Factoids—US Naval Station Hospital Saigon

Oral History Highlight Companion to Good Anesthesia in a War Zone

These little-known facts about Station Hospital Saigon were compiled to give you a “snap shot” of this unique Naval unit, including information about its origin, personnel and mission.

  • Was the Navy’s only hospital—from the day it opened—to receive American combat casualties directly from the field.
  • Nurses wore white nurses uniforms and caps with Navy Nurse Corps insignia.
  • Was a renovated five-story apartment house located on downtown Saigon’s busiest street, Tran Hung Dao.
  • Had only 10 doctors on staff, including the senior physician, two general surgeons, an internist, a psychiatrist and five general practitioners.
  • The closest American hospital—at that time—was a field hospital located 200 miles north of Saigon, in Nha Trang.
  • Was commissioned for service on Oct. 1, 1963, after only a few weeks’ of renovation, cleaning and sanitation by the skeleton crew of Navy medical personnel who arrived first in Saigon.
  • Also had a courtyard behind where a one-story, stucco building was quickly constructed to serve as the central supply office, emergency room and operating room.
  • Held 100 beds as an in-patient facility.
  • Was not large enough to house the medical staff—officer and enlisted personnel were quartered in apartments and BOQ facilities in the city of Saigon.
  • Personnel were required to take Chloroquine-Primaquine prophylaxis to prevent the spread of Malaria, which was an epidemic in South Vietnam.
  • Was only in operation as a Navy medical treatment facility for 2 ½ years.
  • Had only seven Navy nurses, including one nurse anesthetist, plus eight Thai nurses on staff.
  • Treated American military dependents until their evacuation in 1965.
  • Also built a “helo” pad at a nearby soccer field, enabling medical personnel to quickly transfer patients to the station hospital.
  • Personnel also included 76 Navy hospital corpsmen and two Navy Medical Service Corps officers.
  • Was not immune to such diseases as infectious hepatitis; and hospital staff were given preventive drug treatments either prior to or upon arrival in country.
  • Was surrounded by a concrete wall topped by wire grenade screens; and armed US military police patrolled the complex 24 hours a day.
  • Employed 40 Vietnamese as drivers, janitors and clerical assistants.
  • Medical personnel provided triage care to stabilize incoming casualties and performed minor surgery.

—Information compiled from
Jan Herman’s Navy Medicine in Vietnam: Passage to Freedom to the Fall of Saigon,
Doris Sterner’s In and Out of Harm’s Way: History of the Navy Nurse Corps, and
Maryanne Ibach’s “Memories of Navy Nursing: The Vietnam Era” at vietnamwomensmemorial.org.

Related Stories
Oral History Highlight—Oral History Highlight—Good Anesthesia in a War Zone
A Few Good Reads—A Short Bibliography on Vietnam and Navy Nursing
Military Women’s Service in Vietnam Article
Era of Conflict, Vietnam War 1964-1975 Women’s Memorial Exhibit
African-American Servicewomen in Vietnam Article
Oral History Highlight Archive

If you are, or know of, a servicewoman, past or present, who wishes to conduct an oral history interview, please contact Robbie Fee at the Women’s Memorial Foundation at oralhistory@womensmemorial.org or call 703-533-1155/800-222-2294.

(August 2014)