FOURTH GENERAL HOSPITAL (Lakeside Unit, WORLD WAR II), staffed primarily by Cleveland-area physicians and nurses, was the first U.S. Armed Forces general hospital unit to go overseas in World War II. Between 12 Jan. 1942 and 15 Aug. 1945, it admitted 46,200 patients. The 4th General had existed on paper since 1933 as a successor to Base Hospital No. 4 (LAKESIDE UNIT, WORLD WAR I), but actual preparations for mobilization only began in 1940. The U.S. surgeon general asked the dean of the School of Medicine of Western Reserve Univ. (WRU, see CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV.) to form a medical unit staffed by faculty members and professional personnel from associated hospitals, and on 24 Dec. 1941, offered the 4th General the opportunity to set up a general hospital overseas. Despite the informal "Lakeside Unit" designation, the unit included private-duty nurses, and physicians and nurses from the WRU medical school, and several Cleveland hospitals in addition to Lakeside (see UNIV. HOSPITALS). Its 54 medical officers were ordered to active duty at Fort Jackson, SC, where the Cleveland unit combined with the old 56th General Hospital to form the new U.S. Army 4th General Hospital, before going on to New York City. The unit's 72 Cleveland-area nurses, plus 48 nurses transferred from military hospitals, were also ordered to New York; the convoy departed on 23 Jan., its destination unknown to the unit's personnel, which included 500 enlisted men. They disembarked in Melbourne, Australia, on 27 Feb. and set up operations in the newly built Royal Melbourne Hospital with a capacity of 1,000 beds (eventually expanded to 2,900). As the Pacific Theater's first American hospital, the 4th General cared for American and Allied troops from Australia and the campaign fronts in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. At first medical cases, especially malaria, outnumbered surgical cases.
The unit was stationed in Melbourne for 2 years, where it admitted more than 35,000 patients and participated in pioneering the army's "portable hospital" concept. Two 25-bed hospitals, each carrying light equipment and designed to be staffed by 4 officers and 25 men, went out in Sept. 1942 to receive casualties on the front lines during the early phases of the Buna (New Guinea) campaign. The 1st Portable Surgical Hospital subsequently took part in the landing at Aitape in June 1944; the second later staffed the hospital ship Tasman. The 4th General Hospital moved to Finschhaven, New Guinea, arriving on 14 Apr. 1944, to a rudimentary 500-bed hospital; the first patients arrived on 23 Apr. Within several months, the hospital had expanded to 2,000 beds, having built tent wards and absorbed the 63d and 126th station hospitals. In New Guinea, the unit tended more surgical cases, as well as medical and psychiatric cases. As more territory was recaptured in the Philippines during 1945, the base at Finschhaven closed; the hospital closed on 23 July 1945. The 4th General was sent north to Manila in anticipation of the invasion of Japan. With Japan's surrender, the unit never actually admitted patients in Manila, and its personnel were transferred to other units or sent back to the U.S.