||Surgeon From Harlem Hospital Talks N. Y. With Dan In Burma|
By DAN BURLEY
Managing Editor, The Amsterdam News
(Copyright, 1945, by Dan Burley, Reproduction Forbidden)
SOMEWHERE IN BURMA—(By Courier)—High in the Naga Mountains of North Burma, hard by the famed Ledo Road, is a singular institution in this farfiung China-Burma~India theatre of war. A station hospital staffed entirely by highly trained Negro personnel. The hospital has played a salient part in the success that has crowned the construction and maintenance of the famous supply highway from India to China.
Tagap Hospital, as it is known, has 100 beds and offers the most complete medical service of any station hospital
in Burma, Tagap really is two hospitals in one, and the project is the second of its type to be sent overseas. It, incidentally, contains the largest concentration of Negro women, all nurses, in the CBI. There are 16 Negro nurses, eight in each of the two station hospital units, with the ranks of first and second lieutenants.
Tall, tan Major Wilbur H. Strickland, Lincoln University and Howard University School of Medicine graduate, heads the Station hospital, the original group. Major Robert S. (Bob) Wilkinson, M, C., of New York City, Harvard Medical ,School graduate and associate visiting surgeon of Harlem Hospital, is the commanding officer of the other unit, the Station HospitalThe two commanding officers, Majors Strickland and Wilkinson, combine their commands in an outstanding example of unity and efficiency. Although a majority of troops building and maintaining the Ledo Road are Negroes, the patients cared for in the hospital are mixed, white and colored, and both races are treated alike by the highly skilled Negro doctors and nurses.
Major Strickland's summation of the accomplishments of the hospital was corroborated by Major Wilkinson in the following statement made to this reporter upon his visit to the hospital:
"We are not looking for any personal glory, and so far as personnel is concerned, it has had splendid training. It is the future of our young men which we have had the privilege of working with on a training program for at least two years that concerns us. We have found men with eighth grade educations who have been able to absorb a scientific knowledge of a high sort with the proper training. We have also proved that given the opportunity, they can function efficiently as any other group of soldiers, all of which has been attested by the fact that their efficiency rating at the end of the training period was one of the highest of any station hospital. By practical demonstration since the hospital was first opened, their work has stood up to the best medical department tradion."
Strickland Plays Basketball
Before entering the army in. 1942, Dr. Wilbur H. Strickland, one-time basketball star, had practiced in Philadelphia, where he specialized in internal medicine and was an attending physician at both Mercy and the Douglass Hospitals of that city. One of the origial staff of the first all-Negro hosipital project in the Army at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, Major Strickland was assistant chief of medicine at that hospital, at the time when he was assigned to activate and command the new hospita1 here at Tagap in Burma.
The organization was activated in August of 1943, and trained as a unit in for one year before it left the U. S. for the India-Burma theatre.
The hospital was assigned as a location, an abandoned quarter master road staff station. When the unit arrived in Burma In October of 1944, the entire staff, doctors, nurses, technicians. cooks, etc., all rolled up its sleeves and pitched in to work. Deep drainage ditches were dug to carry off the expected heavy rains of the monsoon period; barracks and wards were constructed with the help of native labor; surplus invasion pipe was salvaged from the pipe line to China project and pressed into use in supplying the hospital with water; many of the existing bashas (houses, native) were rebuilt, others condemned and burned. Out of the ashes there grew a station hospital that has no superior in all of Burma and one which is a tribute and a credit to the ingenuity, courage. pioneering foresight and intelligence of the Negro men and women of medicine.
Out of this hospital bas grown another hospital, the old-line New Yorker. Using the personnel of the local cadre, the place has been cultivated and is now attached to the unit while awaiting orders to move on and install its own unit. The chief surgeon, unassuming, retiring Major Wilkinson, is nationally known as a surgeon and his contributions to surgical journals are quoted in military surgical manuals. He was selected as the B best man to head the new unit.
A high percentage of the men who help operate station hospitals at Tagap are high school graduates and have attended college for two or more years.
Burley Gets "Lowdown"
"We have encountered these boys," Majors Strickland and Wilkinson told me, "all along to complete their educations as far as possible, while in the army through their various extension courses so that they will be better fitted to take their rightful places in the postwar world. The Gi Bill of Rights has been thoroughly covered in discussion groups and round table conferences among the men. The need has been stressed to take advantage of the postwar training programs offered by the government instead of precipitous entry into the postwar world.
