US Army McCloskey General Hospital
The Veterans Administration Hospital in Temple as we know it now began its existence as U. S. Army McCloskey General Hospital in 1942. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Army had a total of approximately 74,250 beds in about 200 station hospitals and 14 general hospitals in the United States. During the next eighteen months, it was to build enough additional hospitals to house more than three times the number built during peacetime mobilization. The Temple Chamber of Commerce formed a War Projects Committee to make a bid for having a hospital in Temple.
Backstory and Context
The construction of the hospital began in April 1942 on 216 acres of land on the city’s south side. The hospital was named for Major James A. McCloskey, the first regular US Army doctor to lose his life in World War II on Bataan. It was a city within itself with 54 buildings all connected by covered and heated walkways. By the end of the war, there were 94 permanent buildings, 96 temporary buildings, a greenhouse, a 9-hole golf course, swimming pool, tennis and handball courts, a baseball diamond, and a gymnasium. Selected to head the hospital was General James A. Bethea, a career Army physician and World War I battlefield surgeon.
The Army decided to concentrate specialties in certain hospitals and McCloskey was designated as an amputation hospital. In the beginning, patients arrived by trains which pulled into a special siding from the M.K.T. line behind the hospital. The hospital was full most of the time, and more than 2,500 single amputees, over 100 double amputees, and seven triple amputees were treated at McCloskey. Over 2,000 artificial limbs were fitted.
As time went on and evacuation procedures became easier, McCloskey received nearly all of the evacuees from the European theaters, as many as they could handle in the surgical field. There were times when twenty to thirty planes would land at the Temple airport bringing casualties directly from the small field hospitals.
Temple and McCloskey were home to German POWs during the war. The prisoners worked on the golf course, washed windows, and planted grass, trees, and shrubs. They also provided labor for the building of a greenhouse. The prisoners who worked inside were not allowed to touch a patient or speak to any employee or patient. Lottie Fowler, who worked at McCloskey, said in an interview with the Temple Daily Telegram that some of the Germans were cooks and “they taught me how to make twisted rolls, all kinds of things. I was 16, going on 17 at the time, and they were very friendly to work with. They never caused any trouble that I can recall.”
In 1946 the Veterans Administration took control of the hospital. In 1967 the hospital buildings were modernized and dedicated. In the early 1980’s the hospital became affiliated with Texas A&M University College of Medicine. By the mid-1990’s the center added a nursing home care unit, a $25 million clinical expansion project, a new domiciliary, and a satellite out-patient clinic in Austin. The hospital boasted a staff of more than 14,000 which included more than 80 physicians and an active community volunteer program involving over 550 volunteers. It had a capacity of 510 hospital beds, 120 nursing home beds, and 408 domiciliary beds.
Schulze, Victor E. 1993. U.S. Army McCloskey General Hospital: 1942-1946, Temple, Texas. [United States]: [publisher not identified].
Sloan, Stephen M., Lois E. Myers, and Michelle Holland. 2015. Tattooed on my soul: Texas veterans remember World War II.. .