University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Captain John L. Guerrant, M.D., Medical Ward Officer and Clinical Laboratory Director

John L. Guerrant | Hubert B. Holsinger | Alice M. Huffman | Frank L. Lowther | Randal Luscombe | Dorothy Sandridge | Melvin C. Shaffer | William P. Snavely | Beverley D. Tucker | Frances E. Wells | 8th EVAC home

Dr. John L. Guerrant

Dr. John L. Guerrant

John L. Guerrant was born in Callaway, Virginia, in December 1910. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in 1933 and from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 1937. He was a research fellow and resident physician at the University before he left to serve as a medical doctor with the 8th Evac where he was a medical ward officer and Director of the Clinical Laboratory. After the war, in 1945, he married Laura Bailey.  He rose in rank to become Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Chief of the Pulmonary Allergy Division, and founder of the Pulmonary Function Laboratory. He semi-retired in 1976 and was chair of the Professional Review Organization of the Medical Society of Virginia. Although retired, Dr. Guerrant often attended lectures and Grand Rounds at the University of Virginia Medical Center and frequently visited the Health Sciences Library. He was instrumental in helping collect and preserve the history of the 8th Evac. His wife died in 2006, and he died in February 2012 in Charlottesville at age 101.

You asked for personal comments on the 8th Evacuation Hospital, commonly called the 8th Evac. I was fortunate that I could serve my World War II duty as a member of the 8th Evac. We started with a group of excellent doctors and nurses. Most had a relationship with the University of Virginia Medical School or Nursing School. The Army provided a very fine group of enlisted men. We learned to work well together and became an excellent hospital.

There was a strong affection between the 8th Evac, the University of Virginia, and the Charlottesville community. This began with the recruitment of doctors and nurses, lasted through World War II and still persists with numerous veterans.

During the recruitment period Drs. Blackford and Drash and Miss Beery found numerous doctors and nurses eager to join the Unit. Many of them were active members of the University of Virginia Hospital staff. Others had been house staff or nursing staff members in the past or alumni of the University of Virginia. Dean Jordan of the Medical School was very proud that the University could form an affiliated unit. Citizens of the community contributed generously to a fund that could be used by the Unit for special equipment or needs not provided by the usual Army sources. Mr. John R. Morris, the father of an 8th Evac doctor and a local contractor, was active in raising the money.

While on active duty in North Africa and in Italy the 8th Evac was often located next to a road used by the Army. Numerous passing University of Virginia alumni stopped to visit in the hope of seeing an old friend. They might enjoy a meal in our officer’s mess which had an excellent reputation. Colonel Blackford was very gregarious and an excellent conversationalist. He had many friends among the alumni who enjoyed visiting him.

The doctors in our group were accustomed to a weekly Grand Rounds. Under the leadership of Colonel Blackford and Major Leavell the custom was continued during the war, even when we were busy with many admissions and stressful work. There were numerous excellent discussions about current medical problems and interesting patients. Medical officers from nearby units were invited. Many came, and all were encouraged to stay for lunch. The doctors who were battalion surgeons in combat units appreciated the hot shower and clean towel.

Jefferson Day Celebration

Jefferson Day Celebration

We regularly celebrated the University of Virginia Founders Day on Jefferson’s birthday, April 13. The first celebration was in North Africa in 1943. Thirty men and twenty-five women participated. We were joined by numerous members of the 8th Evac. We did honor to Jefferson by reading aloud extracts from some of his letters.Our second celebration was in Italy, where there were numerous University alumni from our hospital and from other units. Colonel Blackford presided. After several talks we adjourned for dinner which was followed by a festive evening and lots of Virginia songs. The Italian Chapter of the University of Virginia Alumni Association was formed.

There were plans for a third Founders Day celebration in April 1945, but it was cancelled because of the death of President Roosevelt.

After World War II some of us returned to the University where we were royally received. We soon started to work. Several of our enlisted men became University of Virginia students.

8th Evacuation Hospital Reunion

8th Evacuation Hospital Reunion

For fifty years we had regular five year reunions which were well attended. Former 8th Evac members who had no association with the University before the war seemed to enjoy visiting Charlottesville, and many became enthusiastic about the University.

The memories of my experiences during World War II and the many friends that I made are an important part of my life.

My sincere thanks to those of you in the Historical Section of the Health Sciences Library who have done so much to keep the memory of the 8th Evacuation Hospital alive.

Sincerely yours,

John L. Guerrant

John L. Guerrant | Hubert B. Holsinger | Alice M. Huffman | Frank L. Lowther | Randal Luscombe | Dorothy Sandridge | Melvin C. Shaffer | William P. Snavely | Beverley D. Tucker | Frances E. Wells | 8th EVAC home