Brief description of Base Hospital 31 and Base Hospital 32, AEF hospitals based in Contrexeville, France, 1917 to 1919. Compiled from detailed accounts in the Unit History of Base Hospital 32 (B. Hitz) and US Army Base Hospital 31 AEF (C. H. Kaletzki.)


Base Hospital 31

Base Hospital No. 31 was organized March 26, 1917, at the Youngstown City Hospital, Youngstown, Ohio, and was mobilized at Youngstown, September 7, 1917. On September 8, it entrained for Camp Crane, Allentown, Pa., to undergo training and equipping. It remained in training at Camp Crane until November 21, 1917, when it was transferred to Camp Mills, Long Island, where it remained until December 14, 1917, preparing for embarkation. It sailed from New York on the Leviathan, on December 15; arrived at Liverpool, England, on December 25 and at Le Havre, France, December 26. After three days at the Le Havre rest camp, the unit entrained December 30 for Contrexeville, Vosges, in the advance section, arriving there January 1, 1918. Contrexeville was one of the two towns comprising the Vittel-Contrexeville hospital center. Base Hospital No. 31 was the fourth and last hospital to arrive at Contrexeville, which, like Vittel, is a summer health resort, with numerous hotels; eight of these were assigned to Base Hospital No. 31.

Hospital Unit G, attached to Base Hospital 31, was organized by members of the faculty of the College of Medicine, Syracuse University, in accordance with plans of the American Red Cross, in June, 1917, with Dr. Edward S. Van Duyn in charge. Unit G left New York on February 26, 1918 onboard USS Olympic. The nurses of Unit G arrived in Contrexeville on March 12, 1918, and the enlisted men arrived the following day, after having endured a near-miss of a German bombing raid on railyards outside of Paris.


Col. Adam E. Schlanser, M. C., August 30, 1917, to June 16, 1918.
Lieut. Col. Colin R. Clark, M. C., June 17, 1918, to July 13, 1918.
Lieut. Col. J. A. Sherbondy, M. C., July14, 1918, to July 17, 1918.
Captain A. E. Brant, M. C., July 18, 1918, to August 21, 1918.
Lieut. Col. J. A. Sherbondy, M. C., August 22, 1918, to September 3, 1918.
Captain A. E. Brant, M. C., September 4, 1918 to September 30, 1918.
Maj. John L. Washburn, M. C., October 1, 1918, to November 24, 1918.
Lieut. Col. J. A. Sherbondy, M. C., November 25, 1918, to December 31, 1918.
Lieutenant Colonel E. S. Van Duyn, January 1, 1919 to demobilization.


Lieut. Col. J. A. Sherbondy, M. C.
Lieut. Col. E. S. Van Duyn, M. C.
Maj. A. E. Brant, M. C.
Maj. C. E. Coon, M. C.


Lieut. Col. Colin R. Clark, M. C.
Maj. C. C. Wolferth, M. C.

The chief nurses of this unit, with their respective terms of office, have been: Miss Frances M. Kehoe, September 9, 1918, to November 1, 1918; Miss Sue Austin Wilson, November 2, 1918, to demobilization.

Because of the numerous changes in buildings that had to be made, and of the nonarrival of equipment, the hospital did not begin to function until March 23, 1918, when the first patients were received. The normal capacity of the hospital was 1,200 beds; the crisis expansion, 2,000 beds. One ward of this hospital contained 250 beds. The largest number of patients in hospital was 1,786 on October 18, 1918. The hospital treated 3,413 medical and 4,585 surgical cases.

On February 3, 1919, all remaining patients were transferred and Base Hospital No. 31 was officially closed. The unit proceeded to St. Nazaire, whence it sailed on the Mercury, April 19, 1919. It arrived in the United States on April 30, 1919, and was demobilized at Camp Dix, N. J., May 2, 1919.

Base Hospital 32

Base Hospital No. 32 was organized in February, 1917, at Indianapolis, Ind., and was mobilized at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., September 1, 1917. After three months of training and equipping there, the unit left December 1, 1917, for Hoboken, N. J. It embarked on the George Washington, December 3, and sailed the following day for Brest, France, arriving there December 21. After three days rest, the unit left for Contrexeville, Vosges, advance section, where it arrived on December 26, 1917.

Hospital Unit R, attached to Base Hospital 32, organized in southeastern Iowa under the direction of Major James F. Clarke, arrived in Contrexeville with its personnel on March 10, 1918.


The commanding officers of Base Hospital 32, with their respective dates of service

Major Harry R. Beery, M. C., August 27, 1917, to February 13, 1918.
Major Edmund D. Clark, M. C., February 14, 1918, to March 6, 1918.
Lieut. Col. H. H. Van Kirk, M. C., March 6, 1918, to July 14, 1918.
Lieut. Col. Edmund D. Clark, M. C., July 15, 1918, to January 14, 1919.
Maj. James F. Clarke, M. C., January 15, 1919, to demobilization.

Miss Florence Martin has been chief nurse of Base Hospital 32 from the time of its organization to date.

Eight hotels were assigned to Base Hospital No. 32; various other buildings were used as warehouses, etc. Because numerous changes had to be made in these hotels, the unit did not begin to function until March 23, 1918, when the first convoy of patients was received. This organization was the first to arrive at Contrexeville, but third to arrive in the Vittel-Contrexeville group. The normal bed capacity was 1,300, which in emergency was increased to 1,900. During its activity, March 23, 1918, to January 12, 1919, the hospital cared for 9,698 medical and surgical cases.

The hospital was officially closed on January 12, 1918. The unit then was transferred to St. Nazaire for transportation to the United States. Enlisted personnel and two officers sailed April 13, 1919, on the Freedom, and the unit was demobilized at Camp Taylor, Ky., May 7, 1919.

The nurses and civilian employees of Base Hospital 32 did not return on the same transport as the enlisted personnel. Most proceeded to Brest and boarded the America on March 4, 1919 and arrived in New York on March 13, 1919. However, due to lack of room on the America, the following nurses remained at La Baule and later returned to the United States on the S.S. Louisville, arriving in New York March 22nd: Golda F. Smith, Agnes Swift, Elsie Thompson, Helen A. Thompson, Addie Threlkeld, Ruth Totten, Eva B. Van Dyke, Grace Van Evera, Bessie Whitaker, Olive Whitlock, Merle Moss Wright and Gertrude Steffen (civilian employee.)

Photo from the BH32 unit history - from Contrexeville looking toward Vittel

Photo from the unit history of BH 32.

The following figures show the total number of patients received by the two hospitals:

Month Base H. 31 Base H. 32
March 32 408
April 43 40
May556 274
June 651 1,017
July 1,688 1,574
August 235 371
September 2,007 2,319
October 2,223 2,301
November 855 814
December 311 556
Total 8,601 9,674
Total, both units   18,275