"We impressed upon them that it is much metter to settle down with a $40 a week job in the postwar world than a high powered $100 a week job which might last for only a few months. We do not feel that our job is complete unless five or ten years after the war we find a high percentage of our men taking their place in the U. S. which their talents best suit them for,"
Noncoms and enlisted men in the station hospital units are in the following categories as regards to technical skills and specialties, I found; dental technicians make dental plates; pharmacists have neen trained to handle all prescriptions; laboratory men carry out all technical procedures; surgical technicians act as "scrub nurses" or assistants to nurses during major operations; X-ray technicians take and develop X-ray plates and pictures; medical and surgical technicians carry out intricate ward procedures ordinarily assigned to nurses; mess non-corns are trained in hospital dietetics; there is much utility work in which men run and maintain Diesel generators, control and handle the water system; sanitary technicians take care of the sanitation problems of the area. A 24 hour a day ambulance service is maintained, covering 50 miles of the Ledo Road. An ambulance station is located. about 40 miles down the road, which is under the jurisdiction of the station hospital There is also recorded the achievement of the mechanics and drivers who keep the 13 vehicles of the two organizations rolling on a section of the road where the average life of a vehicle is estimated at 5,000 miles. These boys work all day and night and Sundays, to keep the wheels rolling. Clerks and administrative I assistants have been trained to take care of the various phases of hospital administration.
Work Deserves Praise
To visit Tagap is to realize the achievement of a dream, The struggle of the Negro doctor in the U. S. for recognition in a proford, Pa., principal nurse, who studied at Mercy Hospital, Philadelphia; Rose E. Robinson, 1st Lieut., Media, Pa., operating room supervisor, who studied at Mercy Hospital, Philadelphia; Madine H. Davis, 1st lieuttenant, Gainsville, Texas, surgical nurse, who studied at Grady Memorial hospital, Atlanta; Polly A. Lathion, 1st lieutenant, Piper, Ala., surgical nurse, and a product of Grady Municipal hospital, Atlanta; Anna T. Landrum, 1st Lieutenant, a general duty nurse from Asheville, N, C., and a product of the Lincoln Hospital of Nursing, New York City; Fannie M, Hart, 2nd lieutenant, Jacksonville, Fla., anesthesia nurse, from Jacksonville, Fla., who attended Flint-Goodrich Hospital, New Orleans; Eva J, Wheeler, 2nd lieutenant, of Hot Springs, Ark., who graduated from St. Phillips Hospital, Richmond, Va., and Margaret R.· Kendrick, 2nd lieutenant, of Athens, G., general duty nurse, who finished Charity hospital, New Orleans.
"We are not an unusual organization; we are just another average group of well trained America citizens who happened to be colored. We are ready and able to do anything that comes within the scope of that training. To the majority of our personnel, the inauguration of this hospital represents the fulfilment of an ideal that allows free men the opportunity to pursue their chosen occupations regardless of race or creed. We are proud to have been chosen to serve the country in the capacities for which our training and talents best fit us."
Following are some of the officer personnel at Tagap. The list includes many well known names in medicine and surgery from all over the country. The Station hospital, Major Wilbur H. Strickland, M. C., commanding officer, has these officers: Capt. Clarence D. Hinton, M. C., of Chicago, medical laboratory officer, who was graduated from Howard University in 1942, and who interned at Freeman's Hospital in Washington, D. C.; Capt. Leroy T. Barnes, M. C., radiologist, of Philadelphia, a graduate of the Univesity of Pennsylvania, who served his interneship at Harlem hospital in New York City; Capt. Russell M. Coleman, M. C., of East Orange, N. J., chief of medicine, a Howard University graduate in 1933, who was attached to the Orange Memoriai and Community Hospitals in New Jersey; Capt. Maurice F. Gleason, M. C., of Atlanta and is a Medical college graduate, class of 1940; he is chief of surgery and was a resident surgeon at Provident Hospital, Chicago. First Lt. Charles T. Cole, M. A. C., of Detroit, is a Wayne University graduate and is supply officer and registrar. First Lt. Marvin M. Fisk, D. C., of Rockford, Ill., is a Howard University graduate, school of Dentistry 1943 He is the dental surgeon.
