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Restoring Medical

by Nov 30, 2019

USS Missouri WWII-era Senior Medical Officer, Commander Louis E. Gilge, makes his "rounds" during Missouri’s 1944 shakedown cruise, as Pharmacist's Mate 2/c Frank Mancini stands by. U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

We began the initial survey of potentially viewable, accessible spaces before we even opened Battleship Missouri to the public in January 1999. We worked together to determine potential topics of interest, relevant locations, storylines, interesting and accessible spaces, and workable tour routes. That initial review of spaces and ideas was followed by EPA inspection and remediation, where possible and cost-effective, followed by initial restoration/presentation projects associated with designated routes and viewable compartments, working hard to make them presentation ready. That effort involved our carefully considered decision to focus our restoration efforts on the potentially achievable objective of returning the ship to her 1991 configuration, specifically, as she existed during “Operation remembrance”, the 50th anniversary commemoration of the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor.

The effort to achieve authentic restoration to presentation standards for all viewable spaces throughout the ship, was a combined effort involving multiple UMMA departments, former Missouri crewmembers, Navy and NISMO personnel, (the mothball fleet across the harbor), a host of civilian individual and group volunteers, and very special community supporters and contributors.

Restoration of Medical was recognized early on as having considerable potential for bringing the ship to life. It was recognized that the majority of our civilian visitors would not be able to adequately relate to life aboard a battleship. But everyone goes to the doctor and the dentist, just as everyone sits down to meals and sleeps when the opportunity arises. If we could restore Medical accurately and make it available to our visitors, we considered, they would gain a clearer understanding of life aboard. It would be something relevant to their own experience.

The challenge of creating a safe visitor access route to Medical was a challenge. Pending those and other issues, the initial effort to acquire available medical equipment and materials was initially given the green light.

Former Tour Guide Danny Tengan, while working at the Diamond Head Civil Defense facility, became aware of a substantial collection of unused, obsolete medical supplies and equipment, stored in a secured storage cave on the exterior of Diamond Head. Due to his initiative, these materials were made available to us for potential use in our Medical spaces restoration project and for display use at other medical-related areas aboard.

Other medical supplies and equipment were acquired from other sources during the years that followed along with offers to provide voluntary support for the restoration project from a number of individual and group volunteers.

Consultation with former Missouri medical personnel added immeasurably to our understanding of the facility and how it was operated. After EPA inspection and remediation was completed, we began locating, acquiring and installing missing exam tables, cabinetry, lighting, bedding, medical equipment, even bedpans.

Our dedicated Volunteer Coordinator, Keven Williamson organized volunteer groups, while our always able and willing Engineering team provided the necessary technical and safety-related expertise needed to ensure the project moved forward appropriately.

Although the final presentation goal and visitor access was not achievable due to broader safety issues, the community support behind this restoration effort was gratifying for all concerned, and provided our team with a clearer insight and understanding of our historic preservation goals, objectives, requirements and obligations.

The following images are provided to offer you a virtual walk-thru of those medical spaces as they appeared during the early days of the restoration effort.

A crewmember is tended to by Missouri’s medical personnel during the battleship’s modern era.

Missouri’s Medical Spaces are located on the Third Deck, alongside and forward of the Turret #2 barbette, in view to the left of the passageway in view. In view to the right are two doors. The first gives access to the equipment Calibration Lab, followed by the Medical Records Room.

View of the entry door into the Calibration Lab, showing the decorative metalwork created by lab personnel.

Interior view of the Calibration Lab. Note the orange reflective taped arrow on the deck. Those arrows existing in every space, along every passageway throughout the ship during her mothball period, providing reference for personnel periodically working aboard, directing them to the single weatherdeck door, formerly painted red, and still referred to today by some of the older timers among us, as “the Red Door”.

Crewmembers coming to Sick Bay, would first go the service window in view adjacent to the Medical Records Room door. There they would be given their medal records folder and then proceed through the doorway in view at the end of this P-way, leading to the exterior lobby of the main Medical Facility. There a Hospital Corpsman would be waiting at a table to take their weight, height, blood pressure, as needed.

A view inside the Medical Records Room, showing shelving where crewmember’s medical folders were stored. The stainless steel service window counter is barely visible to right.

Adjacent to the Medical Records Room, just prior to entering the main Medical Facility lobby area, you pass the Clinical Lab where blood samples are tested. From here, crewmembers would step through the opened doorway in view straight ahead into the lobby area

Interior views of the Clinical Lab, showing medical manuals and lab equipment acquired from the Diamond Head storage cave and other sources.

