Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Torney General Hospital
Torney General Hospital came into being
during the summer of 1942 when the Army purchased the El Mirador
Hotel in Palm Springs and converted it into a 1600-bed general
hospital. During the war Torney specialized in general medicine,
rheumatic fever and general and orthopedic surgery. During the
summer of 1943 the Army transferred the hospital to the Army
Air Forces. About 250 prisoners of war worked at the hospital.
In November 1945 the facility was turned over to the Federal
US Army Corps
of Engineers Los Angeles District History (1994)
Location: The site is located in developed sections of Palm
Springs, California. The site's hospital area, enlisted men detachment,
prisoner of war area, and WAC detachment area are located within
Sections 10 and 11 of Township 4 South, Range 4 East (San Bernardino
Meridian). These site areas are bordered by the following Palm
Springs streets: Paseo El Mirador to the north, Avenida De Los
Caballeros to the east, Alejo Road to the south, and Indian Canyon
Drive to the west. The site's sewage treatment plant is located
within Section 19 of Township 4 South, Range 5 East (San Bernardino
Meridian) near Mesquite Avenue.
Site History: The 139.247-acre
site was used as an Army hospital during World War ll. The main
hospital areas were located within tracts 1, 2, B-1, and 3-d.
The El Mirador Hotel was owned by the Palm Springs Holding Corporation
prior to military occupation (tracts 1, 27.66 acres, and B-1,
0.17 acres). The hotel included serviceable buildings and appurtenances
which served as the main hospital. The area contained several
civilian housing units and hospital personnel quarters, two clubs,
library, theater, chapel, hospital wards, recreational areas
and buildings, administration buildings, shops and warehouses,
laundry/linen buildings, post office/bank, surgery building,
sentry boxes, garbage house, boiler and pump houses, fIltering
plant, grease trap, and three heating oil tanks (6,000 gallon,
6,500 gallon, and 12,500 gallon). These tracts currently contain
the Desert Hospital and the Desert Medical Plaza.
The War Department also acquired certain
shares in the Whitewater Water Company and the reservoir located
approximately 1.5 miles north of tract 1 (tract A-I, 0.21 acres).
According to correspondence contained in the project file, the
right of way for the pipeline between the reservoir and the El
Mirador Hotel was not acquired.
Tract 2 (40.10 acres) was desert land at the time of military
acquisition. Military improvements included 36 hospital wards,
warehouses, bakery, firehouse, sentry box, mess halls, recreation
buildings, commissary, laundry building, office and therapy buildings,
a garage including gasoline station/ pump and grease rack, incinerator,
boiler and pump houses, and eight heating oil tanks (550-gallon,
(2) 3,000-gallon, (2) 6,000-gallon, (2) 12,000-gallon, and one
tank of unknown capacity). This tract currently contains a school,
a pre-school, a city park, a section of undeveloped land, and
other recreational buildings.
Tract 3-d (5.00 acres) was vacant land adjoining tracts 1 and
2 at the time of military acquisition. Military improvements
included a guardhouse, morgue, pump house, surgery and x-ray
buildings, laboratory, outpatient depot, and five clinics. This
tract currently contains the Las Plamas Medical Plaza.
Tracts C-l through C-7 (19.91 acres) were acquired by the military
for construction of an enlisted men detachment and prisoner of
war area. Military improvements included 22 barracks, administration,
recreational, and therapy buildings, lavatory, bath house, mess
halls, chapel/school, day rooms, post exchange, prisoner of war
stockade, and five heating oil tanks (330-gallon, (2) 550-gallon,
1,500-gallon, and 2,500-gallon). These tracts are currently developed
Tracts C-8 through C-lO (2.617 acres) were acquired by the military
for construction of a WAC detachment area. Military improvements
included two barracks and an administration building. The western
portion (C-lO) of these tracts is currently developed residentially.
Concrete foundations for one of the barracks (building #304)
and the administration building (#305) still exist.
Tract I-A (39.08 acres) was desert land at the time of military
acquisition. Military improvements included the construction
of a sewage treatment plant containing a storage building, screen
chamber, pump house, primary clarifier, measuring flume, digester,
gas burner, and sludge beds. The sewage treatment plant and sewage
line right of way easements were transferred to the Palm
Springs Army Air Field in March 1946. This tract currently
contains a city park with tennis courts and borders the City
of Palm Springs Wastewater Treatment facility.
With the exceptions noted above (portion of tract 2 and portions
of tracts C-8 and C-9), all areas of the site have been developed
for a variety of beneficial uses. The sewage treatment plant
was dismantled and replaced with the current city wastewater
treatment facility around 1960.
