitors to the installation at the request of the Phoenixville Junior Chamber of Commerce.[10]

In January 1962, Valley Forge General Hospital was one of four Army general hospitals chosen to offer a six-month supervised clinical training program in psychiatric nursing for Army Nurse Corps officers, qualifying them for award of the psychiatric nurse military occupational specialty upon completion of the course.[11]

In January 1967 the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, which was a tenant of the hospital, began teaching the Medical Depot Inventory Management Course. The course, along with the Medical Materiel Agency, moved to Fort Detrick, Maryland in 1974 in preparation for the hospital's closing.[12]

In the late 1960s, Valley Forge General Hospital, along with seven other major Army hospitals, became the home of a "Clinical Specialist" training program (military MOS 91C). At that time, a person had to have been a medic for at least two years, and have a minimum of two years remaining on their enlistment after completing the school, in order to be accepted. This was advanced training for ten months, on top of all previous training and experience. This program was considered equivalent to a civilian LPN or LVN course but also included many military medicine oriented training objectives.[citation needed]

Vietnam War[edit]

Patient flow during the Vietnam War had patients flying into McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. Army patients would then be moved by Air Force ambulance bus to Walson Army Hospital at the adjacent Fort Dix, where they would be further prepared for movement, typically by Army ambulance buses if they were moving to Valley Forge. In 1969, the 212th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) was activated at Fort Meade, Maryland. One of its primary missions was to transport patients from Fort Dix, New Jersey to Valley Forge. The need was clearly there; between January 1, 1968 and September 30, 1970, 7,033 patients were moved from Dix to the Valley Forge General Hospital. The 22nd Ambulance Train was activated at Fort Dix on January 22, 1969, for the purpose of moving patients from Dix to Valley Forge, but the Penn Central Railroad informed the Army that due to the deteriorated condition of the tracks between Dix and Valley Forge, the rail line could not be used for passenger service, and the 22nd Ambulance Train never moved a single patient from the time their newly renovated train arrived on July 17, 1969, and the unit was inactivated on 20 December 1969.[13] The 212th Medical Detachment was inactivated at Fort Meade on March 29, 1973.[14]

As part of a general reorganization of the Army Medical Department, the United States Army Health Services Command was activated at Fort Sam Houston under the command of Major General Spurgeon Neel. As part of that reorganization plan, all Class II Medical Department Activities and installations were transferred from the direct control of the Office of the Surgeon General to the new command. Among the units transferred was the Valley Forge General Hospital, as well as its security force, the 250th Military Police Detachment, effective on April 1, 1973. The Medical Equipment Test and Evaluation Activity, which had been part of the United States Army Academy of Health Sciences at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, had already been transferred to the United States Army Medical Materiel Agency, a tenant activity on the Valley Forge General Hospital Installation, on February 1, 1973.[15]

In 1972, the Valley Forge General Hospital became host to a program for training Occupational Therapy Specialist (MOS 91L). The course was 21 weeks long, and converted what had been an on-the-job training program into a formal course of instruction, providing classroom training coupled with clinical experience with Valley Forge's patients. The course was fully accredited by a civilian certification agency, the Association of Occupational Therapy Assistants. Seventeen students graduated from the first class and became Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants.[16]

In early 1973, as part of Operation Homecoming, Valley Forge General Hospital received 16 former Army Prisoners of War who had been released by the Vietnamese—the most received by any of the eight Army hospitals which received POWs. These 16 men, including the only Army Medical Department officer (who was also the only military physician) to be captured, were sent to Valley Forge for comprehensive medical examinations before being released to reunite with their families. This was part of a program to send the former POWs to the medical treatment facility closest to their homes.[17]


On April 17, 1973, Col Phillip Deffer, the hospital commander, announced that the hospital would be closing, stating that:

Valley Forge General Hospital, over the past 31 years, has faced many challenges of great complexity, and it has met each head on, has succeeded and has walked away proud that it accomplished such a mission. It's now my duty to officially inform you of the next challenge facing us. "At this hour in Washington, the Secretary of Defense is having a public news conference, at which he is announcing the entire base realignment package ... Valley Forge will be closed.[18]

The Valley Forge General Hospital was placed in an inactive status effective March 31, 1974, by Department of the Army General Order number 4, dated February 11, 1974[19] and it became a sub-installation of Fort Detrick, Maryland effective July 1, 1974, by Department of the Army General Order number 18, dated June 10, 1974.[20]

The site of the Valley Forge General Hospital was occupied in 1976 by the Valley Forge Christian College, now the University of Valley Forge.[21]

Popular culture[edit]

The hospital is the setting for the 1951 film Bright Victory.[22] After the film Bright Victory was released, all personnel assigned to the hospital were required to view the film.[citation needed]

Actor Gene Wilder was a neuropsychiatric technician at Valley Forge General Hospital in the late 1950s.[23]


