A military hospital in Brigham City helped wounded soldiers and transformed the community during World War II.
By August 1942, the United States had been involved in World War II for eight months. As British forces halted German and Italian advances in North Africa, the Bushnell General Military Hospital opened its doors in the northern Utah town of Brigham City. The hospital changed the town forever.
Built on the south end of Brigham City, the Bushnell Hospital promised much-needed employment. Downtown business thrived with the influx of visitors and recovering soldiers. It also meant that Brigham City residents came face to face with people whose backgrounds differed from their own, particularly the German and Italian prisoners-of-war who came to work at the hospital.
From August 1942 to its closure in June 1946, Bushnell Hospital served wounded soldiers from the Intermountain West, as well as from further afield. Wallace Doi, for example, was originally from Hawaii and served in the all Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regiment. Wounded in Italy, Doi and others from his regiment spent time recovering at Bushnell Hospital. Unfortunately, doctors were unable to save Doi’s leg. Along with amputations, specialists treated tropical diseases, as well as more serious neuro-psychiatric disorders. In 1943, Bushnell became the first military hospital to regularly use penicillin, which may explain its unusually low death rate.
Volunteers from Brigham City and surrounding communities spent time helping to care for patients and boosting their morale. Celebrities often passed through the northern Utah town for the same purpose. In December 1944, Helen Keller visited the facility. Keller had lost her sight and hearing shortly after birth. Her visit inspired soldiers, showing them that their lives could have meaning and purpose in spite of their physical and emotional challenges.
Efforts were made to keep Bushnell Hospital open after the war, but the U.S. military finally closed it to build a new Veterans’ Administration hospital in Salt Lake City.
See Andrea Kaye Carter, “Bushnell General Military Hospital and the Community of Brigham City, Utah During World War II.” MS thesis, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, 2008, iii, 1, 22-24, 105, 60, 110-112; Information on Wallace Doi from Lorrain Crouse, Marriott Library Special Collections, University of Utah, Salt Lake City Utah; See also the finding aid on the Wallace Doi Photograph Collection, Marriott Library Special Collections.