All roadways on which sewer line right-of-ways were obtained
by the Department of Defense are contained within paved streets,
including Ramon Road, El Cielo Road, Alejo Road, Avenida De Los
Caballeros, and Tamarisk Road.
Review of the Riverside County Assessor's records confirmed that
the site is owned by several private companies and individuals
or local governments. The undeveloped areas in tracts C-8 and
C-9 containing the barracks and administration building concrete
foundations are currently owned by Jet Air, Inc. of San Diego,
Tract 2 located between Tachevah Drive, Avenida De Los Caballeros,
Tamarisk Road, and to the school, a Girl Scout building, a Campfire
Girls building with associated campfire ring, a preschool, and
the Ruth Hardy Park. The undeveloped area located at the northwestern
corner of the tract, contained a two-by-three foot concrete pad
that has a vent/valve sticking out through the top. This tract
was used for hospital wards during military occupation.
Tracts C-I through C-7 located between Tamarisk Drive and Alejo
Road along Avenida De Los Caballeros are all developed residentially.
Tracts C-8 through C-lO were located on Tachevah Drive between
A venida De Los Caballeros and Via Miraleste. These areas included
barracks and an administration building. Remnants of the concrete
foundations for the administration building (# 305) and one of
the barracks (#304) were identified during the site visit. No
evidence of vents around the perimeters of the foundations were
observed. This area was bordered by trees and brush to the north,
south, and west and by Asher Street to the east.
Tract I-A that contained the former sewage treatment plant is
currently part of Demuth Park containing tennis courts and other
recreational facilities. The current Palm Springs Wastewater
Treatment Facility is located on Mesquite Avenue adjacent to
Henry Torney (June 1, 1850 - Dec. 27,1913), Surgeon General, January
14, 1909 - December 27, 1913, was born in Baltimore, Maryland,
the son of John P. and Mary M. (Peacock) Torney. He received his
preliminary education at Carroll College, New Windsor, Maryland,
which he attended from 1862 to 1867, following which he took the
course in medicine at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville
where he was given his degree of M.D. on June 30, 1870.
After an internship at the Bay View Hospital
in Baltimore he entered the Navy as an assistant surgeon on November
1, 1871. He was promoted to passed assistant surgeon on December
18, 1874, but on account of intractable seasickness he resigned
his commission on June 30, 1875. The following day, July 1, 1875,
he accepted appointment as a first lieutenant and assistant surgeon
in the medical department of the army. Then followed years of
highly useful though relatively uneventful service in various
army posts. Upon appointment he was ordered to Fort Wood in New
York harbor, from whence he sailed in November 1875 with a battalion
of the 5th Artillery to Key West Barracks, Florida. He served
at Fort Canby in Florida until May 1877 when he was transferred
to Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory. In September 1878 he went
to Fort Wingate, New Mexico, and in December 1880 to Fort Lyon,
Colorado, where he remained for the following four years. In this
service in the southwest he saw the usual amount of field service
against hostile Indians that fell to the lot of all medical officers
serving in that section during those troublesome times.
In April 1885 he was brought east to Fortress
Monroe, Virginia, where he served for the next four years, after
which he had four years of service at Fort Brown, Texas, near
the mouth of the Rio Grande. He had been promoted to Captain on
July 1, 1880, and in September 1893 he was ordered to Philadelphia
as attending surgeon and to prepare him for his examination for
the grade of major.
He was promoted to major on June 6, 1894,
and in the following month was detailed for duty as surgeon at
the United States Military Academy at West Point. He remained
there until the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, when in
May 1898 he was ordered to equip and command the hospital ship
Relief. He served in this capacity, transporting sick and wounded
from Cuba and Porto Rico to the United States, until the end of
In October 1898 he was sent to Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas, and detailed as instructor in hygiene in the general service
schools. After one year of this duty be was transferred to the
command of the Army and Navy General Hospital at Hot Springs,
Arkansas, where he remained until November 1902. From this duty
he was transferred to Manila, P. I., and assigned to the command
of the First Reserve Hospital.
In July of the following year he was transferred,
seriously ill, to the general hospital at the Presidio of San
Francisco. In November he was sufficiently recovered to be assigned
to the duty of chief surgeon of the Department of California.
