The Chicago Herald, Thursday, May 17, 1917


Base Hospital No. 12 Leaves for Eastern Port,

Bound for the Front

Bound for “somewhere in France,” its exact destination unknown even to its commanding officer, Chicago’s first army unit--base hospital No. 12--left last night for an eastern port.  It will embark for Europe within ten days.

Tears, laughter and a shouted chorus of good-bys marked the departure of the special train.  There was no music and no public demonstration of any kind.  The train’s route, time of departure and expected arrival are withheld by the Herald at the request of Dr. Frederic A. Besley, director of the unit.

The personnel of the unit comprise 247 persons, of whom twenty-four are physicians, sixty-five trained nurses, two dentists and 153 enlisted men*.  Seventy-five per cent of the enlisted men are college students, about one-third being from Northwestern University.

Just before the train departed Dr. Besley secured long-distance telephonic communication with his mother, Mrs. W. B. Besley, at San Diego, Cal.  Her answer to her son’s announcement that he was leaving for Europe was:

“I’m awfully sorry, Fred, that you’re going, but I’d be sorrier still if you weren’t.”

Major C. C. Collins and Captain A. E. Magee of the U. S. Army are in military charge of the unit.  Captain John A. Porter, U.S.A., will act as quartermaster.


*There are discrepancies from one source to another, even in “official” rosters, as to the number and distribution of BH 12 personnel.  Beginning and ending rosters are included in the appendix.  In addition to Regular Army Major Collins and Captains Magee and Porter, there was a cadre of five regular Army sergeants whose task it would be to provide basic training in military matters for the unit, especially the 150 or so privates.  Within a few months, several of the doctors had been promoted from their original commissions, 9 of the privates had been promoted to sergeant first class, 16 to sergeant, 9 to corporal and 45 to private first class.  By the time they returned to Chicago in 1919, many more had been promoted in both officer and enlisted ranks.