Stebbings, Fan of WWII 65th Hospital, Receives Duke Award
DURHAM, N.C. -- George L. Stebbings of Diss, Suffolk, has been named an honorary alumnus of the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A. Stebbings was honored for his long-time role as regional authority and historian of the famed 65th General Hospital, a Duke-affiliated medical unit stationed near Botesdale from 1944 to 1945.
Stebbings was 14 when the 65th was transferred to the hospital site in Redgrave Park to serve the fighting men of the 8th Air Force. Like many schoolboys and adults of his time, he became fascinated with the nearby airfields and activities of the military hospital. He came to know the doctors, nurses, patients and enlisted men well and earned the nickname "Little Patches."
When the unit was decommissioned and returned to the United States at war's end, Stebbings determined to keep its memory and service to British and U.S. forces alive. He gave lectures, complete with his own illustrations, on the work of the hospital and its origin at Duke University Medical Center, and he served as a guide for former patients and hospital personnel when they returned to visit the site.
In 1992 and 1995, Stebbings organized ceremonies in honor of the 65th. A granite historical marker and a live oak tree were dedicated and installed on the hospital site. He also helped establish a replica of a 65th General Hospital room at the World War II Museum in Bury St. Edmonds.
"Duke and its 65th Hospital are alive and well in England," said Kathleen G. Smith, who served as a nurse with the unit. "Mr. Stebbings is truly appreciative, along with the British people, for the support the United States gave to England during World War II."
Ralph Snyderman, M.D., chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System, said Duke shares Stebbings' deep appreciation of the 65th.
"Our Duke doctors and nurses were steadfast and highly skilled under the most difficult circumstances," said Snyderman. "Their heroic efforts helped thousands of courageous British and American soldiers return home safe to their families. Mr. Stebbings' efforts will keep the memory of the 65th and its personnel alive for future generations. We are deeply grateful to him."
Duke University Medical Center recently honored the 65th with the dedication of a life-size bronze sculpture near the entrance of the Duke University Clinics. The sculpture features a nurse caring for a wounded soldier and a physician beckoning to a corpsman, who carries an IV bottle.
During 22 months overseas, the 65th treated 17,250 bed patients and more than 30,000 outpatients. Most of the injuries were severe -- caused by anti-aircraft fire, exploding shells and bullets from German fighter planes and exposure to minus 60-degree in-flight temperatures. The hospital's mortality rate was a low 0.4 percent. The unit was commended by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gen. Carl Spaatz, Commander of the 8th Air Force, as well as the surgeons general of both the U.S. Army and Air Force.
Duke University Medical Center is one of the United States' top-rated health care systems, and its medical school is ranked fifth, according to U.S. News and World Report. The hospital and medical school were founded in 1930. The 65th Hospital was formed in 1942 at the urging of founding medical dean Wilburt Cornell Davison, M.D., a veteran of World War I.
Nearly half of the Duke Hospital faculty, as well as 30 percent of the physicians in Durham County, North Carolina, where Duke is located, volunteered for active duty. All of the able-bodied medical students were in the Army-Navy Specialized Training Program, and most of the student nurses were in the Cadet Nurse Corps. A skeleton crew of remaining faculty, including Dean Davison and his wife, Atala, were left to carry out the work of the hospital and medical school.