Ask Us!
University of Washington Libraries

The University's Medical Response

In the Spring of 1917, students at UW organized the University of Washington Ambulance Corps as a volunteer Red Cross Unit, named Ambulance Company 12. It was reorganized into three Sections of the United States Army Ambulance Service.

As the U.S. Entered WWI, Major James B. Eagleson, MD, working with UW President Henry Suzzallo, secured support to organize Red Cross Base Hospital Fifty. On October 25, 1917, Major Eagleson was appointed Director of Red Cross Base Hospital No. 50. Enlistments began in the Cobb Building, in downtown Seattle, on December 1. Of the 150 men who were enrolled, 81 were UW students or alumni. Fundraising efforts were also initiated to pay for equipment needed to operate the hospital, and over $100,000 was raised.

On March 27, 1918, orders to mobilize Base Hospital 50 were received, with all personnel to report immediately to Fort Lawton. By April 6, the unit left for Camp Fremont in California, where they trained and waited for orders to deploy. During this time, the hospital doubled in beds, from 500 to 1000, and additional personnel enrolled.

On July 1st, the Unit was inspected by Brigadier General Joseph Leitch and received orders to deploy to France the next day. After travelling by train to New York, they boarded ship and departed in convoy on July 14th.

Base Hospital 50 arrived near Mesves, France, a large hospital encampment in early August and immediately began preparing for casualties. Busy months followed though morale remained high. Rumors of orders to return to the US started circulating, and on July 20, 1919, all patients were transferred to Base Hospital 54, to which Base Hospital 50 was attached, and Base Hospital 50 ceased to exist.