California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
Historic California Posts, Stations and Airfields
Dibble General Hospital
(Palo Alto General Hospital)
 
Anticipating a wave of wounded soldiers from the Pacific operations during World War II, the U.S. Army bought the estate of Mark Hopkins, of California railroad and hotel fame, including the mansion formerly known as Thurlow Lodge, to care for the thousands of soldiers injured in the South Pacific in World War II. Originally, the post was named Palo Alto General Hospital but was soon renamed, "Dibble Army Hospital" to honor Colonel John Dibble who was killed in an aircraft crash in 1943.
 
Menlo Park's wartime population suddenly soared when the U.S. Army chose to build Dibble General Hospital on the site of the where the Stanford Research Institute and the Menlo Park Civic Center stand today. Between 1943 and 1946 Dibble specialized in plastic surgery, blind care, neuro-psychiatry and orthopedics and at its peak it had 2,400 beds, about two-thirds the population of the entire town. Dr. Bernard Silber was working at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco when he was transferred to the new Dibble hospital. But first, he had to ask four or five people where Menlo Park was. "It was a quiet, pleasant place," he recalled, noting that there weren't any stores yet on Santa Cruz Avenue except at the corner of El Camino Real.
 
In June 1946 the hospital was transferred to the Federal Public Housing Authority.
 
Colonel John Dibble
 
Colonel John Dibble was born in New Jersey in 1890. He grew up in Camden, NJ. His father was Theodore Hoyt Dibble. Theodore Dibble was a Civil War veteran, serving with Company A of the 5th Connecticut Infantry, entering as a Sergeant and leaving service as a Captain. His wife, Clara Wilkinson Dibble, was much younger, born in 1863. In 1890 and 1891, Theodore and Clara Dibble made their home at 427 Washington Street in Camden, NJ. Theodore Dibble passed away prior to January of 1910. In 1910 John and mother Clara Dibble lived at the home of his grandparents, Leander and Mary Wilkinson, at 559 Washington Street in Camden NJ. His grandfather was a retired railroad engineer.
 
John Dibble attended the E.A. Stevens School, and graduated from the original Camden High School at Haddon and Newton Avenues in 1909, which later became Clara S. Burrough Junior High School. While at Camden High, he participated in several after school activities, including the class debating team. As a senior he took part in the Senior-Junior Debate, which was judged by Howard M. Cooper, Edgar A. Freeman, and Harry C. Dole.
 
John Dibble went on to study medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating from Penn, he interned at Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia. After completing medical school, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1917. He graduated from the Army's school for flight surgeons, at Roosevelt Field, on Long Island NY, and went on to serve in Germany with the Army of Occupation after World War I. When occupation duty ended, Dr. Dibble remained in the Army, and would be a soldier for the rest of his life. He served in various posts throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including a stint as the Chief of Medical Service at Fort McKinley in the Philippine Islands. Colonel Dibble was named as Surgeon of the Third Army just after Pearl Harbor.
 
John Dibble had married a girl from Camden, Mary Walford. He always maintained his Camden address throughout his career, the last one being that of his Uncle, George Wilkinson, 654 Washington Street, who, like Leander Wilkinson, was a railroad engineer. His last trip home was in May of 1942.
 
Colonel Dibble was killed with 16 others when the transport plane they were in crashed in the Pacific Theater of Operations on February 7, 1943. He was survived by his son, Captain John Dibble, then serving at Fort Hood TX, and a daughter, Mrs. John Corbey, whose husband was at that time a Major in the Army, his uncle, George Wilkinson, and a brother, Theodore Savage Dibble. His mother had passed away sometime after April of 1930.
 
Corps of Engineers History

On 3 January 1943, the War Department acquired 128.15 fee acres from Wells Fargo Bank & Union Trust Company and 11.94 lease acres from Claude T. Lindsay, a private individual. Total acreage acquired was 140.09. The site was used as a 2,700 bed veterans hospital. There were 115 buildings constructed on the site by the end of 1943. On
31October 1945, the General Services Administration (GSA) terminated 7.52 lease acres and returned the land to the owner, Claude T. Lindsay. On 31 July 1946, 127.27 fee acres and 4.42 lease acres were turned over to the Federal Public Housing Authority (FPHA). On 5 August 1946, the remaining 0.88 fee acre were turned over to the War Assets Administration (WAA). The FPHA returned the 4.42 lease acres back to the owner (Claude T. Lindsay) soon after they received the acreage from the Army. On 7 May 1947, FPHA declared a total of 41.607 fee acres to WAA. The remaining 85.644 fee acres were utilized by FPHA for student-veterans housing purposes at Leland Stanford Jr. University (Stanford Village) beginning 15 March 1946. At the time of the final audit of this site, the FPHA still owned the 85.644 fee acres. Although it had a total of only 42.487 acres to dispose of, the WAA disposed of a total of 42.533 acres as follows: on 21 November 1947, WAA quitclaimed 0.88 acre to the San Mateo County Missionary Church Extension Society of the Methodist Church. There was no recapture clause in the deed. On 29 September 1948, WAA quitclaimed two parcels containing 5.237 acres and 5.646 acres, respectively, to Sequoia Union High School District, Redwood City, California. There was a recapture clause in the deed. On 29 July 1948, WAA quitclaimed 2.76 acres to the Menlo Park Sanitary District.
 
There was no recapture clause in the deed. On 2 May 1949, WAA quitclaimed 25.21 acres to the City of Menlo Park. There was a recapture clause in the deed. On 19 April 1949,
WAA quitclaimed 0.91 acre and 1.89 acres, respectively, to the City of Menlo Park. There was no recapture clause in the deed.

The site is currently occupied by the following: the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), City of Menlo Park, United States Geological Survey (USGS), West Bay Sanitary District, First
Church of Christ Scientist, California Department of Fish and Game, and several private owners

Updated 3 January 2009


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