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Historical Society Erecting Marker Celebrating Army Hospital

On October 27, a dedication ceremony will be held at Valley Forge Christian College.

On October 27 the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission together with the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area (HSPA) and the Valley Forge Christian College (VFCC) are dedicating a state roadside marker recognizing the contributions of the Valley Forge General Hospital, better known around Phoenixville as the ‘Army Hospital’.

HSPA members Susan Marshall, Ryan Conroy, and Paul Kusko formed a committee with VFCC staff members, Julia Patton, Michelle Maloney, and Malcolm Brubaker to plan the Dedication Ceremony for the historical marker. The marker will be located on the property of the Christian College on Charlestown Road across the street from Bob’s Haven Deli. The ceremony is planned for Saturday, October 27 at the Valley Forge Christian College (1401 Charlestown Rd). Among the events planned for the day are:

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Vintage Military Vehicles

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Military Reenactors

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Hospital Memorabilia Display

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Oral History Booth for Collecting Hospital Memories

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Photo Booth

11 a.m. to 12 p.m.: Official Dedication Ceremony and Unveiling of the Historical Marker

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Then & Now Campus Walking Tours

12 p.m.: Screening of ‘Bright Victory’ - The 1951 Movie Filmed at VFGH.

2 p.m.: Screening of ‘Bright Victory’ - The 1951 Movie Filmed at VFGH.

4 p.m.: Screening of ‘You’d Have to be Blind not to See it’. Documentary produced by Dr. Dan Mortensen

The Official Dedication Ceremony begins at 11 a.m. Please join us on October 27 for a day of history and fun. 

A Little History:

Built by the Army Medical Department in anticipation of war casualties during World War II, the entire Valley Forge General Hospital was constructed from farm field to working hospital in just 12 months’ time and became the second largest Army Hospital (to Walter Reed) East of the Mississippi.  Valley Forge General Hospital was an enduring part of the Phoenixville area and economy for 30 years and many of its personnel stayed to grow the medical service industry that we enjoy today. It served the medical and rehabilitation needs of soldiers injured in three wars.

As memory of the Army Hospital fades, it is fitting to remind readers of the noteworthy medical developments pioneered there that continue in use today. In the area of plastic surgery, the refinement of skin grafting in the treatment of burn victims was established by such renowned doctors as Dr. James Barret Brown and Dr. Bradford Cannon. Dr. Joseph E. Murray, a young doctor in the plastic surgery unit was later awarded the 1990 Nobel Prize in medicine for his continuing contributions to organ transplantation. In the field of Orientation and Mobility, Drs. Richard Hoover and C. Warren Bledsoe developed the long cane foot travel system as well as a training program for instructors for the blind. Within six months Drs. Milton K. Wirtz, Victor Deitz, and Stanley F. Erpf perfected a technique for creating plastic eyes and developed an instruction program for training technicians. For the first time glass was replaced by plastic as eye prosthesis.

The story of the hospital doesn’t end with its military and medical accomplishments. The true story of Valley Forge Army Hospital lies with the individuals who were patients, military, civilian employees, volunteers, and families who took the wounded into their homes. Several visitors to the Historical Society tell of meeting and falling in love at the hospital. Others tell of bringing soldiers into their homes for rehabilitation. Former patients often recount with fondness the doctors who healed their injuries and helped them adapt to their future lives.

Oral histories will be collected at the Dedication Ceremony event and stored at the Historical Society.  Anyone with a story about the hospital is encouraged to participate. Oral histories of war veterans will be submitted to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, and stored as well at the Historical Society. 

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