First Lt. James B. Stafford, M. A. C., of Alton, is a Drake University and Iowa Wesleyan college graduate, 1942. He is adjutant. Second Lt. Calvin J. Webb, M. A. C., is from Kansas City, Kansas, and is a Sumner and Washburn College graduate, 1939. He is detachment commander. First Lt. Oswald G. Smith, M. C., medical officer, recently transferred to the 45th Engineer Regiment, is a Meharry School of Medicine graduate, 1941. First Lieut. Roscoe C. Williams, M. C., of Alabama, is from the Meharry School of Medicine, 1941, interned at Homer G. Phillips. and is a medical officer.
Nurses attached to the Station he Hospital include First Lt. Agnes B. Glass, principal nurse, of Meridian, Miss., from St. Mary's Infirmary School of Nursing, St. Louis. First Lt. Rosemary Glover, is surgical nurse, hails from Dayton, Ohio, and attended General Hospital No. 2. Kansas City, Mo. First Lt. Elestia Cox, of Los Angeles, is supervisor of Nursing on Medicine, and is a product of the White Memorial School of Nursing, Los Angeles. Second Lt. Rosemary Vinson is supervisor of mess, hails from Detroit, and attended Provident hospital, Chicago. Second Liet. Caroline Schenck, on general duty, is from Uniontown, PA., and finished St. Philip's School of Nursing, at Richmond, Va. Second Lt. Lillie L. Lesesne, anesthesia nurse, is from Pittsburgh, and attended Mercy Hospital School for Nurses in Philadelphia. Second. Lt. Olive Lucas, general duty, is from Meadville, Pa., and studied nursing at Harlem Hospital in New York.
The Station hospital headed by Robert S. Wilkinson, Major, M. C., commanding officer, has following personnel; Henry. A. Washington, Captain, M. C., chief of medical service, from Syracuse, N. Y. He graduated from the Howard University School of Medicine, 1933, interned at Hospitalization, New York, and was assistant physician, Syracuse Free Dispensary. Neville A. Griffith, Captain, M. C., chief of surgical service, is from New York, and is a graduate of the Magill University School of Medicine, 1940. He interned at Hornet G. Phillips Hospital, St.
Carl S. Jenkins, Captain. M. C., surgeon, is from Wilberforce. Ohio, and finished Meharry School of Medicine, 1942. He interned at ate Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis. Donarell R. Green, Jr., 1st lare lieutenant, M. C., is an anesthetist, from Atlanta, Ga., and is a graduate of Meharry and interned at Lincoln Hospital, Durham, N. C. Andre R. Tweed, Captain, M. C., ake is a neuropsychiatrist, recently transferred to the Zone of Interior. From the Bronx, New York, Capt. Tweed is a Howard University graduate and interned at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, St. Louis. William C. Shanks, Jr., 1st Lieutenant, M. C., is a medical officer now transferred. He is from North Carolina, the Meharry School of Medicine, and interned at Lincoln Hospital, Durham, N. C. Capt. Charles E. Marshall, D. C. dental officer, is from Red Bank N. J., and is a graduate of theHoward University School of Dentistry, 1944.
Officer from California
Charles S. Hall, 1st Lieutenant, M A. C., is adjutant, is from Omaha, Neb. Virgil R. Harris, 2nd lieutenant, is detachment commander and registrar, and is from Cleveland, Ohio, and 1927 graduate of the University of Kansas. Nelson F. Pallemon, 2nd lieutenant, M. A. C., is the supply, mess and transportation officer and hails from San Diego, Calif., and graduated in 1940 from California State College.
Some of the nursing staff of the Station Hospital includes, Dary1e E. Foister, 1st Lieut., of Bed- fession to which he has contributed so much, seems consummated in a measure in Tagap; a monument of accomplishment to confront those who looked askance at the idea that Negro doctors would play a major role in the breath-taking actuality of the Ledo Road. The brave little band of pioneers that accepted the assignment to come to Tagap, from whence glimpses of the white-capped. Himalayan Mountains can be had, has marked another glorious page in the history of the American Negro on trial in a wartorn world. Save for the color of the personnel, there is no difference at all between Tagap and similar hospitals operated an built by whites. However, Majors Strickland and Wilkinson concurred in this observation: