The view remains the same
By Cpl. Jared Plotts
| | November 27, 2007
U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES PACIFIC, CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii --
Before Camp Smith was home to Marine Forces Pacific, it housed thousands of injured service members during the 1940s, the majority of them coming from the famous battle for Iwo Jima.
In 1941, Congress approved the construction of the Aiea Naval Hospital, which is now known as Camp Smith.
Honolulu resident C.W. Dickey was selected to design the hospital, and midway through construction Pearl Harbor was attacked forcing completion of the hospital sooner than expected.
According to www.anglicoassociation.org, a very accomplished group of famous medical officers helped make up the staff. The medical officer in command, Captain Joseph A. McMillen, realized the potential of this unique suite of men, and provided full support in aiding their research and development, especially in the blast and concussion fields, two very common injuries at the time.
By 1943, the hospital was well renowned for the work of its medical staff, and became the pivotal treatment stop for service members on their way home from the Pacific.
During that year former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Ralph Bard, Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time, and even Joe Cronin of baseball's Boston Red Sox were among the many visitors the hospital received.
Aiea Naval Hospital was vital during the amphibious assaults of the Gilbert, Marshall and Mariana Islands. More than 1,300 patients were admitted from the battle of Tarawa in 1944. Soon the hospital had to quickly expand to accommodate the large mass of patients. The medical staff increased and temporary wards were constructed in order to properly aid more than 5,000 patients.
The medical staff's biggest challenge came May 21, 1944 when disaster struck, as a chain reaction of explosions destroyed ships docked and tied together at the West Loch ordnance facility at Pearl Harbor. More than 160 Marines and sailors lost their lives and 396 were injured from the West Loch disaster.
The hospital's staff continued to grow along with its popularity. International entertainers and dignitaries soon made the hospital a popular place to visit showing support for troops and boosting their morale.
By the end of 1945, demobilization had begun and before long just a few hundred patients remained. On June 1, 1949, the hospital was deactivated when Army and Navy medical facilities on the island consolidated to become Tripler Army Medical Center.
The territory of Hawaii began negotiations to obtain the Aiea facility for a tuberculosis sanitarium, but by 1955, the Marine Corps decided the site would become the home of the Fleet Marine Force Pacific. It was named in honor of the forces first commanding general. Today, Camp H. M. Smith is home to Marine Forces Pacific.