A Brief History of the
U. S. Naval Hospital, Guam,

The history of U. S. Naval Hospital on Guam began in August of 1899; with the arrival of the Medical Officer of the USS Yosemite, Surgeon Philip Leach and Assistant Surgeons Mark V. Stone and Alfred G. Grunwell. Leach spent his first day on island searching for an appropriate site for a "Naval Hospital and Dispensary at Agana" and the next cleaning it up. When the Naval Medical Officers arrived the civilian population had no modern western medicines or doctors; and there were many people on island sick with tuberculosis, leprosy, gangosa (possibly congenital syphilis), typhoid, and whooping cough. CAPT R. Leary, the first U. S. governor of Guam and commanding officer of the Naval Station, Guam wrote in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy dated August 26, 1899 "With the exception of the medical supplies belonging to our vessels, there is not one ounce of medicine on this island…" He also requested that "two additional Medical Officers and two more Hospital Stewards be sent here."

Because the Navy relied on local physicians to care for military dependents at that time, there was no provision for their care by the Navy physicians. CAPT Leary immediately saw that the medical staff would have to expand their practice to include treating navy dependents and civilians, in order to protect the health of the active duty members. Soon the entire population began to be treated at the Naval Hospital. Between August 7, 1899 and July 31, 1900 the staff treated 1,141 civilian patients. There were 9630 civilians living on Guam that year. Luckily for the hospital staff most of the population was not yet interested in western medicine and still consulted the local herb healers the suruhana/u (female/male). Because of a shortage of personnel the Medical Officers began teaching local women to be health workers. The first class, in 1901, was in midwifery (they delivered 325 babies that year) beginning a long tradition of the staff of the Naval Hospital teaching local people to be health care providers.

Soon Ms Maria Schroeder, the wife of Governor of Guam Captain Seaton Schroeder, began to organize the collection of money to build a hospital for non-active duty where modern medicine would be practiced. She was so successful that the cornerstone was laid on 10 June 1901. The Maria Schroeder Hospital opened in 1902 for dependents and local civilians able to pay moderate fees (about 50 cents a day), the naval hospital was then to be used for active duty and the indigent In addition, a leper colony was established at Tumon Bay for 24 patients.

The original naval hospital was destroyed in an earthquake on September 22. 1903. A patient was killed the next day while being removed from the collapsing building to the emergency hospital that was set up in a corner of the Agana cathedral. A portion of the Maria Schroeder Hospital was rented to provide space for the treatment of the enlisted men until a new naval hospital could be built. In 1905, Ms Susan H. Dyer, wife of Commodore G. L. Dyer, USN, then Governor of Guam, started a collection to again provide a separate hospital for women and children. A small building near the Schroeder Hospital was rented and used for this purpose from 1905 until an earthquake destroyed it in 1909. Naval medical personnel staffed both hospitals. Soon after its destruction a request was made for money to build a new women's hospital, and the Federal Government appropriated money for this purpose with the rather unusual condition that it be known as the Naval Hospital, Guam.

In August,1910 the land that the Schroeder Hospital was built on was ceded to the U. S. Government and the new building for the Susana Hospital was completed. Together these became the Naval Hospital, Guam, and was unique in that it was the only U. S. Naval Hospital in existence with a women's and children's ward. In that year the first Navy nurses arrived, and a formal nursing school was started. By 1912 there were seven locally trained, and two Navy nurses at the hospital. The Schroeder Hospital took over the care of the Navy and Marine Corps enlisted men and native males over the age of 12, and the Susana Hospital took care of women and children of both sexes under 12.

By 1915 there were five physicians, four hospital stewards, thirteen hospital corpsmen, and three nurses, all on active duty, as well as twenty nine local staff providing health care to the island.

In 1916 a tuberculosis hospital opened with eight cases. The naval hospital had eight medical officers, one dental officer, and twenty five members of the Hospital Corps.

By 1918 there were eight Navy and twelve native nurses at the hospital, and eleven dressing stations in the villages; six of these were run by Hospital Corpsmen, the rest by native school teachers.

The time between the wars was a quiet one for Guam. Staff enjoyed an 18 month to two year tour, with occasional trips to China or Japan for relief in a cooler climate.

By 1940 9 doctors (one a Chamorro trained in the US at government expense), 1 dentist, 2 pharmacists, 5 Navy nurses, 46 pharmacist's mates, 7 hospital apprentices, and 14 native nurses were assigned to Naval Hospital, Guam.

Then in December 1941 the island was invaded by the Japanese, and all US citizens and all military personnel captured by them, including five Navy nurses Chief Nurse LT(jg) Marian Olds, LT (jg) Leona Jackson, ENS Lorraine Christiansen, ENS Virginai Fogarty and ENS Doris Yetter) were taken to Japan as prisoners of war. They were interned at a military prison in Yentsuji. About six months later the nurses were returned to the mainland United States. One of the nurses, LT Leona Jackson, NC, USN, returned to Guam as chief nurse in 1944 and director of the Navy Nurse Corps in 1954.

