The Army purchased the Sanitarium
in August 1942 for $2.5 million. It was at that time a 1,000-bed
Capacity of the facility was enlarged to 1,500 beds and in January
1943, the first combat casualties began arriving in Battle Creek
via the Grand Trunk and Michigan Central Railroads, on United
States Army hospital trains.
The first commander was Colonel Norman T. Kirk, the former chief
of surgical services at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington,
D.C. Kirk named the new hospital after Colonel Percy Lancelot
Jones, USA, who had been an Army surgeon in the Spanish-American
War, the Mexican Campaign and World War I. Jones was a pioneer
of modern battlefield ambulance evacuation and commanded the ambulance
service which was detached from the Allied Expeditionary Forces
to the French Army during World War I. Jones was decorated by
America and France after the war for organizing what was called
the finest mobile medical treatment in military history. Jones
and his ambulance service were instrumental in creating the U.S.
Army Ambulance Corps. He retired from the Army in 1931, was superintendent
of Hamon Hospital in Erie, Pa., and died in 1941.
Kirk had served under Jones in 1913, and the two remained friends
afterward. Percy Jones Hospital was officially dedicated on Feb.
22, 1943. Attending the ceremony were the Surgeon General of the
Army, Major General James Magee, Michigan Governor Harry R. Kelly,
and the widow and daughter of Colonel Jones.
Kirk left Percy Jones in May 1943 as a brigadier general and was
named Surgeon General of the Army.
The hospital grew as the flow of casualties increased. In 1944,
W.K. Kellogg donated his mansion on nearby Gull Lake to the Army,
which assigned it to Percy Jones as a convalescent center. The
Fort Custer Reception Center was also taken over by Percy Jones
for use by patients on “casual duty.”
In 1945, Percy Jones became the largest U.S. Army medical installation.
Following V-J Day (victory over Japan) in 1945, the hospital population
peaked with 11,427 patients assigned to its three area sites.
Percy Jones specialized as an Army center for neurosurgery, amputations
and handicapped rehabilitation, deep x-ray therapy and plastic
artificial eyes. In one month alone, 729 operations were performed.
V-J Day did not mark the end of “war work” at Percy
Jones, although the number of patients decreased. In 1948, there
were about 50 patients hospitalized with war wounds, as well as
about 1,000 with peacetime injuries. After a short deactivation
period, the hospital reopened only a few days after hostilities
broke out in Korea in the summer of 1950. In 1951, about 1,000
patients were at Percy Jones, many of them with frostbite caused
by the bone-chilling Korean weather.
Strong Community Link
It’s hard to overstate the historical, social and economic
significance of Percy Jones to Battle Creek, its host community.
Battle Creek became the first city in America to install wheel
chair ramps in its sidewalks because of the number of Percy Jones
patients who wanted to go downtown. Many citizens volunteered
at the hospital. Some volunteers found romance, which led to marriages
and new families in the community.
In fact, as of 2003, several persons who had been born at the
Percy Jones Hospital were members of the Federal Center workforce.
The Hospital complex functioned like a city within itself. It
had its own water supply, electrical facility, bank, post office,
radio station (“KPJ”) and Percy Jones Institute, an
accredited high school with more than 20 schools for various subjects
ranging from business to agriculture. A single day could bring
more than 2,000 visitors.
Hospital Made Huge Difference For
There were stories of extraordinary care, cures and rehabilitation
of soldiers who arrived with little hope at the hospital. In November
1953, Percy Jones Hospital closed for the last time. It had treated
more than 78,000 patients during World War II and 16,500 during
the Korean War. Each Percy Jones patient was special, and the
impact of their lives on the future is beyond measure. Amid the
thousands of everyday heroes were many who went on to successful
careers in business and government, including U.S. Sen. Daniel
K. Inouye of Hawaii, former presidential candidate and retired
U.S. Sen. Robert (Bob) J. Dole of Kansas and the late U.S. Sen.
Philip A. Hart of Michigan. In honor of these individuals, on
May 31, 2003, the Federal Center held an official ceremony recognizing
the name change to the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center as part
of its Centennial celebration.
While at Percy Jones Hospital, all three men showed great personal
courage and determination in recuperating from their wounds and
subsequently focused their energy to distinguish themselves with
outstanding public service.
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who first served in Congress from 1959
to 1962, was elected in 1962 to the United States Senate, where
he has served continuously for more than 40 years.
The late Sen. Philip A. Hart rose from local and state government
to his election to the U.S. Senate in 1958, where he served for
18 years. He died just a few weeks short of completing his third
term in December 1976.
Years later, in the 1990s, Sen. Dole wrote the following letter,
which was printed in the Battle Creek Enquirer
newspaper, praising the Percy Jones Hospital staff and Battle
Creek community for the medical care and support, enabling him
and thousands of other patients to literally take a step forward
and build new lives.
“Battle Creek, Michigan, will always be a special place
for me and thousands of other wounded World War II veterans; and
Percy Jones will always be a name that stands for the best in
medical care, community support and countless profiles in courage
. . . The road to recovery can be rough, but Percy Jones and Battle
Creek made a huge difference in my life and in the lives of thousands
of others, too.”
Rehabilitation was key to recovery for
all of the service members at Percy Jones. During the war automotive
companies, such as General Motors, turned their plants into war
machinery production facilities. As hostilities ceased, GM worked
directly with Percy Jones to provide the first cars off the assembly
line for amputees at Percy Jones. Each car was specially equipped
to compensate for the individual disability of each veteran. Autos
are shown as they are delivered near the Washington Avenue entrance.
A rare souvenir of history, a placemat from
the officers’ mess at Percy Jones Hospital.
The Masonic Service Center girls serenade the patients in one
of the Percy Jones wards.
Daniel K. Inouye
Washington Avenue entrance during the transition to Percy Jones
Hospital in 1942. The serenity of this scene belies the raging world
war that would send 78,000 G.I.s to Battle Creek for rehabilitation.
Portrait of U.S. Army Surgeon, Col. Percy Lancelot Jones.
A solitary G.I. looks over his shoulder at the new name on the building,
Percy Jones General Hospital.
A special boardwalk platform at a Grand Trunk Railroad siding enables
U.S. Army hospital trains to off-load dozens of patients into waiting
A wounded soldier arrives at Kellogg Field on a C-47 military transport,
and is shown being transported to a local ambulance for transfer
to Percy Jones.
Percy Jones patients relax in an undated photo. Seated on the right
is John Swainson who later became a State of Michigan senator, governor
and supreme court justice. In 1989, Governor Swainson returned to
participate in historical observances as President of the Michigan
After a USO show, comedian Jack Benny gives an autograph to a wounded
soldier in the dining room. Visiting celebrities performing
in USO shows included Alan Ladd, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Dinah
Shore, Eddie Cantor, Gene Autry, Bob Hope, Roy Rogers, Ed Sullivan,
the Inkspots and the Mills Brothers.
Pictured is an amputee with his “new” specially designed
Lt. Anne Pletzke, a nurse at Percy Jones Hospital, and Lt. Burnham
Peters, a patient wounded in New Guinea, are married in this 1944
Presidential candidate and Percy Jones “alumnus,” Senator
Bob Dole is shown giving an autograph during a 1996 visit.
Philip A. Hart