Fort Devens Museum

WWII Manual Outlines Services at Lovell General Hospital

January 9, 2004

Second of three parts

By C. David Gordon,
Copyright Nashoba Publications

DEVENS — Lovell General Hospital (LGH) North, South and East encompassed a wide array of support services, as outlined in a World War II era manual for patients that was recently given to the Devens Historical Museum. LGH touted "an efficient fleet of ambulances" with "trained drivers, mechanics, and litter bearers" to transport patients "as quickly as possible, throughout the day or night, with the least possible discomfort," the patient booklet stated.

In addition to the range of medical services, patients could receive physical, occupational, musical, or horticultural therapy. LGH sections had a "modern, well stocked" post exchange, complete with soda fountain, luncheonette, beauty and barber shops, and tailor shop.

Recreation facilities came in many forms. There were the Red Cross recreation halls on base and the USO centers in Ayer and Shirley showed films, hosted parties, and brought in speakers. At LGH, patients could take out "equipment for fishing, tennis and other outdoor activities." LGH North had an outdoor swimming pool and both South and North had outdoor tennis courts. Prepared was "a varied program...offered to bed and ambulatory patients."

For the religious side of a patient, the handbook describes the chapels and chaplains of each major faith that were provided. As for "educational reconditioning," one could choose from 276 Armed Forces Institute courses and credit work from 86 universities and colleges.

Much attention went into orientation of the patient toward reentering civilian life in programs "designed to stimulate you mentally as well as relieve the monotony of your stay here." The patient could obtain information on future jobs and background on current events in the world outside; help as a veteran regarding separation from the service; liaison on any matter between the individual and a branch of the service, help with government insurance; and legal services or advice on personal problems.

The hospital maintained its own radio broadcasting system and published its own newspaper. One responsibility of the hospital's public relations officers was to interview incoming patients and send details of their experiences and whereabouts to hometown newspapers.

To link patients with the outside world, Western Union offices and phone centers were provided. The handbook noted, "Trains leave Ayer for Boston every hour. Buses to Fitchburg leave every hour and to Worcester and Lowell approximately every two hours." Information on obtaining passes and furloughs was also provided. A six-page section of the booklet was devoted to "interesting places near Fort Devens" in Concord and Lexington, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Lowell, and Worcester.

Visitors to hospital patients were required to obtain a pass. The booklet also outlined the requirement that patients wear the uniform of the day and their need to "have a complete uniform, clean, and in good condition, at all times."

The booklet also said, "Smoking in bed creates a fire hazard. Be careful. Keep your eyes open." However, it stated that in no uncertain terms, "drinking and Gambling in the hospital are forbidden."