After four months of this duty he was sent back to the Presidio
as commanding officer of the general hospital. He held this position
from March 1904 until December 1908. It was during this period,
on April 18, 1906, that the great earthquake and fire occurred
in San Francisco. The army was active in the police and rescue
work following the disaster and the Presidio hospital was taxed
to the limit. Lieut. Colonel Torney was placed in charge of the
sanitary work of the stricken city and acquitted himself notably
well in the face of the greatest difficulties. The brilliant record
that he made as an administrator and sanitarian during these trying
days made him the popular hero of the city and assisted materially
to give him the office of Surgeon General when it became vacant.
From November 1907 to November 1908 he filled the dual role of
chief surgeon of the Department of California and commanding officer
of the general hospital which was later designated Letterman General
Hospital in War Dep't. General Orders, No. 152, November 23, 1911.
In the meantime he had been advanced to the grade of lieutenant
colonel and deputy surgeon general on August 6, 1903, and to colonel
of the medical corps on April 23, 1908.
With the retirement of General O'Reilly
in January 1909 the strength of San Francisco's gratitude was
sufficient to give Colonel Torney the vacated place, though the
list of officers senior to him included such potent names as those
of Colonels Gorgas, Havard, and Hoff.
General Torney began his career as Surgeon
General on January 14, 1909. He retained as his office assistants
much of the same group that General O'Reilly had assembled and
continued to advocate the policies laid down by his predecessor.
The reserves of officers, nurses, and supplies were built up,
and the Walter Reed General Hospital was opened in May 1909 following
the announcement in War Dep't. General Orders, No. 70, April 14,
1909, and the discontinuance of the hospital at Washington Barracks.
Immunization against typhoid fever was pushed to universal use
in the army in 1911, and the use of venereal prophylaxis extended.
The Army Medical School was built up, department laboratories
established, and sanitary measures improved. An act of Congress
approved March 3, 1911 (36 Stat. 1054), created the Dental Corps
as part of the medical department. It was a time of activity in
the tactical training of medical personnel with the beginning
of the instruction of medical officers in field work and medical
tactics at the Fort Leavenworth schools and with added importance
given to military hygiene in the service schools. The mobilization
of a maneuver division in Texas gave the medical department an
opportunity to test for the first time the worth of their field
hospitals and ambulance companies and the efficiency of the regimental
sanitary equipment. It gave also a practical test of the efficacy
of the typhoid prophylaxis. In the Philippines the work of the
medical research board was fruitful in the practical elimination
of beri-beri from the native troops. General Torney's term of
four years ended with a brilliant record of achievement in January
1913 and he was immediately reappointed on January 14.
His second term had advanced less than a
year when on December 27, 1913, he died of broncho-pneumonia at
his residence in Washington after an illness of some weeks duration.
He was within about six months of his retirement for age.
General Torney was a member of the American
Medical Association and of the Association of Military Surgeons
and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He was elected
president of the Association of Military Surgeons at its Milwaukee
meeting in 1911. He was the Chairman of the War Relief Committee
of the American National Red Cross.
He was married on January 22, 1872, to Mary
A. Johnston of Baltimore. She survived him together with one daughter
and four sons. One son followed his father's bent in the study
of medicine and another followed him in a military career as an
Sources: Who's Who in America, 1912-13;
Mil. Surgeon, Feb. 1909; Ibid., Feb. 1914; Boston M. and S. J.,
1914, p.71; J. A. M. A., 1914, p.52; N. York, M. J., 1914, p.
32; N. Y. Med. Times, 1914, p. 121; P. M. Ashburn, History of
the Medical Department of the U. S. Army (1929); Records of the
Office of The Surgeon General.
Extracted from "Chiefs
of the Medical Department, U.S. Army 1775-1940, Biographical Sketches,"
Army Medical Bulletin, No. 52, April 1940, pp. 84-87, compiled
by James M. Phalen, Colonel, Medical Corps, U.S. Army retired
War Camp / Prisoner of War Branch Camp
A camp that had a capacity of 244 Italian
and later German prisoners of war who were employed at the hospital.
On 1 March 1946, the camp became a branch of Camp Haan's prisoner
of war camp.
Site and Real
War Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities,
Torney General Hospital
Normal Bed Capacity:
Permanent Buildings: 493
Temporary Buildings: 1,416
Theater of Operations Buildings: 852
acres (2 leases)
Cost to Government Since 1 July 1940:
Annual lease payments: $254.00
Total (less annual leases): $5,607,320.00
surplus 20 November 1945.
Assigned to Torney General Hospital
of the United States Station List
Army Service Forces
22 General Hospital
737th and 742nd Sanitation Companes
1976th Service Command Unit
of the United States Station List
Army Service Forces
1976th Service Command Unit
Detachment (Prisoner of War
Branch Camp), 1967th Service Command Unit (Camp Haan)
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