14th Evacuation Hospital
China-Burma-India Theater

Milton A. Eisenberg

  I was a Master Sergeant with the 14th Evacuation Hospital stationed on the 19th mile of the Ledo Road, Assam, India from 1943 to 1945. The following is a brief history of our medical unit.

  The 43rd Evacuation Hospital was activated June 1, 1941 and redesignated the 14th Evacuation Hospital on August 15, l942. Its medical staff came from leading medical centers. Enlisted men, mostly draftees, lived in almost every state in the U.S.

14th Evacuation Hospital

  Following intensive training at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana and the Lake Charles and Camp Polk maneuvers, the unit traveled by train to Camp Shanks, New York. After several days, we boarded the USS West Point, a troopship, at Staten Island, New York on July 9, l943. We sailed around Rio de Janiero and Capetown, arriving in Bombay, India August 12. Following a few days at a rest camp, we traveled by narrow-gauge rails across the heartland of India to Dhubri, Assam.There, our unit boarded a river boat and for two days steamed up the Brahmaputra River. At Pandu, we boarded a train that snaked for 36 hours through the Assam jungles, tea gardens and small towns to reach Margherita. We had traveled 1500 miles. After a few days at a staging area, we traveled by truck to the 19 mile point of the Ledo Road.

  With the capture of the Burma Road by Japanese troops, American military engineers were building the Ledo Road to establish a supply line between India and China. Allied forces were fighting in China. These troops desperately needed medical facilities.
Medical Area

  American engineers, aided by Indian laborers and members of the unit began the task of constructing a bamboo evacuation hospital and living quarters. In record time, working with crude equipment and primitive tools, they built wards, surgical operating rooms, clinics and laboratories. The buildings in a muddy area covered by dense foliage had thatched roofs and dirt floors. In later months, cement floors and other improvements were added. Hospital personnel and patients, imbibing salt pills and Atabrine tablets, slept under mosquito netting. The hospital wards soon overflowed with battle casualties and victims of typhus and malaria.

  Fifty officers, many physicians from New York hospitals, and fifty nurses comprised the professional hospital staff. Over 300 hundred enlisted men drove vehicles, worked in wards, labs, clinics, mess halls, sanitation facilities and offices. I was a master sergeant in charge of the personnel section of the unit.

  Acclimatizing was difficult for the Americans who had to perform in a region with 120 inches of rainfalleach year, humid summers, and cold winters.
Surgical Procedure, Foreign Body Location
However, with little paraphenalia and with none of the personal comforts to which they were accustomed, they established a complete hospital unit.

  Hospital patients included American, Indian and Chinese troops. Merrill's Marauders, wounded and worn out, were cared for at the hospital, its branch unit in Burma and at aid stationsnear the battle areas. Although faced with a shortage of supplies and overcrowded, the hospital at one time handled 3000 patients. Many American, Chinese and Indian lives were saved, thanks to its staff s dedication. General Frank Merrill and Great Britain's Lord Louis Mountbatten, who visited the hospital, praised the staff for its dedication and professional abilities.

  When the hospital was deactivated on December 3, 1945, our commanding officer, Colonel Leonard N. Swansontold us, "You did a splendid job in the treatment of American soldiers and our allies, and advanced the war effort by your sacrifice and devotion to duty.The hospital personnel received many commendations from higher headquarters regarding the high degree of efficiency you displayed," he said, "When, in the years ahead you look back upon your army careers, I know that you will be proud of your fine performance of duty." He was correct!
Chow Time. Mess Sgt. Niles and cook George
Lapata dish it out to M/Sgt. Milton Eisenberg

  In 1980, the 14th Evacuation Hospital Reunion Group was formed. Former members of the 14th and their families met annually in Florida, Rochester, New Orleans, Rhode Island, New York, Ocean City, New Jersey, and North Carolina. My wife, Yvette, and I hosted the group in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

  When we completed our tour of duty, the hospital received a superior rating from the Inspector General sDepartment. The War Department, in 1945, awarded a Meritorious Service Unit Plaque to the hospital and its personnel "in recognition of their exemplary contributions to the war effort while operating under trying conditions." President George Bush, issued a proclamation on June 4, l992 calling for the observance of the 50th Anniversary of World War II. He asked the nation to honor its World War II veterans.

  The 50th anniversary of the activation of the hospital was held in Watertown, New York on June 25 to 28,l992. A group of the veterans and members of their families traveled there from various parts of the United States to celebrate the occasion and see old friends.
Marauders Reach Branch Hospital

  Those commemorating the 50th anniversary and lauding the hospital personnel for "commitment and devotion to duty" included President George Bush, Secretary of the Army, M.P. W. Stone, Surgeon General Frank F. Ledford, Jr. and Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Edward J. Derwinsky. New York Senator Albert D Mato introduced a resolution in the Congressional Record recognizing the hospital s 50th anniversary and praising the personnel of the hospital for their exemplary contributions to the war effort.

  General Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote to the members of the unit and their families, "The medical service you provided during World War II is commendable. The accolades you received were well deserved. At a perilous time in our country's history, your devotion and personal sacrifices have helped keep our great nation free. You have earned our respect and undying gratitude."

  Looking back, there were trials and tribulations. It was great to be home, but I value many lasting friendships and experiences that will always be a part of me. I was there when a portion of history occurred.
Milton A. Eisenberg



       Under authority contained in Circular No. 345, War De-
partment, 1944, a Meritorious Service Unit Plaque is awarded by the
Commanding General, United States Forces, India Burma Theater,
to the l4th Evacuation Hospital for meritorious service during the
period 1 September, 1943, to 1 September, 1944. During this period,
four aid stations were set up and operating on the refugee trail out
of Burma and a branch hospital was set up and operated at Namgoi.
During the monsoon of 1944, this hospital although operating as a
750 bed unit, handled as high as 2,900 patients at one time, 1,500 of
which were Merrill's Marauders.
    Operating under the most trying conditions, and faced with a
shortage of material and equipment, this organization performed its
mission. The record maintained by the personnel of this hospital
both in the medical and surgical skills and in the maintenance of an
exemplary unit under trying conditions reflects great credit upon the
personnel of the l4th Evacuation Hospital and the United States Army.

T/3 Russ Jensen, T/4 Dominic Morollo, M/Sgt. Milton Eisenberg, T/4 George Lapata, 1st Sgt. Pat Burke (kneeling)

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14th Evacuation Hospital
China-Burma-India Theater

Story and photos by Milton A. Eisenberg




Copyright © 2006 Carl Warren Weidenburner. All rights reserved.