Because the Naval Hospital, Guam was destroyed in the retaking of the island fleet hospitals took care of the 100,000 military who were on island preparing for the invasion of Japan. The care of the civilian population was taken over by Fleet Hospital 103, located in Oka Tamuning (near the site of the current public hospital). A portion of the fleet hospital was designated the Guam Memorial Hospital in honor of the Chamorros who suffered for their support of the United States during the war. It had 300 beds, and was staffed by 12 Naval Medical Officers, 4 Naval Dental Officers, 10 Navy nurses, and over a 100 enlisted personnel. The nursing school reopened at GMH and a school for medical practitioners was started. The schools continued until 1950. The nursing school is now an accredited college of the University of Guam

One building of the old hospital in Agana was repaired and it became a tuberculosis hospital, later it became the main branch of the Guam Public Library System.

In 1953 construction of the current Naval Hospital, Guam began on the cliffs overlooking Agana and the Philippine Sea. This facility opened in 1954, and continues to provide health care to Guam today. Except for typhoons, things were quiet at the Naval Hospital, Guam from its opening until September 1965 when the Hospital began receiving casualties from Vietnam via aero-medical evacuation. Within three months an average daily census increased from approximately 100 to well over 300, and in 1968 and 1969 often exceeded 700.

In November 1965 the local Navy paper, the Pacific Crossroads, recorded the arrival of wounded from Viet Nam

"During the past weeks Naval Hospital had quadrupled their capacity to care for these men. The hospital now has 423 beds authorized. This was done with no increase in the size of the hospital staff." [In 1965 there were 33 nurses, and in 1966 there were 34 nurses assigned to the hospital - AEH]

"The Naval Hospital has been receiving more patients two or three times per week. So far more than 300 war casualties have been treated here.

Naturally, this increased number of patients puts an increased workload on the entire hospital staff. But the biggest load falls on the non-rated corpsmen who are now standing three section duty and are on call on off-duty days. They seem fiercely proud of their work and though they gripe good-naturedly, they probably wouldn't change jobs with anyone."
(Crossroads 1965 NOV 19 vol. VIII no.21 p.6-7)

Later, due to the continuing influx of patients from Viet Nam, the renovation of the former Asan Point Civil Service Community was begun, with 65 new quonset and butler type buildings added in 1966, and in 1968 what was known as the Advanced Base Naval Hospital (a.k.a. Asan Annex) was opened to care for 1,200 patients. The new hospital was designed to be a completely self-contained unit staffed by some 37 doctors, 80 nurses and nearly 500 other personnel, with the capacity to care for 1200 patients.

By July 1970 the hospital had received over 17,000 patients, ambulatory and litter, by aero-medical evacuation and returned over 14,000 to the continental United States.

Casualties arrived from Vietnam at Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), fourteen miles away at the northern end of the island, four times a week, in a C-141 air craft. These planes originated in the early hours of the morning at Clark AFB, Philippines flying into Da Nang at sunrise and on-load patients. After a two hour stop at Clark they flew on to Guam, usually arriving at dusk or shortly after dark. Flight time between Da Nang and Clark is 2-2 ˝ hours and between Clark and Guam 3 ˝ -4 hours. Patients with battle injuries were frequently transferred to Guam within 2 or 3 days of injury.

Upon arriving at the hospital, casualties were taken to a special ward designed especially for air evacs, disasters, or a typhoon. Here the patient was given a complete evaluation to determine injuries and their extent, and a doctor determined which service the patient would be admitted to.

Early the next morning patients were taken to the service to which they had been assigned and their treatment began, either going to surgery, physical therapy, or clinical observation. After a stay ranging from a few days to a few weeks, the Medical Officer would decide whether the patient would return to Vietnam or to the mainland, for further treatment.

At the same time that the Hospital was treating the Vietnam casualties it also maintained an Outpatient Department, with three Medical Officers, who saw patients from Guam commands, an OB-GYN Clinic with five Obstetricians, an Immunization Clinic, and a Pharmacy, which was staffed by two registered Pharmacists.

After the draw down from Vietnam the hospital became quiet again, serving the 10,000 military assigned to Guam and their dependents, as well acting as a Veterans Hospital and the local trauma center. It was reawakened in 1975 to care for the 100,000 refugees from South Vietnam in Operation New Life, in 1991 for the evacuation of the Philippines after Mount Pinatubo erupted in Operation Fiery Vigil, and now in 1996-97 during the evacuation of Kurdish, Muslim, Iraqi, Iranian, and Turkish people from Iraq in Operation Pacific Haven.

© Ms Alice E. Hadley 1996

Send comments to Alice E. Hadley, MLS, AHIP