""Home ""Public Affairs - Hospital
DLA Disposition Services Public Affairs

Percy Jones Hospital Years (1943-1953)
The best medical care for our military heroes

SERVING OUR WW II AND KOREAN WAR VETERANS

 

The Army purchased the Sanitarium in August 1942 for $2.5 million. It was at that time a 1,000-bed hospital.

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 Thousands
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.”


GM worked directly with Percy Jones to provide the first cars off the assembly line for amputees at Percy Jones.
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.
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.
The Masonic Service Center girls serenade the patients in one of the Percy Jones wards.

Daniel K. Inouye
Daniel K. Inouye

Washington Avenue entrance during the transition to Percy Jones Hospital in 1942
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.
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 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 ambulances
A special boardwalk platform at a Grand Trunk Railroad siding enables U.S. Army hospital trains to off-load dozens of patients into waiting ambulances.

A wounded soldier arrives at Kellogg Field on a C-47 military transport
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
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 Historical Commission.

After a USO show, comedian Jack Benny gives an autograph to a wounded soldier in the Palm Garden Room
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.

an amputee with his “new” specially designed 1946 Buick.
Pictured is an amputee with his “new” specially designed 1946 Buick.

Lt. Anne Pletzke, a nurse at Percy Jones Hospital, and Lt. Burnham Peters, a patient wounded in New Guinea, are married in this 1944 photo.
Lt. Anne Pletzke, a nurse at Percy Jones Hospital, and Lt. Burnham Peters, a patient wounded in New Guinea, are married in this 1944 photo.

Presidential candidate and Percy Jones “alumnus,” Senator Bob Dole is shown giving an autograph during a 1996 visit
Presidential candidate and Percy Jones “alumnus,” Senator Bob Dole is shown giving an autograph during a 1996 visit.

Philip A. Hart
Philip A. Hart

 

 


 

PDF documents found on this page can be viewed using a PDF Reader.


Page updated 01.23.2014 (rs)