Trial Mobilization

Based on Dr. Crile’s experience at the American Ambulance, he formulated the “Hospital Unit Plan of Organization of the Medical Reserve Corps of the U.S. Army” to serve as the model for US base hospitals.  In March of 1916, Lakeside Hospital signed an agreement with the Red Cross to assemble and maintain medical personnel sufficient to staff a 500 bed Army base hospital.  The Cleveland Chapter of the Red Cross issued an appeal for funds and began recruitment to staff the base hospital.  During the summer of 1916,  the  surgeons received commissions in the Army medical corps and nurses were enrolled in the Red Cross.  By July, a muster roll was sent to Colonel Kean and Surgeon General Gorgas.   Crile had hoped that the Lakeside Unit might be designated as No. 1, but a delay raising funds earned the Unit the designation of US Army base hospital No. 4.

The only way to determine the practicality of Crile’s plan was to stage a trial mobilization.  The National Committee on Red Cross Medical Service asked the American Red Cross to mobilize one of the units at the time of the 17th Congress of the American College of Surgeons in Philadelphia.   Dr. George Brewer was asked to mobilize his Presbyterian Hospital Unit, but the hospital could not spare the personnel at that time.   Kean wired Crile, asking if the Lakeside Unit would be available.  Crile assured Kean that the Unit could be ready and less than three weeks later 16 medical officers, 25 nurses and 25 administrative personnel arrived in Philadelphia.

The mobilization took place in Fairmount Park on October 27-29, 1916.  A detachment of the US Medical Department  erected tents, while the Red Cross brought in surgical equipment  from the Bush Terminal in Brooklyn.  Treatment of mock wounded and ill soldiers began immediately and full records were kept.  This trial and error mobilization uncovered  defects and  unexpected needs, especially in regards to operating room equipment.  Experienced medical personnel, surgeons and the Red Cross critiqued and inspected the trial mobilization and recommendations were made to improve the efficiency of the base hospital.

This led to the establishment of the Committee on Standardization of Medical and Surgical Supplies and Equipment, designed to consult with the Surgeon General on the requirements of base hospitals in wartime.   Members of the committee, including Drs. Harvey Cushing, John Finney, Will Mayo, George Brewer and George Crile, examined surgical instruments available at the Surgeon General’s office and found outdated, obsolete instruments.  The committee recommended that stocks of state of the art medical supplies and instruments be assembled, sufficient for at least six months, and that it be done immediately.  These suggestions greatly accelerated  medical preparedness.  When the US entered WWI,  base hospitals were prepared and sufficiently equipped  to be shipped overseas to France.