The step and opened doorway to the right, leads to the P-way you have just left. You are looking starboard, the opened doorway and darkened space straight ahead leads to the medical supply storage lockers. Located in the open space adjacent to that entry, is where the Hospital Corpsman would be waiting at a table, to take a crewmembers vitals.

This is view of the medical supplies storage lockers, as it looked during the modern era.

This is view of the medical storage lockers as it looks today.

As you stepped through the doorway from the passageway leading to Medical, this is the view you would see looking straight ahead. The room to the right is the Surgical Dressing Room, used also as the initial exam room. The room to the left is the Operating Room.

This is a view from the entry lobby area after entering from the passageway. You are looking to Port. The entry door to the right leads into the Medical Facility Ward. The small service window visible just past that entry door, is the exterior service window for the Pharmacy. If, a crewmember’s complaint requires only an aspirin or other medicine, he might be directed from the vitals table to the pharmacy window for a prescription.

This is view into the Surgical Dressing Room, with the X-Ray room beyond. NOTE; the rectangular frame on the deck. That is where an exam table was installed. One was later located aboard on of the mothballed ships at the NISMO facility, retrieved, transported, brought aboard and installed, along with other medical equipment similarly acquired.

This provides view of the X-Ray room, looking back toward the Surgical Dressing/Exam Room, with entry lobby beyond. The X-Ray table and unit was one of the few equipment features that remained aboard. Note the crew artwork on the joiner door, and the radiation symbol.

Another view of X-Ray table and unit. The control unit is located behind a lead wall barely visible to the extreme left (bottom); the darkened doorway partially in view leads to the X-ray film storage locker.

This is the Dark Room where exposed X-Ray film was processed. Note the access cabinet to the right with separated light boxes marked “unexposed” and “exposed”. There are corresponding access doors to the cabinets from the X-Ray room.

This is a view of the Medical Facility Operating Room, with the facility Ward in view beyond. The bracket on the deck indicates location of the operating table. A second exam table was acquired and installed pending location and acquisition of a 1990’s vintage operating table. The medical cabinet and table, as well as overhead operating lights were located and retrieved from mothballed ships at the NISMO facility.

This image provides view in the facility Ward, with view of the two beds reserved for patients recovering from surgery. The Ward desk if in view to the left, and the darkened doorway partially in view further left, leads into the Ward bath/head. Mattresses in view and those in place in the general ward were acquired various Navy ships. Medical curtains and a variety of medical equipment were later acquired from a variety of sources. Again, note the orange reflective safety arrow on the deck, providing direction out of the ship should lights go out.

This is the interior of the Pharmacy. In view in the opened cabinet are medicine bottles, among items acquired for display from the Diamond Head storage cave.

Interior view of the Pharmacy service window, opening to the medical facility lobby area.

The Pharmacy service window viewed from the medical facility entry lobby area.

View of the Medical Ward, with medical records cabinet to the left, double-deck sleeping racks beyond, and a weight scale, mattresses, pillows and bedding acquired from various ships and other sources.

View from the Medical Ward into the Ward bath/head. Note intact tiled deck. The small opened door to the right secures the bedpan storage locker.

View into the Ward bath/head

View of the Ward bath/head bedpan storage cabinet and whirlpool rehab tub.

Toward the back of the Ward bath/head is this odd sink and bulkhead racks. After considerable research the sink was identified as used for washing bedpans and portable urinals; the racks for drying same.

View from the Ward bath/head looking back into the Ward berthing area.

Another view of the two Ward beds reserved for post-op care.

After exiting the Medical facility, you reenter the lobby area and proceed to port around the Turret #2 barbette. Here you are looking aft, the barbette on your left, the opened doorway in view ahead leading to the Medical Facility Isolation Ward. This ward was little used for its intended purpose during the modern era, and was utilized instead as a secondary medical office space.

View inside the Isolation Ward with Ward bath/head to the right through the darkened doorway, the exterior P-way in view straight ahead.

Continuing aft along the P-way, Turret #2 barbette on the left, the opened doorway just ahead gives access the Medical Officer’s exam room/office.


View from within the Medical Officer’s exam room/office, exam table in foreground.

Medical Officer’s exam table – existing, original equipment.

Continuing along the P-way around the aft side of the Turret #2 barbette, departing the Medical spaces, heading back towards Broadway.

Looking aft toward Broadway. The lighted doorway up ahead to the right, leads to the ladder up to the second deck. That ladder was the primary access route for crewmembers coming to sickbay.