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.
The first chief of surgery at McCloskey was Hannibal “Doctor Joe” Jaworski. The doctors at McCloskey were pioneers in several fields including early ambulation, the use of penicillin, and the development of plastic eyes. In his memoirs, Jaworski said, “I started early ambulation in McCloskey General Hospital with the okay and the blessings of General Bethea. We received many hernia operations and many other operations. We got them up, if possible, the very next day. My patients were the happiest ones on the hall. Later on we had an opportunity to invite doctors from all over the area, and we gave them a talk on early ambulation, early care, early movement, and the use of elastic stockings which I also started.”
Dr. Jaworski also experimented with the use of penicillin while at McCloskey. He said, “We were designated by the surgeon general to be one of the hospitals to study the use of penicillin. When war broke out in England, the English were unable to further study the use of penicillin. They contacted America and designated a pharmaceutical company to make penicillin and ship it to us in an armored car, under protection, and we were designated then to try it.”
In 1945, officials at McCloskey broke Army secrecy to disclose full details of the development of a new plastic eye superior to the glass eyes manufactured in Germany. Major R. A. Mitchell, chief of the artificial eye laboratory at McCloskey states, “They last a lifetime; they can’t be broken and they defy detection.” According to a story in the Milwaukee Journal, “every GI who loses an eye in combat gets a replacement made especially for him to his exact measurements.”
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.