Image Rank Name Start Date End Date
Henry Beeuwkes Colonel Henry Beeuwkes February 1942 March 1945[24]
William W. Vaughan Brigadier General William W. Vaughan March 1945 May 1946[25][26]
Cleon J. Gentzkow Colonel Cleon J. Gentzkow May 1946 August 1948[24]
Kenneth A. Brewer Colonel Kenneth A Brewer August 1948 June 1950[24]
George R. Carpenter Colonel George R. Carpenter June 1950 September 1950[27]
John M. Welch Colonel John M. Welch September 1950 August 1952[24]
Kenneth A. Brewer Colonel Kenneth A Brewer September 1952 June 1955[24]
Mack M. Green Brigadier General Mack M. Green July 1955 July 1956[24]
Sam F. Seeley Brigadier General Sam F. Seeley July 1956 March 1957[24][28]
Carl W. Tempel Brigadier General Carl W. Tempel May 1957 August 1958[24]
Colonel Carl D. MacMillan August 1958 April 1959[24]
Brigadier General James L. Snyder April 1959 July 1959[24]
Alvin L. Gorby Major General Alvin L. Gorby August 1959 January 1961[24][29]
Brigadier General Henry S. Murphey February 1961 May 1962[24][30]
Colonel Kenneth Drew Orr June 1962 May 1966[24][31]
Colonel Alton B. Peyton May 1966 August 1966[24]
John Boyd Coates, Jr. Brigadier General John Boyd Coates, Jr. September 1, 1966[32] June 1, 1969[24][33][34]
Colonel Thomas L. Robbins June 1969 July 1969[35]
Colonel Kryder E. Van Buskirk July 1969[35][36] August 1971[36]
Philip A. Deffer Colonel Phillip A. Deffer August 1971[37] August 1973[38]
Colonel Ekrem S. Turan August 1973 closure[citation needed]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of Defense.

  1. ^ The above corrected history is based upon two booklets published by Valley Forge General Hospital. The first was published in 1944, and the second was published for the 25th anniversary of the hospital in 1968. That second booklet had an extensive history of the hospital, as well as many pictures of its construction.
  2. ^ "Rehabilitation of the Blind," Bulletin of the U. S. Army Medical Department, number 76, May 1944
  3. ^ "Army develops superior artificial eyes," Bulletin of the U.S. Army Medical Department, No. 86, March 1945, p. 12
  4. ^ Erpf, Stanley F.; Dietz, Victor H.; Wirtz, Milton S. "Prosthesis of the eye in synthetic resin," Bulletin of the U.S. Army Medical Department, Vol. 4, no. 1 (July 1945), p. 76-86
  5. ^ Duke, Raymond E. "The Training of Officers in the Army Medical Department," Bulletin of the U.S. Army Medical Department, Vol. 8, no. 5 (May 1948), p. 378-385
  6. ^ "Valley Forge General Hospital to Train Interns," Bulletin of the U. S. Army Medical Department, volume 9, number 6, June 1949
  7. ^ Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medics' War, The United States Army in the Korean War, Washington, DC: USGPO, 1987 page 293
  8. ^ Department of the Army General Order 50-28, August 24, 1950
  9. ^ Department of the Army General Order 50-21, July 6, 1950
  10. ^ "History – 3d Surgical Hospital (MBL A) 1949–1965," USARV Medical Newsletter, Vol. 1, no. 5 (June/July 1966), p. 16-19
  11. ^ Highlights in the History of Army Nursing, page 34
  12. ^ Medical Depot Materiel Management Course History
  13. ^ Use of Ambulance Trains and Assigned Personnel, General Accounting Office (GAO) Report B-170847, May 13, 1971
  14. ^ Lineage and Honors Statement, 212th Medical Detachment
  15. ^ Report of the Surgeon General, United States Army, Fiscal Year 1973
  16. ^ Street, Dorothy R, "Occupational Therapist Section," U.S. Army Medical Department Newsletter, Fall 1972, page 28
  17. ^ "AMEDD 'Operation Homecoming' Team," U.S. Army Medical Department Newsletter, Spring 1973
  18. ^ "Army moves after 32 years at Valley Forge," HSC Mercury, volume 1, number 9, June 24, 1973, page 8.
  19. ^ Department of the Army General Order 74-4, dated 11 February 1974
  20. ^ Department of the Army General Order 74-18, dated 10 June 1974
  21. ^ "University of Valley Forge History". University of Valley Forge. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  22. ^ Kennedy, Joseph S. (January 26, 1997). "Former Hospital Was Haven For Wounded Gis Valley Forge General Hospital Specialized In Plastic Surgery, The Blind And Psychiatry". The Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  23. ^ Wilder, Gene (2005). Kiss me like a stranger : my search for love and art (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 41–42. ISBN 0-312-33706-X.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Pamphlet, Silver Anniversary 1943–1968, Valley Forge General Hospital
  25. ^
  26. ^ A Curriculum Vitae of BG William Washington Vaughan Prepared by LT Robert D. Gorodetzer, Historical Branch, AMEDD Historical Unit, December 1970. Copy in the holdings of the AMEDD Center for History and Heritage, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  27. ^ "Carpenter, Parrino rotate to U.S.; Dreisbach new EUCOM com Z surgeon," Medical Bulletin of the European Command, Vol. 8, no. 12, Dec. 1951, p. 548
  28. ^ Retired General Sam F. Seeley, 84, Dies. The Washington Post, September 13, 1988
  29. ^ A Curriculum Vitae of MG Alvin L. Gorby, MC. Copy maintained in the records of the Army Medical Department Center for History and Heritage, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
  30. ^ Obituaries, The Pennsylvania Gazette, November/December 2001
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Col. John B. Coates is New Commander of V. F. Hospital," The Daily Republican, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, August 30, 1966
  33. ^ Raftery, Kay. "Brig. Gen. John Boyd Coates Jr.; Had Long Career As Military Doctor". The Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  34. ^ "Col. Coates Will Start New Duties," The Daily Republican, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, May 7, 1969
  35. ^ a b "Borough Native Named Hospital Commander". Pottstown Mercury. Pottstown, Pennsylvania. July 12, 1969. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  36. ^ a b "Van Buskirk to give up Command". Pottstown Mercury. Pottstown, Pennsylvania. August 7, 1971. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  37. ^ Official short-form biography of Phillip A. Deffer, 1979. Original maintained in the files of the AMEDD Office of History and Heritage, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  38. ^ "Deffer Named Deputy Commander," Medical Bulletin of the US Army Europe, Volume 30 number 11, November 1973

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°07′07″N 75°32′54″W / 40.1186°N 75.5484°W / 40.1186; -75.5484