Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
(Van Nuys General
Hospital, Prisoner of War Branch Camp)
of Birmingham General Hospital, at Van Nuys, Calif. Designated
US Army General Hospital by War Department General Order 48,
dated 24 August 1943. The construction was a Type-A,
one-story semi-permanent Hospital, built out of brick and stucco,
with wards placed on both sides of corridors. Authorized bed
capacity was 1,777, and first patients were not received before
25 February 1944. Medical specialties covered syphilis treatment,
rheumatic fever, and psychiatry.
by Richard E. Osbourne
Authorized by War Department General
Order 48, 24 August 1943, this hospital as built in Van Nuys
in late 1943 and early 1944 to serve as both a general hospital
and a debarkation hospital. Originally named Van Nuys General
Hospital, it was soon renamed in honor of Named for Brigadier
General Henry Patrick Birmingham, Medical Corps, U.S. Army (born
1854, died 1932). It received its first patient on 25 February
1944. Its stucco buildings had 1777 beds, of which 800 were devoted
to debarkation activities. The hospital specialized in general
medicine, central nervous system syphilis, rheumatic fever and
psychiatry. The hospital had a small prisoner of war compound.
Due to it location so close to Hollywood, may radio and movie
stars visited patients at the hospital. Jack Benny even brodcasted
his annual Christmas Part from the hospital in 1944.
The offical Army history of World War II
makes reference to a study at Birmingham General Hospital of an
antibiotic ointment on patients with chronically infected compound
fractures by a MAJ Joseph Weinberg. This was one of the first
topical uses of penecillin.
On 31 March 1946 the hospital was transferred
to the Veterans Administration. Marlon Brando lived for one month
at Birmingham VA Hospital to study for his movie role as a paraplegic
veteran. The movie was "The Men", released in 1950,
directed by Fred Zimmerman and produced by Stanley Kramer. Jack
Webb was also in the movie. For more details, see below. The VA
closed the hospital in 1950. After 1950 the facility was converted
into local use for public schools, while the army retained a piece
for use in the air defense of Los Angeles. Part of the former
Birmingham Army Hospital facility was used as an air defense missile
battalion headquarters from April 1956 to November 1968. The units
located there during that timeframe were Headquarters and Headquarters
Battery, 551st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Missile Battalion, which
was redesignated in September 1958 as Headquarters and Headquarters
Battery, 4th Battalion, 65th Artillery.
The former hospital/Nike complex is now
Birmingham High School and Junior High School and the West Valley
Special Education Center.
Source: World War II Sites
in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard
from the Veterans Administration Period
Veterans Administration Hospital is located at the corner of
Balboa Ave. and Van Owen St., Van Nuys, Calif. 114 buildings
are spread over 146.3 acres, most of which are connected by about
3 miles of covered corridors. It is a General Medical and Surgical
Hospital and has a record evaluation, including almost $2,000,000
worth of equipment, of about $7,500,000. The authorized bed capacity
is 1500, and 1650 employees are required to operate the many
services and facilities available to patients.
Building and Nurses Quarters. The center building immediately
behind the flag pole and circle houses only part of the administrative
offices of the hospital. About 350 nurses are housed in six other
buildings of the type shown here.
Chapel. Each evening at the
close of business for many of the administrative staff the musical
chimes located in the chapel tower play religious and patriotic
music for about five minutes. Regular services of all faiths
are held in the chapel. Catholic, Jewish and Protestant chaplains
are on the hospital staff.
General Henry Patrick Birmingham
Patrick Birmingham was born March 4, 1854 in Brooklyn, New York,
the son of Thomas and Margaret Tarpey Birmingham from Ireland.
The family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1857. General Birmingham
graduated from the University of Michigan in 1876 where he received
his medical degree. He practiced medicine for two years in civil
In February 1887, Henry Birmingham married Myra Clarke in New
York. In November of that same year his wife Myra and infant
daughter Margarite died. General Birmingham later married Myra's
older sister Clara Clarke. They had three sons, Richard, a West
Point graduate; Henry, U.S. Marine Corps, a graduate of Annapolis,
and William, also a graduate of Annapolis. They also had two
daughters, Ada married to Everette Harman, and Clara Birmingham,
and one granddaughter, Evelyn Harman Eglin.
General Birmingham served the United States Army as a contract
surgeon from November 2, 1878, to March 1, 1881. He entered the
commissioned ranks of the Army as an assistant surgeon March
2, 1881. He was promoted to captain, assistant surgeon in the
army in 1886, and later to major brigade surgeon United States
Volunteers in 1898. That same year he became major surgeon, Medical
Corps, Regular Army.
Ten years later in 1908, Birmingham was promoted to lieutenant
colonel; then colonel in 1911, and a brigadier general in 1917.
General Birmingham served as brigadier general, National Army,
from October 13, 1917, to March 15, 1918. He was retired in his
permanent grade of colonel after reaching the statutory age limit
of sixty-four years. He was advanced to the grade of brigadier
general on the retired list on June 21, 1930 under the provisions
of an act of Congress approved that date.
The long military career of General Birmingham extended over
a period of thirty-seven years' active commissioned service.
He was a veteran of the Indian and Spanish American wars, Philippine
insurrection, occupation, and as a medical observer with the
American Expeditionary forces in France during World War I. During
the encampment of 20,000 men at San Antonio in 1914, and the
subsequent expedition at Vera Cruz, Brigadier General Birmingham,
then a colonel, was acting Surgeon General. He kept the camp
free from contagion, and the men in good health. His methods
of sanitation later received widespread commendation. He was
described by General McArthur writing to his daughter Clara as
"an officer of marked ability and extensive experience in
the Medical Department; a splendid administrator and executive
of the highest professional and personal standards."
He retired in 1918, and was immediately recalled to active duty.
He served another eleven years as Commandant, Medical Officers'
Training Camp, Georgia, United States General Hospital No. 14,
and finally as head of the United States Soldiers' Home Hospital
in Washington, DC until 1922.
General Birmingham died on May 4, 1932 in Washington, DC at Walter
Reed Hospital at the age of seventy-eight. He was buried in Arlington
National Cemetery with military honors.
(Sources for this history include: New York Tribune, May 5, 1932,
letter to Clara Birmingham from General Douglas McArthur, and
letter from granddaughter Evelyn Harman Eglin.)
Before he played Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire,
Marlon Brando portrayed a paraplegic war veteran in The Men.
For local history buffs, what's notable about this 1950 film
(besides castmates Jack Webb and Teresa Wright, and an Oscar
nomination for Carl Foreman's screenplay) is the copious footage
of Birmingham Army Hospital in Van Nuys. Soon after, the hospital
was converted into Birmingham High School (alma mater of Michael
Ovitz, Sally Field et al). Built in a rush during World War II,
the hospital received wounded GIs via railroad cars and long
convoys of ambulances from the hospital ships in Long Beach.
The sight of thousands of amputees and paralyzed vets on the
grounds and in the community brought the war's toll home to the
Valley. Many Hollywood stars performed benefits at Birmingham.
Assigned to Birmingham General Hospital
of the United States Station List
Army Service Forces
1986th Service Command Unit
(Birmingham General Hospital)
Service Command Station List
Army Service Forces
1964th Service Command Unit
(Hospital Train Unit)
1986th Service Command Unit
(Birmingham General Hospital)
of War Branch Camp
Prisoner of War Branch
Camp was established effective 3 July 1945 at the Birmingham
General Hospital, Van Nuys, California - per General Order 71,
Headquarters, Ninth Service Command, Fort Douglas, Utah, dated
3 3uly 1945. It was a branch camp of the Prisoner of War Camp
at Camp Haan, California, It held 45 prisoner to support hospital
operations. Discontinued effective 8 September 1945 per General
order 106, Headquarters, Ninth Service Command dated 11 September
Data Card, US Army Center of Military History
War Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities,